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.

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Prayer is Not Optional

By Shannon Youell

At Banff Pastors & Spouses Conference, Church Planting (which includes missional innovations) always has something to help stimulate your imagination in sharing Jesus with those who have not yet experienced His presence in their lives. This year we put together a few simple resources to share with your congregation on a crucial place to begin engaging neighbours in proximity to where you live, work and play.

I want to assure you that we provide you with ideas that most often we have done or are doing ourselves and/or are currently challenging our thinking around evangelism, discipleship and being faithfully present to God and neighbour. We want to populate our thinking that inviting Jesus with us into all the places and spaces we find ourselves in should be the norm for His followers, not the exception.

It seems that 2017 has been the year of prayer.  By that I mean that across our nation, in our churches and in our spirits, God has been tugging us to that place of making space, praying, listening, and responding.

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We’ve been joining in praying for ourselves with the Luke 10:02 movement. Just to say it again…when we pray that prayer Jesus instructed us to pray we are praying for ourselves, as we are the workers Jesus is calling out for.

We’ve been praying for our churches and denomination during this season of 77 Days of Prayer.  And, I certainly hope, we have been praying for our neighborhoods and neighbors and folk who live and work and play around us.

That’s a lot of praying for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven, in our homes, neighborhoods, churches, towns, cities and nations!

Paul wrote to the Galatians about sowing to please the Spirit and not our own selfish natures.  He encourages them, and us, to “…not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9). There’s that reaping a harvest analogy again and we find that we are the reapers (again)!  “Don’t become weary”, don’t quit because it is hard, unrewarding, boring, silly, uncomfortable and isn’t filling the seats of your Sunday service. The call is to pray “unceasingly” and with boldness, faith and until you see God moving and hearts shift (usually I’ve found it is first my heart that needs shifting; my mountain that needs to fall into the sea!) and suddenly God’s presence fills the spaces between our praying and the harvesting.

If, in the sincerity of our hearts, loving those God loves, desiring to witness and be a part of seeing the light of shalom come into places where darkness still prevails, then praying is always the foundation.  Can we pray? Can we give up some of our precious “me” and “us” time to seek the kingdom in the way Jesus instructed.

In our give-away super packet at Banff, we included some ideas about prayer walking your neighbourhoods in your town. You can get it by clicking here.

Print it out.  Give it to every person in your congregation.  Model it first yourself.  This is where I began, though not with a guide or even an idea of what I was doing.  God challenged me to stop praying only for my home, my safety, my family and to begin to pray for the neighbourhood too. Then He challenged me to walk my neighbourhood weekly and stop, listen and pray at each house.  For you, we give this guided thirty-day challenge.  Will you accept it?  Will you join God who is at work already–He grows the harvest after all–and take the time to discover where He wants you to begin reaping?

 

Resources from Banff

By Shannon Youell with Cailey Morgan

From the YWCA “Hotel Y” in Montreal, where I wrote from a few weeks ago, to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, church planting and missional innovation takes us into all sorts of diverse places and spaces!

What I find exhilarating about all these different spaces are the conversations with so many Jesus followers who are excited about how we as Church are growing in our understanding to where God is present beyond the space where we share Sunday worship and Communion.

We’re grateful and encouraged by each of the conversations we were able to have with so many of you last week at CBWC’s Banff Pastors Conference. Throughout the week speaker David Fitch challenged us in how we approach all the spaces and places we find ourselves in: “The church’s primary task is to be present to God’s presence.”

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Heartland Regional Minister Mark Doerksen and I, giving David Fitch a hard time.

When Jesus sent the twelve into the villages He instructed them to find people of peace. People of peace are those folk we come across in our neighborhoods, work spaces, fields, rinks and studios, who welcome us into their spaces and host us. When we approach these spaces from a platform of prayer asking God to reveal where He is at work, we can have opportunities to get to know the people around us and for God to reveal Himself to them.

But, as David emphasized, we are the guests in these spaces.  We do not come with an agenda of arguing someone into faith, but we come with a posture of listening and seeing how God is already working in their stories even when they don’t yet know it.

