Meet Kiarash

CBWC’s gap year discipleship experience, Kurios, is nearing the end of its second cohort. Over the past months, we’ve been thrilled to hear about what’s been happening in life and heart of each Kurios student, and are grateful for this opportunity to share a story especially close to our hearts. Today, we’ll meet Kiarash, a Kurios student from Emmauel Iranian Church, one of our church plants in BC. 

Hey! My name is Kiarash and I am 18 years old. I enjoy photography, videography and occasionally like to play the drums.  

Because of my dad’s job when I was younger, my family had the opportunity to frequently travel abroad. This allowed my family to be introduced to Christianity, as in our home country, Iran, the freedom to practice any religion was and is still forbidden. As such, my parents were able to be introduced to Christians and Christianity in other countries such as Korea doing their travels. When they returned to Iran, through some missionaries, they managed to find a few other Christians who would gather at each other’s houses every week in secrecy to worship and study the Bible in what is known as “Home Churches.” 

When I was 7 years old, after the arrest of our pastor in Iran, my family made the reluctant choice to flee the country in a matter of weeks to Turkey. We then, through the help of the UN Refugee Agency, were able to get accepted into Canada in 2014. We were sponsored by Pastor Arash Azad at a time where Emmanuel Iranian Church only consisted of 10-20 people. 

Through that period, my family was able to again connect with other Christians going through similar circumstances as us. So growing up I was always surrounded by Christians, and at some point, 7-year-old Kiarash decided that he wanted to have the same thing my parents had and openly accepted Jesus into my heart. 

Having been there from almost the beginning of the church has been a fantastic opportunity to see how Emmanuel Iranian Church has grown from the start and where they have gotten to now. You can see the growth through the 40+ baptisms that they do every few months. 

I was first introduced to Kurios through my pastor who thought it would be a great opportunity for me to gain that solid foundation on what it means to be Christian. It was also at a point in my life when I simply had no idea what I wanted to do. Going into this program, I was not sure what I was anticipating, but I know now that it has exceeded every expectation I could have had and I am extremely grateful for that. 

One of the best aspects of Kurios has to do with it being very mobile. One of my favourite memories involve the first week of the program where we took a one-week camping trip down to Kananaskis. It was a wonderful experience being constantly surrounded by nature and seeing God’s beautiful creation firsthand; it was also very giving in terms of building relationships with people that I am now grateful to call family. The biggest thing I have learned is that God is God and I am not, as well as the importance of putting all your trust in Him. 
 

For me, taking a gap year has been one of the best decisions I have ever made! I truly do not know what I would have been doing instead of coming to Kurios. In my opinion, a program like Kurios can be perfect for someone who is still searching for their passion and can be one of the best ways to figure out what God has called them to do. 

Visit kurios.ca for more details on this great opportunity. They’re accepting applications for the 2022-23 year now! 

Stay in The Story

By Rev. Shannon Youell

“Stay in the Story” —I heard this phrase a while ago from a guest on a podcast. He was referring to our need as Christ’s ambassadors who join God in his work, to continually put ourselves back into the larger Story. We must not lose sight of the Big Story of God in the midst of life’s challenges and joys inherent in being humans together.  

It is no coincidence that a story reminding us of the goodness of God in the land of the living can shift our focus from discouragement and weariness back to our raison d’être. When we tell one another stories, placing them back into the Big Story of God and humans, we see evidence of God at work all along. Join us as we “Stay in the Story” in this update of God’s work in a few of our newer communities.   

Makarios Evangelical Church – New Westminster, BC 

This gathering continues to grow deeper and wider. In the final months of 2021, Makarios welcomed new arrivals from Hong Kong who are relocating to Canada. This is a growing part of their ministry, partnering with ministries in Hong Kong to help newcomers settle into churches and communities here.  

Along with new families comes an increase in children and youth, and along with the recent hire of a part-time English Ministry pastor for the college students they minister to from Douglas College, Makarios will be looking to hire a part-time children’s worker this coming summer. It is with great thanks to CBWC and our churches who support new works that they continue to grow and extend the Good News Story all around them, with a special shout-out to the hospitality shown by Olivet Baptist Church!

