Live At Assembly!

Faithful, You are; Faithful, forever You will be;
Faithful, You are; All God’s promises are yes and amen
(Yes and Amen)  

We sang this declaration of the faithfulness of God on opening night of Assembly 2022 setting the tone for what we have gathered to celebrate. For many of us, the reminder in the midst of times of darkness, that God is still and always at his work in the world around us, even though it may seem elusive or distant to us.  

As Anna Braun reminded us in our Bible Study Friday morning, sometimes we are in the dark and our job is to remember to have hope; the light comes through the cracks. 

Faithful, You are 

After such an extended period of gathering restrictions, we are grateful and joyful as we meet with many of you face-to-face at CBWC’s Assembly in Calgary. 

While we see diversity in biblical interpretation and praxis across our family, we all agree on Jesus’ plain call to us to love one another as a sign to the world that we belong to Him. We have seen this love expressed first-hand this week in the joyful hugs and conversations, and the unity that we find in worshipping our King together. 

Faithful, forever You will be 

One of our favourite moments in Assembly is when we have the opportunity to present our new churches to enter into affiliation.  

This year, we celebrate Heritage Mountain Community Church joining our family. HMCC gathers in Port Moody BC, recently celebrating its 20th anniversary since formation. Like many congregations in this uncertain era, Heritage Mountain is undergoing a season of change, so we are glad to be able to offer some support and stability—and prayer! Please join us in lifting up this church to the Lord. 

Calgary Chinese Baptist Church, comprising both English and Cantonese congregations, has been faithfully ministering for 40 years in their neighbourhood. Sensing that God has blessed them to be a blessing, they focus on caring for one another, discipleship in word and deed, and blessing the Whitehorn area of Calgary in Jesus’ name. Welcome Pastor Evan, Pastor Tony and the CCBC congregation. We look forward with anticipation to leaning how we are better together!

We are also excited to welcome Emmanuel Baptist Church of Calgary into affiliation with CBWC. EBCC began as a Spanish ministry of First Baptist Calgary in the 1980s, and has developed into a bilingual congregation that now gathers in the Bonavista Baptist Church facility. EBCC aims to address the spiritual needs of both the first and second generation of Latino immigrants in the south neighborhoods of Calgary. Congratulations to Pastor Jay and the whole team! 

If you ever go to Longview Alberta (aptly named for its long and beautiful view), make sure you drop in at Longview Fellowship and ask for Gil and Andrea Kidd. This delightful couple pastor, lead and care for this little church and the town surrounding them along with their congregation. At our online Assembly in 2020 we officially welcomed them into our CBWC Assembly. What a thrill to finally welcome them in person at this year’s assembly!  

Please continue to pray for each of these new communities of brothers and sisters, followers of Jesus our Lord and Savior, as they engage intentionally in the implementation of the gospel in their neighbourhoods. 

Faithful, You Are; All God’s promises are yes and amen! 

~ Shannon and Cailey

Engaging Mission with Coaching and Cohort Opportunities

Wow! Fall is looming up before us already and most of us are making plans for how we can be salt and light, the Church, in our neighbourhoods in this next season, whatever it may hold for us in the ongoing changing landscape of life disrupted by a pandemic and other world events!

It also means deadlines for engaging in some of the amazing opportunities and pathways available to you and which you can read more details about HERE including the contacts for registration.

This past year (September through March) two of our CBWC churches participated in the Year One Course From the Centre for Leadership Development – “Forming and Reforming Communities of Christ in a Secular Age. One of those churches was where I attend. Five of our leadership team took part in reimagining engaging in mission right in our own area. This has benefited us greatly in understanding together how we can move deeper in shared practices within our church community and engage more relevantly and meaningfully by discovering where God is already at work bringing his presence, his shalom, into our neighbourhoods. The good work we did in that course and the consultation with Tim for our whole Leadership Team (board, elders, staff) is now being fleshed out with a larger group of our folk as we endeavor to discern together how God is forming and reshaping us to engage in his mission. Registration is open now for a mid-September start!

