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 forLeadershipDevelopment – “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!
It is likely no secret to any Christian pastors, lay-leaders and many churches that our world and our culture has and continues to shift rapidly. For us the question is not how do we get back to the place where the church and Christian faith were central to society in general, but rather, in the midst of a changed world, how then do we, the church, re-engage our neighbourhoods, towns and cities as local missionaries called to be faithfully present to the people who live around us with the glorious story of God and his mission of shalom, salvation, reconciliation and restoration.
Coming out of the success of the CBWC January Webinar, Allowing the Spirit to Reorient us Around the Mission of God, staff at CBWC are excited to endorse three further opportunities for our churches and leadership teams to resource, strengthen and widen the ministry and mission of the local church in this rapidly changing world – both within the church and beyond into our neighbourhoods, towns, and cities in which we live, work, play and pray in.
Currently there are three pathways to learning and coaching available and being offered to our CBWC churches. Each has been developed, facilitated, and taught by long time CBWC pastors who love our denomination and family of churches. Joined by other gifted teachers and missional leaders they bring their decades of experience to teach and coach church leaders, pastors, and lay folk locally and far afield within cohorts. Their desire is to share with their family of churches from their wealth of knowledge and experience to equip our churches as we join God on his mission as local missionaries deeply rooted into our neighbourhoods.
If you are longing to learn and discover ways to re-engage your church with the community in which you are situated but are not sure where to begin, there is a Pathway for you!
THE DISCOVERY PROJECT
The Discovery Project is designed for those just putting their toes in the water and exploring what it means to join God on mission in their neighbourhood. Immersing ourselves in the text, we will explore what it means to bear witness to who God is through loving Him with all our hearts, minds, and strength, and by loving our neighbours as we love one another. 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. Facilitated by Cam Roxburgh, this Pathway will encourage a response and equip us for mission. There are 2 types of delivery systems:
Church Specific – a weekend seminar that covers all the same material as the online option plus the advantage of church specific input and consulting. The fee for this option is $1500.00 plus travel expense (we are working on possibly offsetting some of the travel costs for qualifying churches).
Online offering of 6 sessions of 2 hours each. Cost is $59.00 per person or $300 per church. 6 weeks bi-weekly from mid September to end of November. This option is not church specific.
THE NEIGHBOURHOOD PROJECT
The Neighbourhood Projectis designed for staff and lay leaders of churches who have been serious about exploring what it is that God is doing in the midst of the crisis the church is facing. Covid is but one of the issues that is causing the rate of change to accelerate and shining a spotlight onto the reality that much is amiss, and God is doing a new thing. This is good news. TNP is for a select number of leaders and churches that get the conversation and are wanting to not go back, but forward into what God is doing. This is a cohort of leaders journeying together with Allan Roxburgh, Cam Roxburgh and facilitators from The Missional Network and Forge to:
Learn to discern God’s activity in your neighbourhoods.
Equip your people to join Jesus in your communities.
Explore how to lead in disruptive times.
Shape congregation life from Sunday-centric to neighbourhood-rooted. filling fast so register today!
This Pathway is an online offering including monthly sessions, one on one coaching with churches, and cluster cohorts. There are reading and experimentation expectations. Cost per church cohort is normally $3000 but with a generous grant we are offering it at $1500. An application process is required. Course begins September 2021 and runs through June 2022. This is filling fast so register today!
FORMING & REFORMING COMMUNITIES OF CHRIST IN A SECULAR AGE
Centre for Leadership Development – “Forming and Reforming Communities of Christ in a Secular Age: this three-year course in Missional Leadership is geared for congregational teams and individuals offering both onsite or online accessibility and will resource, strengthen and widen the ministry of the local church. With Tim Dickau, Darrell Guder & Ross Lockhart plus many practitioner guests. Cost includes lunch for onsite and a private team consultation with Tim. Cost: $250 per person ($200 online). $500 for a group up to 5 ($450 online) per year. This course is geared for teams that have already determined the need to rethink church and are beginning their own internal culture change. Year 1 begins September 2021.
We believe this is the right time for churches to begin pursuing one of these Pathways, especially as we emerge with all we have learned during the Covid-19 pandemic. Talk to us about which Pathway is best for your church and leaders! Contact us to assess which Pathway is right for you and your church.
by: Shannon Youell, CBWC Director of Church Planting (and initiatives)
It’s time for my Annual Summer Reading List!
This year I am featuring books that I’ve read or am working my way through. This past year I’ve been working my way through some of the books around topics that challenge the church. I offer two of the ones that I found most helpful in seeing the historical, theological and ethical contexts. I also include a commentary that I am thoroughly enjoying, and a couple of books helpful for us as we re-think and re-form our church communities around the mission of God in our time. Without any further ado, let’s dive in! Let me know if you tackled any of these and perhaps consider writing a review.
