Reading and Resources: Summer 2020

By Cailey Morgan

My church, Southside, is hosting a series of online and hybrid kids’ day camps under the banner “A Summer Like No Other.” I can’t think of a more fitting way to characterize the season we find ourselves in! Let’s take advantage of the opportunities being presented to us to engage in growth, discipleship and introspection this summer. 

Here are a few books that Larry, Shannon and I thought might be helpful, and online resource ideas to help fuel your summer development:

Books

BTW.jpgBy the Way by Derek Vreeland
We’ve mentioned this book before, but we think it bears repeating in this very different season we find ourselves in. Vreeland gives us tools to us refocus on what discipleship is meant to be, re-introducing the ways of Jesus with the type of tangible, straightforward approach that we should all be taking. What new imagination can we glean as we journey alongside those we disciple towards Christ? ~Cailey Morgan 

 

BolsingerIt Takes a Church to Raise a Christian by Tod Bolsinger
“…there is a considerable chasm separating us from who we are—I mean “we” as a corporate people, we as the indivisible body of Christ—and who we are to become. While we may be saved from hell and assured that we’ll never be separated from God, we aren’t living the manner of life we were built for, we aren’t making the difference that we could make together, and we’re not drawing people to the form of life-giving fellowship that they and we crave.” 

With these words in mind, Bolsinger takes the pastor/leaders of the local church through a spiritual theology of “being” church.  His push-back on our culture of individual pursuit that has infected our own understanding of being church, reminds us that the formation of followers of Jesus who are distinguishable to the world happens only within a community “…in which God mystically transforms believers together into the likeness of Christ as the primary means of reaching a lost world.” 

If you and your community are yearning for seeing transformed lives within your community that shine beyond your community, this book is a must read. ~Shannon Youell

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With by Skye Jethani
After demolishing four substitute messages, Life From God, Life Over God, Life Under God and Life for God,  Skye fleshes out his vision of “Life With God,” using the triad of Faith, Hope and Love. Where does the book fall short? It focuses almost exclusively on the individual without recognizing that we are part of a community of faith. Why read it? My early faith walk was filled with the clear message of live my life for God and I cannot ever recall hearing any mention of the possibility of a life with God.

I found this book to be both freeing and inspiring. ~Larry Schram 

 

Online Resources 

  • Our friends at New Leaf Network are hosting a book club starting July 9 to engage Joel Theissen and Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme’s new book None of the Above: Nonreligious Identity in the US and Canada. About the Book: “Almost a quarter of American and Canadian adults are nonreligious, while teens and young adults are even less likely to identify religiously. None of the Above explores the growing phenomenon of ‘religious nones’ in North America. Who are the religious nones? Why, and where, is this population growing?”
  • Speaking of relevant Canadian content, you won’t want to miss Missional Commons’ summer webinar series (July 7, 14, 21)  featuring David Fitch, Ruth Padilla-DeBorst, Cam Roxburgh and more.
  • Fuller Formation is offering a whole range of content as a free trial until September, including Tod Bolsinger’s new course “Guiding Your Church Through the Pandemic.” While these courses are based on American content, we believe you will find yourself stretched, equipped and encouraged by the content Fuller Formation is offering.  

What’s on your summer reading list? Have you discovered new podcasts or online resources to share? Leave a comment here!

The COVID-Effect: Resources for Pastors

By Shannon Youell

We all need pastoral care; yet, often pastors tend to be giving of themselves caring for others but not as quick about receiving care.

During this unprecedented time of being separated from others, pastoral care of those in our church communities has increased many-fold.  And many of us are feeling the effects of caring for so many in uncertain times and ensuring we still have some form of gathering together for fellowship, for prayer, for teaching, for breaking of bread and for worship in our new virtual reality.

We’ve all had to be willing to pivot and change and accept those changes as good and profitable to our mission.  Our church planting communities face their own unique challenges as they are still establishing themselves and yet have been cut off from the very neighbourhoods they have been moving into with the presence of God.

I’ve spoken with many pastors and leaders, and am one myself, so I know how drained and emptied many of us are finding ourselves.