More than a decade ago when I was an Associate Pastor at another church, I brought some our leaders to an event brought to Victoria from The Forge Missional Network and facilitated by our own Cam Roxburgh (who I did not know back then). This opportunity was sponsored by our City-Wide Ministerial, and leaders from a wide range of churches and denominations in Victoria attended this workshop/course Friday and Saturday. It changed and began to reshape my understanding of evangelism, discipleship and mission, and gave words to what had been a growing passion in myself and the leaders who attended with me. Fast forward to today and we have The Discovery Project pathway to begin the conversation with your church and leaders. “Many leaders have gone through some missional training and are asking how they might help their people to “discover” some of the exciting opportunities presented to us as followers of Jesus in these difficult days.  The Discovery Project is one response to this question.”  Registration for this pathway is flexible as is church specific but don’t delay as space fills up!

For our churches who are already exploring what it means to be the Church in our day as missional engaged people, The Neighbourhood Project is here to help! This pathway brings together cohorts of groups to explore, equip and implement what the Spirit is leading them to. This pathway is filling up so fast, its now added a second and likely a third cohort and there is still some room so don’t delay!

Again, you can access more information and contacts for registration HERE

Don’t miss out on these great opportunities as we all desire to participate in the advancing of God’s kingdom here on earth!

Live From The Gathering 2019!

By Shannon Youell and Cailey Morgan

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

IMG_8084.jpg

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

60838685_10161758224080150_7416051340591235072_n

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something Happened Along the Way

By Shannon Youell

Over the winter, my home church in Victoria engaged in the 77 Days of Prayer Initiative with CBWC. As CBWC staff, I suggested the idea and promoted it. After all, we have been teaching, preaching and practicing corporate prayer for at least the last few years!

By corporate prayer I mean prayer that moves beyond petitionary prayer for needs and includes—as Grenz states it—a “cry for the kingdom,” for the whole purpose of God, church and discipleship.

hannah-busing-446337-unsplash.jpg

So we invited our congregation on the journey. If your congregation is anything like ours, it is populated by a diverse group of people indoctrinated on our Western worldview of individualism and self-help. We had some reluctance and even a little push back; just a few folk who didn’t want to be told what scriptures to meditate and pray into.

The reluctance, however, was that people weren’t feeling comfortable being put into a triad or quadrad group for eleven weeks. Because they don’t know each other as well as one might imagine they would, even though we all attend the same small church. Because the pastoral staff was forming the triads. Because they felt they didn’t know how to pray, or felt they didn’t hear God even when they did. Because most of them claim to be introverts. But, we have great folk who trust us, and to our delight, more than half our congregation signed up to journey with staff and leaders.

As the weeks passed and we engaged the prayer initiative together, something began to happen. The most reluctant and sometimes resistant folk began to look forward to their weekly meeting. But what caused us to dance and sing and thank God was the byproduct: discipleship started to happen. We have been working hard to become an intentional community that makes disciples who can then make disciples by sharing Jesus with others and discipling them. But it has been hard, because, well, folk are reluctant. Reluctant because discipleship in the manner in which Jesus modeled it takes commitment, and commitment takes making changes to our own personal priorities.

I will confess that for the most part, though each group read the Scripture, prayed, listened and followed the rhythm of the 77 Days of Prayer, they didn’t report too much around what they were hearing in regards to the CBWC initiative. But they did report what God was speaking to them about life together as a community of believers who are to be sent ones, co-labouring with Christ in the kingdom-of-God initiative of on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven Shalom and disciplemaking.

Dallas Willard said that “every church should be able to answer two questions: First, what is our plan for making disciples? Second, does our plan work?” Is what we are currently doing shaping disciples who live out the gospel in such way that others are drawn to them and are discipled by them?

On this blog, we will be posting several articles and some musings about the call of the church to make disciples. I’ve heard multiple leaders contend that if we make church we rarely get disciples; but if we make disciples we always get church. What do you think?

Joyce Oxnard and Betty Milne Anderson – Church planters

I’ve been having so much fun with our current blog series of stories from our family of churches and beyond. The next story is not only an important and inspirational piece of our CBWC heritage, it also carries with it convicting questions for all of us about trusting God, and how we listen for and respond to His call. Thanks to CBWC’s Director of Ministries Faye Reynolds for this article based on her interview with Joyce and Betty. ~Cailey

In the early 1970s, Joyce Oxnard and Betty Milne were both working with the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON). Joyce was Betty’s boss, but they were friends and attended the Argyle Road Baptist Church in Regina, Saskatchewan. Their pastor Basil Medgett mentioned that the Baptist Union (BUWC, now CBWC) was interested in planting three churches: one in Inuvik, one near Cold Lake and another in Fort McMurray. Rather lightly, Betty said to Joyce that she had always wanted to nurse up north and wouldn’t mind going to Inuvik, but not the other locations. That quiet nudging created a door for the Holy Spirit to work.