Two Views on Homosexuality; the Bible; and the Church: Megan K. De Franca, Wesley Hill, Stephen R. Holmes, William Loader – from Zondervan’s Counterpoints Series – editor Preston Sprinkle (from the Center for Faith and Sexuality)
I have read a variety of books from differing viewpoints on this topic. I find this book to be one of the most helpful I’ve read as the essayists both articulate their viewpoint and interact with one another’s essays. Contributors are four “accomplished scholars in the fields of biblical studies, theology and topics related to sexuality and gender”; two from an affirming position and two from a non-affirming position. For each view, the editors “intentionally enlisted one theologian and one biblical scholar to articulate and defend each of the two views. I quite appreciated the respectful, academic, theological, ethical and pastoral tone with which each approached the topic and how in each essay I discovered things that I both agreed with, disagreed with and was challenged in my thinking on.
The making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truthby Beth Allison Barr
Anyone who knows my husband knows he is a history geek. I, regretfully, was not, (being far more of how-do-we-live-now-so-we-do-well-in-the-future kind of thinker), until I studied Church History! Then I started reading history in general and realized that as much as I love Church history, reading it removed and outside of political, economic, social and cultural histories was reading it out of context.
Beth Allison Barr is a historian, a Christian and a professor of history at Baylor University. Her studies in history, and in particular her academic specialties in European women, medieval and early modern England, and church history disrupted her understanding of complementarianism that she understood from her Southern Baptist roots. Written with well-honed academic muscle in a very accessible narrative, Barr tackles the idea of Biblical Womanhood from scripture, history and church practice over the centuries. She poses, using and citing historical evidence, that the concept of “Biblical Womanhood” was constructed by the patterns of patriarchy in societies and cultures and how, over the centuries, they seeped into the church.
Whatever your view of women in the church, this is a must read and, in my humble opinion, should be added to the reading list of all seminaries.
The Story of God Bible Commentary: Genesis by Tremper Longman III
This is the seventh commentary in this series that I own (thank you Kindle!). This Commentary series delves into the meaning of the text both in the past and for us today. Each commentary uses the pattern of Listen to the Story; Explain the Story; and Live the Story. I love reading commentaries and I am really enjoying this offering written by Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College. Genesis has always been one of my favorite OT books (to be honest there are many!) and Longman guides the reader through the richness of this book of ‘beginnings’.
What is the church and why does it exist? by David Fitch
Practices, Presence and Places. These 3 P’s shape Fitch’s recent book calling the church to renewal in our disruptive times. As Fitch writes in his Introduction:
“When things get chaotic, and no longer seem to make sense, we must go back to the “what” and the “why” questions. We must ask all over again: What are we doing here when we gather as the church and why are we doing it? Only then can we get to the “how” question. Only then can we discern how to be faithful to who we are and the mission we have been given. Perhaps this is a cultural moment that offers us an opportunity to reset the church in North America. Perhaps this is an ideal time for Christians everywhere to reexamine what it means to be the church. It is an occasion for us to ask all over again what we are doing here, who we are, and how we should live as a part of the local church.”
This book is for those who have long had a sense that God is reshaping us as his church for just such a time of this and for those who just know something has changed and yet don’t know what it all means. I recommend this for all who love the church that God loves and long to see God’s kingdom flourish right where you live, work, play and pray.
Why Would Anyone Go To Church? By Kevin Makin
Kevin Makin is a church planter and pastor of Eucharist Church in Hamilton Ontario, a church associated with Canadian Baptists of Ontario & Quebec (CBOQ). In his book, he tells the story of the planting and establishing of an innovative and creative community that engages both people of faith and those seeking for some kind of meaning. For Kevin and his team the big question was planting within the context of the next generation. They asked themselves big and important questions: “What does Christian community look like for this next generation?” “Who will it be for?” And the big one: “Why would anyone go to church?”
Kevin writes in his introduction: “People ask me if I’m surprised that so many are leaving the church. Surprised? Are you kidding me? I can’t believe anyone still does this church thing. And yet they do. For two thousand years, people have continued to be a part of the church, despite war and persecution and corruption and organ music. Why has church survived? Surely something has made it so meaningful to so many people for such a long period of time. That’s what we were trying to understand when we started a new church a decade ago. What we discovered is that few of our peers are interested in competing with the culture around us. The Jesus followers I know aren’t sticking with the church because church is better than a concert or more interesting than a podcast. They’re staying because there are primordial elements of Christian community that are far more rooted than all that superficial fluff.”
