Family Matters

By Cailey Morgan

A few weeks ago, we looked at 1 Peter, the letter Peter wrote to the scattered church to remind them of God’s right-side-up way of living in an upside-down world. The letter branded gentile Christians as the children of Abraham, stating that in God’s family, there is no barrier between the Jews and any other nationality. Peter then called out the men to disown the cultural patriarchy of the day and treat the women in their home as equals. Paul writes identically in his note to the church in Galatia: 

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Some things have changed since the apostles wrote those words, but the brokenness of  humanity remains the same. And part of that brokenness is that we idolize the world’s definition of power and strength, and by doing so miss out on the opportunity to being led by those with a different skill set, or those who are seen as not as strong from a worldly perspective. This demographic often includes female leaders.

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I’m grateful to be part of an association of churches that has been ordaining women for church leadership since 1959. But do we as the CBWC fully understand our need for women to step into these roles? And are we doing everything we can to help support the female leaders around us in our churches and new church plants?

As God’s kids and ambassadors, one purpose of our ministry of reconciliation—of helping our Father in His work to turn things right-side-right—is to live together as an example of how things should be: a foretaste of Jesus’ Kingdom (Lesslie Newbigin and 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). And until we’ve seen leaders male and female, young and old, new immigrant and aboriginal, raised up and supported in equality to build up the church the way God has equipped and called them (Ephesians 4), I have to say we’re not yet doing our job.

So, here I share an article that calls us to consider the role of women in church leadership—and church planting in particular—and some practical ways we can move forward in enacting the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.


We Need More Lydias In Church Planting

This article is shared with permission from author Tiffany Smith of the North American Mission Board. https://www.sendinstitute.org/we-need-more-lydias-in-church-planting/ 

Our current culture has manifested a heightened awareness of social justice issues which gives the church an opportunity to demonstrate and model clear and sacred responses amid the clashing secular voices.  One area where the church’s beauty is displayed is in God’s design for men and women to be partnered in ministry to advance the Gospel and plant new churches.  The North American church, currently comprised of slightly more women than men[1], has an empowered regiment of gifted women to be catalyzed on mission.

The Great Commission mandate is not gender specific; but rather, men and women are co-laborers and synergetic in community and mission.  As men and women weave their giftedness together to embrace our collective mission, the church is empowered to exponentially impact the lost world.  No matter your ecclesiology or polity today, we can celebrate how women are vital in the flourishing of the church and in church planting. This obviously plays out differently in various denominations; however, the fact that women are strategic players in the mission of God is part of God’s beautiful design.

For every significant male we see throughout the book of Acts, there is a significant female mentioned in the expansion of the Gospel and the church.  Paul himself partnered with women in his church planting efforts.  Lydia was a businesswoman who became the first European convert; she led others to be baptized and the church in Philippi was planted in her house (Acts 16).  Paul says Euodia and Syntyche “labored side by side with [him] in the gospel” (Phil. 4:3) and Phoebe helped Paul along with many others (Rom 16).  Women have always been leaders in church planting – from the very beginning.

We are at a significant moment in time where we can seek to catalyze the leadership capacity and power of women throughout the church and within the church planting arena.

Imagine the potential and possibilities of transformational impact by the church if we expanded our concept of church planting beyond the main lead church planter to include all those involved – church planting teams, administrators, mobilizers, and outreach leaders!  If everyone in the church is to be involved in Gospel expansion and multiplication, then the church as a whole has a stake in the movement and the impact is exponentially dynamic – the apostolic church unleashed!

There is a significant shift rippling through leadership circles to spur women toward various expressions of their gifts in the church planting arena.  Across denominations we see women in key roles as church planting coaches, assessment directors, church planting catalysts, demographic researchers, strategists, city or regional network coordinators, and emerging leader directors – just to name a few.

What if the doors of church planting were swung wide open for a Samaritan woman at the well, a wealthy businesswoman from Philippi, or someone who has been sitting in your church waiting for a new pioneering opportunity?

Widening Opportunities

No matter your theological conviction, there are ways to integrate women into church planting and empower the church to function and flourish in new innovative approaches.  So, how can we chart new pathways and widen the pipeline for female leaders?  How can we expand our current thinking to incorporate women more strategically in the church planting aspects of the church?

Here are a few points to consider:

  1. Forge a synergetic culture. Cultivate a culture of modeling how women are strategic in the church planting efforts of the church. Make sure to include single women and not just church planter wives. Be purposeful and repetitious in demonstrating through words and action the value of the women leaders in your church and in various areas of church planting. Highlight the beauty of the body of Christ working together in synergy.
  2. Be creative. Look for creative ways to incorporate women into the various facets of church planting. The pioneering nature of church planting inherently fosters new opportunities and pathways for women to serve in their giftedness.  Women are uniquely positioned in strategic areas of the neighborhood and marketplace to influence others for the cause of Christ. Use their platforms and relational webs for the advancement of the Kingdom.
  3. Increase visibility. Women should be visible and celebrated on stage in church leadership and in the multiplication of churches – praying, discipling, and serving.  Elevate women leaders to thrive in their giftedness; and in doing so, teach and model the unity and diversity of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12) to the church and to the watching world.
  4. Amplify giftedness. Focus upon giftedness and character without regard to gender whenever possible.  Seek out ways to open up new opportunities for women to infuse their gifts and talents throughout the ministries of the church, including church planting.
  5. Reframe. Reframe the concept of church planting to go beyond the lead planter to include teams and gifted leaders who help develop and grow the church plant; this will naturally open doors for women, but also for other leaders in the church who are not called to be the lead church planter.
  6. Purposefully Empower.  Seek out and empower women to serve in the church planting efforts or on a planting team.  This must be strategic and intentional because it has not been common practice.  Just as you would seek out and cultivate male leaders in the church, look to do the same with women and purposely consider facets of church planting.

