Understanding Today’s Missional Landscape Part 1

By Shannon Youell

When we start thinking more missionally, there is a lot of hard work involved! We must relearn what it means to be missionaries in our own culture and contexts. It may seem strange to suggest that we don’t understand our own culture and contexts, but that is often the case since we all approach life through a lens of embedded views through which we see, discern and make sense of the world. Many churches in the evangelical world still view the world around them through the lens of Christendom, a worldview that suggests everyone has some understanding of God, church, and the story of Jesus. But that is no longer the case in the Western World.

Therefore we are deeply appreciative of folk like Dr. Joel Thiessen and the many sociologists, missiologists, researchers and scholars who continue to study, analyze and give us current perspectives on how our society shapes itself and the influences around them.

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New Leaf Network/Forge Canada Event on May 29 in Surrey, BC.

Recently New Leaf Network in partnership with CBWC (in Victoria) and Forge Canada (in Surrey) presented a collated conversation on the growing front of Nones and Dones in Canada (Nones being those who have had no church experience and would tick “no religious affiliation” on their census forms, and Dones being those who had some church experience but still choose to tick that same box). Joel was one of the presenters and has very important things to say to the church.

Read his blog below on our Contemporary Missional Landscape in Canada.  This are crucial conversations for us as churches to be engaging in as we wrestle with what it means to be faithfully present to the world around us.


 

The Contemporary Missional Landscape

By Dr Joel Theissen (Reposted with permission. Find the original article here.)

Aspects of the “Missional Landscape” in Contemporary North America

I am currently involved in three collaborative projects: an interdisciplinary study on flourishing congregations in Canada; a book comparing “religious nones” in Canada and the United States; and another book, on millennial attitudes, experiences, and behaviors in Canada. (For my American friends, know that I also waded through the American literature on each of these topics). I want to pull strands from each project to help us think carefully about a few aspects of the “missional landscape” in contemporary North America.

Clear Self-Identity

Congregations that flourish know who they are and are not.  They know where they have come from, where they currently are, and where they are going. When North American church planters, for example, consider the “missional landscape” today, it is critical to grapple early and often with the purpose and mission for starting a new church and then filter all decisions and activities toward such ends. Congregations cannot be all things to all people. Thus, be clear on your mission and purpose; develop the structures and processes to help you toward such things, and evaluate your effectiveness against these values.

missional landscapeWhat is your church’s reason for existing? What would you like to see happen in and through your church? What demographics are you trying to engage and why – sociologically, theologically, and practically? Do you aspire to grow primarily from disenfranchised religious folk, “religious nones,” transfer growth, or another group?

How you tackle these queries will shape what questions you ask about the missional landscape, the conversations you have, and the steps you take in your ministry. Having a clear identity does not mean you will flourish; yet rarely do churches flourish without a clear self-identity.

Religious Nones

Those who say they have “no religion” are the fastest growing “religious” group in North America. They represent 20-25% of adults and around 30% of teens and millennials, depending on the region. As I outline in The Meaning of Sunday, religious nones are a diverse group, with a range of beliefs and practices regarding the supernatural, the afterlife, prayer, meaning and purpose, and so forth. Many “nones” in North America were raised in Christian families, though increasingly “nones” are raised by unaffiliated parents. Few “nones” say they are open to greater involvement in a religious group.

I hear of many church planters launching new initiatives for religious nones. Unfortunately, we lack good empirical data to track the effectiveness of such efforts. The best (and limited) data suggest most initiatives grow mainly due to transfer growth from other churches. I’m not here to dissuade such efforts. Rather, I want to pose a few candid observations and suggestions for reflection.