If you stopped by our table, hopefully you received a Neighbourhood Engagement Toolkit from us.  Here are some of those resources for your further use. We hope they’re helpful!

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Art of Neighbouring Leader Guide

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Neighbourhood Block Map

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Thirty Days of Prayer Walking Guide

Prayer walking and neighbourhood mapping have been helpful and fruitful practices to both of us personally, and we’d love to hear from you how you have or will use the Art of Neighboring or prayer walk resources in your context. Leave a comment here, or contact Cailey: cmorgan@cbwc.ca.

Opening Space for the Proclamation of the Gospel

By Shannon Youell

“Every day in our neighborhoods, amid strife, broken relationships, and tragedy, whether we are Christians or not, we need the gospel. Christians must play host to spaces where the gospel can be proclaimed. As we gather around tables and the various meeting places of our lives, if we will be patient and tend to Christ’s presence among us, the moments will present themselves for the gospel to be proclaimed contextually, humbly out of our own testimony. And in these moments Christ will be present, transformation will come, and onlookers will catch a glimpse of the kingdom. This is faithful presence” (David Fitch; Faithful Presence: Kindle Location 1568).

Many of our CBWC pastors, spouses, staff and friends will gather for our annual Banff Conference, where David Fitch will be sharing with us regarding being Faithfully Present as a discipline in all the circles of our lives.

Today, I want to write a bit about his chapter titled The Discipline of Proclaiming the Gospel, from which the above quote is found.

I’ve written on this blog before about our sleepy approach to proclamation, where historians recount that when the church becomes comfortable in society, we tend to leave proclamation to a few. Fitch addresses this as well by placing it back into our thinking that we all need to hear and proclaim the gospel daily as a discipline of Christ’s daily presence with us.

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I have often said that as believers we are to be “gospeling” one another continuously. This may seem confusing if our understanding of the gospel is reduced to a one-time conversion experience. Gospeling is the discipline of bringing the presence of Jesus and His good news of God’s Kingdom into our daily and present realities where we wrestle with relationship issues, justice issues, our own brokenness that affects how we react/respond to others and how others react/respond to us. In any and all of these places we daily find ourselves in, are we proclaiming the Jesus Way to one another, to encourage, to spur, to clear our clouded vision?

Proclaiming the gospel is always pointing people to God’s shalom, which hopefully is what we primarily do in pastoral counseling as Joell wrote about previously. To Jesus being in the midst of our hopelessness, shame, guilt, confusion, pain and brokenness; of allowing Jesus to shape us to his gospel rather than to our own experiences and opinions. It can be as simple as saying to a fellow believer who is wrestling with offense against another and just wants to cut them out of their life, “How did Jesus respond to offense? To power struggles? To those who look, think, believe and act differently than I do?” Reminding and re-focusing one another to the reality that the story of God and humans is active and transforming makes room for the Spirit to do the shaping and re-shaping.

But, as Fitch asserts, we must also proclaim the gospel in the other circles of our lives as well: to those we encounter along our way wherever we live, work, play and pray. When I read the gospel stories of Jesus’ encounter with those who are suffering the effects of living in our broken fallen world (which is all of us), I see Him bring the gospel message in many different ways. He contextualizes it, finding an entry point that immediately grabs the heart of the hearer.

To the woman caught in adultery He extends grace and mercy rather than condemnation, leaving room for her to step into being reconciled to community through abandoning the way of living that brought her there and inviting her to experience Christ’s reality of restoration. To the sick, the crippled, the leper, He extends both the caring of physical healing and of being able to re-enter community relationships. To the one struggling with guilt, He offers forgiveness. To the one wrestling with broken relationships, He offers His company, His presence to demonstrate that God is already at work to restore those relationships. At this place we decide whether to submit or to reject the invitation.

