Wind

This article from was first posted on the New Leaf Network Blog.

My son and I went on a mini bike trip last summer. We pedalled about 250 km from Saskatoon to Moose Jaw over three days. It was a fun little summertime adventure. Over those three days, I really learned to respect the wind and the way it can affect life on a bike. On day one, with the wind slightly at our backs, we managed to do 110 km and averaged speeds in the high 20s and low 30s. On day two, the wind blew across us and we made it about 80 km and averaged speeds in the high teens and low 20s. On the third day, we faced headwinds that gusted to up to 60km/hr. We travelled only 70 km and struggled to keep our speed in the double digits. Day three was gruelling, exhausting, and honestly one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. The temptation to quit was ever-present.

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It’s no secret that the church in Canada is currently facing some strong social headwinds. The bottom is dropping out of our collective speedometer. We are expending tons of energy for only half the expected results. What’s going on?

To put it rather bluntly, Canada has changed and the church is struggling to deal with it. Political and social conditions in the western world have been a wind at our backs for centuries.  During that time we got used to operating from a centred and privileged position in society. We shaped public policy and education. Social institutions looked to us for guidance. For all intents and purposes, to be a good Canadian was synonymous with being a good Christian. Canadians practically rolled downhill and through the front doors of our churches. It’s hard not to get used to an arrangement like that. Which is all fine and good, provided the winds don’t change.

Here are a couple of tips, from a prairie-wind-warrior, to keep your wheels turning:

  1. Stop fixating on your speedometer. In a headwind, your numbers can be depressing. Weirdly, headwinds tend to also make you fixated on them. Logically cyclists know that headwinds affect speed. Double the wind speed means quadruple the drag. Logically cyclists know that the speedometer doesn’t tell the whole story of effort. As a cyclist, you know all of this but sometimes you can’t help staring and despairing at what your speedometer is telling you. We know this truth all too well in the church too. It’s hardly controversial in church circles to say that Sunday morning worship attendance isn’t the final word on “health and growth.” We know attendance numbers don’t tell the whole story. We know that it’s easier to grow by attracting other Christians than it is to grow by making new ones. We know all of this but haven’t found a way to stop fixating on attendance. Fixation can lead to depression and hopelessness. Fixation distracts from the issues of ineffective evangelism, discipleship, and community engagement. Fixation can cause premature shutdowns of church plants because they aren’t “successful” fast enough. Fixation kills.
  2. Start celebrating forward motion. Stop looking at numbers and start looking at your environment. Learn to see the signs of progress around you. Celebrate that your tires are still turning, celebrate that you are still eating up the road, and celebrate that you haven’t given up yet. This is also true in the church. If we are going to survive the Great Canadian Headwind we need to be willing to do the hard work of finding new ways to measure progress. If we want to give ourselves space relearn how to speak truths and live lives that are intelligible, credible, and authoritative in the Canada mission field we may need to be willing to take a numbers hit.
  3. The principle of your butt, legs, and resolve. The main resources a rider has to spend when fighting a headwind are their butt, legs, and resolve. Your butt determines how long you can ride. Your legs determine how fast you go. Your resolve determines whether or not you’ll finish. You need to spend these resources wisely and in a balanced way. Push your legs too far and you will burn yourself out and wind up in the saddle longer. Spend too little energy and your sore butt will end your ride. Fail to manage your resolve and you will quit too early. The church faces a similar challenge. Our resources of time, money, assets, people, energy, hope, and focus need to be spent on the things that matter. These resources are interrelated and exhaustible. I have watched church plants close with more people, money and assets than they started with. All because they exhausted their energy, hope, and focus. Even in fair weather managing your resources matters. When you add in a headwind, the task becomes existentially vital.
  4. If you can’t ride in the wind you can’t ride on the prairies. I had to remind myself of this constantly. It can be easy to get mad at your environment. I did. I got mad at the wind. I got mad that I chose riding days with the wind coming from the “wrong” direction. I got mad at trucks as they added drag and instability to an already tough ride. Getting mad at the world didn’t help me go faster. It only sapped my energy. The truth is wind comes with cycling on the prairies. If you can’t take the wind then you can’t ride out here. Managing anger and disappointment can be a struggle for churches too. Churches spend needless energy getting mad at the world. We get mad at politicians. We get mad at our culture. We get mad at the internet, or hockey schedules, or shift work economies, or summer vacations, etc… It’s easy to fall prey to “name it and blame it” theology and thinking. The simple reality is getting mad doesn’t change anything. It only saps our energy. If we nurture the belief that we can only be the church in fair weather, then we may find we can’t be the church at all.