  • Like any good missionary, it is essential to study the culture and know your audience. If your core mission is to “reach” religious nones, then read social scientific research on religious nones to know how they actually think and behave in the world (not how you think or wish they view the world).
  • Form long-lasting and meaningful personal relationships with religious nones. Sociological evidence is clear that a lead reason for someone joining a religious group is because someone they know and trust invites them. Rarely do unaffiliated individuals “randomly” show up to church, regardless of a church’s best “outreach” intentions.
  • Be honest with yourself and others. If you want to be a church for religious nones, then anchor and measure your ministry effectiveness in this direction. If your congregation grows, be truthful about the source of that growth … and if religious nones are not filling your church, consider ways to pivot around this core identity in your church’s life.

Millennials and Adult Influences

Millennials (a third of whom are religious nones) today confront an interesting paradox: they are raised to embrace a wide array of choices in most aspects of their lives without being equipped in how to make good choices. Social scientific research reveals that the more choice a person has, the more likely they are to question their decisions.

missional landscapePerhaps more than ever before, the opportunity is ripe for intergenerational mentorship of young people. Research on millennials in religious groups reveals that they want adult influences to speak into their lives. One concept I have come to appreciate in the book, Growing Young, is “keychain leadership” – leaders who hand the keys over to younger leaders, and who equip and empower them in the process.

Are there ways for you to foster sustained and meaningful intergenerational interaction in your church? How might you strengthen and mobilize longstanding members to invest in younger members in your church? Are there areas where you can and should train and develop young leaders, to give them a seat at the table and a set of keys? What are the risks of not taking such steps, now and in the future?

Clear self-identity. Religious nones. Millennials. Distinct topics to be sure. Yet I believe these subjects coalesce in important ways as church leaders grapple with the missional context of North America in 2018 and beyond.

Dr. Joel Thiessen is Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Flourishing Congregations Institute at Ambrose University, in Calgary, Alberta. In addition to publishing several articles, he has written two books: The Sociology of Religion: A Canadian Perspective (co-authored with Lorne L. Dawson) (Oxford University Press, 2014) and The Meaning of Sunday: The Practice of Belief in a Secular Age (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015). More information can be located on his website, http://www.joelthiessen.ca.

 

 

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A Discipling Culture

By Shannon Youell

Hey friends, here is a resource that I am giving a good second look. It is quite pertinent to our ongoing conversation about discipleship.

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At first run through of Building a Discipleship Culture, I was excited about the way Mike Breen and the 3DM Team wrote about understanding discipleship and the challenges of making the cultural shift to re-engaging in disciple making. This makes up part one of the book. They use language and concepts that I’ve been developing and writing about in my own contexts.

The book’s back jacket contends that, “we don’t have a missional problem or a leadership problem in the Western church. We have a discipleship problem. If we make disciples like Jesus made them, we’ll never have a problem finding leaders or seeing new people coming to faith.”

Pretty strong words and promises! I believe they are bang on in regards to the discipleship matter.

Part two uses symbols, called LifeShapes, as our discipling language. When I went through this book the first time, I wasn’t that keen on the symbols and utilizing them. But then I ended up incorporating the first LifeShape into a discipling teaching I was doing with our church Leadership Team!

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It was so easy to explain the first shape—Circle—and helped us all understand a starting point to initiating deeper discipleship with one another and also as a place to start with our friends and neighbours to help them process an event—a “kairos moment” in their lives. This LifeShape teaches us to help us respond to the event rather than just stopping for a short “whoa” moment and then moving on.

The authors describe the kairos moment and discipleship engagement from it as follows:

“The Circle (the first LifeShape they utilize) shows us:

  • What it means to live a lifestyle of learning as a disciple of Christ
  • How to recognize important events as opportunities for growth; and
  • How to process these events.”

What I discovered when I gave this book a second chance is that the symbol did exactly what the authors claim it does! I first tried it just in a discussion group with Leadership.  I hadn’t planned on using it, but because symbols are memorable, when the opportunity arose during discussion when a person shared something God had revealed to them, the Circle came to mind, and I walked them through it in casual conversation. It was amazing where it brought that person and the others in the group observed!

The next week, I intentionally took the group through understanding what I had done and they were excited. It will take much repetition before it becomes natural of course, but the more often we do something, the more it just happens.