That’s why CBWC is bringing you this fantastic opportunity to walk through some of the ways we can find pathways to care for ourselves to increase our coping skills and resiliency:

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The COVID-Effect: Pastoring the Pastor

A 90-minute session supporting mental wellness for CBWC Pastors.

We would like to invite you to a 90-minute zoom session offered across all 4 provinces featuring local, faith-based psychologists and hosted by your CBWC Regional Minister. Come listen and then, via a facilitated Q & A, explore resources and coping tools for mental wellness offered specifically for you as you continue to live into your vocation of pastoral ministry during these extraordinary times.

This online event is free for CBWC Pastors. Please register to receive the zoom link to be a part of this important conversation in support of your well being.

Dates & Times

BC & Y | Wednesday July 15 | 9:30am PDT | Dr. Hillary McBride | REGISTER
AB & NWT | Tuesday July 14 | 3:00pm MST | REGISTER
SK/MB | Wednesday July 8 | 3:00pm SK/4:00pm MB | Dr. Todd Sellick | REGISTER

We do not know how long we will be in this fluid situation, but we do know that our family of faith will walk with us in love, in care and in support.

Remissioning: Adaptive Leadership and Facing the Unknown

By Shannon Youell

“Adaptive leadership is called for when you are facing something you have never faced before. A term made famous by Ronald Heifetz and his colleagues at Harvard, adaptive leadership begins the moment you find yourself without expertise, and when you are truly facing the unknown.” 

This quote from  Tod Bolsinger, vice president for vocation and formation and teacher of practical theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, is certainly our new reality. As I’ve heard others quote “we’ve never been this way before.” At least in our lifetime and in our context. 

How then, do we begin to face the future of the unknown as churches who value our gathered times and the things we do while together in a worship service? 

For the most part, from the stories we are hearing, most churches have adapted their gatherings into some kind of temporary stop gap. But what if the stop gap is longer than what we envisioned the stop gap to be? What ways do we need to begin to rethink and reimagine what it means for a scattered community to be the witness to the world of God’s presence among us, in word and deed, that we are called to?  

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We are so conditioned to view the gathered community as the “way of witness” that we may have difficulty imagining how we are to be salt and light as the scattered community.  Yet, this was exactly how the earliest of church witnessed – as scattered communities.  

Read Tod’s article here and ask the Spirit to guide you to what questions you should ask yourself, your leaders and your community.

We are quite literally in a time of learning as we go.  Will we be open to learning what may challenge our own embedded thinking?  Will we be open to God leading us to different ways of fulfilling our role as his missionaries here in our neighbourhoods and cities?   

There may be tweaks and small adjustments to be made, or perhaps God’s calling us to consider a bigger-picture reframing or remissioning in this time of forced change. Will we be open? 

As Tod challenges us to stare straight on: 

“What if you thought about this present moment and asked, “What could we be doing now that would help us become the best version of our community after the pandemic?” 

We’d love your thoughts, ideas and ways you are adapting to this new normal of being the people of God who is with us in the midst of all the strangeness of this current reality. 

BTW, I was first introduced to Tod via his book Canoeing the Mountains. It’s a great read on leadership and very different to the corporate model of leadership expertise that is available to help us.   

Faithfully Present

By Shannon Youell

My inbox is overflowing with emails from every business, organization, missional group and thinker around our changed pace during the current world crisis we have found ourselves in. Each one has methods and helpful guidelines on how we will make it through this by working together and thoughts about where opportunities lie in potentially changing how we work, live, play and pray. 

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I’ve heard people saying the church will never be the same and others saying here are the five (or seven or twelve) things to do to grow your church during this time through online presence. Where some are lamenting, others are seeing potential and opportunity to tell the Jesus storyall good things to be considering. 

Yet, from the beginning, I have been praying for God’s discernment to see what He is doing in the midst of this. Rather than being fearful, or making plans to ‘grow’ a Sunday gathering, I’ve been very aware of God’s presence and work in the neighbourhoods around us. I live on a steep mountain road that I punish myself by walking down regularly (the punishment is never the going down part….). I usually pray, think, reflect while on these walks, at the same time as observing the neighbourhoods that branch off this road where many new subdivisions have gone in over the last 10 years. I rarely, and I mean rarely, encounter another human on these walks (unless they are in cars passing me by). No neighbours chatting over driveways and, amazingly, no children playing in the cul de sacs and roads. Lately that has changed dramatically.  