Kevin’s book is written with humility and candor of the triumphs and challenges of planting something contextual and cultural that invites people to faith whether it is an ‘old’ faith or a ‘new’ faith. This is a fun and insightful quick read – I read it in a day.
Eucharist has been recognized as one of the most creative and innovative churches in the country and spotlighted on national television and radio outlets, in newspapers, and on podcasts.
Pick up one or more of these (or download onto your e-reader) and let me know your thoughts/reviews on books. Happy Summer Reading friends!
By Guest Blogger Kevin Vincent – Director of the Centre for New Congregations Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada
Recently I heard Simon Sinek explain his philosophy of “existential flexibility”. He said, “existential flexibility is the capacity of a leader or an organization to shift 180 degrees and begin to plan and behave in an entirely new way, given an entirely new reality and environment. It’s the capacity to make a 180 degree shift to advance your cause.”
In addressing that specifically for churches, he said that as the church moves past the COVID-19 chapter, many faith leaders are simply moving back to the way it was, to what they know and to what they have always done. He said, “They know they can’t do what they used to do, but they don’t know what to do!”
Perhaps you can relate. As it relates to your church, you would say, “I know we can’t go back now! But I don’t know where to go now!” Let’s be “flexible existentialists” for the next few minutes. Let me prompt your thinking by heading down what would be a 180 degree shift for most churches moving forward and let’s begin with a radical question. Here it is.
Is it time for your church to cancel your Sunday morning worship service? Is it time to say that the current model of how most of us “do church” has run its course? Is it time to embrace the reality that the culture has shifted, people have little interest in weekly, larger, group gatherings and POST-COVID it’s not coming back. Is it time to abandon a tired old model of church?
If I’ve already said enough to tick you off, stick with me because I’m much more hopeful than I’m sounding.
A recent survey in the United States by the UNSTUCK group reported that churches that have re-opened have seen about 36% of people return.
Now I know those are American statistics. Hold your fire! BUT at least anecdotally, even if we don’t have as clear Canadian survey results, a lot of pastors are experiencing the same and are wondering, “Who’s coming back? When will they come back? Who’s not coming back?”
Let’s just imagine that we’re twice as good as the Americans (Canadians like to think that!). Let’s imagine that we get 70% of people back! Are we OK with that? Is 70% good enough? Perhaps we should just conclude that those that don’t return are simply the hard soil, the rocky and thorny ground, of Jesus’ parable. They’re a good excuse to clean up our membership list.
Even more shocking is that the American survey discovered that only 40% of those under the age of 36 prefer larger in-person gatherings. That means that 6 in 10 church-goers under the age of 36 aren’t sure that they care about your Sunday morning worship service anymore and aren’t looking to return. So should you cancel Sunday?
I believe the answer is No! But let me suggest an “existentially flexible”, new way forward that was true pre-pandemic and has been dramatically accelerated as we move toward becoming a post-pandemic Church. Here it is.
The future of the church in Canada will not be grounded in a single site expression but in a multiplicity of congregational gatherings, meeting at different times, in different places, with different people.
Single site. Single gathering. Single location. Single time. See you Sunday at 10:30 is not the future.
Now what could that look like for your church if you adopted that type of a posture? Is there still a place for a Sunday morning worship gathering? Of course! There are many who love that expression of church. In fact, 70% of the church-going Boomers surveyed want to go back to that traditional Sunday gathering. It’s still meaningful. It’s what they know and love. We can’t steal that. Moving forward it needs to be a piece of the reimagined church.
But the great majority of younger generations don’t share that conviction. They’re finding connection in the digital church. They’re enjoying a house church that has emerged with 4 other families. They’re creating dinner church experiences with a dozen friends on a Thursday night. They’re a Sunday morning “huddle church”. Some are creating their own “worship gathering and liturgy”. Others are joining together for a “watch party” of their church’s online service.
What would it look like for your church to consider a multiplied model? What would it look like to embrace a true hybrid expression of church that still celebrates the traditional Sunday gathering but also cheerleads and celebrates multiple, smaller congregations meeting during the week, in various locations, at various times, with many groups of people?
I think I can already hear some push-back. “Yeah but we’re a little church! We’re only small! We can’t multiply anything! That’s a big church model!”
No it’s not!! Don’t take your “existentially flexible” hat off yet! What if there were 31 people meeting on Sunday at 10:30am in your church facility. Perhaps there’s another group of 14 on Thursday night over dinner? And another group of 23 on Tuesday night over coffee in a café?
And what if fellowship happened? What if care happened? What if teaching happened? What if you started serving together? Could that in fact be a true congregation by New Testament standards? Could that simply be another expression of your church, another congregation, at a different time, in a different place, reaching different people, tethered together as multiple congregations and still ONE church?