For the sake of advancing the Kingdom of God, how do we work toward normalizing female leadership, not as the exception or rare case, but as part of God’s design for the church to be on mission together?   Tony Merida powerfully encourages women by stating, “Missional women have always played a vital role in the advancement of the gospel. The church—as the bride for whom Christ bled, died, and was raised—ought to be a place where women are loved, taught, respected, heard, and deployed for service. They should thrive as Christ’s ambassadors in the world, as they are built up in him.” [2]

This exhortation can also be applied to the various facets within the church planting arena. We need more Lydias in church planting. Let us boldly move forward together for such a time as this.

Action/Reflection:

  1. What specific words and actions can I take as a leader in the church to cultivate a healthy and encouraging environment for women to thrive in multiple leadership aspects of the church, including within the church planting arena?
  2. Are there currently women in the church that I can encourage and equip to serve in various roles in church planting efforts?
  3. How can I help to swing the door open wide for women and other leaders to be involved in the church planting efforts of the church?

 

[1] Pew Research.  “Religious Landscape Study: Evangelical Protestants.”  2014.  http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/religious-tradition/evangelical-protestant/  Accessed May 6, 2018.

[2]  Tony Merida.  “How to Train and Mobilize Women in Your Church.” April 26, 2018.  Accessed May 9, 2018.

 

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Power Made Perfect in Weakness

There is nothing stronger in the universe than the power of God. And I am His child.

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Do you believe that statement? Do I lean on that strength? Do we decide and discern through that reality?

Last week, I mentioned how living in God’s Kingdom means learning a new way to think and to act—processing the upside-down world through His right-side-up lenses: In His Kingdom, the last shall be first. In His Kingdom, there’s a new definition of success. In His Kingdom, the way we treat people is transformed. Power is perfected in weakness.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Controlitis
Through some of my reading lately, I’ve been convicted about my own addiction to power as the world defines it—my illness of valuing my role as a leader because it gives me power for the sake of control: I’m proud to be developing a reputation for getting stuff accomplished. I can say “do this” and people do it. I’m in control. And if that’s the twisted view to which I can succumb as the part-time pastor of 15 high school students, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for more influential leaders to lean on the strength of the Father and follow the way of Jesus into humility and death of self.

I would go so far as to say we have an epidemic on our hands.

How did we get here? Church, I believe we have set our leaders up for failure by imposing kingdom-of-the-world expectations on those we simultaneously expect to lead us into the Kingdom of God. We respect and follow dynamic personalities and religious performers the same way our culture puts musicians and actors on a pedestal. Words like “new,” “strong,” “big,” “young,” “influential” have automatic positive connotations while “humble,” “established,” and even “mature” in some contexts can be seen in a negative light. In The Way of the Dragon or The Way of The Lamb, Kyle Strobel and Jamin Goggin address this sickness of power-hunger in the western church in the context of what we value in our pastoral leaders:

We are looking more for a proven professional than someone humbly called. We are looking more for a polished businessman than a seasoned shepherd. We are looking for someone who is powerful and in control.1

These sound like strong words, and in some ways they are. But the Church as a whole isn’t just to blame. We as leaders secretly—and sometimes not-so-secretly—take pleasure in the applause, take pride in the influence, take the glory for the accomplishments.

So what do we do? If we want to live like Jesus, we need to dive headlong into His lifestyle: relying completely in the power of God, eradicating the addiction to worldly power. Goggin and Strobel not only point out the symptoms of power-sickness, but provide hope of healing through various paradigm shifts and practices rooted in the life of Jesus and the history of God’s people. If I could, I’d post the entirety of their book here for your edification. Instead, I will recommend that you read it, and in the meantime I will share a couple paragraphs of their insight into three antidotes we have against “controlitis.”

1. Always Start By Praying. It Helps us Rely on God 

Beginning with prayer is not merely a tip of the hat to God. It’s not a cliché: “Don’t forget to pray first.” Rather, we begin with a posture of abiding in, and depending upon, God in the deep places of our hearts, because God is the source and goal of our power. When we open our hearts in prayerful abiding, what we first discover is that we have false beliefs residing there. Therefore, we don’t begin with prayer as a device for getting things done, but as a means of communing with God who transforms the heart and lead us in the way.