Why are things so tough for the church right now? It is because we have built our expectations, our systems, and our thinking around a world where the wind is at our backs? Is it because we aren’t used to riding into the wind? The good news is that this is nothing new for the global church. Lots of us over the centuries know how to keep moving forward when social, cultural, and political winds are against us. Lots of us, despite the wind coming from the wrong direction, are still willing to get on our bikes and ride.

Will you join us? 

Shared Practices in the Midst of Self Isolation

By Shannon Youell

How then, shall we, the church, respond? 

Over the last few weeks weve been taking a look at Mike Frost’s BELLS approach to Shared Practices: Bless, Eat, Learn, Listen, Be Sent. However, in our present global reality, how do we engage shared practices? As Bruxy Cavey reminds us, love is wise and it is nimble...We may, in certain situations, love well by actually keeping our distance from people, by staying away. So what now?

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We’ve taken another look at these 5 shared practices and want to share some stories and resources with you about how we can continue to show God’s love to each other and the world even in the midst of self-isolation: 

Bless 

Times of crisis can turn even the most kind of us into Mr. Hyde! We’ve seen this in the buying out of common needed items and groceries in our stores in the past weeks – empty shelves facing those who only were buying what they needed for that week and for those who lack the resources to buy a months worth of food/products at a time.   

I faced those empty shelves for the sixth day in a row, looking for just one package of toilet paper as we were down to our last couple of rolls (yes this is, sadly, a toilet paper story – but it has a good ending!) 

On day six, four 8roll packages remained on the shelf of the local grocery store. And it was only eight in the morning!  I bought one, praying that three more people could buy the others. I also discovered that there were a dozen or so containers of disinfecting wipes miraculously on an otherwise empty shelf, so I bought two of those.  

The next morning, one of my sons dropped by to leave his young child here so as to get his shopping for the week.  Same store.  No toilet paper, no wipes, no soup, no pasta.  So I gave him my package of toilet paper and a package of wipes.  All will be well, I thought.  

Next morning someone in our community stuck her head in my driveway gate to drop off a piece of frozen salmon she wanted me to have.  Standing at a safe distance from one another, I asked why it took two bags to hold one piece of fish.  “Other stuff.” she said.  Looking in one of the bags I laughed out loud. There was an 8roll pack of toilet paper and a baggie of wipes that she packed from her container of wipes she has at home.  She had no idea I had just given mine away to someone else!  She said it must have been some kind of “God radar. 

Can we all put up our “God Radar” on how we can bless those in our neighbourhood and extended communities during this time?  Take the time to look out your window and see who you can be a blessing to.  

Eat
It’s difficult these days—but not impossible—to make mealtimes a hospitable activity. One family in Cailey’s Mission Group gathers together daily at 3:30pm for coffee and snacks. This routine was in place long before COVID-19 came on the scene, but has become an even more important connect point for them in these times.   

This family—comprising parents, two adult kids living at home and a third in high school—has even taken “Coffee Time” to the next level in the past couple of weeks by inviting other families “over” via FaceTime. For 30 minutes to an hour, the two families share in conversation online while enjoying hot drinks in their own homes. Why not try to share your meal or snack time with another person or family, even once a week? 

Learn
In some ways, this one’s easy—has there ever been a season with more educational resources available at our fingertips? However, when Michael Frost says “Learn,” what he’s saying is learn Jesus for the sake of becoming like Jesus. This practice means more than buzzing in and out of webinars and Reddit.

Frost goes as far as calling us to “marinate our minds and souls in the story of Jesus Through biblical study, theological reading and even the viewing of films (no matter how limited each of them might be), we slowly but surely orient our lives toward the things of Christ, and we become deeply familiar with His story so we can share it whenever anyone asks us for the reason for the hope we have in Him” (Five Habits of Highly Missional People p34).