Invuik-NWT-Map-08.jpg

Hearing the Call

It wasn’t long before an opportunity opened up in Yellowknife for Betty to start a nursing program. Joyce also felt a strong calling to go north, but struggled to leave her well-paying job to go into the public health sector. In the end, both continued to feel the call to move north and so by faith in 1973 they headed up to Yellowknife on one year’s leave of absence from the VON.

Joyce quickly delved into ministries in the church with the young adults. There had recently been an evangelistic campaign in the area and a number of young adults had come to the Lord, so Joyce and Betty quickly filled the need for leading in Bible studies and discipleship.

Early that spring, BUWC Executive Minister Dr. Harry Renfrew came to visit the church and the two asked him about the BUWC plans for Inuvik. He said that so far there was no one willing to come up into that region but it was certainly something that the two could do. Joyce and Betty were very excited about the potential and decided to take a month to separately pray about it. They agreed not to talk about it, but simply pray and write down their thoughts to share at the end of the season of prayer, while Dr. Renfrew took the idea to the BUWC Board. Their writings revealed that they were both eager to go and had a clear sense of God’s calling.

When they left Edmonton to fly up for the first time, they were met at the airport by BUWC leadership of Dr. Renfrew, Dick Standerwick and Jack Farr, who handed them a film strip projector, prayed for them and sent them off. They arrived on December 5, 1973, and the arrangement was that there would be a little house available for lodging.

However, when the women arrived, the house wasn’t ready. A fellow from Yellowknife knew they were coming and gave them his apartment until the house was ready.

The day after their arrival, they were walking around town and saw a woman gazing at the horizon. They asked what she was looking at. “I’m looking at the sun–it is the last day we will see it for a month.” What a reminder that they were entering a new land and life!

Inuvik Ministry
To begin their ministry, Joyce and Betty put a sign on the post office notice board that they were starting Sunday school in their home for any children who would like to come. They didn’t exactly know what to call themselves; were they missionaries? But that term had some baggage attached to it, and so they settled on the term “pastors.” Three couples that were Baptist and attending other churches connected with Betty and Joyce right away, so a Bible study was formed with the adults and a Sunday school with the kids. On January 6 their first worship service included 17 people in the corner of a large gymnasium, with no music available.

The BUWC provided one full-time salary for the two of them, and they anticipated working part-time at the hospital, but there were no local openings for nurses at that time. Available work meant flying into outlying settlements–but that would mean being gone 3 days at a time, which wasn’t conducive to their planting mission. They never did have other income. They received a lot of support from Al McPhedran and the Yellowknife Church–he was a real resource for them.

God always provided for their needs. An Alberta family once sent them up a whole box of frozen beef, which was better cuts of meat than they had eaten as nurses! At the time Al warned the Alberta Area that this was going to be a very expensive venture and would never become self supporting so not to go in if they were not prepared to pay for the long run.

They never really encountered any difficulties being women, although they don’t really know if some didn’t attend their church because it was lead by women. They simply lived into the calling God had placed upon them and never really gave it a thought. Once, they went to BLTS (the Baptist Leadership Training School) to meet the student body to tell them about their work; and one student asked why the BUWC wasn’t sending a man, to which they responded, “Because no men were willing to go!”

They held a gym night every night for youth, offering a snack and devotional and some were quite rough and tough characters with colorful language. If they came for the games, they had to stay for the devotional and then they’d get the snack. Some of the youth themselves would defend Joyce and Betty and warn any of the other kids not to be disrespectful with their talk.

Joyce and Betty initially thought that their mission activities would be more with the native population but that didn’t end up to be the case. The indigenous youth came to the gym night but not to the church. Their church services ministered primarily to the white population that didn’t fit with the long-standing Anglican or the Pentecostal churches and the indigenous Christians went to those churches as they were long-standing. They drew from the forces base but people came and went. Some young fellows from the church came up from the south to build a beautiful building funded by the triennium project. The congregation at that time was around 30-40 people.

Al McGee became the first pastor called to Inuvik after Joyce and Betty left. The Potters came after McGees, then Cordell Lind, working part time. The mission was cost-prohibitive because it could never be a self-supporting work, and somehow the vision of its potential became lost. The leadership in the church itself also did not seem to have the vision and commitment.