Prayer is being with God who is always with us. And “being with” necessitates honesty. We are with God in the truth of our hearts. In prayer we open our hearts to his living presence, exposing areas where unbelief reigns. Only His presence can purge these places of darkness and form them in love. …in prayer we embrace our weakness and depend upon God’s power to transform the heart. The heart is the first, but not the only, battlefield where God’s power in weakness must conquer in love (Emphasis added).2

2. Prioritize People By Choosing Weakness
Goggin and Strobel’s book takes readers into the lives of several Christians who they believe espouse Jesus’ way of living as a leader. In their conversations with Eugene Peterson, he says this:

The great temptation of power is control, and the great consequence of control is lack of relationship. The reason that intimacy is so difficult in ministry is you’re not in control—you’re in relationship, You have to enter a person’s life and they have to enter yours. The minute you start becoming obsessed with control, you lose the relationship…So I think somehow we have to find ways to cultivate a sense of nobodyness. Paul certainly did that. Weakness was his strength.3

And Strobel and Goggin continue:

[The pastor following the way of the dragon is] intoxicated by fame and power. The way of the Lamb is committed to worship, pursues God in the ordinary, and is faithful in hiddenness…Jesus invites pastors into His way of shepherding. In His way, power is found in weakness, and power is expressed in love. We don’t shepherd faithfully by simply observing his behavior in the Gospels and trying our best to copy his act, but by participating in this way by the Holy Spirit. The word Peter uses is partaker. We are invited to partake in His way….We are under-shepherds of the chief Shepherd. We serve a role of stewardship, not ownership.4

3. Dig into Self-Awareness and Humility
The questions I’m posing below, from Way of the Dragon or Way of the Lamb, are prickly. I don’t like them very much, and have personally brushed them off as “no, you’re talking about someone else” until I left the Holy Spirit put His thumb on the true pulse of my proud heart. And still I’m prone to bat His hand away, but those lessons I have managed to accept have been so helpful to me and my outlook on how I see myself, my role, and others. So I encourage you to not just glance over them and say “oh phew, not me!” but to sit in them and reflect on concrete realities in your life and ministry.

  • Do you use the church as a platform for personal fame, fortune or influence? The pastor gives their life for the sake of the church, regardless of what they gain.
  • Do you view ministry as an arena of performance, where some win and some lose?  The pastor views ministry as an arena of love and service, not winning and losing.
  • Do you see the people of your church as tools to accomplish your big dreams? The pastor embraces their congregation as people to know and love, not tools to use for other ends.
  • Do you relegate prayer and care, the heart of pastoral ministry, to ‘lower-level’ staff? The pastor views prayer and care as the centrepiece of their work rather than an interruption.
  • Do you view other local pastors primarily as competition? The pastor views other pastors as fellow shepherds on the journey, whom they need for encouragement and wisdom, and whom they are called to encourage and love

I hope you’ve read this article as permission to consider a life of leadership that’s more than a hamster wheel or gleaming stage. I hope you’ve been reminded of the pure goodness of our Shepherd, and that He wants to give us abundant life beyond what we could gain from a big crowd or a “successful” ministry. And I hope for you what Paul, Silas and Timothy hoped for their church in Thessalonika: “that our God may count you worthy of his calling (ie, persecution and suffering for His Kingdom), and that by His power He may fulfill every good purpose of your and every act prompted by your faith” (2 Thessalonians 1:11).

Or returning to Eugene Peterson, here’s the verse in the Message paraphrase:

We pray for you all the time—pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something.

If you disagree with anything I’ve written here, or have more to say on this topic that could help our readers across the CBWC, I really want to hear from you. Shoot me an email at cmorgan@cbwc.ca, comment on the blog, or leave a message at the office: 604.420.7646 and I’d love to have a conversation.

 


  1. Kyle Strobel and Jamin Goggin, The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb (Thomas Nelson, 2017): 141.
  2. Ibid: 196-197.
  3. Ibid: 136
  4. Ibid: 143

Thinking Right-Side Up

By Cailey Morgan

A New Identity
In the apostle Peter’s beautiful letter to the church scattered throughout Asia minor, he presents a sometimes-poetic, sometimes-stark picture of the diverse and persecuted people of God as the new Israel: God’s family. Christians are the new children of Abraham, the new temple, the new priesthood. It’s a new way to live—a life direction opposite to the Roman culture they lived in.

If you’ve got 8 minutes, check out this visual walk-through of 1 Peter below to see how all these Old Testament pieces fit together with Peter’s New Testament definition of the church:

We can quickly find parallels between our context in 21st-century Canada and that of the God’s people in Peter’s time, not to mention the transient and exilic days of the Israelites, as Ontario author Lee Beach writes in The Church In Exile. So as you read this verse, picture yourself, surrounded by your congregation, when you hear the word “you” in Peter’s statement here:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). 

You have been called out of darkness and into light—an absolutely opposite experience from the life you used to have. And being this holy nation together not only shows up in the language we choose to employ or the “bad things” we try not to do, although that’s part of it (as a witness to God’s glory, 1 Peter 2:11-12).

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In His Kingdom, the last shall be first. In His Kingdom, there’s a new definition of success. In His Kingdom, the way we treat people is transformed. Power is perfected in weakness.

Right-Side-Right Right Here, Right Now
Some of this right-side-right thinking will come up against global power and cultural influence: Peter calls Rome “Babylon” in his letter in recognition of the pervasive, abusive corruption of political and military power throughout history. But foremost, right now, the way of Jesus confronts insignificant me and little old you. It confronts the root of pride I carry, and that hidden anger cycle in your heart, and that nasty little “me first” impulse that pops up seemingly before we can stop it and pulls our minds into making decisions that leave us with the credit and someone else with the suffering.