Listen 
Remember, it’s still Lent! It might look different with kids around or your spouse trying to work from home in the living room, but try to find a way for fasting, solitude, and meditating on Scripture to help you hear what the Holy Spirit wants to say to you and your community.  

Be Sent
I was talking with another pastor yesterday of the minute by minute evolution of our ‘new notnormalsin the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.  He, like so many of us is scrambling to figure out how to keep the congregation connected when we can no longer gather in our buildings and homes.  He mentioned how this seems to be dominating the minds of every pastor he has also been speaking with.  He is also self-isolating and is unwell, so he’s been stressed about that as well. 

In his accounting, yesterday morning, after being confined to home and having his every waking moment dominated by getting the church service online and his own health concerns, he looked out his window to the neighbourhood outside his walls.   

That’s when it hit him – he had been so focused on ensuring his own safety and well-being and that of the congregation that he forgot about his neighbours – in fact, he realized, he hadn’t seen any movement whatsoever in the home across the street where an older couple lived.  

Many churches have adopted the missional language of “being church.” Here, then is an opportunity to do just that, though in ways we haven’t even thought of as we navigate our way back to ‘normal’.   For my pastor friend, the Spirit reminded him of the calling of the church is both to be gathered and scattered.   

Here is the time, scattered as we are in the confines of our homes, to shine.  

David Fitch offers this simple but open-postured example of a note they’ve been leaving in their neighbours’ mailboxes: 

Hi neighbors, 

It’s Dave and Rae Ann Fitch. In light of the fact that some of us are likely to get sick from COVID-19 in the next little while and will need to stay home in isolation, we just wanted you to have our number and email address. If you run out of supplies like toilet paper or need someone to pick up groceries and drop them off at your door—we’re happy to help out as much as we can. 

Sincerely, 

The Fitchs” 

You can check out his whole blog article Faithful Presence During a Pandemic here.

 As I was praying the other day, I was prompted by the Spirit to move from prayers of “God, where are you?” to “God, where are you at work right now and how can I join you?” We pray that all of us in this time will be able to notice and join the good work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, homes and communities. 

Shared Practices: Starting Small at Brownfield

If you’ve been following this blog throughout the fall, you have noticed we have been focusing on being intentional in being disciples who disciple one another and engage missionally in the places and spaces where we spend the majority of our time. Christ calls each and everyone of us to be salt and light in the world, living out the gospel in ways that reveal Jesus and the good news of God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.

Intentional discipleship requires us to be, well, intentional, and to be available to one another. Mid-week small group gatherings is imperative to discipleship.  Some might disagree, and that is fine. However, I do want to remind us that discipleship is much more than studying the Bible and learning knowledge about it – discipleship is always relationally based so we can ‘spur one another on’ to being open, honest and accountable to others as we are formed more and more into Christ-like-ness in our attitudes, behavior and how we live out the forgiveness, grace, peace and hope of our God-With-Us, in all our relationships in our lives.

Ashlyn Faber from Brownfield Baptist shares with us how they are encouraging gathering together mid-week, especially for families with children. We offer it here as a reprint from CBWC’s January Making Connections Newsletter. ~Shannon

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My husband and I have been very blessed to have small groups as part of our lives. From being involved as a teen, to helping lead a youth group in our college years, to gathering a cohort of people around us as we raise our own children. There is something beautiful about gathering together in a living room around the fire, or around a table full of food, or even just being on the same text thread throughout the week. It’s not that we don’t see each other Sunday at church, because we do. But this is different. This feels like we get to do life together each week. And when you do life together, you get to know each other in such different ways. Starting off can be a bit awkward, and maybe even feels like work at times. But quickly these people have become some of our dearest friends, and people we wouldn’t want to journey without.

Carving out a time to meet isn’t always easy when you’re melding many busy schedules together. Our group right now consists of five families- ten adults and thirteen kids (ages ranging from nine months to fifteen)- but we’ve found a routine that works for us! We have a four-week rotation:

Week 1 Ladies’ Night

Week 2 Men’s Night

Week 3 Couples’ Night

Week 4 Family Night

Practically, this means that we only need a babysitter one night out of the month. A bonus in this particular season of life! But it also creates and provides a rhythm of down time for the one that gets to stay home and tuck the kids into bed. Most nights we meet in the evening, with the exception of Family Night. It’s special because we share a meal together and our kids are all involved. Each night can be completely different, with its own unique flair, but we always try to incorporate praying for each other. Nothing fancy. Just meeting together.