People are out and about. Children are riding bikes or playing hockey with siblings and parents on the driveways. People are walking more and so I get to have safedistanced conversations with those who have been nameless and faceless people in my community. What I have seen is life erupting out of the desert of houses with empty faces staring out at the world. There is life in the neighbourhoods and people are discovering it, perhaps for the first time for some in the current consume/produce culture we are all enslaved to.  

The Gospel has always been about relationships, with God, with self, with others and neighbours. Here, in this time, is the opportunity to actually build some of those relationships, to discover there is indeed life in the neighbourhood, that God is present and working in neighbourhoods. The question, then, is how do I, how do you, lean into being faithfully present there as well. Here, I ponder, are where we can find the opportunities for the church to grow – growing into the places where there is not always access to building relationships that can lead to sharing life, faith, hope, lament, grief and joy together.  

Here are a couple of blog articles, both by David Fitch, as he muses on the same things:

There are some interesting ideas of things he and his family have been doing in their neighbourhood at this time. One warning, the first was written prior to the total safe-distancing orders. Keep in mind, as you will see in the second blog, that he is not advocating gathering in homes whilst ignoring the order.  

 

BELLS Video #5: SENT

As part of our series on Shared Practices, we’re sharing Mike Frost’s brief videos about the 5 Shared Practices that his missional community practices together: the BELLS method of Bless, Eat, Learn, Listen, Be Sent.

This 3-minute clip wraps up the series as Mike Frost asks about how we live as sent ones in the world. Did the people you encounter throughout the day see Jesus reflected in you in a way that strengthened them, engaged them in conversation with you and heard Jesus’ love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness through you?

We encourage you to try out the practice yourself. Does it come naturally to you, or is it a stretch?

How did you mirror God’s word in your world today? How can your community of faith engage this practice together?

BELLS Video #4: LISTENING TO THE SPIRIT

As part of our series on Shared Practices, we’re sharing Mike Frost’s brief videos about the 5 Shared Practices that his missional community practices together: the BELLS method of Bless, Eat, Learn, Listen, Be Sent.

In this 4-minute video, Frost shares how his community practices listening to the Holy Spirit.

We encourage you to try out the practice yourself. Does it come naturally to you, or is it a stretch?

Think about examples of Jesus and the early church partaking in this practice. What might it look like today in your church family? How will you create space to sit and actually listen and see where God is already working, in order to join Him?

BELLS Video #3: LEARNING JESUS

As part of our series on Shared Practices, we’re sharing Mike Frost’s brief videos about the 5 Shared Practices that his missional community practices together: the BELLS method of Bless, Eat, Learn, Listen, Be Sent.

5 Minutes

We encourage you to try out the practice yourself. Does it come naturally to you, or is it a stretch?

In what ways are the folks in your congregation shaped by Jesus? How would our neighbours respond if we began talking about Jesus in the same way we talk about someone else who know inside out?

 

BELLS Video #2: EAT

As part of our series on Shared Practices, we’re sharing Mike Frost’s brief videos about the 5 Shared Practices that his missional community practices together: the BELLS method of Bless, Eat, Learn Jesus, Listen to the Spirit, Be Sent.

These videos are not meant to tell you how to do Shared Practices in your congregation, but rather show a great example of the kinds of simple missional habits that we as the embodiment of Christ on earth are to foster. Take 2 minutes to watch this video and consider your perspective on Frost’s second practice: Eat.

We encourage you to try out the practice yourself. Does it come naturally to you, or is it a stretch?

Think about examples of Jesus and the early church partaking in this practice. What might it look like today in your church family? How can the table be a mission zone in your home, your church facility, your neighbourhood? What are the road blocks, and what are the opportunities? Let us know what you think!

Perspectives on Shared Practices: Michael Frost

“Evangelistic mission works effectively when we are living generous, Spirit-led, hospitable, Christlike lives as missionaries in our own neighbourhoods—and when the gifted evangelists in our midst join us in sharing Christ with our neighbours. That’s not just good evangelism strategy. That’s the biblical model” (Michael Frost, Surprise the World, NavPress 2016). 