“Proclamation is spoken from a place of weakness and humility. It tells the gospel from a place of having witnessed it, seen it, been humbled by it. It is unsettling. It calls for conversion (a response) every time…Proclamation creates the conditions for either submission or rejection. Proclamation cannot be argued or debated, only accepted or rejected…will you give up control, submit to Jesus as Lord, and participate in this world?” (ibid Loc 1482)

“It seems so foreign to proclaim the gospel to others around (us). As we sit around a table and share our lives (our stories) with one another, expose our sufferings and joys (our rants and our hopes!), a moment comes that begs for the proclaiming of the gospel into our lives. And so we must wait and listen, and when the time is right, we might even ask humbly, ‘may I say something?’ And then, as with the first disciples, the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth (John 16:13).”

 

Live From Montreal

By Shannon Youell

Journey to the Cross
There are 500 stairs to journey to the top of Mount Royal which rises behind McGill University in downtown Montreal. Cailey and I are in Montreal for the 2017 Church Planting Canada Congress. The morning prior to the conference I decided to take the 2 km journey up those stairs to the lookout point to view the city and river, and then a little further to the cross that is visible from all around the city, especially at night when it is lit up.

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It was a LOT of stairs.

It is not an easy climb and there is an easier way to the top–along more gentle inclines with no stairs–but I was up to the challenge so off I went! As my legs began to burn and my breathing became more labored, I wondered what was it in me that chose the harder way up as opposed to the more leisurely route. At one point where the stair path intercepted the roadway path I almost defaulted to the path easier taken. My journey to the cross that day reminds me of our journey as people desiring to see God’s Kingdom continue to break into our nation, which finds foundation at this historical city.

A Collection of Losers
The Congress began with a daylong preconference, The Nones and Dones: The Evolving Story of Secularity in Canada, that engaged church planters and catalysts from across the nation in the conversation around the changing religious landscape in Canada.

James Tyler Robertson, Adjunct Professor, Tyndale Seminary, Canadian Religious Historian and Pastor, helped us frame our roots as people who were apolitical, fiercely independent and determined to break free of both imperialism and the control of the organized church. Our DNA as a nation is that we are a collection of “losers” (losers of the various battles that defined the settlement boundaries of North America and those whose loyalties changed due these conflicts) “who survived by hard work and partnerships.” The only way they survived was humble hard work. Partnerships with faith groups were necessary to survive.

Jamie’s description of our history has gone round and round in my head. As we in the church express great alarm at the secularization of Canada, what does this revelation say to us when the percentage of those who self-identify on census information as No Religious Affiliation (or “nones”) continues to rise?

The Spiritual Landscape
One of the main reasons for this shift in self-identifying as “nones,” and relatedly “dones” (those who have church experience but are “done” with it), is that it is now socially acceptable to say in public that you have no religious affiliation. In the history of our country, many of the social services and pillars of society centered on the church and the services that they offered. Everyone needed some kind of affiliation with the Church. Once government began to offer its citizens healthcare and education, and began to solemnize marriages, for example, people were no longer bound to the church for their regular function of their daily lives.

Sociologist Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme (Associate Professor of Sociology at Waterloo University) has been studying the secularization of Canada. Based on those studies, using Census figures, Statistics Canada and other research, she found that in our area of Western Canada, the average of 28% people have self-identified as nones.

Of our western region, BC ranks the highest at 39% of the population saying they have no religious affiliation—but among those under age 35, the percentage jumps to 47%. This is based on census and other research between 2010 and 2014.

We can’t expect to have a common history and language anymore—many of these “nones” have never had an experience of Christian Church. Almost half–47%–of teenagers in Canada have never attended a religious service (Bibby Research, 2008). Sociologists say that number now, ten years later, is higher—closer to 52%—and continuing to rise.

Now What?
Joel Theissen, Professor of Sociology at Ambrose University and Director of Flourishing Congregations Institute said that the #1 reason people join any group is because they have relationship with someone inside the group.

So what does that mean for those of us who are longing to see God’s Kingdom realized in our schools and neighbourhoods and communities?