There isn’t a magic formula, just get a group together and find a routine that works for you. Journey with each other and see what God will do!

If you have been interested in being a part of a small group but haven’t taken the plunge yet, don’t let this year pass you by without giving it a shot. There is no time like the present for trying new things!

What frameworks for discipleship have worked well in your faith community? Share with us by commenting here, or shooting me a note at syouell@cbwc.ca.

And the Lord added daily…

By Cailey Morgan

I held the tiny cup of wine and the flour-dusted triangle of pita bread in my hands, thanking God for the tangible reminder of His love. Surrounded by people I’d only met once, as I ate that bread that symbolized Christ’s body I declared that we are part of His body, the church.

Twenty minutes later in a downstairs room with a piece of cake in one hand and steaming cup of coffee the other, I stood next to a woman simultaneously sister and stranger. The moment seemed almost as sacramental as the breaking of bread we had just shared in the sanctuary above. Her eyes gleamed as she shared stories of what God had done over the past year: “It’s like we’re living in a miracle,” she said.

Before I could respond, applause broke out across the fellowship hall. I must have looked confused because the woman laughed as she informed me “that woman over there just decided to give her life to Christ. See! God just keeps doing this!”

Conversions like this are common at Emmanuel Iranian Church. Larry and Erna Schram and I were at the gathering on January 4 to celebrate the launch of EIC’s Coquitlam campus, a multiplication out of their mother church in North Vancouver. The North Van campus, a young church plant itself, baptized over 300 people in 2019.

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During the service Larry shared from the early church’s way of life in Acts 2, pointing to both communion and meals together as remembrances of Christ’s body.

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It was my honour to participate in commissioning Pastor Arash Azad and the congregation to join God’s Kingdom work among the Farsi-speaking population in Coquitlam, and then joining EIC in Scripture study, prayer, communion and fellowship—living out the words Larry had spoken over us.

Although each of us may live out a little bit differently, all CBWC’s congregations are  linked together as a people through elements of life together such as those four: teaching, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, prayer.  

Next time you partake of communion with your local community of God’s people, take a moment to remember that we are as much a representation of God’s love and sacrifice to world as the wafer or morsel of bread you twirl between your fingers. The way we live and love together as congregations and as a family of churches tangibly speaks of the reality of Christ’s reign in the world.  

Next time you drink the wine—or juice—of the new Covenant, swallow it down with abandon, purposing in your heart to cling to one another and to these shared practices just like the early church did in Acts 2:42-47, stubbornly pursuing Christ and community for the sake of the world. 

As Emmanuel Iranian continues to walk in the ways of Christ and the footsteps of the early church, my prayer is that they would indeed enjoy the favour of all the people, and that God would continue to add to their (our!) number daily those who are being saved. Amen. 

 

 

 

Live at Banff

By Shannon Youell and Cailey Morgan

Greetings from #CBWCbanff2019! We are thankful for this time to be gathered with our sisters and brothers from across CBWC to be inspired and equipped and encourage each other in our journey of leading congregations large and small, rural and urban towards faithfulness to the ways of Christ. 

Keynote speaker Ken Shigematsu, author of Survival Guide for the Soul and God in My Everything, has been helping us think rightly about our personal journeys of devotion and rhythms of life. His vivid reminders of the love of our heavenly Father help consider how we will live out of the gratitude and peace that comes from knowing that we are God’s kids. We are invited to wear the yoke of the perfect love of the Father where Jesus will rest us. Ken invites us to daily put this yoke on for, when worn, the way we breathe and live and move in this world will be changed.   