“It would be better defined as mission than church planting. Church planting today feels like a foreign language from what we did.”

Joyce and Betty returned to visit in 1996, but saw that the people had lost faith that the work would continue. They ended up filling in when they were without a pastor and stayed the year. Joyce started having terrible asthma attacks so felt that we couldn’t stay so they left in June ’97. They never found another pastor willing to go.

Take note of the type of work that these two ladies did, and the interesting statement that they considered it “better defined as mission than church planting.” What pops into your mind when you hear the phrase “church planting?” Is it defined by a particular model? Our opinion here at CBWC Church Planting would be that the work Betty and Joyce did was clearly one method of church planting, but that there are many ways to plant new congregations!

Betty and Joyce were willing to go where others thought it was “too hard,” without guaranteed income, having the willingness to be bivocational. They remind us that we as a family of churches need to accept the reality that birthing new churches is hard, that new groups that reach new demographics are unlikely to ever be self-sustaining, and that we’ll need to partner with them long-term for the work to continue. We can no longer view church planting like the franchising of a business that will soon be able to stand on its own two legs. Church planting is by nature mission, and to reach the breadth and depth of the Canadian population, we will need to dig into hard soil that will take many years of sowing prayer, time, money, and energy before seeing the fruit. But could there be any more important and rewarding work? ~Cailey and Shannon

READ PART 2 OF THEIR STORY.

Leadership and Post-Christendom

by Mark Doerksen, Heartland Regional Minister, CBWC

11882_Bible-Ephesians

Shannon asked me to write a piece on leadership, and I am happy to oblige.  These thoughts on leadership have been percolating in my mind for a while now, so I’ll attempt to get these thoughts into some semblance of order.  I’m grateful for the opportunity, and grateful for the work of Cailey, Shannon, and Joell (the French pronunciation) for their work in church planting.

I was able to attend a class led by Darrell Guder at Carey Theological College in January of 2017.  For fun, Guder works on translating Karl Barth’s work into English.  So I wasn’t surprised to find out that Guder has also been instrumental in teaching David Bosch’s game-changing book, Transforming Mission.  Guder is no slouch; he’s currently the Professor of Missional and Ecumenical Theology Emeritus at Princeton Theological, and has taught in the area of the church after Christendom for a long time. He has used Bosch’s text as his main text book since Bosch’s book was first published, and really enjoys helping others understand the implications of Bosch’s work.

If you’ve read Bosch, you know that you may be tempted to skip a paragraph or two, but you do so at your own peril; seemingly each paragraph is rich and full of information that you don’t want to miss.  I appreciate Bosch because of his sifting of vast information, and his ability to formulate nuanced arguments for theology and mission, even today.  For example, if you were to attempt to get a definition of evangelism out of Bosch, you would have to read 9 pages with 18 different points, bearing in mind that mission and evangelism are not synonymous, though ultimately linked together.  Brevity isn’t his strength.

So too is Bosch’s treatment of leadership for the missional church today.  In Christendom, the responsibility of ministry lay mainly with the ordained, a power structure comprised mostly of men to lead the work of the church.  There is a shift in this thinking, as a movement is afoot to take this responsibility of a few ordained men and to make it the responsibility of the whole people of God (Bosch, 2014, 478).   Bosch describes this new reality as a rediscovery of the “apostulate of the laity” or the “priesthood of all believers,” a concept that isn’t new to Baptists (481).

In making this shift, people turn to texts like Ephesians 4 to think about leadership in this post-Christendom environment.  The history of interpretation of this text has not been smooth.  Calvin suggested that the only gifts necessary were pastors and teachers.  Some have suggested that the office of an apostle has long disappeared.  But missional theologians and thinkers like this passage because it speaks of the collegiality of leadership.   Leadership is not suited for one individual; instead, there are a multiplicity of gifts and abilities required for leadership.  Leadership is a community within a community.  The notion of a solo pastor making all the decisions for a community that bears witness is not a model that is as welcome as it used to be.  Instead, collegial, cordial, shared leadership amongst folks with different gifts seems to be the model moving forward after Christendom.  Folks like Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost write a lot about this model of leadership.

If Alan Hirsch is right about this, and if his church experience is to be an example for us, churches need to make a deliberate shift to this sort of leadership.  As he describes in The Forgotten Ways, the leadership of his church made a deliberate decision to embrace this leadership style, with each ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) having a team leader.  This posture allows for a dynamic learning system embedded in leadership, with the church poised for mission and health.