Living in the way of Jesus is something we simply can’t do on our own. We can’t see rightly without His lenses; we can’t think rightly without His thoughts; we can’t live rightly without His Spirit.

When His Kingdom comes in full, we’ll finally grow into the holy and beautiful Bride Christ is inviting us to be. But until that day, we pray “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And when we say those words, we’re asking the Lord to flip us right around, and give us the humility and the perspective to join Him in making the world around us more like heaven.

These next articles will be a study in opposites: how the Kingdom-of-God definitions of power and congregational success and leadership and conflict resolution contrast what we see around us (and even what we see in our own hearts), but how these ways of Jesus are in fact the key to being the chosen people and holy nation that we’ve been striving to become all along. I pray that you will see your identity as God’s set-apart sons and daughters and your life’s mission to “declare the praises of Him who called you” in every situation, every day.

The Transition: Instead of “Fell Swoops”

By Cailey Morgan

Over the past several weeks on the blog we’ve been gleaning wisdom from a church that took on the monumental task of transitioning towards a more missional culture in their church family. We learned how easy it is to fall into the trap of casting big vision without the daily practices through which to live out that vision, and that we must guard against letting our earnestness to purge consumerism from our congregation end up destroying our disciples instead of building them up. Transitioning is hard.

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And in fact, our role of supporting you as you engage in whatever the next steps are for discipleship and mission in your context is just as difficult, because each church family, each neighbourhood, each leadership team will face individualized challenges and have specific strengths. But here’s what we can offer:

1. Contact us if you could use some help in discerning and stepping into the next season of health and growth for your congregation. Sam Breakey, CBWC’s Church Health strategist,  is here to work with you to facilitate a tailored Church Health Engagement process for your church. Your Regional Minister is just a phone call away and can provide more geographically-contextualized support. And of course Shannon Youell here in Church Planting is a wealth of insight and would love to offer everything from prayer to book recommendations to opportunities to engage in church planting partnerships or new initiatives.

2. Check out these resources you may find helpful:

  • Saturate the World (the blog where we’ve been sending you to read about the Austin Stone transition to missional) has a helpful article series on transitioning.
  • David Fitch, author of Faithful Presence ad our keynote speaker at Banff last fall, has written a helpful article on how to get started with reshaping expectations in your congregation (and if you haven’t read Faithful Presence, I highly recommend it!).
  • Scot McKnight says this in Renovation of the Church: “Jesus issues a high call to all those who are his followers. We take up our cross and follow him. It is daily death. We keep in step with God’s Spirit. We engage in the challenging work of putting on the new self. We decrease so he can increase. We live in the name of Jesus. This is not a calling for the elite few. It is the normative way of apprenticeship to Jesus.” You can read a review of the book here, and we’re also offering a free copy of the book to the first person who would like to read it and write their own review for us here on our Church Planting blog. Contact me via email if you’re interested (cmorgan@cbwc.ca).
  • And our friends at Forge Canada Missional Training Network are offering two-day Into the Neighbourhood workshops in both Edmonton and Vancouver this fall. Forge’s events are designed to evoke and equip, so we’d recommend bringing a cohort of your church leaders to engage in deeper discussion together about your particular church context and what movement forward could mean for you.

We all experience growing pains as we mature as disciples. My prayer is that you and your churches would be stretched and formed into by the Potter’s hands into who and what brings Him glory in your community.

Engaging in Mission: Practical Ideas for Summertime

By Cailey Morgan

As Canada Day approaches each year, I get the urge to remind us all about the opportunities we have in warm-weather-months to take Jesus’ words about loving our neighbours literally and seriously. And as we do, we will find out what fun it actually is to engage in mission on a very small and relational level (I would venture even “mustard seed” small!)

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artofneighboring.com recommends starting small: get to know the names of your literal neighbors.

Although our shared ministry priority of “Engaging in Mission” can mean big things like multiplying churches, those big things only happen as a culmination of a whole bunch of these tiny things coming together.

So, whether you already spend your mornings on your front porch like Heartland Regional Minister Mark Doerksen does, or don’t tend to show your face in your neighbourhood other than through the window of your car, here are a few simple musings and practical ways we can engage in mission in our own homes or on our own streets.

And speaking of Brad, check out Lance Ford and Brad Brisco’s Next Door as it is in Heaven. Leave a comment on the blog or shoot me a note if you’re willing to write a short review of the book for this blog. The first person to respond will get a free copy of the book sent to you!

What else are you doing this summer to bring the Good News of the Kingdom of God to your contexts? What are you reading? Share your ideas and resources with us by commenting here or shooting me an email: cmorgan@cbwc.ca.

Excuses for Discipleship

By Cailey Morgan

Last time, I wrote about the how being citizens of God’s Kingdom means growing in our understanding of our heavenly Father’s economy of abundance and how exclusion from the Canada summer grants program provides an opportunity to disciple our folk in this Kingdom way.  

Another opportunity that this shift in summer grant funding provides is the excuse to stop and reflect on why we do the summer day camps or other outreach programs that these government grants often pay for, and how, with whom, and what we do this summer now that Canada’s taxpayers aren’t footing bill for our the interns’ wages. And this leads me to the second aspect of Jesus’ life on earth that we need to pay attention to: Jesus used every moment as an opportunity for discipleship and leadership development.  