Emmanuel Iranian Church – North Vancouver & Coquitlam, BC 

EIC continues to grow despite COVID restrictions, their main campus undergoing renovations, a great need for more leaders and for an English-speaking youth worker, limited finances, and health issues for both pastors. They have rotating services to accommodate both space and health restrictions, but this framework increases the workload for the leaders. In January 67 new believers were baptized – this brings baptisms up to well over 400 since fall of 2018!  

They have also recently begun planting a new community in Burnaby out of CBWC’s Royal Oak Ministry Centre. God’s Good Story is compelling for those coming from a Muslim background, whose religion can feel like an oppressive authority. I have had several new believers express to me the great joy they have found in Jesus and the liberty and grace of being able to explore and express their journey as disciples without fear. 

Please continue to pray for provision for this community, church, pastors and leaders as they continue to boldly and plainly proclaim that Jesus is God. 

Hope Christian Church of Calgary, AB

In the past you’ve been invited to join us in praying for, and supporting, Hope Christian Church of Calgary, a small Arabic-speaking congregation. Our current situation is that planter and Pastor Mouner Alajji stepped aside last July, sensing a call to the Arabic-speaking mission field in Europe. One of the leaders in the church told me that Mouner was the best pastor he has ever had, and how missed he will be! Sadly, Mouner has also been undergoing serious health complications and is unable to continue at this time in the mission work as he undergoes treatment in Calgary. Please remember to pray for Mouner and his family during this time. 

The church has been wrestling with the departure of their pastor and have really struggled with the COVID restrictions and how they would continue forward. The board of the church prayerfully discerned that they would shift their focus to a home church led by one of the gospel teachers in the congregation, and to officially close the Hope Christian Church of Calgary location.  

While some might see this as a failed church plant, it is most definitely as successful gospel plant. The congregation continues to speak God’s Good News into their lives and into the lives of those they interact with in their places and spaces. What is a church plant after all? It is a gathering of believers who are communicators of God’s justice, love, grace, mercy, salvation, and hope, alive and active in the broken places in our lives and in our world.  

As Gospel Planters in general are seeing movement of the Spirit in micro-churches as an avenue to engage people with God’s Good News, we continue to pray for this home church (one expression of micro-church) in joining God on His mission right where they find themselves. 

Other Gospel Planting Work 

I love how out of our deepest doubt and questions, God shows up! Well into the pandemic, a lot of conversations were going around the catalyst conversation table: How do new plants happen now? How will new church communities, committed to evangelism, survive? But, surprise! God is still at work and His Spirit is still inviting his people to join Him.  

Not only have several new works actually thrived in various ways, but new gatherings happened! CBWC Church Planting is working with a new planting in Kelowna, a new plant in the discernment process in Burnaby, as well as a handful of already existing church communities looking to become family with CBWC. We will keep you updated as these new works progress!  

You are invited to join too! Please continue in prayer for our existing and future plantings, lifting up the leaders and the congregations that courageously press forward with the Good News of God’s kingdom in our troubling times. They are committed to telling the Story by intersecting the stories of seekers with God’s Good News.   

For that matter, remember to pray for all our churches – each and every one devoted to being salt and light in our communities across Western Canada! 

Want to know how you can be a part of the Story with these and other new communities? Contact us to discover how you can join in.

A Most Reluctant Conversation

By Cailey Morgan

Over the holidays I had a chance to watch The Most Reluctant Convert, a film highlighting the winding path that led CS Lewis to Christ over the first 30 years of his life. 

The movie, based on true life events and writings, leads us through Lewis’ sometimes-active and sometimes-passive resistance to the idea and reality of God, and under it all we see God’s patient, loving pursuit of his child. 

Nicholas Ralph as young CS Lewis in The Most Reluctant Convert. Credit: cslewismovie.com
Nicholas Ralph as young CS Lewis in The Most Reluctant Convert. Credit: cslewismovie.com

For Lewis to come to a place of calling Jesus Saviour and Lord, he needed to be “converted” in both mind and heart. Intellectually, he worked through all the scenarios and concluded that there must be a god: he became a (reluctant) theist based on reasoning and logic. But it takes more than scholarly wrestling to become a whole-person-disciple.  