We’ve written often about how different methods and approaches have worked in different eras in the last 100 years and why these methodologies are working or not today. Missiologist Hugh Halter, in his explorations of intentional neighbouring said recently in an interview that they realized every friend and neighbour who “eventually found Jesus first found themselves drawn to the festivities in a home” (Hugh Halter, Happy Hour).

Karen Wilk is part of the Capacity Building and Innovation Team of the new mission agency of CRCNA as well as a National Team Member of Forge Canada. As part of the preconference, she shared her experience of innovating and shaping faith in community in her own Edmonton neighborhood where people are finding Jesus and faith, not because they were invited to church but rather they were first invited to community in their community (we’ve featured one of Karen’s books before, titled Don’t Invite Them to Church). She spoke of shifting our conversations from how to make church grow and how to get people in them to what is God up to in our neighborhoods and how can we participate.

Overall, the church in Canada is facing 500 stairs. There are easier paths being promoted, but the true journey needs to humbly begin climbing each stair with perseverance, prayer, and partnerships, remembering the grit required of us to continue the climb to make Jesus visible and the cross a light on the hill.

Perseverance, prayer and partnerships. This is the Canadian way after all…eh.

We’re going to have some Tool Kits for you at Banff to help start these conversations with your church leadership team and congregations. Come chat with us.

We are deeply appreciative of all our Canadian pioneers both in the past and current. Thank you New Leaf Network and Jared Siebert for your brilliant reveal of the Canadian Landscape. Thank you Forge Canada and Cam Roxburgh for your pioneering work for the past decades of re-imaging mission in our nation and in our neighbourhoods. Thank you Church Planting Canada for pressing in to gather Jesus lovers together to wrestle, share and encourage one another in this journey of sharing faith through our churches and networks.

And thank you to each of you who read this blog because you too desire to see where God is at work and join Him there in your cities, communities and churches.

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Cailey and I taking in the CPC Congress.

Joell, Cailey and I would love to talk to you about participating in a one day conference with New Leaf Network around the topic of the Nones and Dones as we all wrestle with grasping hold of the challenges of sharing Jesus in an increasing secular environment. Drop us a note to begin!

I’m Increasingly Bothered. Are You?

By Shannon Youell

Missional Prayer is intercession arising from the fact that God’s  Kingdom has not yet come fully in this world and his will is not yet fully done. As  Kingdom people this should bother us. But do we pray as though we are bothered? Missional Prayer, Urbana

The disciples of Jesus, noting that Jesus prayed…a lot…and that things seemed to happen when He prayed, asked Him to teach them how to pray. As far as we can tell, most of these guys were raised with the Torah and understood prayers: morning and evening prayers, prayers of repentance, prayers of mourning and supplication, prayers of thanksgiving and joy. Yet, they wanted to see God act in response to their prayers the way that Jesus’ prayers were answered. They saw Jesus pray and  Kingdom happened!

Jesus then instructs them to pray for this: “Our Father….Your  Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” He prayed for God’s  Kingdom to break into the places on earth where darkness and evil continued to oppress and break humanity’s spirit, where humans are drowning in judgement, rejection, marginalization and their own broken places.

And yes, just as the quoted blogger states, it should bother us that those places and people are all around us: work with us, shop with us, live with us, are us.

Really Bothered?
The question I’m forced to ask myself is if I am indeed bothered when I am aware of the struggles in my community, neighborhood, city, nation, and world. Most of us, being asked that, would say, “of course!” But the deeper question is how much does it bother us? Am I, are we, bothered enough to compel us to pray? To pray continually? To pray until we see God’s acting on behalf of and in response to those prayers? As the prophet Isaiah writes, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait (hope) for him” (Isaiah 64:4).

From the perspective of sharing Jesus, am I bothered enough that most of the people around me in my everyday life do not experience the life-giving grace, forgiveness, justice, mercy, hope and love of Our Father who is in heaven? Enough to pray for them everyday? Enough to allow those prayers to change me and give me Spirit boldness to invite them to consider Jesus and his redemptive restoration into their lives and circumstances?

Sadly, I’m not always quite that bothered, and perhaps not even often enough. And, indeed, that is reflected in how I pray or not.

