Wind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you join us? 

Speaking a Different Language

By Shannon Youell

Sitting at the beach and staring at the waves, caught up in the rhythms of the immense forces that push and pull, I found myself in a pensive mood.

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I had earlier passed a church sign that read: “Wondering how you can be saved? Believe in the Lord Jesus and be saved!” Traffic was stopped at that point and I stared at that sign, turning the words around in my mind until traffic began to flow again.

Watching the waves, I pondered that sign. Who in our North American context is actually asking themselves how to be saved? Who would even know what it meant to believe in Lord Jesus? The answer of course, would be people who had some sort of assumed knowledge of the God of the Bible, of Jesus as Savior and Lord. The sign makes sense to those folk even if they are disinterested, disengaged or done with church and religion.

But what of our increasingly secularized culture? We now have men, women and children who have no context to place that into. To them the sign is meaningless, and when stopped in traffic and reading that sign, would only give it a cursory glance as it is in a foreign language.

The unchurched people I hang around with and know are rarely asking themselves that question.  They don’t see themselves as needing saving, and indeed, they don’t see themselves as sinners.

For all intents and purposes, these friends of mine are the “Nones“.  They have no historical or cultural memory of the Christian religion and do not consider themselves religiously affiliated at all.

Which brings me to the tension I see in that church sign. How can I talk about God, Jesus and gospel to people who have no context or even belief in a God who actually cares about the world?  To many, our assumed ways of talking about the gospel are like a foreign language.
 
“Could you tell a gospel story in a way that resonates with the nones? 
What would it sound like? 
What does re-imagining the Gospel sound like? 
(I’m not suggesting re-inventing, I’m curious about re-telling.)”  Rohadi 

Rohadi, a young pastor in Calgary Alberta, expounds on this further in his blog on telling the gospel story without using church language, here.

Which brings us to our Engaging Gospel Series. The series is shaped to help us re-shape our language and find multiple entry points to engage the Nones and Dones in our lives and neighbourhoods.  We learn the language of the day so we might engage in conversation that can open doors to journeying with folk towards God, the cross and then to the understanding of how we can be saved in the midst of the brokenness of the world we live in.

The Engaging Gospel Series is a good place to start in your churches and your small groups, to learn a “new” language to help us tell this wonderful story to the culture of our day.  This is what missionaries do and have always done: learn the language and the culture of the people with whom they wish share God’s Big Story.

Excuses for Discipleship

By Cailey Morgan

Last time, I wrote about the how being citizens of God’s Kingdom means growing in our understanding of our heavenly Father’s economy of abundance and how exclusion from the Canada summer grants program provides an opportunity to disciple our folk in this Kingdom way.  

Another opportunity that this shift in summer grant funding provides is the excuse to stop and reflect on why we do the summer day camps or other outreach programs that these government grants often pay for, and how, with whom, and what we do this summer now that Canada’s taxpayers aren’t footing bill for our the interns’ wages. And this leads me to the second aspect of Jesus’ life on earth that we need to pay attention to: Jesus used every moment as an opportunity for discipleship and leadership development.  

 

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Sometimes, Jesus had planned times of teaching where He would cast the vision of God’s Kingdom to His closest followers. Other times, a woman would interrupt by touching His robe, or children would run up, or the Pharisees would come looking for trouble. In all these situations, Jesus took the opportunity as a teaching moment: a chance for discipleship of the crowd and for leadership development of His core team. 

So for us, I’m asking a simple “why” question: Why do we do day camps? Why do we do programs? 

This isn’t a rhetorical question. What’s your answer?  

Day camps are obviously a great way to show hospitality to kids in our neighbourhood. But we need to ask the bigger questions of what the long-term purpose is? I’ve personally been guilty of helping run camps in order to feel like I’m busy doing “God’s work” and to check off my “evangelism” box on my to do list. There is so much more potential.  

Let’s think seriously about what excuses we can come up with to disciple our people into the next level of growth in their love of God, each other and neighbour this summer. Maybe day camps aren’t the right connection point for those in your neighbourhood who don’t know Christ yet–and the lack of internship funding this summer will help force your congregation’s hand towards a different plough.  If so, that’s awesome. But before you throw summer day camps out the window, I want you to consider the revelation I had on the other side of the world a few weeks ago.

I was in Albania in preparation for a summer youth leadership development program in which teens from the Canadian and Albanian congregations of our church will be learning about and practicing Christian leadership. Between church leadership meetings, visits to the elementary school we hope to engage throughout the summer, and scoping out accomodations for the summer team, I sat down with the neighbourhood pastor of our Sauk village congregation to talk about the potential of running some day camps for neighbourhood kids as part of the LTD program.  