In our text-message philosophizing after watching The Most Reluctant Convert, my mom Sherry Bennett put it this way: “clearly Lewis’ decision to follow was a result of the Spirit and not just his pursuit of knowledge. Understanding came from the Spirit. And from Spirit-led understanding came a depth of call and commitment. If God is real, we can’t just decide that he is somewhat important, but that he is of utmost importance and we must obey.” Lewis moved from a theist to a disciple of Christ as he not only began to find answers in Scripture to feed his mind, but also discovered Jesus the person who quenched his thirsty heart and spurred him on to a new way of living. 

This film was especially poignant for me as I thought about a mentor of mine who had first experienced Christ through Lewis’ book Mere Christianity. But it brought up a question for me as well. If CS Lewis hadn’t lost his mother at a young age, or served in World War I, would he have written that book? Would my friend have come to know Jesus and become an important figure in my development as a young Christian leader?  

I don’t recommend “what-if” rabbit trails as they rarely take us anywhere good. But this one did. It reminded me that God’s love is pursuing us in so many ways, and it inspired me to want to be part of that journey for those around me. Do my everyday decisions, words, and attitudes provide a chance for people to experience Christ? Are we living in such a way as to give people a taste of God’s love? 

“I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.” Wendell Berry, Another Turn of the Crank  

To borrow a Shannon-ism, the Gospel is thick enough to reach each of us where we are at, even as different parts of us are converted at different stages for different people. Similarly, Mom reminded me of John 1 and the calling of various disciples to Jesus: “John pointed out the Messiah to Andrew and he followed. Then Andrew got his brother Simon, who then also followed. But interestingly, the next disciple to follow was Philip—but it was Jesus who went and found/pursued him! And then He went to Nathanael who was skeptical. He needed a direct, tangible encounter with Jesus and proof to follow.” 

Perhaps it is a deep discussion with a friend that enlightens the mind or seeing the selfless action of a stranger that touches the heart. Perhaps the Spirit speaks without another soul around—through a dream or a song or the beauty of Creation.  

For Lewis, many of the big steps on his journey had to do with people he respected who were open about their Christian faith. Because there is a film about his life, we get the joy of experiencing those moments in hindsight, whereas in our day-to-day, we don’t often get to see the mental wrestlings or inner journeys of our friends, family, or neighbours. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t making a difference. 

I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions this year, but CS Lewis, the apostle John, Wendell Berry, and my mom have helped rekindle a desire to join God, through a life of love, in “summoning the world always toward wholeness.” 

And this is my hope for you this year: to follow the Spirit into a life of God-indwelled grace and boldness, deeply rooted in prayer for the other. A life bearing the Fruit of the Spirit in you and those around you. 

Even if they never make a movie about it. 

I’m Back!

By Cailey Morgan

Hello Readers!

This quick post is just to let you know that after a wonderful and intense 13-month parental leave, I am back part-time in my roles with CBWC in Church Planting and Communications.

In 2018 my husband and I decided to pursue local adoption, in November 2020 we welcomed our daughter Rorie into our home, and in June 2021 we signed the court documents to make it official. Rorie came into our lives shortly after her first birthday, after a year in a fantastic foster home.

Kyson Rorie and Cailey Morgan

Rorie is friendly, talkative and loves to sing. She’s into scooting, soccer, and books, especially ones about Fancy Nancy or construction vehicles. Her favourite song is “Every Move I Make,” with “Praise Ye the Lord” and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” tied for second place. She is epic and hilarious, but also exhausting and challenging—especially to this mom who likes solitude and silence and being in control…but that’s another post for another day.

We are grateful for everyone who has prayed for us and cheered us on along the way. We are also so inspired by the many stories in the CBWC family of those who have grown their families through adoption, and we look forward to more conversations!

Life from the Missional Web

By:  Rev. Shannon Youell 

Donning rain coats and boots, my husband and I went on a rainy day guided hike in one of our local parks boasting old-growth 800-year-old Douglas Fir, a multitude of resident creatures and an incredible diversity of understory plants. Our focus was on mushrooms – Marvelous Mushrooms as the hike was titled.  We expected to learn and identify mushrooms but this was so much more. We discovered mycelium!             