Could THAT be a new forward? Could that be the answer that your church needs to consider? As Simon Sinek asks, “Do you have the capacity to make that 180 degree shift to advance your cause.” We must! It’s a new day for the Church! Jesus is still building His Church and His cause is too great not to try!
Kevin Vincent is the Director for the Centre of Congregational Development with CBAC. He is part of Canadian Baptist National Cohort along with Cid Latty from CBOQ and Shannon Youell from CBWC. Together we dream and vision and work towards sharing resources and imagination for our churches as they join God in extending the Good News into multiple communities in which the folk in our churches live, work, play and pray. And we laugh a lot.
BY: REV. CID LATTY, Congregational Development Associate Canadian Baptist of Ontario & Quebec
The now almost legendary TED talk by Simon Sinek about the essentiality of understanding ‘the why?’ is worth considering before you contemplate any new venture especially one that will affect the lives of people. The idea is simple, if you are strong about the ‘why’, you are clear about the ‘what’ and it’s easier to do the ‘how’. Therefore when thinking about micro church or a version of them like café church we must begin where any good seminary student begins, with good biblically based theology (the why) so that we can work out in our practice (the what & the how). Thankfully I don’t have to use much space here developing a theology of place or the repercussions of atonement as this has been done extensively elsewhere however let me summarize how I read a key scripture that I see as giving us a strong enough ‘why’ for the what that I’ll illustrate in the form of café church later on.
One of my favorite passages of scripture is found in John 1: 35-38 where we read:
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
I call this (somewhat humorously) the least preached on verses in the bible. Why would the disciples want to see where Jesus lived? Notice first the context is one where years of prophetic silence have just been shattered by the loud call of the uncommon revivalist John the Baptist. His declaration is simple; Jesus, the carpenter’s son, the one from obscurity, was actually the long awaited Messiah. He is the bringer in of a new epoch who could put right the defragmentation of the cosmos. This was no small matter. It would be life transforming for everyone who believed. Now hear the words again of the disciples who have just been confronted with the culmination of Israel’s history. They say, ‘where are you staying?’ Yes, let me say that again, on the backdrop of a huge paradigm shift they enquire ‘where are you staying???’ This sounds like a strange question for sure. You see I think I might have asked a different question in that moment, maybe something like ‘how will you take away our sins?’ or ‘explain to me what Daniel meant when he saw the Son of Man?’ or better still ‘how will God rule the world when the culmination of the end times occurs?’ No, they don’t ask our good theological questions. Their question is all about hospitality, locality and humanity. In my paraphrase they are asking ‘can we come over for a coffee?’ or ‘Where is your house?’ Or even ‘Do you live like we live with the same mod cons?’ And it’s this line of questioning (not the one I would have) that John gives credit for seeing ‘his glory’ (John 1:14) because the one who was in the ‘closest relationship with the Father has made him known.’ (John 1:18) It seems that through the ability of Jesus to be relatable, accessible, giving people a view into the normal parts of his life they were able to connect with God. Now it follows that our good theology will ask ‘if God is like this how should we behave?’ Our theology will be seen in praxis. What we do as a result of what we see in God will be crucial. So any café church or micro church for that matter will need to incorporate being relatable, hospitable and accessible if it is to reflect the way of Jesus.
This was definitely the basis for what began in 2006 when we started a café church in Welwyn Garden City (a commuter town just outside London in the UK). Our question was how could we incarnate the gospel in the café culture around us? We could see how a thriving café culture was rapidly developing in our town. Coffee shops were opening up everywhere and this was also replicated all over the UK. In fact a staggering 50% of the UK adult population at the time visited a coffee shop (something that was unheard of before this time). Our own church congregation were a part of this café culture with many of them using coffee shops as ‘third places’ between home and work. With this in mind we asked our local Costa Coffee if we could develop a community in their store and were amazed when they said yes.
What we planned then was a themed event with quizzes, a short talk, discussion and live music – all with the added benefit of being served by friendly coffee shop staff. Our purpose was to help people engage with issues like debt, parenting or the environment from a faith perspective. We called it ‘coffee with a conscience’. People would not only be invited to enjoy a lively evening of chat, hope and humor but we would offer them resources and prayer to help them take action after the event was over. All this would form the basis of our hospitable community.
What we ran on that first night proved to be so popular that I began discussions with Costa Coffee Management and a few café churches were piloted in other stores. Due to the success of these, Cafechurch Network was formed. This registered charity was later given the ‘OK’ to put a café church in every suitable Costa Coffee store in the UK. Over the next ten years we would help to start more than one hundred café churches all over the UK.