Of course, there are some theological reservations here.  If your Twitter feed is similar to mine, you will have read that not everyone agrees with the prominence of the Ephesians 4 passage for ministry and leadership.   Must each individual within a community of faith have one of the gifts of Ephesians 4, or are there other gifts?  The grammar police also have concerns; are pastors and teachers different gifts, or the same one, and what do the Greek grammar rules have to say about this?  You get the idea, and you may well add your voice to the concerns raised here.

And yet….  Given all the concerns about this sort of leadership, I personally find this collegial approach to be helpful.  I find it especially helpful and corrective in cases where solo pastors think they are the main people to hear from God regarding a particular community.  Related, this model also helps guard against authoritarian leadership in churches; it helps pastors move away from “thus sayeth the Lord” models to a model which shares leadership and responsibility, and which appreciates the gifts of the others who are leading.  Even my personality resonates with this sort of approach; I’d much rather work together with others than to dictate what has to happen.  As I see it, we’re a part of an upside-down kingdom (Kraybill) where we serve the other, not dictate to others.  Any model that helps us avoid dictator models, even benevolent dictators, is beneficial, though, as already mentioned here, these models need to be discerned as well.

Read an outline of Alan Hirsch’s APEST leadership here. Do you agree with Mark’s analysis? Are you a Bosch fan? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment on the blog or emailing cmorgan@cbwc.ca.

Prototyping Churches

By Cailey Morgan

I was recently listening to the Thom Rainer Leadership Podcast. Their guest was Jimmy Scroggins, a pastor from Florida who tells the story of his church, which moved from a mega-church mentality, rebooting into a neighbourhood-centric church and eventually planting into a network of these smaller local congregations.

His story caught me, partially because of his attitude toward success. He had stopped worrying about how big or how fast the church was growing, and how fantastic their facilities were, and started thinking in terms of reaching everyone in their city.

bigstock-Diverse-People-Friendship-Toge-127701797.jpg

In our Western Canadian context, as much as we’d all agree that our churches want to reach everyone, my guess is that we find most of our growth through lateral movement–that is, Christians moving to our church. We don’t see a high ratio of people coming to faith, and when they do, they have often come from a background that was already familiar with Christianity, or saw the Church in a favourable light.

Prototyping
Jimmy Scroggins’ outlook on the church is that it should look like the neighbourhood. They have diversified into smaller neighbourhood congregations in order to reach the specific type of people that live in each community. This type of multiplication also has the added benefit of being accessible to various types of leaders and removes the pressure of having to conform to certain expectations of what church should be. As he says, anyone can do it:

“Just start. Start with one. You can’t sit around waiting for everything to line up, and get your whole plan together. I am a big believer in prototyping–and anybody can do it.”

We’re doing a decent job at reaching some people with our present forms of church and evangelism, and I celebrate the vibrancy we are seeing in so many of our congregations across the CBWC. But to reach the unchurched and the totally unreached in our neighbourhoods, something’s going to have to change (check out Mike Frost’s brief video on this topic).

Our Turn
Would you be willing to consider participating in some R&D, initiating a “prototype” in your area? Think about your neighbourhood. What does is look like? What does it need? What does it have to offer the greater community? Who isn’t being reached?

And what about your existing church? What do your people have to offer? Who can you train into leadership? What other congregations in the area could you partner with to offer something new to a demographic or neighbourhood that isn’t presently being reached?

“Start something, and try it! If it doesn’t work the way you want, tweak it or change it, or try something different. But every pastor in every neighbourhood–rural, urban, suburban, ex-urban–everybody can be training leaders and trying to figure out how can we start new congregations to reach new populations of people in our area that are not being reached.”

Shannon, Joell and I really do believe that every church is called to and capable of multiplication in some form. That’s why we’re here to pray for, evoke, resource, and support you on that journey to health and growth. Talk to us today!

Find us at The Gathering this weekend in Calgary to chat about what could be next for you and your congregation. We’ll have some resources for you, and would love to collect some stories of life and growth in your area that we can share here on the blog.

The Bible doesn’t say “plant churches” ?!?

By Shannon Youell

“The Bible does not tell us to plant churches.”