My initial bent was that the Albanian congregation is perfectly capable of running day camps–why should we wait until the Canadian youth arrive to do this ministry? Every time we visit from Canada we help run camps, and it can seem like just a program to keep the Canadian team busy and feel like we’ve accomplished something. But as the conversation continued, we were both struck with a deeper vision: the discipleship pathway. 

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Why Day Camps? Because they’re a chance to disciple young people and leaders at every level.

Every person in the world is on a discipleship journey. Some are running the path as fast and hard as they can. Others do not recognize that God is at work in their lives and are wandering in other directions. Summer day camps are an excuse for discipleship all along the spectrum. At one end is the wide-open door of invitation for kids who’ve never known the love and peace of Christ to draw near to Him through these camps. Super important.  

At the other end is the church leadership, who are building into young leaders and working hard to pass the baton and share the keys whenever possible.

Eexcuses for discipleship–camps not for the sake of camps but for the twofold sake of evangelism and a chance to develop leaders out of our wiling and energetic young people. We’re taking the leadership development angle of camps very seriously this summer, using the excuse to have youth and adults train in leadership skills and practice those skills in our neighbourhoods.

I share this example of camp leadership because the levels of discipleship are easily defined and you can see a clear path of growth into leadership over time. But this path is true for discipling anyone–adults, church leaders, we’re all on a path of growth and all need to be simultaneously being discipled by someone further along in the journey and discipling those newer on the path. Any excuse for people being together can be an excuse for discipleship.

What excuses for discipleship are taking place in your congregation? 

Bah Humbug!

By Shannon Youell

A few weeks ago Oxford, the dictionary people, announced their word of the year: Post-truth. They define it as follows:

“an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’

Rather than simply referring to the time after a specified situation or event – as in post-war or post-match – the prefix  in post-truth has a meaning more like ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant.’”

There we go folks…apparently it’s official! We live in an age where we are being convinced that truth has become unimportant and irrelevant. To which I again express, Humbug! (which is a real word describing ways to fool people).

Before we all nod our heads in agreement with an intensity that could cause us whiplash, we should recognize that we all fall victim to truth as subjective to our own emotions and personal beliefs. For the purposes of this blog, I refer to the way we sort how we live out life as followers of Jesus. We tend to pick and choose. Seriously…we do. We live life at the smorgasbord of Jesus and choose what we like and leave behind what we don’t, are unsure of, or just plain uncomfortable with.

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Take evangelism for instance. We are great at self-exempting ourselves from this. Frankly we are quite afraid of that word, as we’ve discussed before on this blog. For many, if not most of us, we self-exempt because we see sharing Jesus as something someone else does, yet Jesus invites us to a ‘come and see’, ‘go and tell’ way of life…..as we go in our ordinary lives. You might right now be thinking, yes but there is that passage about evangelism being an appointed gift. Go ahead. I will challenge you on that passage though. Go back and read it again and see if it is actually an exemption passage.

Reimagining Evangelism
At the Banff Pastor’s Conference this year, we had a round table discussion around reimagining evangelism where we asked ourselves the questions: Is evangelism a mission impossible? Can we re-engage in it as believers and followers of Jesus?

In light of living in an age of post-truth, can we become truth-tellers? Do we dare? Or are we so paralyzed that truth telling will bring us scorn and rejection, we prefer to stay silent in the midst of humbug?

Our society can try to convince us all we want that truth is unimportant but the massive publishing dollars procured from ‘meaning of life’ books reveals the real truth about that. Humans are seekers of truth. And in agreement with the definition, we do often find truth through emotion and personal belief. So though our culture can shout ‘post-truth’, it is in how truth-telling is defined that gives us an entry point to share this Jesus, whose birth we are celebrating this month.

When I look at how Jesus went and truth-told he did so with fact (today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing; the kingdom of God is among you; I will be with you always; Go in peace and be freed from your suffering). God has fulfilled his promise to Israel, King Jesus is come to establish ‘on earth as it is in heaven’, the kingdom of God where what is wrong is made right again. These were the some of the objective facts he presented.

As well, Jesus also told the truth through people’s emotions and personal beliefs. He gospeled people where they were. To those struggling with guilt he offered forgiveness. To those marginalized, he placed them in the front of the line and in places of honor. To those sick he offered compassion and healing. To those who were deemed less valued, he publicly spoke to, recognized and preferred.  To those lost in their own personal confusion, he brought clarity. He truth-told into each one’s story at the place of entry that would speak the strongest to them.

This was the Jesus way of evangelism. He really didn’t give a four step formula to how to be saved, but rather stepped into the places of people’s story where they were at and revealed God already at work in the midst of their story. Evangelism is really just that.