Running a café church in a main street coffee shop was a win-win for the church and coffee shop. Stores benefit as café church helped them to feel part of the local community. The church would benefit as people who might not enter a more traditional church setting interacted with people who did. This may be one of the first steps for some towards going to church. For others they may feel that café church in a main street location was the kind of community they wanted to belong to. This then challenged us to re-imagine how we could help people in a café context move forward in their faith journey.
When developing a café church (or a micro church) one of the challenges can be the word ‘church’ itself. It can be a loaded word for some people as they may have either misconceptions about what it means or real experiences of pain in a church context that could be off-putting. While running a café church we often found ourselves having to reassure people that what we were doing was inclusive and not accusative in tone and texture. We therefore found that we ourselves had to learn how to communicate differently in a café context. For instance, while it may be acceptable in churches to expect people to sit patiently through whole services, offering only polite contributions and encouraging sentiments at the end, in a main street café context this is not the case. People come ready to talk with each other and are familiar with connecting in a relaxed environment. If the subject is not engaging and the talk is monotonous people will begin to talk among themselves and the whole evening will be lost. I would often say to café church leaders ‘whatever you do, don’t be boring.’ It is better to keep it lively and make a mistake (correcting yourself later) than to be mind-numbingly dull and risk jeopardizing the whole meeting. Part of the thrill of serving in this context is that the content needs to be transformational not just informational. We need to be an engaging presence not just a welcoming one.
The questions I ask today in Canada are ‘what do people enjoy doing?’ ‘Where do they enjoy meeting each other?’ ‘where do conversations happen?’ ‘where do people yearn for hospitality?’ ‘How can we address the pandemic of loneliness?’ If you can think of an answer to these questions then you are a step away from taking the principles of café church (being accessible, hospitable, a relatable community) and applying them to your situation. Our Canadian adventure could be a similar one to my UK story because the needs are the same even though the cultural expressions may be somewhat different. Here is a leaders guide that will help you run an online café church https://baptist.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/cafechurch-at-home-leaders-guide.pdf
If you can dream about the needs around you for a while, I’m sure that you can also translate your thoughts into doing something good to transform what you see. And as Paul said to the Ephesians God is ‘able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.’ Our first step is to begin with our own creative imagination so that we can step into the opportunities with our actions. Café church is a micro church expression that you could do today. The decision is yours. By the way I can hear my community asking me one question, and if you listen closely you’ll hear your neighborhood asking you the same question too. The question is this ‘where are you staying?’ What will your answer be?
 I will not offer a list of books and resources as these are readily available and almost without limit however a surprisingly good book that summaries the effects of the incarnation is ‘A community called atonement’ by Scot Mcknight Abingdon 2007
 Costa Coffee had at the time 900 chain stores of coffee shops similar in style to Starbucks. Costa Coffee is owned by Coca Cola today
 There are some excellent points on how to do this in the book ‘How to revive Evangelism’ by Craig Springer
Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”
No one has been unaffected by the events of the past eleven months. No one. Individuals, families, businesses, governments, weddings, funerals and places of worship. All have experienced the effects that a pandemic can have in our world.
Our churches have shifted and responded from no gathered meetings, to partial gathered meetings and back to no gathered meetings. Through all of this we have been prayerfully asking God to reveal himself at work around us so we are encouraged to continue being missionally and faithfully present in our neighbourhoods and in encouraging and discipling our churches.
We are all hearing stories of churches both adapting to the challenges and struggling with the challenges and changes. And some of those stories are surprises – we can’t always assume which churches will be struggling and which will find new ways to thrive and flourish. Some of those stories are within our current new churches/plants. Here are some of their stories.
Greenhills Christian Fellowship-Winnipeg-East
GCFWE is our newest plant launched from GCFW. This faithful and passionate group of Filipino church planters began training and discipling their core group in 2019. When Covid hit they were just ready to officially launch and had begun to gain some traction in their target area.
If you have the pleasure of hanging out with Filipino people, you will know how they evangelize – they eat together, have parties, bbq’s in the park and with the Code Red restrictions in Winnipeg it became very challenging to build neighbourhood relationships and do evangelism.
Yet, this past summer they celebrated baptism of new believers and as Pastor Arnold Mercado notes, in terms of people studying the Bible and learning the deeper truths of God, they’ve had more opportunities and people are growing in their faith. He reports that the best way to describe their planting community right now is in how God is building them, noting that ten months ago they hardly knew one another and now are growing together deeper in their relationships with Christ and with one another. They feel better prepared to saturate their neighbourhood with the Gospel once restrictions are eased.
This past fall they had their official launch from their sending church. Where God is at work and his people join him, even a pandemic cannot stop the work of the Spirit among the people!