10:02
This past May I was inspired by an international movement to pray Luke 10:02. Luke 10:2 instructs, by Jesus words, to pray, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

The movement has us setting an alarm on our watches or phones for everyday at 10:02 a.m. And then to simply pray what Jesus said to pray for. Easy…right?

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So we at CBWC Church Planting created a little magnet to affix to your fridge, or car, or filing cabinet to also remind you. And of course, we set our phone alarms. Everyday when the alarm went off, I would pray for a few minutes. It was exhilarating! Though I did find that the little alarm (which I programmed to have its own ring tone) went off at completely inconvenient times, like in line at the bank, or in a meeting and so I’d just hit “stop,” thinking I’d come back to it, which rarely occurred. So I talked to God about that because I really did want to take those moments everyday, joining with others, to pray for God to send workers to those who don’t yet know the presence of Jesus and the  Kingdom in their lives.

Here’s where I should make a slight clarification, just in case you didn’t realize this….Jesus is sneaky in Luke 10:2. He’s getting us to pray for ourselves! To pray that we will be the workers in the harvest, that we would be the ones bothered enough to pray, to engage, to invite, to share, to live among.

During my hit and miss time of praying the Luke 10:02 prayer, I have found that as I prayed for God’s  Kingdom to come into the lives and circumstances of folk around me, God has been doing some deep work in my heart. I feel, well, bothered. Bothered that there is so much pain in people’s own histories; bothered that inequity is rampant in a wealthy nation that has access to God’s provision for the whole world; bothered that humanity polarizes and shifts values and allegiances based on fear and scarcity in their own hearts. And bothered that I have not been bothered enough in my life about folk and situations that don’t in some way affect or trespass on my life.

In that bothered-ness, I have found myself weeping for others, even strangers as the Holy Spirit has made me more attentive and aware of people I barely have interaction with. Just so you know, I do not like weeping. It makes me feel weak and vulnerable, but the result is I am growing in compassion. It’s a by-product of the Luke 10:2 prayer.

It’s a dangerous prayer to pray for, because we get bothered. Jesus called us to love strangers, enemies, the unlovable in our eyes. No wonder. When we pray for them we begin to feel compassion towards them, empathy for them. We begin to see our own brokenness in theirs, or perhaps, acknowledge for the first time that we too, are broken, damaged, hurting people in need of the continual healing grace and mercy of Our Father. Of seeing God’s  Kingdom realized in our own spheres of earth as it is in heaven.

Perhaps the 10:02 prayer will inspire people to become missionaries at home and abroad, but I wonder if Jesus’ plan all along was to make us bothered. What do you think? Are you feeling a little bothered right now?

Then pray.

Summer Video Series 3: Living as Ekklesia

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, our very on Shannon Youell shares Living as Ekklesia, a call to consider the history of our language around the church and the ways in which we have exchanged Kingdom values for earthly values without even noticing.

Living as Ekklesia – Being the Church from Online Discipleship on Vimeo.

What do you have to add to the discussion on Ekklesia? In what ways do we as the church today need to change our perceptions and language?

Jim Putnam’s Discipleship Scorecard

By Shannon Youell

Our church has visitors every week. They come, they go, they shop and some even stay.

I, and others in our community, are always watching to greet these visitors, which is what I did a few weeks ago when one caught my eye. I welcomed him and introduced myself, then asked him what brought him here this morning. He told me that he has spent his adult life living in close relationship with God; that he found Jesus through the Salvation Army Church, attending and serving there many years. He said he prayed, worshiped, read and meditated on Scripture every day, though he had not attended a corporate service in seven years since the Citadel removed the pastor he loved.

By measurement of his spiritual life, we may conclude this man was discipled well. He tried in every way to live a good Christian life and was devoted to God. On the other hand you may disagree that he was discipled well since he doesn’t “attend” worship services. Yet, in reality, he was discipled into exactly what many of us consider a disciple of Christ to be: one devoted to God and living a life of integrity and character and attends church services. He and many, many of us are discipled into individual relationship with God and service within the church programs as being the outcome.