 

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Sometimes, Jesus had planned times of teaching where He would cast the vision of God’s Kingdom to His closest followers. Other times, a woman would interrupt by touching His robe, or children would run up, or the Pharisees would come looking for trouble. In all these situations, Jesus took the opportunity as a teaching moment: a chance for discipleship of the crowd and for leadership development of His core team. 

So for us, I’m asking a simple “why” question: Why do we do day camps? Why do we do programs? 

This isn’t a rhetorical question. What’s your answer?  

Day camps are obviously a great way to show hospitality to kids in our neighbourhood. But we need to ask the bigger questions of what the long-term purpose is? I’ve personally been guilty of helping run camps in order to feel like I’m busy doing “God’s work” and to check off my “evangelism” box on my to do list. There is so much more potential.  

Let’s think seriously about what excuses we can come up with to disciple our people into the next level of growth in their love of God, each other and neighbour this summer. Maybe day camps aren’t the right connection point for those in your neighbourhood who don’t know Christ yet–and the lack of internship funding this summer will help force your congregation’s hand towards a different plough.  If so, that’s awesome. But before you throw summer day camps out the window, I want you to consider the revelation I had on the other side of the world a few weeks ago.

I was in Albania in preparation for a summer youth leadership development program in which teens from the Canadian and Albanian congregations of our church will be learning about and practicing Christian leadership. Between church leadership meetings, visits to the elementary school we hope to engage throughout the summer, and scoping out accomodations for the summer team, I sat down with the neighbourhood pastor of our Sauk village congregation to talk about the potential of running some day camps for neighbourhood kids as part of the LTD program.  

My initial bent was that the Albanian congregation is perfectly capable of running day camps–why should we wait until the Canadian youth arrive to do this ministry? Every time we visit from Canada we help run camps, and it can seem like just a program to keep the Canadian team busy and feel like we’ve accomplished something. But as the conversation continued, we were both struck with a deeper vision: the discipleship pathway. 

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Why Day Camps? Because they’re a chance to disciple young people and leaders at every level.

Every person in the world is on a discipleship journey. Some are running the path as fast and hard as they can. Others do not recognize that God is at work in their lives and are wandering in other directions. Summer day camps are an excuse for discipleship all along the spectrum. At one end is the wide-open door of invitation for kids who’ve never known the love and peace of Christ to draw near to Him through these camps. Super important.  

At the other end is the church leadership, who are building into young leaders and working hard to pass the baton and share the keys whenever possible.

Eexcuses for discipleship–camps not for the sake of camps but for the twofold sake of evangelism and a chance to develop leaders out of our wiling and energetic young people. We’re taking the leadership development angle of camps very seriously this summer, using the excuse to have youth and adults train in leadership skills and practice those skills in our neighbourhoods.

I share this example of camp leadership because the levels of discipleship are easily defined and you can see a clear path of growth into leadership over time. But this path is true for discipling anyone–adults, church leaders, we’re all on a path of growth and all need to be simultaneously being discipled by someone further along in the journey and discipling those newer on the path. Any excuse for people being together can be an excuse for discipleship.

What excuses for discipleship are taking place in your congregation? 

Discipleship and God’s Economy of Abundance

By Cailey Morgan

Many of our churches have been wrestling with how to respond to the new required attestation on the Canada Summer Jobs application. For those of us who followed in solidarity with the CCCC this year in handing in adapted grant applications, the response has been clear from the government: no funding. For my church, this means the loss of wage provision for about 6 student positions–interns that would usually staff our summer day camp programs around the Lower Mainland and serve as the core energy behind for our summer outreach.

I could ask, “why, God, are You letting this happen when there is so much good that comes from having that money?” There are endless comments I could make about government’s choices, or our rights as Canadians, or even whether this issue solidifies the belief that the Canadian church is in exile. However, because we’re in the midst of a series on discipleship, I would rather adjust my focus a little.

In the next few articles, we will look at attributes that Christ exhibited while on earth. We will discuss how we can grow into Christlikeness, and what it means to use cultural opportunities to come alongside all those in our congregations and walk with them in a Jesus-formed response to what seems to be an unfair flexing of worldly power.

Attribute 1: Jesus Trusted God’s Economy of Abundance. As in every area of life, Jesus exemplified a Kingdom-of-God perspective in the area of resources and finances.

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For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. ” Including this goofy-looking fellow.

When we live as citizens of the world we can see, we get wrapped up in the economy of scarcity: what’s here is what’s here, so I better make sure I get my slice of the pie. If we operate in this economy, the whole summer grants scenario is a troubling hit to our church’s ministry goals and should send us scrambling to fight for what’s ours.

Jesus, on the other hand, reminded us about the realm that is bigger than what we can see: our Father owns everything. Jesus told us to never worry about our life, food, clothes, because our Father in heaven knows what we need and loves to take care of us. If God cares about dressing remote hillsides with flowers, how much more will He generously clothe His Body and His Bride?

Kingdom-of-God Economics
Part of the reason the church in North America languishes in irrelevance is because we all too often ask “what’s in it for us?” This is scarcity mentality in its purest form…

A church that tries to keep its life will lose it, and a church that loses its life will keep it. By contrast a church shaped by the way of Jesus gives freely without expectation of return. It is generous to the point of danger. As a result that church opens itself up to the secret joy and power of being least and last. Jesus overcame the world through being its servant. That’s how the church will overcome it too (Jared Siebert, New Leaf Network Blog).