Hope Church of Calgary
Pastor Mouner and this community of Arabic speaking believers are finding the challenges of Covid, well, challenging. Like all of us, they are deeply missing the opportunities to gather and be together. One thing I’ve learned about people from the Middle East countries is how excellent they are in hospitality. We may consider ourselves a nation of warm friendlies, but compared to our Middle Eastern friends we are really not that great in the area of hospitality!
Everything they do is around food and tea and visiting. Take those out of the equation and our brothers and sisters at Hope are discouraged and not adapting well to the online meeting applications. But even in the midst of these challenges, God is still at work.
Pastor Mouner faithfully delivers to each congregant’s home the elements of bread and cup for shared online Communion. An important element of Communion for them is the actual shared loaf of bread. It gives him an opportunity to have a safe-distance, non-virtual conversation with his congregants.
A new preacher among the congregation is being raised up. A blessing for the Pastor and congregation. Mouner has also begun an online connection with other Syrian ministers around the world and the testimonies from other places are exciting and encouraging. There are many testimonies of an amazing revival among Iranians and Kurdish peoples.
Even in the challenges and struggles, Mouner and Hope Church see God at work amid the chaos of Covid.
Makarios Evangelical Church
Pastor Jessica of MEC is an innovator. Like the rest of us, she has had to pivot and adapt multiple times in the past eleven months. This new plant, launched in 2018 has been very intentional in both the spiritual formation of the community of believers who gather at MEC and in their mission field of international students who are housed and schooled right across the street from their church building location.
Using social media, apps, zoom and other creative vehicles they are staying connected on a daily basis with one another and the students. This is vital for the students, already isolated from home, culture and family and now isolated from activities and relationships they were beginning to build in this foreign land. Meeting with the students via online can be challenging as they are already ‘online’ for all their classes, yet Makarios has found places that resonate with the students. One of the practices the church has been doing all along is to cook dinner together with the students and then eat, fellowship and talk about life, school, family and faith. Most of these students would be eating alone and this has been a very popular event for them.
Now restricted to their dorms, they eat alone, so the church is now ‘eating’ with them via zoom. Now that’s looking at your context, at the needs of your neighbourhood and finding a way to engage in spite of Covid!
Emmanuel Iranian Church
With Pastor Arash and Pastor Ali leading this growing, thriving community of Iranian people, discipleship is a key focus. A large percentage of the congregation are new converts to Christ and with hundreds of baptisms since they launched in 2018, there is a LOT of discipleship happening every day (and night!).
We’ve been celebrating the stories of new believers and baptisms since then. One might wonder how this can continue during a time of gathering restrictions, yet Pastor Ali reports that lives are being transformed on a weekly basis.
Many of us are experiencing congregants weary of zoom meetings (if they liked them at all) and disengaging with an online version of community. Certainly, EIC has struggled with that as well, yet Pastor Arash said that lately more people are getting used to this new way of meeting and it’s now become ‘real’ to people. In a recent evening prayer time, people reported, for the first time, experiencing the presence of the Spirit virtually connecting the participants spiritually and emotionally together! There are even people coming to Christ on their zoom meetings, so new people are engaging with the community, sense the presence of the one true God and raise their hands to commit to Christ.
EIC is currently praying and discerning another plant in the Surrey area of the lower mainland. Many new immigrants settle there and their desire is to serve in that community in a multi-cultural context with both Farsi and English speaking services to serve and train 2nd and 3rd generation young people.
Pray for and Celebrate Together
These are incredible testimonies and a reminder that God is certainly at work amongst his churches despite any restrictions placed upon public gatherings. We can choose to riff on all the barriers to ministry we are trying to navigate through, or we can allow our thinking and creativity to forge us into finding new rhythms and ways of being the people of God, called to be both salt to one another and light to those struggling in dark places. Yes there are challenges and some of us are really struggling to find our way. Let our stories of God-at-work among us shed some light into our own darkness and grant us encouragement to persevere through our trials.
Pray for each other. Pray for these new churches and for the churches in your area. Pray for light to breakthrough in the least expected of places. God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us and though it may seem like it some days, he has not done either but rather is stirring us up to join him in his work of bringing his kingdom come here on earth as it is (already) in heaven.
We all need pastoral care; yet, often pastors tend to be giving of themselves caring for others but not as quick about receiving care.
During this unprecedented time of being separated from others, pastoral care of those in our church communities has increased many-fold. And many of us are feeling the effects of caring for so many in uncertain times and ensuring we still have some form of gathering together for fellowship, for prayer, for teaching, for breaking of bread and for worship in our new virtual reality.
We’ve all had to be willing to pivot and change and accept those changes as good and profitable to our mission. Our church planting communities face their own unique challenges as they are still establishing themselves and yet have been cut off from the very neighbourhoods they have been moving into with the presence of God.