Exposing Our Humbug Rhetoric
So can we expose the humbug rhetoric of our world that tries to fool us into even questioning our own truth? Can we merely take the time to be truth-tellers of this great celebration? Can we begin to discard the foolish deception that we “belong(ing) to a time in which the specified concept (of objective truth) has become unimportant or irrelevant”?

This is the beginning of re-imagining and re-engaging with the Story we objectively lean into as our personal truth and it is that we share, with all our deep convictions and emotions that Jesus is King in my life and the world as our Prince of Peace, bringing the deep shalom of God into all the places we live, work, play and pray in.

Great peace and joy to all.

 

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History of Compassion

This article by Gordon King is from the blog of our brothers and sisters at the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec. Thanks CBOQ!

Hunger and access to food during times of crisis are a threat to global stability and the well-being of millions of people. Four numbers illustrate some of the dimensions of this humanitarian challenge.

9 – One out of every nine people in the world suffers from hunger or under-nutrition.

70 – Seventy percent of hungry people live in rural areas where food is produced.

80 – Eighty percent of the food consumed in Africa and Asia comes from family farms of less than two hectares.  Increasing the production of these farms is a key to addressing rural hunger and feeding the growing population of the world.

30 – Over the past 30 years foreign aid to agriculture has declined.

By Marc Di Luzio

Canadian Baptists have a long history of compassion for people that suffer from hunger. During the Great Depression, meals were provided in church halls and the homes of families. The government of Canada donated food to hungry populations following the Second World War. The Sharing Way was established to care for people threatened by hunger, disease, and poverty. Ethiopia was shaken by an immense famine in the early 1980s. Farmers from Baptist churches in the prairie provinces sent their crops to care for the starving. Bruce Neal and Arnold Epp were leaders in the founding of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Today Canadian Baptists continue this tradition with an instinctive understanding that witness in our communities and our world requires us to respond to the needs of hungry. This mission is enacted in creative ways:

  • Community gardens.
  • Support for food banks
  • Classes on cooking and nutrition.
  • Sustainable agriculture projects in East Africa and India.
  • Food relief programs for families displaced by the Syrian civil war.
  • Advocacy to the Government of Canada to increase the percentage of international aid offered to farmers with small landholdings in the Global South.

“When I was hungry you gave me food” is a phrase from the final parable of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus goes on to say that we show our love for him when we care for the needs of those who are weak and vulnerable.

What are some of the other ways you’ve seen Canadian Baptists showing compassion for Canada and the world? Share your thoughts here.

Keep Connected

Because of Canada’s wide geography, we don’t often get to connect in person with our CBWC family.

However, there are other ways to build these great relationships, including some simple things we can do right on this blog!

1. Can we pray for you? God’s Kingdom is advancing, and one way we can join in is through prayer. Please send us your prayer requests that we will post on our prayer page so friends across Western Canada can be praying with you. And don’t forget praise points too!

2. Send us your photos and videos. We’d love to share what’s been happening in your ministry and community. Visuals like photos and videos are a great way for you to bring us into your context so we can celebrate God’s work. Email Cailey (cmorgan@cbwc.ca) the files, or ask her about where to upload them on Dropbox.

3. Join the conversation on the blog by making comments on our articles and resources, or by offering your own articles, rants, or resources to publish. We want to hear from you!

Blog posts in your inbox!

Many of you will remember GO WEST!, the CBWC’s Church Planting enewsletter that went out every couple weeks. Well, while we’re not rebooting the newsletter per se, we are providing a new service for keeping updated on what’s happening in the Church Planting world.

New articles, videos, stories and insights are being posted to our Church Planting blog throughout the month. Subscribers to GO WEST! will now receive these blog posts straight to their email inboxes.

If you are not on the list, but would like to receive these updates, please email Cailey at cmorgan@cbwc.ca. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking “unsubscribe from this list” at the bottom of the update.

Seven Prayer Points

We’ve been praying for these seven aspects of our Planters’ lives (compiled by John Maxwell). Join us today in covering CBWC’s Church Planters in prayer:

  • Rest and strength (Psalm 23)
  • Intimacy with God (2 Corinthians 13:14)
  • Family (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Ministry Effectiveness (Ephesians 4:11-13)
  • Obedience to God (Luke 9:23-24)
  • Leadership (Romans 12:6-8)
  • Wisdom (James 1:5)

From Japan to Calgary

We have heard many great stories from Crossover Japanese Church of Calgary over the past year. Pastor Yoichi Taniguchi brought his wife Miyuki and their two daughters Agasa and Mana to Calgary several years ago from Japan to plant Crossover. Here is the history of how God brought this family from a small Asian island to the Canadian Prairies.

The Path of Christian Living in Our Family

By Miyuki Taniguchi

My family came from Japan several years ago to plant a Japanese Church in Calgary. But that wasn’t always our plan. Here’s the story of how God worked in our hearts and lives to bring us to Canada.