Mycelium, a vast network of fungal threads, are something like the root and digestive systems of the mushrooms.   These networks are what is going on underneath the top layer of soil. They are formed from the mushroom’s mycelium, a web like network that makes its way beneath the forest floor connecting to other lifeforms.  What we see on the surface and recognize as mushrooms are the fruit of the fungi.  

Surprised as we were by that discovery, it was the symbiotic relationship the mycelium has with the forest trees that brings Marvelous Mushrooms to this blog.  Called mycorrhiza, this under the surface relationship is crucial to the health of the trees and of the forest ecosystem and of course for the support of the mushrooms themselves.

The short version is that mycorrhiza from the mycelium weave around the underground roots of trees to nourish and protect them.  They help trees absorb their needed nutrients and helps to protect them from absorbing toxins that could affect the health of the tree.  Mycorrhiza also connect trees in the forest, via the mycelium web network, to one another and help the trees sense when one of their ‘community’ is struggling.  Once those ‘sensors’ are triggered, healthy trees will divert their own nutrients to help the struggling trees, even trees of different species.  Current research being done at the University of British Columbia has discovered that these ‘connections’ go even deeper: ‘mother’ trees, through the web, can detect when one of their own ‘baby’ trees is struggling and divert energy and nutrients to help foster their growth.  They will prioritize the nurture of their ‘own’ over another tree! 

My apologies to any mycologists out there, I am just learning and excited to learn more about how all life is connected.   

Let me get into more familiar territory.  What do mushrooms and their ‘web’ have to do with how followers of Jesus, and specifically communities of followers of Jesus, participate in the support and nurture of one another’s communities?

This blog has often touted the benefit of partnerships for the establishment of new expressions of the gospel in our communities.  Both past and current plants are the beneficiaries of partnerships with already established churches (small and large), and in fact, those partnerships are necessary to nurture those plants and crucial for their ability to grow into healthy gospel communities of their own. We also encourage symbiotic relationships in these partnerships – a flow back and forth as needed for the health and discipleship of both communities. 

We need more of these symbiotic relationships as an eco-system for all our churches. Would more of our existing churches be willing to risk planting new expressions of the gospel if they knew they would not be on their own but supported by the ‘underground network’, communities of Christ ‘mycorrhiza’? Can we operate as an eco-system of communities even while distant from one another, so that we naturally respond to the struggle’s others are having, diverting some of our own energy and nutrients to support them?  If Jesus were talking to nature folk rather than agrarian folk, would he have told the Parable of the Mycorrhiza?  The kingdom of God is like……? 

I think of this in supporting gospel communities both new and existing. How might we, as our vast geographical network of churches, live symbiotically, nurturing one another for the health of the whole.   Can we be more active and involved in the health of one another’s communities in our common mission of joining God in his work of revealing the Good News wherever we live, work, play and pray?  Think about it.  (Paul writes about it in 2Cor 8)

There are new communities right now that you can nurture and encourage by your connections with them.  Contact me at syouell@cbwc.ca for how you can join the web of life that connects all of us to God’s creation and to God’s mission in and to this amazingly interconnected and interdependent world he created.    

Engaging Mission with Coaching and Cohort Opportunities

Wow! Fall is looming up before us already and most of us are making plans for how we can be salt and light, the Church, in our neighbourhoods in this next season, whatever it may hold for us in the ongoing changing landscape of life disrupted by a pandemic and other world events!

It also means deadlines for engaging in some of the amazing opportunities and pathways available to you and which you can read more details about HERE including the contacts for registration.

This past year (September through March) two of our CBWC churches participated in the Year One Course From the Centre for Leadership Development – “Forming and Reforming Communities of Christ in a Secular Age. One of those churches was where I attend. Five of our leadership team took part in reimagining engaging in mission right in our own area. This has benefited us greatly in understanding together how we can move deeper in shared practices within our church community and engage more relevantly and meaningfully by discovering where God is already at work bringing his presence, his shalom, into our neighbourhoods. The good work we did in that course and the consultation with Tim for our whole Leadership Team (board, elders, staff) is now being fleshed out with a larger group of our folk as we endeavor to discern together how God is forming and reshaping us to engage in his mission. Registration is open now for a mid-September start!