I’ve spoken with many pastors and leaders, and am one myself, so I know how drained and emptied many of us are finding ourselves.
That’s why CBWC is bringing you this fantastic opportunity to walk through some of the ways we can find pathways to care for ourselves to increase our coping skills and resiliency:
The COVID-Effect: Pastoring the Pastor
A 90-minute session supporting mental wellness for CBWC Pastors.
We would like to invite you to a 90-minute zoom session offered across all 4 provinces featuring local, faith-based psychologists and hosted by your CBWC Regional Minister. Come listen and then, via a facilitated Q & A, explore resources and coping tools for mental wellness offered specifically for you as you continue to live into your vocation of pastoral ministry during these extraordinary times.
This online event is free for CBWC Pastors. Please register to receive the zoom link to be a part of this important conversation in support of your well being.
Dates & Times
BC & Y | Wednesday July 15 | 9:30am PDT | Dr. Hillary McBride | REGISTER
AB & NWT | Tuesday July 14 | 3:00pm MST | REGISTER
SK/MB | Wednesday July 8 | 3:00pm SK/4:00pm MB | Dr. Todd Sellick | REGISTER
We do not know how long we will be in this fluid situation, but we do know that our family of faith will walk with us in love, in care and in support.
Can I tell you what I love most about my role working in CBWC? That we are in this together, “we” being you and me and each and every one of the people who do life together in our vast family of churches across western Canada.
In my role as Director of Church Planting and as part of the CBWC executive team, everything I, the rest of our team, and support staff do is geared towards participating with you in the shared priorities our churches affirm as most important to being faithful in following Jesus in discipleship and mission as the church.
These shared priorities are your shared priorities! CBWC staff facilitates them on your behalf, because we are also you. We gather and worship and minister and serve in our CBWC churches in our home communities. Let’s re-imagine together how we can engage in that more and more as a whole family.
1) Cultivating Leadership – I think every church desires to grow deeper in discipleship together and help encourage, develop, mentor, support and resource new leaders, young and old! Jesus calls us, together, to make disciples who can make disciples of others. This is the mission he commanded every one of us to join him on and we all take this seriously. Let us re-imagine ways we can help one another in our family of CBWC churches to see this dream flourish. Let us re-imagine ways we resource and support one another through our CBWC staff and through our partnerships with other member churches. One suggestion made is to help a smaller church support a part-time youth worker to develop the youth they have. Are we willing to add that shared ministry to our budgets?
2) Engaging in Mission – I’m pretty sure our common response to witnessing the baptism of a new believer who has committed to entering into a journey of discipleship within accountable communities of disciples is deep joy. I have had the amazing privilege of experiencing baptisms while I’m visiting churches. My heart rejoices just as much as if I had been a part of that person’s journey and baptized them myself! These are family, people who long to grow deeper and closer to Christ, in community, in the midst of brokenness, bad habits, imperfections and deep internal struggles. What a trust in other believers they are committing themselves to!
We all, as a network of churches, are a part of that story, because we are family! Let us re-imagine participating in our shared work with new churches with financial support, prayer, and joining in some of their local mission work. Churches who partner in this way, even with new churches a thousand miles away, experience the work as part of their own congregation’s mission – of course, since we are called by Christ to a common mission – together!
3) Investing in Relationship – None of the above happens outside of relationship with one another. Empathy and understanding are activated when we sit down with another and hear one another’s stories, when we invest our time, our talent, our treasure into the lives of others. In my life, I have found my heart shifted so many times just because I took the time to invest in someone’s life who I knew of but didn’t know. When we engage this way, we learn to more deeply pray for one another, encourage one another and support our shared work of being on God’s mission with one another. We have so many opportunities to engage in relationships with one another. If we want to know and understand one another, support one another and pray informed prayers for one another, then we need to be listening to one another and sharing life together.
These are big hopes and dreams expressed by our churches. We are on mission together so let’s dive in even deeper together re-imagining old and new ways of being faithfully present to God, to one another and to the world. In what ways will you engage with all of us?
At Assembly in May, we welcomed into membership Emmanuel Iranian Church, a church plant in North Vancouver, and as of May 4th, a second plant in Coquitlam.
On June 23rd, EIC held a service of celebration in which BCY Regional Minister Larry Schram and his wife, and myself and Cailey as the church planting team welcomed the congregation into our CBWC family of churches, and what a celebration it was and is!
The warm and embracing welcome we received as guests was incredible and we met so many lovely people that we now consider family. It was like a family reunion where we were meeting relatives from afar for the first time, and they us. Hugs and cheek kisses were abundant as the joy of the Lord active and living in the community poured out upon us.