Say What?
If you read this quote and–confused–scrolled up to indeed verify you are on the Church Planting Blog, have no fear. You are! If we look at the thing Jesus commissioned His newly minted Church, His “ekklesia” to do, it was disciplemaking, not church planting.

The above statement from J.D. Payne’s book Apostolic Church Planting, continues thus:

“Throughout the Bible, we read of the birth of churches–after disciples are made. Biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches. Another way to consider this concept is that it is evangelism that results in new disciples, who then gather together and self-identify as the local expression of the universal body of Christ. Churches are supposed to be birthed from disciple making.” ( p.17-18).

Though I may be totally wrong, I suspect that there would be little disagreement with Payne’s statement; “biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches.” And I am equally as certain that most of us would say a hearty “amen” that churches are “to be birthed from disciple making.” But what may get some pushback is in the defining of what is disciple making.

8678_Go_&_Make

Defining a Disciple
Often, we define a disciple as one who has decided to convert to Christianity by confessing their sins past and by professing their faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord of their lives for their futures. That is certainly the crucial initial step to being a disciple and we should more accurately say that person had a conversion experience that brought them into saving knowledge of Jesus.

There seemed to be many of those folk woven into the gospel stories. People who encountered Jesus, recognized Jesus as Saviour Messiah, perhaps experienced dramatic healing and/or deliverance through that encounter and professed Him as from God, the Son of Man, the One who saves. Paul addresses several of these groups when he is consternated that they are still infants needing milk when they should have been matured to chew on meat. They are converts but not necessarily disciples.

In the gospels, we see a disciple of Jesus as someone who was taught all about Jesus and then lived it out; disciples obey everything they are taught. Jesus schooled them to be disciple-makers. And the task He gave them was to be disciple-makers who make disciple-makers who make disciple-makers. And as more disciple-makers were made, communities were formed, churches were birthed.

An Upward Spiral in the Grand Story
This model is one that assembled people together to be gospeled–to hear and celebrate and remember the Grand Story together–as the telos, the goal of the Story. The commission was towards the telos of becoming disciples so that we could make disciples who tell and enliven the Grand Story to those who have not yet heard or entered into the Story. And the upward spiral continues over and over and over again.

The outflow or result of following what Jesus called the early disciples to do was that, out of necessity, new communities were required to accommodate and facilitate the new disciples who were now being trained to become disciple-makers. And once a week or more, those new local communities would gather to hear, to celebrate, to remember the richness of the Grand Story, the glory and goodness of God who so loved the world He entered into human form to capture our hearts to love the world the way He does. A circular mission of disciples making disciples who gather in local neighborhoods to make more disciples.

So to go back to Payne’s quote, we see that telling the people we encounter in our lives the Grand Story and inviting them to see themselves into the Story and showing them the entrance point, creates a need for new churches to disciple them so that they can tell their story to others.

“… church planting is evangelism that results in new churches.”

 The conclusion we can draw from that is that church planting is something disciples of Jesus do. So what does that mean for you, for us? Let’s explore that next.

Book Review: The Barbarian Way

Mark Archibald reviews Erwin McManus, The Barbarian Way, Community and Worship (Nelson Books, 2005).

Most of us need to read this book.

For many of us, our experiences with church and faith can be defined by the word “safe”. In The Barbarian Way, Erwin McManus pushes us away from safety and domestication to a life of wild trust and abandon.

barbarian-way.jpg

Much of this writing is based on the life, ministry, doubts and faith of John the Baptist. McManus is present-day John the Baptist in writing us this book. McManus lives like the barbarians he describes in this book.  He lives on the moment, on the edge, and experimentally.

In a romanticized mindset, I wish that I, too, could live like McManus. I know, however, that that’s not me. I know anytime I have tried to live in the manner that McManus describes from his own life, the results have been reckless and more destructive than helpful. If I pattern my life after McManus, the results will be at best inconsistent; at worst divisive and damaging.

This will be the biggest barrier for people reading this book – reading the examples from Erwin’s life and saying, “I can’t possibly do that”. There will be those of us who will read parts of this book – the time he gave his son permission to jump off their roof, for example – and throw out the entire message.

Avoid this temptation! Erwin McManus is the John the Baptist voice that most of us need to heed and hear. While we may not live in the manner he emulates, most of us need to take those steps away from the security that is predictable religion, and step towards the Jesus that taught unsafe, uncommon, unreligious things. This book is the voice in the wilderness we need to hear.