So the tool is easy to remember and to utilize, which excites me because we aren’t very equipped as members of churches, to actually disciple people—usually we leave that up to the pastors!

Watch a video here for an explanation of this first of eight discipleship tools.

I’ve often said that any of the people who I have been in relationship with that eventually came to faith discovered that I had been discipling them all along. So discipleship happens within the community of believers for believers and also beyond the believing community into the places and spaces where we all spend the majority of our time: amongst the world God so loves!

What disciple-making tools are you utilizing? It would be great if we could begin to share together what we are doing to help in the art of disciple-making and how we are equipping those we are discipling to be disciple makers themselves.

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.

Ministry Priority 3: Engaging in Mission

By Shannon Youell

Over the past couple weeks we’ve been sharing our excitement over CBWC’s new ministry priorities that came out of an intentional season of discernment by our churches, Board and Staff. There are so many good things we could be doing as a family of churches in support of each other and in pursuit of God’s mission on earth, so we asked God to show us how we should focus our time, energy and resources in the coming years, and He responded by clarifying goals we already had and renewing passions for deeply rooted values of joining God at work around us.

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Engaging in Mission
Along with Cultivating Leadership and Investing in Relationship, Engaging in Mission will also be a priority for us as a body of churches in the coming years. We as CBWC see this as “Growing our CBWC family through fresh expressions and intentional implementation of the gospel.” And while it may be third on our list of ministry priorities, Engaging in Mission is absolutely core to our identity as God’s kids.

We are missionaries! Every one of us. Jesus invites us to join Him in the family business of making disciples of all peoples. We’ve written here often about engaging in the places and spaces we occupy in our everyday lives, building relationships, sharing life and stories and faith with those around us. When we gather in our churches we pray that we may be witnesses to our family, friends and co-workers. This is missionary work.

The good news is that God’s Kingdom of justice-making, oppression breaking, reconciliatory, restoration of humans-to-God and humans-to-one-another Shalom is among us.  The Kingdom is unfolding and Jesus is the King who—rather than reigning from a palace representing the power regimes of humans—chooses to be placed upon the cross, revealing God’s sacrifice for this restoration.

Moving Forward Practically
So how do we intentionally implement this gospel? How do we foster God’s love of the world among ourselves—the love that compels us to join Him on His mission to witness to the Father’s goodness wherever God has placed us? Here’s some of what we’re doing and planning towards:

  • Developing resources for congregational renewal, including re-planting. Are you revisiting your vision and mission statements? Are you asking the hard questions of what Jesus calls us to as missionaries in our own context and then evaluating if you are engaging in ways that help to foster missional work around you? We gather and share ideas for engaging our congregations in this conversation. This includes Sam Breakey’s work in Church Health Assessments, which helps a church down a path of self-discovery towards a place of “where-to-from-here.”
  • The call to discipleship is the formation of who we are as followers of Jesus.  We are gathering and developing tools to help our churches reimagine discipleship that makes disciples who make disciples—the mandate the early church ran with! Watch for upcoming learning events on discipleship, or check out some of our articles here.
  • Speaking of articles, our blog is one of our best resources for sparking conversation in your churches! Though it’s named the Church Planting Blog, we post many different perspectives, ideas and thought-provoking articles on discipleship, vision, and missional thinking. The purpose of this blog is to get us thinking, hopefully enough that we ask good questions of ourselves and our churches when it comes to engaging in church life from a missional perspective. We’ve gathered and shared—and will share again the stories and ideas of others who have stepped into the “missionary in our neighbourhoods” conversation. These practitioners help us to understand how to engage those who will likely never just wake up one Sunday and say to themselves, “I think I’ll go to a church today.” Our society is increasingly unchurched, so, like the missionaries we send overseas, we must also relearn how to be a missional people, which causes me to consider that perhaps God is in the shift all along to inspire us to reengage in local missionary work.
  • Providing resources for church planters and for churches looking to multiply. The reality is that churches plant churches and we help them!  There are many expressions of church planting but the mandate is always the same:  to multiply those who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior and join in the mission of God!
    • Multiplication:  churches that make disciples who can make disciples grow into new expressions of church in their neighbourhoods, towns and cities. The healthiest thing a flourishing church can do is send teams of leaders/lay leaders well-equipped and trained to reproduce the good work of the mother church.
    • CBWC comes alongside to help you be your most successful selves in this endeavour, including the current development of a Canadian Baptist training/coaching program for teams, not just for planters.
  • Encouraging active participation in the national Canadian Baptist Church Planting initiatives. This is where we tie it all together.  Canadian Baptists are working on a national initiative for sharing even more resources, coaches, mentors and trainers to walk with planters and teams.  This Training Center will be fundamental in creating a dynamic church planting culture to support teams in developing healthy projects, and is developed by Canadians for our Canadian landscape. This is the basic training that includes Assessment, Coaching and Discernment in an culture of teamwork. It does not promote any one model but rather every team comes to discover together what their church plant should be and what they are capable of planting, what makes sense for them and the people they want to serve. Daughter, sister, missional, fresh expression, satellite, attractional, house: all models are open to consideration.