As we participated in vibrant and alive worship singing (in Farsi), and in prayer for the congregation and the pastor, we were aware of the presence of the Spirit and to the church’s obedience and response to both Spirit and Word. This is a community who are fully alive in Christ and hopeful in their challenges because Christ is with them.
Larry and I both spoke, with Pastor Arash interpreting. I warmly welcomed the community to the CBWC fellowship of churches, speaking of our shared labouring in the Gospel and commending the church as they continue in our deep and rich Baptist heritage of people who join God at his work of redemption, reconciliation and restoration of God with humans, humans with one another and with all creation itself.
Larry spoke from Colossians 1:9-14, reminding the congregation “…since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” He then encouraged and commissioned the church to the ministry of the gospel, just as they are doing and an extended time of prayer for EIC and Pastor Arash concluded the service…..or so we thought!
As the last amen was spoken, something beautiful unfolded as one by one, twelve people stepped out of their chairs and came up to the front and declared they wanted to submit to Jesus as Savior and Lord. It was incredible! I was standing beside Elder Kam, who was taking down names for discipleship follow-up. I asked him if this happened often. “Every week,” he responded! He looked back on the last month and counted more than 25 commitments! Twenty-five new followers of Jesus, in one month. God is present and working in this place.
Talking with people after the service, we heard stories of those who felt as though God himself had plucked them up and placed them at EIC and the obvious response was following Jesus, many for the first time. We also heard stories of personal challenges of life as new Canadians and of prayers for those who are still back home in Iran.
And the celebration continued from there. Then there was cake! And food and an exhibition by the communities artisans. More hugs, stories, photos, kisses and joy to be a part of God’s family.
“…thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”
What a celebration. What a welcome. What an aroma!
“I’ve never had someone ask me, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ But I have had many people ask me, ‘Where is God?’ As the three-tier view of the world has collapsed, people are not seeking God ‘up there’ but want to find God here and now.” ~Diane Butler Bass
Often times when I meet up with people, they ask me what’s happening in Church Planting in CBWC. I love to tell the stories of the men and women who are engaging in the gospel in both new works and from within existing congregations. As I shared some of these stories yesterday, the people I was with were curious about why all our current plants in process and prospective are within ethnic-specific groups, to which I replied several observations. I included my often expressed observation that Canadian Baptists, in general and across our nation, haven’t continued our Baptist value of building an ethos of evangelism by discipling our people to be missional disciples who join God on mission into their everyday worlds. Evangelism, or talking about Jesus as both Lord and as Savior, is the best approach to church planting, and many of us just aren’t comfortable going there.
The result is that we don’t disciple our own folks to be local leaders and planters of new communities. Rather, we disciple people to be good Christians, which is right and true, but we leave the missional call of Jesus for us to be light of the world up to osmosis or chance or something. Jesus was never so unintentional.
It isn’t that our folk don’t believe in church planting. They do. We love to hear the stories of people coming to faith and the inspirational curiosity of new believers that re-sparks our own passion for being devoted followers of Jesus. The difficulty is that we regular, ordinary, everyday folk stumble around even articulating the gospel to which we profess has captured us. We are confused about the gospel, so we leave it to the ‘professionals’, evangelists or church planters or preachers.
And as Diane Butler points out in her statement above, we have difficulty answering our friends, family members, co-workers and neighbour when they ask questions that require more than a four-point process to salvation. What do we do with our deeper human questions about where is God in the midst of all the world’s woes and tragedies, or how can God love me when….or does God even care? The answer we often give addresses the avenue to eternal life, whilst not being able to articulate the here-on-earth part of the story of the Good News of God’s kingdom found through Jesus the King.
It is with this in mind that CBWC Executive Staff began to work on a resource to help begin conversations that will help us have conversations about the gospel wherever we are: as ordinary everyday people in ordinary everyday realities of the human experience of life on earth.
This resource, Engaging Gospel, has been developed as both a sermon series outline for teacher/preachers and with a follow up guide for small group discussions.
Our prayer, our hope and our invitation is that, as a family of churches, we gather in much the ways we gathered for the 77 Days of Prayer and do this together, either as your fall sermon series, or if that isn’t possible, your winter series post-Advent.
Our goal is to help bring back the incredible language of the full, rich Gospel into our imaginations again so that we are not confused by the ‘gospel’, but excited. As Larry Schram expresses in the video attached to the series, “This is indeed still good news – it is the best imaginable!”
Church planting is not a side-program of the church, but is the fruit of the Gospel being richly and fully expressed to those who are lost, least and last into God’s redemptive plan of restoring the human community and all of His creation to places of found, first and favoured.