When Jesus walked on earth, He proved again and again that the Kingdom of God operates in economy of abundance by showing God’s power to provide beyond the human imagination. Remember how He had Peter pull a coin out of a fish’s mouth to pay the temple tax? Or what about turning bathwater into expensive wine for a wedding feast? Or multiplying a single schoolboy’s lunch into a seafood smorgasbord for 5000 families (with a takeaway container of leftovers for each of the apostles, might I add)?

How’s that for mind-boggling math? Abundance beyond human capacity to imagine or produce: that’s Kingdom of God economics.

The Nitty-Gritty
OK. That sounds great, but how do we actually lean into a lifestyle of K-o-G abundance and draw our people into this kind of trust in God?

Ready for this?

Talk about money.

Use the summer grant finances issue as an excuse to have this scarcity/abundance conversation in your discipleship relationships and your small groups. Teach about trust and generosity in Sunday school for all ages and from the pulpit.

Tell toddlers the stories of God’s provision for His people throughout history. Create Spend, Save, and Give jars with kids and teach them how to steward their allowance money.

Ask teens if they can see God’s huge generosity in creation. Ask the seniors in your church for testimonies of God’s faithfulness throughout the shifting sands of economic ups and downs. Talk with every family in your church about tithing, and see how–like training wheels for trusting God with our wallets–the act of tithing can get families rolling in a Kingdom of God direction.

Take this money conversation seriously and have this conversation frequently. Discipleship is about learning to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength. And as we know, where our wallet is, there our heart is also.

In the past weeks I have been brought to tears by people around me who understand this Kingdom-of-God perspective: students offering to work for free this summer, believing that God and the community can help them find other ways to cover their tuition this fall; families asking how much money we need to raise to pay intern wages; adults offering weeks of their summer to help staff the camps; and the apostles and prophets among us asking the big question of what new thing God may be calling us to in this time when we’re a bit shaken up and confused. These disciples are growing in their trust of God and each other because they’ve been willing to get past the falsities that “my money is my money” and finances are a taboo subject.

Each time we humble ourselves and give over control of our resources to the Lord and the community, we are welcoming the Holy Spirit to come and do the heart-shaping. Which, really, is the true definition of discipleship, is it not?

Next time, I’m going to talk about Jesus’ way of discipleship “along the way,” and how we can see this lack of summer grant funding as an opportunity to re-envision summer outreach as an opportunity to disciple a whole new generation of leaders.

 

PS: The CBWC is engaged in the nationwide discussion about the Summer Grant Attestation issue, so watch for communications from our Administration Offices as to how you can add your church’s voice to the conversation. But a caveat here: the Church doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to our reactions around changing government policy. The media spotlight is turned on us to see how we will react, which I think is God giving us an opportunity to respond in humility and to cast a vision for the Kingdom-of-God economy for not only our own people but actually the whole country.

Stillwaters Counselling

Our next story comes from Summerland, BC, where church and marketplace meet to provide important care for the community. As Tracey says below, “With the changing culture in which we live, it is important to think outside of the ‘church box.'” How can your congregation think outside the box to bring hope into the lives of a new demographic in your neighbourhood? ~Cailey Morgan

Stillwaters Counselling
by Tracey Bennett

Stillwaters Counselling is a faith based counselling centre located in the heart of Summerland, BC. It was created in response to the expressed needs of individuals who resided in the local area.

After delivering a seminar on grief, a local Christian counselor identified a gap in service provision, with a particular focus on faith based counselling.

After much prayer and some initial research, Summerland Baptist Church was approached and consulted with as it was identified as one of the main active churches involved in the community. Counselling had indeed been on their agenda for a period of time, so with the vision and expressed need, a process of consultation began.

The senior pastors, deacons and church community were unanimous in their support of a faith-based counselling centre. A steering committee was formed. Prayer was core and collaboration with other agencies took place, as well as with members of the community. A successful pioneering model was taken and molded to suit the community in which the counselling centre was to be based. The steering committee discussed and formulated a business plan, identifying an empty business property on the local high street to rent. Summerland Baptist raised the core finances to fund the refurbishment of the counselling centre and created a subsidy fund to enable counselling to be accessible to all who were not covered by insurance companies or who could not financially afford it. A team of part-time master’s level counselors were recruited and a Clinical Director was appointed.

The counselling centre was advertised and launched in March 2017, and by the end of the year, many people had accessed care. The financial model was sustainable and a much needed service was being accessed by all. Christians and non-Christians were referred and self-referred by Pastors and various health care providers.

Stillwaters is an example of pioneer mission. With the changing culture in which we live, it is important to think outside of the “church box.” Using the leading of the Lord through prayer and scripture, the skill and expertise of various individuals, a low cost, self-sustaining ministry has been created.