When you think of our CBWC family, what  examples of fresh expressions of the gospel come to mind? Do you have ideas for what God’s good news could look like in your community or a new community in Western Canada?

Intentional Discipleship Pathways

By Shannon Youell

“Discipleship is becoming proficient in the essentials in order to live into God’s in-breaking Kingdom. Your average Christian has not been discipled in the basics of following Jesus, living on mission, dwelling in community, being present in their neighborhood, and sharing the holistic Gospel. We often relegate the basics to children, yet the basics are the foundational moorings we need to recover for being human in the way of Jesus.”  Dan White Jr., V3 Church Planting Movement

Increasingly churches and faith organizations are rethinking their methods and purposes of discipleship. Most churches would certainly consider themselves as making disciples, but the indicator of discipleship needs to be measured with fruit-bearing.  What kind of disciples are we making?  Are these disciples able to: follow Jesus, live on mission, dwell in community, be present in their neighbourhoods and share the holistic
Gospel of the Kingdom of God?

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In my several decades of participating in faith, church and ministry, I frequently land back on the discipleship conversation, especially when I realize that the barriers to engaging and participating in the whole work of the kingdom is hindered only by our own lack of understanding and often ignorance of what that means and how we actually do it.  Thus we need to be asking ourselves, as Dallas Willard suggested, Do we have a plan and is that plan working? We then begin the hard work of shaping pathways to follow Jesus’ example of making disciples who can then join God on mission in their neighbourhoods and make disciples.

Read the rest of 5 Steps for Creating a Discipleship Pathway” and let us know what discipleship questions you are wrestling with in your own context?

What discipleship “pathways” do you and your church engage in?  Are they bearing the fruit you hoped for?  If the answer is yes, share it with us so we can share it with others! Or what journey have you begun that is reshaping, exciting and engaging you as a community of believers on a discipleship journey together?

If you’ve never had an intentional relational pathway to make disciples, then talk to us.  We’d love to encourage you and suggest some good resources to get you started.  In my own home church, we started by stopping.  Seriously.  And now we are on a journey together in which we are equally excited about how God is working in us and around us and frustrated at how slow we are to relearn what being a disciple looks like in our everyday worlds.

 

 

 

Go… But First, Wait

As our period of 77 Days of Prayer and Discernment draws to a close, I want to share an article about how in order to be Christ’s sent ones, we must first listen and wait on Him. These past 11 weeks, we’ve been leaning into this calling to go, but first wait, so I hope you will be encouraged by this article! ~Cailey Morgan

 

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By Ben Connelly, saturatetheworld.com
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John
baptized with water, but you will be baptized  with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore
 the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons
 that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when
 the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in
 Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

My Biggest Failure

“What’s been your biggest missional failure?” That’s a question I asked many respected, experienced church planters during a series of interviews in 2014. Some chuckled as they shared a personal embarrassment; others told laugh-out-loud stories of tactical mistakes.