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Indeed, this is central to us having relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters. But does this describe fully what Jesus discipled his followers to?

Jim Putnam and Bobby Harrington, in their book Discipleshift, draw our attention to how we “keep score”—how we evaluate success in our churches and in disciplemaking. I quoted Putnam a few months ago on his definition of a disciple:

If that definition does not end up looking like one who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and committed to the mission of Jesus, then our definition has holes in it.  The bottom line is that a mature disciple of Jesus is defined by relationship. We are known for our love for God and one another.”

Often, I hear pastors and leaders lamenting that their good and faithful folk don’t do relationship well. They are kind and generous, but keep to themselves in everyday life. How then are we “known for our love for God and one another?” And how do we reflect being “committed to the mission of Jesus”?

In Discipleshift, the authors walk us through how we need to change our scorecard, the way we evaluate “from attracting and gathering to developing and releasing.”

“Deploying (releasing) means that people in your church are equipped and motivated to demonstrate God’s love and share their faith with the lost wherever they work or live or go to school—any place they interact with other people. They are also able to do life with other believers in relationship connection. They understand that they are ministers who serve wherever they go in the world. They are becoming people who make disciples at home, love a lost and hurting world, and win people to the Lord as they serve as missionaries in the communities where they live. That is the new scorecard for success.” (pg. 214).

They emphasize that our goal in being the church, or starting new churches, isn’t to gather a crowd and give them information, but rather to “raise up biblical disciples and deploy them into the world so they can raise up other disciples. These disciples are to grow into accurate copies of Jesus who rightly deliver his message in his ways.”

I know in my own church, there are many different ideas of what a disciple of Jesus is. Which creates part of the problem we have with being credible witnesses to those who do not yet know Christ or have decided they are good with their own personal life of worship and devotion.

Could our challenge be to relook at this and teach into what the Bible says about discipleship in the gospels? Here are several questions the book challenges us to look at with open minds and hearts:

  • How does the Bible define discipleship?
  • What does the Bible say a disciple look like?
  • What is the discipleship process as we see it happening in scripture?
  • What are the specific phases of discipleship, as seen in the scriptural models?
  • How will everyone in our church come to know this process?
  • What characteristics (values) must be present for real-life discipleship to occur in our church? (values include love, acceptance and accountability.)
  • How will our church (at every level) emphasize the discipleship process?
  • How will our church practice keep the focus on discipleship by making church “simple” and “clear”?
  • How will our church raise up, reproduce, and release disciple-making leaders?
  • How will our church serve as an attractional light on a hill?
  • How will our church send people out to serve incarnationally in the community?

I am going to start with the first three questions. I will do my best to put aside my already conceived ideas of this and honestly look at this. If I can’t do this, then what am I testifying about what Jesus mandated the Church to do? Who would like to travel this journey with us? Could we begin some dialogue about it? Then we can ask ourselves, our leadership teams the next questions and prayerfully begin to redevelop some of our methodology that has perhaps grown stale and ineffective to mentor and apprentice all those who choose to gather with us for services to participate more comfortably in God’s mission out to the world He loves.

Potential Impact Report

By Shannon Youell

Do we approach God and His calling on our lives with fisted hands, holding tightly to things we have already determined or with open hands, willing to allow God to inform and shape our futures? Do we allow God to fill our empty cups and then are we able to drink the cup he has given us?

This was the opening focus to more than twenty young adults from Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan, gathered at Gull Lake Camp April 27-30 to challenge the next generation to focus on spiritual direction, an openness to ministry potential, and general calling and leadership in their life. Facilitated by CBWC ministry leaders and pastors, the Potential Impact conference metaphor quickly formed around the charging rhinoceros, who can see only twenty feet in front of itself yet knows that to see the next twenty feet requires stepping into the unseen-ness of the future.