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Joyce Oxnard and Betty Milne Anderson – Church planters

I’ve been having so much fun with our current blog series of stories from our family of churches and beyond. The next story is not only an important and inspirational piece of our CBWC heritage, it also carries with it convicting questions for all of us about trusting God, and how we listen for and respond to His call. Thanks to CBWC’s Director of Ministries Faye Reynolds for this article based on her interview with Joyce and Betty. ~Cailey

In the early 1970s, Joyce Oxnard and Betty Milne were both working with the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON). Joyce was Betty’s boss, but they were friends and attended the Argyle Road Baptist Church in Regina, Saskatchewan. Their pastor Basil Medgett mentioned that the Baptist Union (BUWC, now CBWC) was interested in planting three churches: one in Inuvik, one near Cold Lake and another in Fort McMurray. Rather lightly, Betty said to Joyce that she had always wanted to nurse up north and wouldn’t mind going to Inuvik, but not the other locations. That quiet nudging created a door for the Holy Spirit to work.

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Hearing the Call

It wasn’t long before an opportunity opened up in Yellowknife for Betty to start a nursing program. Joyce also felt a strong calling to go north, but struggled to leave her well-paying job to go into the public health sector. In the end, both continued to feel the call to move north and so by faith in 1973 they headed up to Yellowknife on one year’s leave of absence from the VON.

Joyce quickly delved into ministries in the church with the young adults. There had recently been an evangelistic campaign in the area and a number of young adults had come to the Lord, so Joyce and Betty quickly filled the need for leading in Bible studies and discipleship.

Early that spring, BUWC Executive Minister Dr. Harry Renfrew came to visit the church and the two asked him about the BUWC plans for Inuvik. He said that so far there was no one willing to come up into that region but it was certainly something that the two could do. Joyce and Betty were very excited about the potential and decided to take a month to separately pray about it. They agreed not to talk about it, but simply pray and write down their thoughts to share at the end of the season of prayer, while Dr. Renfrew took the idea to the BUWC Board. Their writings revealed that they were both eager to go and had a clear sense of God’s calling.

When they left Edmonton to fly up for the first time, they were met at the airport by BUWC leadership of Dr. Renfrew, Dick Standerwick and Jack Farr, who handed them a film strip projector, prayed for them and sent them off. They arrived on December 5, 1973, and the arrangement was that there would be a little house available for lodging.

However, when the women arrived, the house wasn’t ready. A fellow from Yellowknife knew they were coming and gave them his apartment until the house was ready.

The day after their arrival, they were walking around town and saw a woman gazing at the horizon. They asked what she was looking at. “I’m looking at the sun–it is the last day we will see it for a month.” What a reminder that they were entering a new land and life!

Inuvik Ministry
To begin their ministry, Joyce and Betty put a sign on the post office notice board that they were starting Sunday school in their home for any children who would like to come. They didn’t exactly know what to call themselves; were they missionaries? But that term had some baggage attached to it, and so they settled on the term “pastors.” Three couples that were Baptist and attending other churches connected with Betty and Joyce right away, so a Bible study was formed with the adults and a Sunday school with the kids. On January 6 their first worship service included 17 people in the corner of a large gymnasium, with no music available.

The BUWC provided one full-time salary for the two of them, and they anticipated working part-time at the hospital, but there were no local openings for nurses at that time. Available work meant flying into outlying settlements–but that would mean being gone 3 days at a time, which wasn’t conducive to their planting mission. They never did have other income. They received a lot of support from Al McPhedran and the Yellowknife Church–he was a real resource for them.

God always provided for their needs. An Alberta family once sent them up a whole box of frozen beef, which was better cuts of meat than they had eaten as nurses! At the time Al warned the Alberta Area that this was going to be a very expensive venture and would never become self supporting so not to go in if they were not prepared to pay for the long run.

They never really encountered any difficulties being women, although they don’t really know if some didn’t attend their church because it was lead by women. They simply lived into the calling God had placed upon them and never really gave it a thought. Once, they went to BLTS (the Baptist Leadership Training School) to meet the student body to tell them about their work; and one student asked why the BUWC wasn’t sending a man, to which they responded, “Because no men were willing to go!”

They held a gym night every night for youth, offering a snack and devotional and some were quite rough and tough characters with colorful language. If they came for the games, they had to stay for the devotional and then they’d get the snack. Some of the youth themselves would defend Joyce and Betty and warn any of the other kids not to be disrespectful with their talk.

Joyce and Betty initially thought that their mission activities would be more with the native population but that didn’t end up to be the case. The indigenous youth came to the gym night but not to the church. Their church services ministered primarily to the white population that didn’t fit with the long-standing Anglican or the Pentecostal churches and the indigenous Christians went to those churches as they were long-standing. They drew from the forces base but people came and went. Some young fellows from the church came up from the south to build a beautiful building funded by the triennium project. The congregation at that time was around 30-40 people.

Al McGee became the first pastor called to Inuvik after Joyce and Betty left. The Potters came after McGees, then Cordell Lind, working part time. The mission was cost-prohibitive because it could never be a self-supporting work, and somehow the vision of its potential became lost. The leadership in the church itself also did not seem to have the vision and commitment.

“It would be better defined as mission than church planting. Church planting today feels like a foreign language from what we did.”

Joyce and Betty returned to visit in 1996, but saw that the people had lost faith that the work would continue. They ended up filling in when they were without a pastor and stayed the year. Joyce started having terrible asthma attacks so felt that we couldn’t stay so they left in June ’97. They never found another pastor willing to go.

Take note of the type of work that these two ladies did, and the interesting statement that they considered it “better defined as mission than church planting.” What pops into your mind when you hear the phrase “church planting?” Is it defined by a particular model? Our opinion here at CBWC Church Planting would be that the work Betty and Joyce did was clearly one method of church planting, but that there are many ways to plant new congregations!