But one response was different from the rest. It was totally unexpected, and has stuck with me for over three years now: the pastor became stone-faced sober and said, My biggest failure by a country mile was berating God’s people to mission, as opposed to letting the gospel win their hearts, by the Spirit, for mission. I hammered them with the obligations of the gospel, without winning their hearts with the glorious things that God has done for them. They could only sustain living missionally for either short bursts of time, or for a longer time but then they eventually gave up thru weariness. Because Christ wasn’t continually refreshing their hearts. That was by far my biggest fail.”

As church planters and pastors, mission is woven into the very fabric of our roles and our lives. We are charged with loving neighbors; we spend our days and weeks trying to “go, make disciples”; we long to see our cities redeemed. And we spend endless hours pouring ourselves out to those ends. After all, one of the most known verses in the Bible is in Acts’ opening scene, where Jesus’ commands his first followers: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth…” (1:8). That’s our life, right, church planters?

But that’s not actually the first command Jesus gives in that paragraph.

Waiting

The first command in the book of Acts, which is rarely even spoken of, is in verse 4, “[Jesus] ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” – which, he makes clear, is “the Holy Spirit” who comes upon us with the only power that can make our “going” and our “witnessing” possible (1:4-8, italics added).

In other words, Jesus’ first marching orders, to the small band of apostles and disciples on whom the fate of global Christianity rested, were, “Stop.” “Wait.” “Don’t go.”

It seems shocking – but the point is one that many of us, who love our neighbors and feel the urgency of God’s mission, need to heed. We cannot go; we cannot accomplish anything; we cannot rightly witness – if God doesn’t show up, empower us, and do what only God can do. Here’s the beauty: God promises us his Spirit in Acts 1, and in Acts 2, God fulfills that promise. The Spirit comes at Pentecost, people begin getting saved, and then God (through both human choice and human suffering) disperses his church throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and well beyond. God does charge us to make disciples, but only after we wait on him.

For some of us, that’s a needed breath of fresh air. For some, it’s a humbling truth. For some, it’s a lifeline as we feel like we’re drowning. Let’s learn from the interviewee’s warning. Let’s rest in God’s Word for ourselves and for those in our churches. Let’s be about the heart, the gospel, the “glorious things God has done,” and the Spirit more than the obligations, the actions, the berating, and even the “going” itself. Jesus sends us to be witnesses, but if we go without reliance, dependence, and the filling that only his Spirit can offer, we’ve missed the point completely.

This is my prayer for each of us: that our participation in God’s mission would be patient, prayerful, joy-filled, and free – even restful(!), because our role is simply obedience, as we wait on the Lord and follow his lead.

This guest post is originally found at at saturatetheworld.com.

I saw a great re-post of a tweet attributed to Eugene Peterson – “Waiting in prayer is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts.” We’ve written lots about watching for where God is already at work and joining Him there and I love the phrasing of “disciplined refusal,” but as this article reminded us, it is by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit that we are able to act at all.  Before we can gospel others, we must first be a people whose hearts and mission are “fanned into flame” because we embrace the gospel message ourselves in such a way as we cannot contain the hope, peace, joy and love overflowing from within ourselves and our church communities. And sometimes that means we have to wait in prayer to discover this. In this Advent season, how will you practice this discipline, remembering that waiting is not stopping activity, it is increasing prayer and discernment? ~ Shannon Youell

Peace to This House

By Shannon Youell

Praying in our neighbourhoods is not some new postmodern formula for evangelisation. Though some see it as quite foreign, Jesus and His disciples did just that. One of my favorite verses–well actually a combination of two from John’s writings–is when Jesus said He only did what He saw His Father doing and spoke what He heard His Father speaking (John 12:49, 5:19 my paraphrase).