These words from Michael Frost, an Australian church planter, theologian, missiologist, and cofounder of Forge Mission Training Network, speak to the heart of the series on Shared Practices we’ve been sharing for the past few months. Yes, Shared Practices are at one level meant to help already-Christians grow in the kingdom way together, being transformed more into the likeness of Christ through important facets such as accountability, Bible study, hospitality and prayer. But really, the whole point of the gathered and scattered people of God is to make disciples who make disciples—to be a winsome people who, as Frost puts it, “announce and demonstrate the reign of God through Christ.” Shared Practices are inherently missional.

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Over the coming weeks, we’re going to share Mike Frost’s videos about the 5 Shared Practices that his missional community practices together: the BELLS method of Bless, Eat, Learn Jesus, Listen to the Spirit, Be Sent.

We’ll share a new clip each week, giving you time to experiment with the practice. These videos are not meant to necessarily give you a plug-and-play model for Shared Practices, but they are a good starting place to foster conversation in your congregation.

These approximately 4-minute videos give us a new way to approach some of the habits or tendencies that we already have as human beings, and today we’ll begin with the first B: BLESS.

Take note that the original word bless means “add strength to one’s arm.” Remember that God strengthens with His right hand or arm and that strength is what blesses the person. When we do likewise (as imitators of Christ) we bless.

We encourage you to try out the practice yourself. Does it come naturally to you, or is it a stretch? What might this practice look like in your church family? What similar practices already exist in some way in your congregation? Why is this practice important for disciple-making disciples of Christ?

Perspectives on Shared Practices: Mike Oshiro

As we continue our conversations around Shared Practices within congregational rhythms, we interview another of our churches who are on this journey: The Forge Church in Victoria, BC. Pastors Mike Oshiro and Shannon Youell (whom you know!) share their journey with us. ~ Cailey

CBWC: Why Shared Practices?

Mike Oshiro (Lead Pastor) and Shannon Youell: As a congregation we had gone through a reboot ten years ago. A significant part of that reboot was in moving from being a Sunday gathering of church members to a community who lived out covenant with God and one another by committing to faith life being one of discipling one another. This reboot required us to also change how we do church leadership together, which has resulted in a deep trust in one another. We are convinced that this trust is the platform that enabled us to move into developing shared practices.

We began moving in the direction of shared practices after we began evaluating where we are and realized that intentional discipleship for most church people is an optional “add-on” to life in Christ. As leaders, we had capitulated to the worldview of consumerism and individualism, while at the same time trying to form a covenanted community on mission with God. It just wasn’t working.  Intentional discipleship in community just can’t be an add-on.

CBWC: What was The Forge Church’s experience of developing shared practices?

Mike and Shannon: Jesus called us to make disciples who join God on mission. After much prayer, we knew we needed to reimagine and rethink how to do that. We especially were drawn to the writings of Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, Mike Lukens and so many others who had found themselves in the same place in their own church experience. We began to look at how to begin making a shift from individuals with personal faith journeys to a community on mission together to shape one another in Christ-like-ness so the community is a witness for Christ to our local community.

We entered into conversations with Cam Roxburgh and Cailey Morgan from Southside who gave us more insight into what it takes to move into Shared Practices as a church.

After a year of teaching towards this “culture-shift,” we began developing Shared Practices Guide for Advent of 2017. It was basic and simple.

January 2018 saw us with our first full-version weekly guide of discipling one another together. At this point we still did not have anything formed around some kind of small groups. We were very intentional about not moving into this too soon.  Cam wisely counselled us to take some time with our Leadership Team (LT) before we launch it with our congregation. And we needed it!

Part of our teaching focused on the idea that journey with Christ was always meant to be a corporate journey, not just a personal/individual. Shared Practices helped us to focus. Our concern was that it would become an optional Bible study with no engagement, so we wanted another small group with purpose, that would encourage our church to become a discipling community.

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CBWC Church Planting: What Shared Practices do you focus on and why?