Bible study leader Lissa Wray Beal took us on a journey through the Waters of Power, the Waters of Sorrow and the Waters of Comfort through Psalms 144, 137 and 23. Psalm 144 reminds us that our God, the One God, is all powerful and at work all around us, inviting us to join him.  The lament of Psalm 137 invites us to recognize that sorrow and pain are a part of this world and how to find our offering of praise in the midst of our anguish, anger and angst and to allow ourselves to be transparent and honest to selves and to one another as we minister and pastor.  And finally, after acknowledging our God is One and All, who walks with us in the midst of the sorrow, we find that oft elusive comfort of the Shepherd’s Psalm which helps reorient us again in our faith, our hope and our joy as the people of peace who rest in our Creator’s great love for us. Banff-pastors-3175.jpg

At the Church Planting booth, we’ve been asking questions with that lean towards communal practices through the spiritual rhythms of life. What does it look like to grow together, as congregations, toward Christ? Where do Shared Practices fit into the missional discipleship of our congregations? Some interesting feedback has emerged as we’ve asked these questions:

What value do you find in being around a table with your people?

  • Common goals
  • Time to connect relationally
  • Accountability, sharpening and spurring each other to good works
  • Fellowship
  • A Place to belong

What do shared practices look like for your congregation?

  • Practicing the spiritual disciplines
  • Book group of moms meeting to encourage each other weekly
  • One-to-one discipleship to read the passage together before Sunday morning

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Many of us hope to discover ways to develop shared language in the rhythms of our church communities that take us deeper into connecting relationally, into missional discipleship, into table gatherings where hearts, joys and sorrows are shared, prayed for and where living a life of faithful presence together becomes the core value of the church gathered and scattered.  Most of us who care for and love communities of people long to find ways to develop spiritual practices that grow both the congregation and the individuals into a deeper communion of loving God, others and selves with all our hearts, minds, souls and strengths.

Shared Practices form and shape us into a community on God’s mission together. Drop us an email to hear more about these and follow this blog forward as we continue the conversation started on this blog a few weeks ago. Click here for last week’s blog to download some of the Advent resources available at our table.

We are enjoying our time around the table with friends old and new. We are inspired as we listen to the stories of church planters and of pastors in long-standing churches who continue to faithfully bring the Good News of God’s already-and-not yet Kingdom to their neighbourhoods 

Please join us in continuing to pray for inspiration of the Spirit, renewal, and perseverance for CBWC’s pastors and their families as they head home today.

Summer Reading

By Shannon Youell

Ahhh, the warm, laid back days of summer. As I write this, I am looking longingly at my summer vacation reading pile, tempted everyday to delve in now but knowing I must stay on task and not be distracted! So I thought it was a good time to let you know what we’ve been reading and what some of our staff has been and will be delving into this summer.  

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We would love to have your reviews and feedback from books you have read too. You know where to find us and we encourage you to send them along to cmorgan@cbwc.ca so we can share what is impacting your heart, mind, soul and strength as we labour together with Christ in our church communities. 

  • The Patient Ferment of the Early Church by Alan Kreider: Kreider shares important characteristics of the early church that drew others to consider a life of faith: practicing patience as a virtue, living a Christian life, careful formation and teaching, and worship. This book helps us understand the shared practices, the rhythms, that helped form the early Christians and through this formation, made them distinguishable, not solely because of their testimony, but because they lived their ordinary lives in a way that was distinguishable to the norms of the culture and society in which they lived.  Looking at early church sources, Kreider develops his thoughts.  Here is a piece from his introduction:

    “The sources rarely indicate that the early Christians grew in number because they won arguments; instead they grew because their habitual behavior (rooted in patience) was distinctive and intriguing. Their habitus—a term I have learned from French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu—enabled them to address intractable problems that ordinary people faced in ways that offered hope. When challenged about their ideas, Christians pointed to their actions. They believed that their habitus, their embodied behavior, was eloquent. Their behavior said what they believed; it was an enactment of their message. And the sources indicate that it was their habitus more than their ideas that appealed to the majority of the non-Christians who came to join them.”

  •  A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together, by Scot McKnight: Several of us are reading or have read this book recently.  Here is a bit of what inside cover reveals:  

    “Author Scot McKnight believes that your local church determines what the Christian life looks like for you.  Essentially, local churches matter far more than we often know.”  

    McKnight begins by describing his own formation in what the Christian life looked like, growing up in a church where everyone basically was “the same” in colour, ethnicity, and tastes in music, worship, sermons and lifestyle.

    Delving into the theology of the early church and the practices and issues they were engaged in, McKnight, professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary, helps us see how those first Christians tackled the reality that the world is full of “differents” and how they wrestled and prayed through sharing life together “…as a new kind of family, showing the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life togther is designed by God to be.  He encourages Christians to embody belief, to be holy and loving as we attempt to follow Christ.