Jesus walked about His ordinary everyday praying and listening: listening and praying to know where God was at work in the world. Jesus was waiting to step in and reveal the Father to those around Him.

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When Jesus sent out others to share the Good News of the kingdom of God, He instructed them to go from place to place looking for where God was already at work: “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house’. If a man of peace is there your peace will rest on him: if not, it will return to you” (Luke 10:5-6).

“A man of peace” indicates someone who God is already at work in, whether they are aware or unaware, someone who will listen to what the disciples have to share.This required the disciples to be attentive to where God was at work, which required them to be listening to the Father in a posture of prayer.

Luke 10 gives us much more to ponder and act upon, but as we are focusing on prayer in our neighborhoods, we leave the other instructions for another time. As we have been talking about how we engage with our neighbours, friends, co-workers, we must never lose sight of the fact that, as Cam Roxburgh states in Forge Canada’s new E-Book Volume 1, Loving God and Neighbour, “the missional conversation is about the nature and action of God in our midst, and not first about how we develop a strategy for reaching our neighbours.”

When we develop strategies without first praying and listening, we can have all the best intentions and plans in the world, but still be faced with indifference when the soil is still fallow. Prayer is our dual action of becoming more comfortable and confident that God still speaks to us today, and of preparing the hearts of ourselves and those we are praying for. As we pray for our neighbourhoods and other significant spaces, we invite the Spirit to shine light on the fields and reveal to us what He has already prepared. We are the workers. But without walking those streets, those halls, those trails and cubicle aisles, without praying as we walk, we are the unaware ones–unaware of where God is inviting us to stay awhile, eat and drink, hear stories of the lives of the people around us, and see how God is working.

From my experience, neighbourhood praying isn’t a single prayer. It is prayer that does not cease until God reveals his work both to us and to those we have been praying for. There is strategy for sure….strategy is praying consistently and listening intently. Listening to the Father always comes first for it is, after all, His work that we are joining.

I’ve mentioned before that I prayer walked our neighborhood for many years before something began to shift. Once the shift happened, I then asked God for a strategy. He gave me an uncomfortable one: to invite all the neighbors over for a “meet the neighbours” party. From that party we have been building deeper relationships with one another. These have become some of our people of peace, but it only happened because of prayer and listening.

Summer Video Series 6: God’s Mission and the Places We Live, Work and Play

by Cailey Morgan

Shannon, Joell and I are thankful for so many resources that are available for us as we seek to evoke and resources CBWC churches and members towards our shared mission of making disciples who make disciples.

Today’s video is another from Forge America. Brad Brisco: God’s Mission and the Places We Live, Work and Play is the longest of the resources we’ve made available here, because it actually includes a story of a group of people who’ve been contextually living out the stuff we’ve been talking about here on the blog.

God's Mission & The Places We Live, Work, & Play – Brad Brisco from Forge America on Vimeo.

We saw one example of how to live and work missionally. But what are some other ways we can be a light in the places we live, work, play, in our Canadian context?

Summer Video Series 5: Incarnational Evangelism

by Cailey Morgan

Shannon, Joell and I are thankful for so many resources that are available for us as we seek to evoke and resources CBWC churches and members towards our shared mission of making disciples who make disciples.

Forge America’s resources include several videos available online, one of which is Hugh Halter in our video for today, Incarnational Evangelism.

Incarnational Evangelism – Hugh Halter from Forge America on Vimeo.

Have you ever been in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation but knew that it was the place God wanted you to be to share His good news? Share your thoughts here or by emailing me: cmorgan@cbwc.ca

Summer Video Series 4: What is a Missional Church?

by Cailey Morgan

At CBWC’s 2017 Gathering in Calgary, we were able to share several short videos we thought were particularly helpful for our context. Over the summer, we will be sharing those videos here on the blog in hopes of continuing the conversation, and hearing from you about these important topics.

In today’s video, Alan Hirsch: What is a Missional Church?, we consider the Sending God and His call for us as a Missionary People. What could missional look like in your context?