Betty and Joyce were willing to go where others thought it was “too hard,” without guaranteed income, having the willingness to be bivocational. They remind us that we as a family of churches need to accept the reality that birthing new churches is hard, that new groups that reach new demographics are unlikely to ever be self-sustaining, and that we’ll need to partner with them long-term for the work to continue. We can no longer view church planting like the franchising of a business that will soon be able to stand on its own two legs. Church planting is by nature mission, and to reach the breadth and depth of the Canadian population, we will need to dig into hard soil that will take many years of sowing prayer, time, money, and energy before seeing the fruit. But could there be any more important and rewarding work? ~Cailey and Shannon

READ PART 2 OF THEIR STORY.

Blessed Is She Who Has Believed

 

By Cailey Morgan

Advent reflection started early for me this year.

My husband and I had escaped for a couple days away in early November. I was sitting alone in the Selman Cottage on Keats Island, sipping tea while Kyson was out taking pictures of the fall scenery. I had determined I would read through the whole book of Luke to get a refresher on the ways and work and words of Jesus in the midst of a season in which I was using Jesus’ words to conveniently give permission for my own hurried ways and self-reliant work.

I sat on that futon for two hours, but never got past Luke 1. My realignment to a truer understanding of the person of Christ and to the life He offers came from the part of the story where He wasn’t even born into humanity yet, through the joyful cry of an impossibly-pregnant octogenarian to her equally-impossibly-pregnant teenaged cousin:

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said will be accomplished.

That one line gripped me. I couldn’t keep reading until I had wrestled through the questions of whether I could be that kind of woman. And frankly, two months later I’m still stuck, here on verse 45. Do I believe? Do I hear the Lord’s words? Do I look for the accomplishment of His works in this world?

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Do I believe that God performed those incredible, intimate supernatural actions in Elizabeth and Mary’s bodies? That maybe the Holy Spirit knows my limitations and might even be willing to touch me personally to overcome them as I open myself to being His servant? More than that, do I believe and live into the blessing of the empire-shaking, darkness-shattering Gospel Kingdom that those two miracle baby boys inaugurated?

At the risk of reducing one of the most epic moments of history into a object lesson, I want you to consider this question with me: “What has the Lord said will be accomplished, that I need to believe will be accomplished?”

For me, the answer came quickly. I’m a bit loath to tell you, because this blog is meant to inspire us to pray, equip leaders, and share Jesus. What gives me the right to write about these things if my own witness is impotent and life in the Spirit is in infancy? But I hope that sharing some of my struggles and conversations with God will encourage you in your journey and invite you to share how you’ve been growing as well.

What has the Lord said will be accomplished, that I need to believe will be accomplished? Jesus said this: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:9).

But I don’t believe it yet. I love Jesus, and I love my neighbours. I long for my community to be transformed by the hope of Christ. But I don’t really believe that I’m a Spirit-filled witness.

I don’t.

If I did, I would act like a Spirit-filled witness!

I’m like Mary or Elizabeth before the angel showed up–in a place where new birth is just not on the radar as something that would or could really take place. My limitations make spiritual pregnancy and birth (aka disciple-making) a nice–but practically impossible–thought.

But then, what happened to these women? I’m sure neither Elizabeth nor Mary could even imagine the prophecies before they were spoken:

“You will give birth to a Son, and you will call His name Jesus,” says the angel to Mary (verse 31).

“How will this be, for I am a virgin?” responds Mary (verse 34). She’s asking a legitimate question. “I am physically not able to complete your request! Wrong stage of life! No experience! So, how will you make this happen Lord? What do I do now?”

How does the angel respond? “You’re right. You can’t do it alone. But the Holy Spirit will come on you and take care of all the tricky business. You will become who He’s asking you to be, for His glory, through His power” (verse 35, my paraphrase).

Sounds a lot like Acts 1:9! And how about Elizabeth?

“Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God” (verse 36).

Elizabeth prayed and waited for a child for decades. But as time marched on, she probably looked at Zechariah and said, “Honey, this isn’t going to happen. We missed our window. ”

There are two women who I’ve been praying for, for over half of my life. One I haven’t seen in 10 years; the other I run into maybe twice a year. When I made these friends as a teenager, my prayers were fervent and frequent: “Lord, draw her to Yourself. Lord, what do You want me to say? Lord, what do I need to do?” These days, when I don’t even see these people any more, it’s easy to skip praying, and just look in the mirror and say, “Honey, this ain’t gonna happen. We missed our window.”

I know that many of you have similar stories of faithful prayers that seem to go unheard. Maybe you don’t feel ready yet to have spiritual kids, or maybe you’ve been waiting for so long you don’t think God really wants to use you in that way. And I don’t really have a good answer to this, other than to look at what happened to Mary and Elizabeth, and ask the Lord for His Spirit to come in power and overcome our lack of patience, faith, and imagination, for nothing is impossible with God.

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said will be accomplished.

I hope that Luke 1 becomes a year-round reflection for you, as it is becoming for me. Rather than a story to remind our children about the true meaning of Christmas, it’s a call to follow the great King whose Kingdom will never end (verse 32-33), and to open our eyes to the eternal Spirit-filled life that this King offers us, starting now!