More than a decade ago when I was an Associate Pastor at another church, I brought some our leaders to an event brought to Victoria from The Forge Missional Network and facilitated by our own Cam Roxburgh (who I did not know back then). This opportunity was sponsored by our City-Wide Ministerial, and leaders from a wide range of churches and denominations in Victoria attended this workshop/course Friday and Saturday. It changed and began to reshape my understanding of evangelism, discipleship and mission, and gave words to what had been a growing passion in myself and the leaders who attended with me. Fast forward to today and we have The Discovery Project pathway to begin the conversation with your church and leaders. “Many leaders have gone through some missional training and are asking how they might help their people to “discover” some of the exciting opportunities presented to us as followers of Jesus in these difficult days.  The Discovery Project is one response to this question.”  Registration for this pathway is flexible as is church specific but don’t delay as space fills up!

For our churches who are already exploring what it means to be the Church in our day as missional engaged people, The Neighbourhood Project is here to help! This pathway brings together cohorts of groups to explore, equip and implement what the Spirit is leading them to. This pathway is filling up so fast, its now added a second and likely a third cohort and there is still some room so don’t delay!

Again, you can access more information and contacts for registration HERE

Don’t miss out on these great opportunities as we all desire to participate in the advancing of God’s kingdom here on earth!

RE-THINK; RE-IMAGINE; REMISSION-COHORTS & COACHING OPPORTUNITIES 

It is likely no secret to any Christian pastors, lay-leaders and many churches that our world and our culture has and continues to shift rapidly.  For us the question is not how do we get back to the place where the church and Christian faith were central to society in general, but rather, in the midst of a changed world, how then do we, the church, re-engage our neighbourhoods, towns and cities as local missionaries called to be faithfully present to the people who live around us with the glorious story of God and his mission of shalom, salvation, reconciliation and restoration.  

Coming out of the success of the CBWC January Webinar, Allowing the Spirit to Reorient us Around the Mission of God, staff at CBWC are excited to endorse three further opportunities for our churches and leadership teams to resource, strengthen and widen the ministry and mission of the local church in this rapidly changing world – both within the church and beyond into our neighbourhoods, towns, and cities in which we live, work, play and pray in. 

Currently there are three pathways to learning and coaching available and being offered to our CBWC churches.  Each has been developed, facilitated, and taught by long time CBWC pastors who love our denomination and family of churches.  Joined by other gifted teachers and missional leaders they bring their decades of experience to teach and coach church leaders, pastors, and lay folk locally and far afield within cohorts.   Their desire is to share with their family of churches from their wealth of knowledge and experience to equip our churches as we join God on his mission as local missionaries deeply rooted into our neighbourhoods.   

If you are longing to learn and discover ways to re-engage your church with the community in which you are situated but are not sure where to begin, there is a Pathway for you!   

THE DISCOVERY PROJECT

The Discovery Project is designed for those just putting their toes in the water and exploring what it means to join God on mission in their neighbourhood. Immersing ourselves in the text, we will explore what it means to bear witness to who God is through loving Him with all our hearts, minds, and strength, and by loving our neighbours as we love one another. Many leaders have gone through some missional training and are asking how they might help their people to “discover” some of the exciting opportunities presented to us as followers of Jesus in these difficult days.  The Discovery Project is one response to this question. Facilitated by Cam Roxburgh, this Pathway will encourage a response and equip us for mission.   
There are 2 types of delivery systems: 

  1. Church Specific – a weekend seminar that covers all the same material as the online option plus the advantage of church specific input and consulting.  The fee for this option is $1500.00 plus travel expense (we are working on possibly offsetting some of the travel costs for qualifying churches).   
  1. Online offering of 6 sessions of 2 hours each.  Cost is $59.00 per person or $300 per church.  6 weeks bi-weekly from mid September to end of November.  This option is not church specific.   

THE NEIGHBOURHOOD PROJECT

The Neighbourhood Project is designed for staff and lay leaders of churches who have been serious about exploring what it is that God is doing in the midst of the crisis the church is facing. Covid is but one of the issues that is causing the rate of change to accelerate and shining a spotlight onto the reality that much is amiss, and God is doing a new thing. This is good news. TNP is for a select number of leaders and churches that get the conversation and are wanting to not go back, but forward into what God is doing.  This is a cohort of leaders journeying together with Allan Roxburgh, Cam Roxburgh and facilitators from The Missional Network and Forge to:  

  • Learn to discern God’s activity in your neighbourhoods.
  • Equip your people to join Jesus in your communities.
  • Explore how to lead in disruptive times.
  •  Shape congregation life from Sunday-centric to neighbourhood-rooted.  filling fast so register today! 