    I found the chapters “The Table of Connection,” “We is Bigger than Me,” and the whole of Section 4 on Holiness, very helpful and hopeful as we more and more live in a world of differents in ways that continually point to Christ and God’s kingdom gospel story of redemption, reconciliation and restoration of all things. Having said that, that takes the reader to about the half way point of the book and I anticipate there is more deeply thoughtful and grounded content to come.

 

  • Survival Guide for the Soul: How to Flourish Spiritually in a World that Pressures Us to Achieve, by Ken Shigematsu: Ken is our Banff 2019 speaker.  I have gone through this book twice and now, with a friend, going through slowly and intentionally.  He takes us on the journey of finding the ways to make space to flourish spiritually in the midst of living in a culture that acculturates us to accomplish, succeed, and be validated for the things we do.  

    “Drawing on a wide range of sources—including Scripture, church history, psychology, neuroscience, and a rich variety of stories from his own life—Shigematsu offers a fresh perspective on how certain spiritual practices help orient our lives so that our souls can flourish in a demanding and competitive world.”

    My recommendation: pick this up prior to Banff as I think there will be a rich layering as he shares with us there.

  • Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, by C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison: Another book drawing us deeper in community living as people of faith in ways that reflect God’s heart for all humans.  Here is what the authors say about Slow Church:

    “Slow Food and other Slow movements hold important lessons for the (church).  They compel us to ask ourselves tough questions about the ground our faith communities have ceded to the cult of speed.  And they invite all of us—clergy, theologians and laypeople—to start exploring and experimenting with the possibilities of Slow Church.  Not as another growth strategy, but as a way of reimagining what it means to be communities of believers gathered and rooted in particular places in a particular time….Slow Church is a call for intentionality, an awareness of our mutual interdependence with all people and all creation, and an attentiveness to the world around us and the work God is doing in our very own neighborhoods.”

 

  • Reimagine Church, by Nic Harding: If you are deeply invested in discipleship that forms disciples who make disciples who make disciples, this book is one that we are currently reading (and have passed a few around to you).  Nic directs us to understanding that “missional discipleship is not just an activity or job description, but a call to embody the message with your lifestyle, and apprentice others in the way of Jesus.”
  • If you, like me enjoy reading text books and commentaries I would like to recommend two I have been reading or 2 I will be reading. 
    1. Tremper Longman III & Scot McKnight are the editors of a commentary series called The Story of God Bible Commentary.    At my local church we have recently used the commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew and a whole separate one on the Sermon on the Mount.  I am currently going through both Philipians and Genesis in this series.  
    2. The other a classic is EP Sanders Paul and Palestinian Judaism,  the 40th anniversary edition.  

Happy Summer reading and don’t forget to send Cailey your reviews of these or other books to share with your CBWC family of readers!

Update on Emmanuel Iranian

By Shannon Youell

At Assembly in May, we welcomed into membership Emmanuel Iranian Church, a church plant in North Vancouver, and as of May 4th, a second plant in Coquitlam.

On June 23rd, EIC held a service of celebration in which BCY Regional Minister Larry Schram and his wife, and myself and Cailey as the church planting team welcomed the congregation into our CBWC family of churches, and what a celebration it was and is!

The warm and embracing welcome we received as guests was incredible and we met so many lovely people that we now consider family. It was like a family reunion where we were meeting relatives from afar for the first time, and they us. Hugs and cheek kisses were abundant as the joy of the Lord active and living in the community poured out upon us.

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As we participated in vibrant and alive worship singing (in Farsi), and in prayer for the congregation and the pastor, we were aware of the presence of the Spirit and to the church’s obedience and response to both Spirit and Word. This is a community who are fully alive in Christ and hopeful in their challenges because Christ is with them.

Larry and I both spoke, with Pastor Arash interpreting.  I warmly welcomed the community to the CBWC fellowship of churches, speaking of our shared labouring in the Gospel and commending the church as they continue in our deep and rich Baptist heritage of people who join God at his work of redemption, reconciliation and restoration of God with humans, humans with one another and with all creation itself.