This short book is an easy-to-read 141 pages, but it is at the same time a difficult read. Difficult because it hits close to home for those of us who have let faith become too tame and too safe. These words were a punch in the gut on page 59:

Jesus lived in a time when Judaism had been domesticated, institutionalized, and civilized; it was only a hollow shell of what God intended. John didn’t fit into the organized religion of his time because God didn’t fit either. Jesus Himself, the Messiah of Israel, remained an outsider even to His death.

We are left with the haunting question: have I/we made Jesus an outsider of the faith He founded?

Amazingly, this safety we think that will just make us complacent does far more than that – it actually makes us hostile to God. “We discover the painful reality that even God’s people, when we become civilized, are more than willing to crucify God. When we choose a civilized faith, God becomes, at the very least, an irritant and, at worst, an enemy to our faith.” (p. 112)

Erwin reminds us that when we make church and Jesus too safe, we drive away the best and brightest among us. “This may be the most extraordinary mark of the Spirit of God within the heart of humanity: the freedom to live out dreams greater than ourselves. Yet if we were honest with ourselves, the church would be the last place most people would go to have their dreams nurtured, developed and unleashed”. (p.102) Ouch.

As much as most of us need to read this book, and as much as most of us need this John-the-Baptist-styled kick in the rear end, there are probably those of us out there who should not read this book. People that already tend toward chaos, recklessness and extreme spontaneity don’t need this fuel added to their barely-contained fire. There are people that I know to whom I would say “This book is not for you” based on their current practice of faith.

However, to those already-barbarians McManus does offer this easy-to-miss yet vital principle: “One barbarian wandering through civilization can be discarded as nothing more than an oddity. But when members of the barbarian tribe line up across the battlefield, side by side, something amazing begins to happen…Whenever barbarians of Christ pass through civilization, the oppressed and forgotten are soon found dancing in the streets.” (p.134) We have all seen solo barbarians create havoc, thinking they are doing good. But barbarians running side by side together? That may be a sight many of us have yet to see. May we see it soon and see it often.

The encouragement is clear from The Barbarian Way: step away from the complacency and safety we trend towards and truly abandon yourselves to the Kingdom of God. The warning is even clearer: “Two thousand years ago God started a revolt against the religion he started. So don’t ever put it past God to cause a groundswell movement against churches and Christian institutions that bear His name.” (p. 114)

Mark Archibald
Pastor of Spiritual Formation
First Baptist Church, Lethbridge AB

Book Review: Intergenerational Christian Formation

Mark Archibald reviews Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton Ross, Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship (Intervarsity Press, 2012).

Full disclosure: it took me over a year to get through this book.

After the first 50 or so pages, I had a hard time connecting with the material. Perhaps it was all of the presented justifications for intergenerational ministry that set me back. I know we need intergenerational ministry. I know it’s biblical. I know we’re a far way off from where we need to be as holistic, intergenerational churches.

But there are significant rewards for those who persevere past the first 50 pages!

This book is dense—but that is not a bad thing. It is armed with the backing of extensive practical theology, studies and surveys both secular and faith based, developmental theory, generational theory; it is well supported and informed by an impressive amount of research by Allen and Ross.

419+oEqG5OL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_.jpeg

Don’t let the intellectuality of the book turn you off. Allen and Ross summarize all of the research in a very practical, concise, readable and vision-driven manner. The book is divided into reasonably sized chapters with even shorter sections within those chapters. It’s an easy book to set down and pick up again without having to retrace your steps. It’s perfect for on-the-go reading in your ministry life.

Part way through the book, the vision of intergenerational ministry presented will persuade you that any approach outside of intergenerational ministry sets our vision for church very low.  You’ll be compelled to get on board with intergenerational ministry, despite the significant challenges of an intergenerational approach.

Segregated generational ministry is much easier to do—but intergenerational ministry is far more enduring.

As much as this is a highly academic work, it is incredibly practical.  The Appendix “Forty Intergenerational Ideas” alone is worth the price of admission.  You’ll catch glimpses of “We can do this!” as you read along the entire book.

It took me a while to get into this book, but once I stuck with it, I came to realize I do not have a more important work on intergenerational ministry on my bookshelf. It’s a work I’ll revisit again in a few years.  Maybe the best resource on intergenerational ministry in one book that is available.

Mark Archibald
Pastor of Spiritual Formation
First Baptist Church, Lethbridge AB