This Pathway is an online offering including monthly sessions, one on one coaching with churches, and cluster cohorts.  There are reading and experimentation expectations.  Cost per church cohort is normally $3000 but with a generous grant we are offering it at $1500.  An application process is required.  Course begins September 2021 and runs through June 2022.  This is filling fast so register today! 

FORMING & REFORMING COMMUNITIES OF CHRIST IN A SECULAR AGE

Centre for Leadership Development – “Forming and Reforming Communities of Christ in a Secular Age:  this three-year course in Missional Leadership is geared for congregational teams and individuals offering both onsite or online accessibility and will resource, strengthen and widen the ministry of the local church.  With Tim Dickau, Darrell Guder & Ross Lockhart plus many practitioner guests.  Cost includes lunch for onsite and a private team consultation with Tim.  Cost: $250 per person ($200 online).  $500 for a group up to 5 ($450 online) per year.  This course is geared for teams that have already determined the need to rethink church and are beginning their own internal culture change.  Year 1 begins September 2021.   

We believe this is the right time for churches to begin pursuing one of these Pathways, especially as we emerge with all we have learned during the Covid-19 pandemic. Talk to us about which Pathway is best for your church and leaders!  Contact us to assess which Pathway is right for you and your church. 

Shannon Youell
CBWC Director of Church Planting
syouell@cbwc.ca
 
Cam Roxburgh
Facilitator/Leader of The Discovery Project & The Neighbourhood Project
cam@southside.ca

Tim Dickau
Facilitator/Leader CML course Forming & Reforming Communities of Christ in a Secular World
dickautim@gmail.com     

Ken Nettleton 
Facilitator & Lead Pastor New Life Church, Duncan BC
ken@newlifechurch.ca

Summer Reading 2021

by: Shannon Youell, CBWC Director of Church Planting (and initiatives)

It’s time for my Annual Summer Reading List! 

This year I am featuring books that I’ve read or am working my way through.  This past year I’ve been working my way through some of the books around topics that challenge the church.   I offer two of the ones that I found most helpful in seeing the historical, theological and ethical contexts. I also include a commentary that I am thoroughly enjoying, and a couple of books helpful for us as we re-think and re-form our church communities around the mission of God in our time.  Without any further ado, let’s dive in!  Let me know if you tackled any of these and perhaps consider writing a review. 

Two Views on Homosexuality; the Bible; and the ChurchMegan K. De Franca, Wesley Hill, Stephen R. Holmes, William Loader – from Zondervan’s Counterpoints Series – editor Preston Sprinkle (from the Center for Faith and Sexuality) 

I have read a variety of books from differing viewpoints on this topic.  I find this book to be one of the most helpful I’ve read as the essayists both articulate their viewpoint and interact with one another’s essays.  Contributors are four “accomplished scholars in the fields of biblical studies, theology and topics related to sexuality and gender”; two from an affirming position and two from a non-affirming position.  For each view, the editors “intentionally enlisted one theologian and one biblical scholar to articulate and defend each of the two views.  I quite appreciated the respectful, academic, theological, ethical and pastoral tone with which each approached the topic and how in each essay I discovered things that I both agreed with, disagreed with and was challenged in my thinking on. 

The making of Biblical Womanhood:  How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth by Beth Allison Barr 

Anyone who knows my husband knows he is a history geek.  I, regretfully, was not, (being far more of how-do-we-live-now-so-we-do-well-in-the-future kind of thinker), until I studied Church History!  Then I started reading history in general and realized that as much as I love Church history, reading it removed and outside of political, economic, social and cultural histories was reading it out of context.   

Beth Allison Barr is a historian, a Christian and a professor of history at Baylor University.  Her studies in history, and in particular her academic specialties in European women, medieval and early modern England, and church history disrupted her understanding of complementarianism that she understood from her Southern Baptist roots.   Written with well-honed academic muscle in a very accessible narrative, Barr tackles the idea of Biblical Womanhood from scripture, history and church practice over the centuries.  She poses, using and citing historical evidence, that the concept of “Biblical Womanhood” was constructed by the patterns of patriarchy in societies and cultures and how, over the centuries, they seeped into the church.  