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Larry spoke from Colossians 1:9-14, reminding the congregation “…since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” He then encouraged and commissioned the church to the ministry of the gospel, just as they are doing and an extended time of prayer for EIC and Pastor Arash concluded the service…..or so we thought!

As the last amen was spoken, something beautiful unfolded as one by one, twelve people stepped out of their chairs and came up to the front and declared they wanted to submit to Jesus as Savior and Lord. It was incredible!  I was standing beside Elder Kam, who was taking down names for discipleship follow-up. I asked him if this happened often. “Every week,” he responded! He looked back on the last month and counted more than 25 commitments! Twenty-five new followers of Jesus, in one month. God is present and working in this place.

Talking with people after the service, we heard stories of those who felt as though God himself had plucked them up and placed them at EIC and the obvious response was following Jesus, many for the first time. We also heard stories of personal challenges of life as new Canadians and of prayers for those who are still back home in Iran. 

And the celebration continued from there. Then there was cake! And food and an exhibition by the communities artisans. More hugs, stories, photos, kisses and joy to be a part of God’s family.

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“…thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

What a celebration. What a welcome. What an aroma!

Ethnic Churches are Sent

By Shannon Youell

Most of us love hearing stories of missionaries who have brought the Good News of Jesus as King–the King who brings the salvation of God’s kingdom now breaking into human reality to those who have followed other gods or not known God in any form or shape. The church has done a good and faithful job of bringing this news to most of the world. Stories of new faith and new communities brings us all new life and hope and energy.

When I was teaching in churches and discipleship schools in India, I had hours of “car” time with some of the pastors whose churches and schools I was teaching (Canada, quit complaining about traffic – it is insane in Mumbai!). Many of them asked why the church in Canada was declining and faithfulness to God was becoming a private pursuit when it was faithful Canadian missionaries who brought the gospel to much of India. My quip back was that perhaps their church needed to begin sending us missionaries to reignite our passion to be faithfully present where we are and to share the Gospel with our neighbours.

For years the pray-ers in Canadian churches have been praying for God to revive us, to reignite our passion for God’s mission, and to breathe new life on us. And we are seeing new life coming to us as God sends us the nations.

At Assembly 2019, CBWC welcomed into full membership four new churches: three Filipino and one Iranian church. Almost all our other plants in process are ethnically based – Cantonese, Arabic, Spanish, Karen, Kachin, African. We should take note of this….God is actually sending missionaries to Canada! And they are planting churches here.  

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Welcoming new churches into the family

There is two-fold purpose behind their plants: the first is that first generation new Canadians long to worship God in their ‘heart’ language, just as we do. The second is that when Christ followers come, they recognize there are many from their own lands that have not settled into communities of faith, are not following Christ, not engaged in a faith community and in true missionary fashion, they want to share Jesus with those folk. 

There are many conversations around what this trend means, but I think the pertinent point is that God is doing ‘something’. These communities are exciting us with their stories of folk coming to Jesus, in their devotion to gathering, to intentional missional discipleship, to sharing Jesus boldly and courageously wherever they find themselves. Perhaps they are the ‘wake-up’ call our complacent, contemplatively established churches need, to help re-excite us to the reality that Good News is still Good News for the world. 

The question is how do the second and third generations, who will be English speaking and whose culture will now be predominantly Canadian, stay engaged? How does the existing church begin to be a place where ethnic diversity truly has a place?

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, in his book Future Faith, tells us that when non-Caucasian people go to a church where all the leaders are of one ethnicity, they do not see a place for themselves. Our churches themselves are not ethnically diverse. The existing churches that are growing the most are those that have multi-ethnic staffs of both males and females. The interesting piece of his research is that the other ethnic leaders do not even have to be of the same ethnicity as the person seeking to join a church – they just have to be non-Caucasian!

The other important note I want to comment on is something that a Korean pastor of a Vancouver church said in a church catalyst meeting: multi-cultural is not the same as multi-ethnic: multi-cultural means that there is a diversity of cultures and the expressions of faith and worship of those cultures are reflected in the gathering and scattering times. Our warm welcome of all people assumes they will worship, reflect, pray, and minister like our dominant culture does, which would make us multi-ethnic but not multi-cultural.

This is an important distinction to make as our new-Canadian church plants move to the second and third generations who will be looking for multi-cultural expressions of faith to stay engaged in church life. Canada’s young people are growing up in a diverse world and they too will gravitate towards diverse expressions of faith and community. We should be right beside them opening the pathways.