It began with the book The Prayer of Jabez. My husband Yoichi and I started following the prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10: “Bless me and enlarge my territory.” However, unexpectedly, things moved towards not blessings but rather hardship for our family.

First, our daughter Mana lost hearing in her right ear at the age of six. Ever since then, she has experienced constant earaches and headaches, and is slowly losing hearing in her left ear as well.

Tom Lavigne with the Taniguchis

Tom Lavigne with the Taniguchis

We pray to the Lord to stop her pain and recover her hearing ability. We trust that the Lord will not give Mana only hardship, but He has a lifelong good plan for her. She has been learning how to have faith in Him and get closer to Him by dealing with her troubles and pains.

Then, our elder daughter Agasa stopped going to school because of bullies. She went through a lot of difficult times. I did all that I could do to stop the bullying, but nothing worked. Then, one of my friends who lived in America invited Agasa to live with her family. I didn’t want to send her since she was still thirteen, but Agasa made a decision to go there by herself. When sending my daughter to San Francisco, I was saying to myself, “I am not worthy to be a mother, for without giving her a proper care, I have to send my brokenhearted daughter abroad.”

When my heart was full of sadness, the Lord spoke to me, “Even if you have to live far from your daughter, there is still something you can do. It is prayer. That is what I value the most in raising up children.”

Then the passage came to my mind. It was from Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future.”

That was more than a comfort to me. That passage strengthened me. In retrospect, I can confidently say now that it was a path the Lord has set for Agasa, because in her new circumstance she found healing and became who she used to be before. I gave my sincere thanksgiving to the Lord and my friend who took very good care of Agasa. Several months later, a miracle happened. The girls who bullied Agasa gave their apologies. Agasa knew it was God who did this for her. She came to know God personally through this hardship and was baptized.

My husband Yoichi was also going through a hard time. He told me that he would quit his job. I just could not understand why my husband who was working for mentally handicapped people for more than ten years was suddenly having difficulty in continuing his job.

I had a strong belief that caring for handicapped people is a job God gave him. My plan of our family life was to continue working until retirement, finish our duty for our children’s education and after that, we would dedicate our life to the Lord. That was what I wanted.

But I came to know that God’s way was different from my way. Yoichi quit his job and decided to be a full-time minister for the Lord. I came to know that the Lord wanted me to give up what I have grabbed. It was the stability of our family. I was also working as a schoolteacher in Japan. I decided to quit my job when he became a pastor, so I could help Yoichi minister in church. God took away worldly things so I would learn to depend on Him.

When we had to decide if we should go to Canada to reach Japanese people there, we went to a fasting place run by a Korean minister in Portland, Oregon. He asked us why we came and we answered that we came to seek God’s will if we should go to Calgary to work at a Japanese church. Then he told us that there was a lady who came several months ago from Calgary to ask God to give them a Japanese pastor.

Why!? What on earth does this mean to us? We felt it so strange that she came all the way to Oregon to seek a pastor for Calgary. Why did we come to the same place for the same reason? Was it God’s guidance? After a week of fasting and prayer, Yoichi was full of peace about going to Calgary. But our pastor told us that we should not go unless we have a clear calling from God. I sought His will and got the Bible verse from the Lord. It was the words that God gave Gideon in Judges 6:14:

Go in the strength you have…Am I not sending you?

I didn’t share this with Yoichi. A week later, I simply asked him if he got the words from God besides his peaceful mind. Surprisingly, he said, “Judges 6:14.” At that time we had an assurance that going to Calgary was His will.

This passage is very short, but has power. It has sustained us when we were discouraged about our ministry. We know we don’t have many abilities to do His work. God knows it. But it is God who chose us and said to us “go with your strength for I am with you. I am the one who does the ministry.” The Lord is saying to us, “not by might, not by power, but by my spirit.

Crossover Church Plant Christmas Party

Crossover’s Recent Christmas Party

The works of the Lord are not done by our strength or by our abilities. All we need to do is to dedicate ourselves to Him and give Him our broken heart and mind. We just need to depend on Him.

By looking back to the things that happened to our family, I now can say that the things seemed like a hardship were not actually a curse. Those things have happened just because our Lord has faithfully answered our prayer of Jabez. The Lord has been working on my family and enlarging our spiritual territory for the Lord.

Welcome to the Blog!

Welcome to “Growing With You,” the church planting blog of the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada. We’re so Canadian we mention it our name twice! We hope to attract people who ask questions about anything, have ideas about everything, are connected to all kinds of networks, have lots of cool resources to share and who love God above all else. We’re western Canadian with a passion for God’s mission of planting new churches in our neighbourhoods, cities and regions. Thanks for stopping by and letting us know what’s on your heart.

Tom Lavigne, Cailey Morgan

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