Whatever your view of women in the church, this is a must read and, in my humble opinion, should be added to the reading list of all seminaries.   

The Story of God Bible Commentary:  Genesis by Tremper Longman III 

This is the seventh commentary in this series that I own (thank you Kindle!).  This Commentary series delves into the meaning of the text both in the past and for us today.  Each commentary uses the pattern of Listen to the Story; Explain the Story; and Live the Story.   I love reading commentaries and I am really enjoying this offering written by Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College.  Genesis has always been one of my favorite OT books (to be honest there are many!) and Longman guides the reader through the richness of this book of ‘beginnings’.   

What is the church and why does it exist?  by David Fitch 

Practices, Presence and Places.  These 3 P’s shape Fitch’s recent book calling the church to renewal in our disruptive times.  As Fitch writes in his Introduction: 

“When things get chaotic, and no longer seem to make sense, we must go back to the “what” and the “why” questions. We must ask all over again: What are we doing here when we gather as the church and why are we doing it? Only then can we get to the “how” question. Only then can we discern how to be faithful to who we are and the mission we have been given. Perhaps this is a cultural moment that offers us an opportunity to reset the church in North America. Perhaps this is an ideal time for Christians everywhere to reexamine what it means to be the church. It is an occasion for us to ask all over again what we are doing here, who we are, and how we should live as a part of the local church.” 

 This book is for those who have long had a sense that God is reshaping us as his church for just such a time of this and for those who just know something has changed and yet don’t know what it all means.  I recommend this for all who love the church that God loves and long to see God’s kingdom flourish right where you live, work, play and pray. 

Why Would Anyone Go To Church? By Kevin Makin 

Kevin Makin is a church planter and pastor of Eucharist Church in Hamilton Ontario, a church associated with Canadian Baptists of Ontario & Quebec (CBOQ).  In his book, he tells the story of the planting and establishing of an innovative and creative community that engages both people of faith and those seeking for some kind of meaning.   For Kevin and his team the big question was planting within the context of the next generation.  They asked themselves big and important questions:  “What does Christian community look like for this next generation?” “Who will it be for?” And the big one: “Why would anyone go to church?”  

Kevin writes in his introduction: “People ask me if I’m surprised that so many are leaving the church. Surprised? Are you kidding me? I can’t believe anyone still does this church thing. And yet they do. For two thousand years, people have continued to be a part of the church, despite war and persecution and corruption and organ music. Why has church survived? Surely something has made it so meaningful to so many people for such a long period of time. That’s what we were trying to understand when we started a new church a decade ago. What we discovered is that few of our peers are interested in competing with the culture around us. The Jesus followers I know aren’t sticking with the church because church is better than a concert or more interesting than a podcast. They’re staying because there are primordial elements of Christian community that are far more rooted than all that superficial fluff.” 

 Kevin’s book is written with humility and candor of the triumphs and challenges of planting something contextual and cultural that invites people to faith whether it is an ‘old’ faith or a ‘new’ faith.  This is a fun and insightful quick read – I read it in a day.  

Eucharist has been recognized as one of the most creative and innovative churches in the country and spotlighted on national television and radio outlets, in newspapers, and on podcasts. 

Pick up one or more of these (or download onto your e-reader) and let me know your thoughts/reviews on books.  Happy Summer Reading friends! 

Shannon Youell – Director of Church Planting CBWC 

syouell@cbwc.ca 

Rebooting What Matters

(A reflection in response to Shannon Youell’s “How then, Shall We Meet?”) 

By: Mark Archibald – Pastor of Spiritual Formation, Lethbridge First Baptist Church

 Prior to COVID-19, I was WAY off in my ministry approach and priorities.  A friend from several years of summer camp moved his family down to Lethbridge for a 3-month contract job.  In years previous we had very important conversations about life and faith.  This is a good and dynamic relationship, one that continues to grow.   In the three months this important friend was in town, how much do you think we saw each other?    

 ONCE!  And that was to help him move in!  There’s something wrong with my lifestyle, including both busy-ness and work, when there is no space on the schedule for a friend like this.   