I would like to say this is a near-future challenge for us and for our new churches, but we are past that. This is our challenge now and it would certainly appear as though God is sending the world to us to help us engage together in a place of all nations gathered together, worshiping and serving our God and our King.

Staying is the New Going: Abundant Life Together on Mission 

By Shannon Youell

Last week at our CBWC Assembly Gathering, Cailey and I facilitated a workshop asking these and other questions of ‘what if’:

  • What if we joined Jesus into the places we already are;
  • What if, as church communities, we did this together, creating cultures of a) shared practices that reshape us and b) shared mission into our neighbourhoods by ‘living among’ in intentional, relational presence formed out of everyday rhythms with our neighbours.

Before we could explore the possibilities, we fessed up the fears, assumptions and, yes, even our own ecclesiology to determine the barriers to our ‘what ifs’.

 

Then, through interactive engagement with three examples from Scripture where we find resilience, mission and faithful practice, we had a “taste” of exploring being local missionaries where we live, work, play and pray.

We had great discussion amongst all participants and with our very limited time determined that the examples in both the passages we looked at and the example of Jesus’ own resiliency in mission, that resiliency is less about productivity and success and more about faithfulness and fruitfulness. We acknowledged that often our very metric of these things causes us to see success as failure and mediocrity as success!

Resilience in mission speaks of practices not projects. And as cultural commentarian Mark Sayers quips, often we want progress without presence.

In looking at Jeremiah 29:4-7, Luke 10:2-9, and Acts 2:42-47 we discovered ways to begin to reshape our thinking and our practices to dismantle some of our own erected and often held onto barriers.

Some of what was discovered were practices of reframing, rethinking and reimagining local mission and rhythms of:

  • How does dying to self help us live among the people around us?
  • Obedience to God’s plan – rethinking our ecclesiology from each member participates in the ‘mission of the church to church, which is the members, participates in the mission of God.
  • Invest and engage where you are
  • Enter your neighbours traditions rather than your neighbours having to do all the missionary cross cultural work
  • Making space
  • Counting the cost

There is much wealth and riches to be mined here, and we are excited to continue this conversation here on this blog, or by coming to your church to explore this together as we shape our practices and our culture to join God on mission right where we are.

God’s call is not a call to be everywhere; it’s a call to be somewhere. …It’s a call to locality. Quite simply, it’s a call to the neighbourhood. Simon Carey Holt

 

Live From The Gathering 2019!

By Shannon Youell and Cailey Morgan

We’re writing live from CBWC’s 2019 Assembly, The Gathering, hosted by High River Baptist Church in High River, Alberta. What a blessing to worship, laugh, learn, and engage in family business with friends from across Western Canada. 

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Keynote speaker Tim Schroeder has been sharing with us on resilience, and we had the privilege of facilitating a workshop on resilience in mission as local missionary disciples and what barriers to being resilient and faithfully present we encounter where we “live among.” Next week we’ll be sharing more thoughts that emerged from our discussion.

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Thursday night, we celebrated welcoming 4 churches into full affiliation with the CBWC with a Showers of Blessing party. 

As we gathered these faithful groups together in enthusiastic welcome, joy welled up within us on the shared work of enlarging the kingdom of God here all around us.

Each of these churches have embedded themselves in their communities and are growing already and new believers as missionary disciples who make disciples that make disciples.

It was a beautiful time of hearing from these new congregations and providing opportunities for the family of churches to come around our most recent new congregations and upcoming church plants. 

As we celebrate these churches, we also celebrate the planters/churches that CBWC are in conversation with and in process with. Each of these new works needs all of us, all of you, to be their “helping” churches, so that we can continue to gather together just like this and celebrate them in the years to come.

It took a village to raise these 4 churches to flourishing expressions in their communities and it takes a village (aka All of You!) to sow into and support the plants that are in various stages of growth.

Showers of Blessings is our new Church Planting Trust to do just this very thing and without all our churches participating in support of taking the Good News of Jesus to those who have yet to encounter him, they will not flourish.

Contact Shannon, or Louanne Haugan, our Director of Development, on how you and your church join God at work in these places and spaces.

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