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Using a three-fold framework of Spiritual Direction, Deeper Personal Understanding, and Openness and Exposure to Ministry Potential, we went on a journey of self-discovery of Who Am I, Where Do I Fit, How am I Unique, What am I to do and Where have I been/where am I going. Facilitated by Chris Maclure, Tammy Klassen, Dennis Stone, Mark Archibald, Steve Roadhouse, Debi Burt and myself, these topics were engaged through sessional teachings and activities, faith stories, small group coaching, worship, prayer, reflection and–of course–by rambunctious times of basketball, floor hockey, arrow tag, ping pong tournaments, campfires, star-gazing, sharing meals, to name just a few of the things we did together.

The call to join God where He is at work no matter where life leads was dominant in both the presentations and in the small group coaching. In these peer sessions, participants could wrestle with the presented material and “engage in the topics of identity and call” with speakers and coaches who “were awesome, encouraging, helpful and practical.”

The conference organizers are keenly aware that engaging and empowering young people for ministry potential is crucial to continue in the work of the kingdom of God generationally. This is, after all, a component of making disciples who make disciples. Developing and raising/releasing leaders into whatever their sphere of influence as “ministers of reconciliation” will be, is our responsibility as the generations before them. And it will be their responsibility to the generations who come after them.

What is a Real Disciple?

By Shannon Youell

“First, we’re asking the question, “What is a real disciple?” And we’re making a distinction between a convert and a disciple…..We need to ask the question and define it together as a body. If that definition does not end up looking like one who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and committed to the mission of Jesus, then our definition has holes in it. The bottom line is that a mature disciple of Jesus is defined by relationship. We are known for our love for God and one another.” Jim Putnam

In my last blog, I started with a statement from a quote from J.D. Payne. You will note that this blog entry also starts with a quote.

In our current series of blogs we are looking at some smart things that smart people have already said and trying to find our place in them. No need to reinvent the wheel by reframing things so we look smart! I am grateful to all the people out there who are smarter than me and have said great things for us to reflect on, consider and learn from.

All Church Planters?
In our last entry we were left with the idea that disciples of Jesus plant churches. Nothing new there…of course disciples of Jesus are the people who plant churches!

We were also left with the idea that since we are disciples of Jesus, then we are all also, ultimately, church planters. Now that’s a statement that many, if not most, of us would like to disclaim! But as Jim Putnam states, a disciple is “…one who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and committed to the mission of Jesus…”.

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I like the observations that a disciple is both following and being changed by Jesus, but we get into all sorts of tangled understandings of what is the mission we are to be committed to as disciples of Jesus. If we hold to J.D. Payne’s quote from last time, then we would define what Jesus did as making disciples who then made disciples and so on.

Living it Out
What did those disciples do? They told people about the good news of the in-breaking kingdom of God among them; of the work of the cross so that all may join God in His work; of being delivers of God’s righteous justice, mercy, grace, healing, love, and shalom; equipped and released those people to go do likewise in their own places and spaces. And they gathered and told stories of when, having believed, people were changed by the faithful presence of Jesus in their lives, of God at work, and of the faithful presence of the followers around them. And the new disciples did the same. And churches were birthed.

What they didn’t do was start a Sunday meeting and teach new forms of worshiping God. Worshiping God looked like changed lives, living out of and into God’s redemptive, reconciliatory, restorative kingdom that brings shalom and this gathered people together to praise and bring worship and remember the God who sent Jesus to usher it all in and make it all possible for you and for me and for our neighbors.

In my own journey in following Jesus, the more I followed and obeyed what Jesus did as He dwelled among us, the more I was changed in my thinking, my grace and love towards others and my understanding of God’s mission for the gathered ekklesia (the called out people who pray for and seek the welfare of the city) and scattered church, eikons (image-bearers of).

So if what we are doing in our current discipling practices isn’t moving people from self-focus (what’s best for me) to Christ-focus (what’s best for the world God so loves) which looks something like what Putnam described: “looking like one who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and committed to the mission of Jesus, then our definition has holes in it. Because the ones doing the looking are the ones who Christ has placed in our area of influence where we live, work, play and pray.