 I am busy with community stuff outside of church (a flag football team, school council, and other community connections), and parenting takes its share of work, but the fact that I took zero time to nurture this relationship with a friend is significant!   Much of my busy-ness was church stuff, which doesn’t always have the community building and connecting benefit that it should.    

 See if you relate to this pattern in ministry: 

  •  Step 1 – “I need to help our families with parenting resources.” 
  • Step 2 – “I will prepare an event for families and spend hours and hours investing in it.” 
  • Step 3 – “I need to convince families at my church to attend or I will have wasted my time.” 
  • Step 4 – Advertise and convince families to attend, and be a little sad more didn’t show up. 
  • Step 5 – Begin planning the next event – fingers crossed that more show up next time! 

 There is a LOT of time expended coming up with programs that I think are important, and just as much time convincing people to attend them.  The time spent on programming may have been better spent personally with those attending families AS WELL AS other ones! 

Walk With Me

 I’m trying to shift away from “attend my event” to “walk with me” approach.  That seems to be healthier for everyone and puts less pressure on everyone.  It allows for real community to grow. 

 COVID was bad.  Awful.  But few things have given us permission to shut things down and re-evaluate life patterns as much COVID has.  I have written down “In what ways do we meet again?” on my office white board as a reminder of how we best move forward as a community of believers.    As I reboot, I’m returning to a familiar and favourite verse: “let us spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).  

How then, shall we meet?

By Shannon Youell

“The most missional question we can be asking is: in what ways do we meet again’?” 

Summer is here!  Many folks have at least one vaccine and, increasingly, two; Provincial Health Orders are being incrementally relaxed, and people are just aching to get back to normal activities.  Perhaps your church has already started meeting again, (in some provinces, such as BC where I am, we haven’t been able to have even limited church services until a few weeks ago), or you are just now experiencing an increase in the number of people who can congregate.  

Whatever your current situation, I am hoping we are not so excited to finally see our brothers and sisters gathered for worship that we quickly forget everything we have been learning these past fifteen months about ourselves, our societal and church cultures, our mission beyond a Sunday service, our discipleship, and our gatherings. 

So I draw us back to the question I asked last month:  

                                   “In what ways do we meet again?” 

As much as I am looking forward to meeting in person again, I must also confess that some aspects of online is enticing, especially the aspect where I actually have a Sunday left to be present with family, friends and neighbours.  For people involved in hosting, facilitating and ministering on Sundays there is often little time and energy leftover for just hanging out with whoever might be around. 

I am a walker.  I have walked and prayed in my neighbourhood for more than a decade, usually after work or in the early evenings when the days are longer, and I rarely met other people.    With a one hour service online, my walks have often been in the middle of the day and what I observed was how many people are actually home and about the neighbourhood on a Sunday!  It turns out the one day I may have more opportunities to meet people who don’t know Jesus is the same day I predominantly spend with other believers. 

This has alerted me.  Here are the ripening harvest fields, yet the harvesters are not in the fields but beautifully and meaningfully gathering together in a building.  I will say again as I have previously:  I am not advocating brothers and sisters in Christ cease gathering – I am simply asking the question through a missional lens: “in what ways do we meet again”.   This is a rapidly growing conversation being engaged by pastors and denominational associations and, I pray, by all of us who are followers and co-labourers of Christ. 

As I was writing this article, my inbox box reminded me of unread emails (I hope I’m not the only one who has those!) and one of them was a post from Carey Nieuwhof earlier this week on his blog.  The title caught my attention, “5 Confessions of a Pastor about Online Church Attendance”.  It caught my eye since I am in the mood for confessing.  In the blog Carey confessed his own enjoyment of a more relaxed Sunday and also shared the same observation in his neighbourhood as had I. Hmmmm.

 Read it HERE and let us know what you think; what worries you; what challenges you and what excites you; and where you see God at work amid the things that are shifting.  In everything we’ve gone through and learned during this pandemic experience, what have you been learning about joining God on His mission of reconcilliation, redemption and restoration in the world he so loves?   

Shannon is the CBWC Director of Church Planting (and passionate voice for churches growing towards missional communities).  Drop her an email at syouell@cbwc.ca – we’d love to hear from you!