Mike and Shannon: Over the last 2 years all of our teaching seemed to come back to the Shema, as Jesus expressed it in Mark 12:30-31: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Initially when we began using the Weekly Practices Guide, we didn’t have small groups (which we call Connect Groups). Our encouragement was to join with the rest of our church community to in doing the daily exercises or shared practices.

Our Shared Practices are Prayer (Heart), Study of Scripture (Mind), preparation for Sabbath (Strength), being a good neighbour (Love Your Neighbour), Personal Practice and Reflection (Love Yourself) and Gathering together on Sunday and in Wednesday Connect Groups (Love One Another).

Focusing on these practices as a whole church community gives us common conversation to begin to form deeper relationships with one another.  We still encourage people to read Scripture or “have devotions” as they have found meaningful, but we also strongly encouraged the church to join this shared journey of prayer, study, reflection, eating together and creating a meaningful community life seven days a week.  This was not an increase in church activities or programs, rather a new rhythm of doing the things we normally do in life with more intentionality of being a gospel people together.

CBWC: What’s been the hardest or most frustrating thing? 

Mike and Shannon: Even after teaching and preaching on being Christ’s disciples both in our personal lives and corporately, when it came time to introduce the concept of Shared Practices, people pushed back. There were so many reasons people felt they couldn’t engage: “I do my own devotions” or “what if I don’t want to read that Scripture this week?” or “I have no time in my day to pray or spend time with God.”

We realized we needed to go back a step, so we practiced with our Leadership Team for about four months by meeting weekly for a shared meal, conversation, discussion and praying together for one another. Much to our surprise, the majority of push back on our LT came from those who we thought would be most supportive. Most of our leaders struggled with leading a small group (Connect Group) as they didn’t feel ready, or didn’t think they have enough biblical knowledge, or are introverts. We reiterated over and over that we were not doing question-and-answer Bible studies, but rather practicing life discipleship together.

We had said from the beginning that if our LT wasn’t fully on board for this we wouldn’t pursue it until they were. That has been one of the most fruitful pauses in moving forward that we could have done.

The other hard thing is that it does take a lot of work to create the guide books.  However, we as staff have grown deeper into our own discipleship journeys and we have seen our preaching and teaching growing and connecting more and more with people in their day-to-day life. image001.jpg

CBWC: Where have you seen fruit of your intentionality in shared practices? 

Mike and Shannon:We are now two full years in the rhythm of shared practices and we are seeing some wonderful fruit.

Our community has grown closer and more connected We are seeing an increase in new members and baptisms coming out of these groups.  For us, growing in numbers has never been our goal, but we find that as we grow in depth as disciples, we are growing in numbers as well.

We are also seeing more of the pastoral care happening from within our Connect Groups. We have elders in each group that are part of our LT, and increasingly, needs and concerns are met through people who are walking discipleship out together. This has given staff the needed time to continue developing leaders and disciples who find their relationship with God, self, others and neighbours being transformed.

One icing-on-the-cake bonus is that we have a people of faith who are increasingly intentional in every area of their lives. By the time we introduced our Connect Group, people were understanding the why around Shared practices and the push-back we initially received had died off. At the launch of these very intentional groups we had over 60% of our congregation join with us.

All our new people are connected to a group as soon as they indicate they are interested in The Forge Church as their “home,” embedding them into people who know and care for them, not as strangers who sit across the aisle, but as brothers and sisters following Jesus on mission in their everyday lives.

CBWC: What advice would you give churches who are considering taking a step towards a culture of intentional shared practice and life together? 

Mike and Shannon: Go slow! Take incremental steps. We didn’t create an add-on program to what we were already doing, but over the course of five years began intentionally reshaping who we are and what we do as witnesses of Christ in our lives.

Don’t be afraid to take a few steps back to help your church re-orientate.  But also don’t allow the culture of consumerism and the individualism of “private faith” distract you or put fear in your hearts! We were prepared that some people wouldn’t delve deep with us and we continue to care for them as community—but the depth to which we are now delving and the growth we are seeing both in our long time folk and new folk, is well worth staying the course.

As per usual, we look forward to further conversation with you and your church as we continue watching God at work and joining Him in His work wherever we live, work, play and pray! ~Shannon and Cailey