Resources from Banff

By Shannon Youell with Cailey Morgan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Art of Neighbouring Leader Guide

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Neighbourhood Block Map

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Thirty Days of Prayer Walking Guide

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

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Leadership and Post-Christendom

by Mark Doerksen, Heartland Regional Minister, CBWC

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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.

Post-Christendom and Bivocational Ministry

By Scott Hagley

Post-Christendom Ministry

Standing in the middle of a field in Burnaby, British Columbia, I could not help but smile. Hundreds of people from our neighborhood—new immigrants, families, elderly, young professionals— streamed into a park for the second annual “Inclusion Festival.” A youth band from a local music school played on a stage and a Peruvian dance troupe was the next act. Across the field, children worked on art projects, waited in line to jump in an inflatable castle, played games with the city parks staff, and tested their soccer skills against some coaches from a local camp. Increasingly, this is what pastoral ministry looks like in North America: finding a way to be present in the middle of one’s neighborhood in love and hope.

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The Inclusion Festival grew from the vision of a refugee claimant named Sofia. A married mother of two from Peru, she found government-sponsored housing in my neighborhood and began to make herself a vital part of the community. Occasionally, Sofia came to church functions. After a bullying incident in her daughter’s school, Sofia decided that our neighborhood needed a public event focused on the message of inclusion, hospitality, and acceptance.

The surprising success of the first Inclusion Festival drew public attention. City officials approached Sofia and offered a grant to establish the Inclusion Festival annually, with one catch: she needed to find a registered nonprofit to receive the funds and claim responsibility. Suddenly our church became the sponsoring organization for a community event that we did not plan or initiate, and one run by a non-member whose status in the country remained (at that time) uncertain. It was a mess. I like to lead. I have experience running and planning such events. But instead of leading, I found myself in a supportive role alongside Sofia.

She pulled together neighbors and created an experience that we (the church) could not. She blessed the neighborhood. And so did we . . . by supporting her. This, at least in part, is what post-Christendom ministry looks like.

Decline of Christianity in North America

We are all aware of surveys that report ambivalence toward religion generally and declining interest in Christianity specifically across North America. American Grace, by Robert Putnam and David Campbell, reports the rise of those claiming “none” for religious affiliation, while Christian Smith (Soul Searching) describes the Christian commitment of our young people as “moral therapeutic deism.” Sociology aside, we all likely know of a congregation that has closed, a church plant that has failed, or a church building turned into a beer hall. Post-Christendom describes (albeit imperfectly) this reality.

The Christian church in North America has lost significant power and influence. The fairly recent interest in “bivocational” ministry emerges as one solution. The reasoning usually follows: congregations have less money available for ministry staff and less energy for fundraising; congregations will survive if they have more financial flexibility; therefore we need pastors who are not solely dependent upon the church for income. It argues for bi-vocational ministry as a strategic element for congregational survival. But that argument misses the opportunity that bi-vocational ministry places within the congregation.

The North American church is not the only casualty of changing cultural meanings and social upheaval. Since (at least) the 1980s, observers have prophesied the loss of public life in America—declining civil society institutions, voluntarism, and civic practices crucial for democracy. We face a slate of social problems that seem intractable. Institutions as basic as government, school, law, and family are in various stages of upheaval. As Barbara Kellerman suggests, we seem to be facing a crisis in leadership (The End of Leadership); we have lost a collective faith not only in the pastoral leader, but also authorities in general. We must not lose sight of the fact that our congregational malaise participates in a broader cultural uncertainty.

Bi-vocational Ministry as an Opportunity

Here bi-vocational ministry becomes a Spirit-given opportunity for the church to discover the shape of mission and ministry in our dynamic era. Recently John McKnight and Peter Block have made the principles of Asset Based Community Development practically accessible in their book The Abundant Community. McKnight and Block suggest a gift-based localism, arguing that we will not build community and social trust/capital by consulting experts to solve societal problems. Rather, we will address a variety of social ills by focusing on the gifts already present in a neighborhood in order to cultivate local communities of shared gifts. Cities across North America have begun experimenting with this thesis.

The cry for abundant communities invites us to reconsider the ways that pastoral ministry might be gifted to the broader community. Bi-vocational ministry presents a distinct adaptive challenge to the church. It invites us to think more publicly about pastoral ministry, to imagine different possibilities for sharing life and funds. It is not simply “tentmaking” for the sake of making ends meet, but rather the practice of ministry for the well-being of the neighborhood.

Sofia’s invitation did not fit within the usual bounds of pastoral leadership. Her event was not one organized by the church, it did not promise to grow the church as “outreach,” and Sofia was not a member or in frequent attendance at the church. My work with the Inclusion Festival gave me the opportunity to be present in and with my neighborhood in an entirely different way. Consequently, our church community received an opportunity to participate in the sharing of gifts—Sofia’s vision, our volunteer base, city funds, a host of neighborhood organizations, and the sharing of a collective and public neighborhood event.

In a place described by several polls as Canada’s loneliest city, such an event and the sharing of such gifts certainly reflects some of God’s trustworthy character and work in the world. Perhaps, just perhaps, so-called bivocational ministry provides the push that we need to live in and with our neighborhoods in such a way that folks like Sofia and the gifts of our neighbors might be given fresh expression in the name and hope of Christ.

Dr. Scott Hagley is assistant professor of missiology at Pittsburgh Seminary and also works with the Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative and teaches in the MDiv Church Planting Emphasis program as well as the new Church Planting and Revitalization certificate program. He previously served as director of education at Forge Canada in Surrey, British Columbia, where he worked to develop curriculum for the formation of missional leaders in hubs across Canada.

This article first appeared on the Seminary’s blog. The Seminary offers multiple programs for those interesting in church planting including the Graduate Certificate in Church Planting and Revitalization, Master of Divinity with Church Planting Emphasis, and the Church Planting Initiative. Learn more about these programs online.

Seven-Day Missional Living

By Cid Latty, Congregational Development Associate for the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec

Everyone seems to be telling us to be more mission minded but few give us practical ways to do it in the midst of our busy lives. This week, why not try the Missional Challenge? We have based it on a monastic weekly schedule that includes prayer, scripture, manual labour, service and hospitality. Our prayer this week is that together we might “live up to what we have attained” in Christ (Philippians 3:16).

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Day 1—Start the week with God

To spend time with God is not a waste of time but the fuel for our missional activity. Spend time with God in a way that may be new to you today. You could search for a scripture, poem, hymn or sacred song to give focus. Take a walk and pray as you worship God.

Day 2—Live simply

Give away something that is valuable to you. Other ideas: pay for someone’s cup of coffee, get the next person’s food, gas, etc.

Day 3—Service

Recall what inspired you to become a Christian. Give the people who come to mind a call or send an email to say thank you. Look to serve someone today in what we might call the mundane things of life. Who do you know who needs Jesus? Spend time with them today. Pray for an opportunity to share faith with them.

Day 4—Believe

We have been taught to say ‘In Christ’ but rarely have we been taught to say ‘I can,’ Let us memorize the whole verse today: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ Philippians 4:13.

Day 5—Hospitality

Send a friend or family member a word of encouragement today. Make or buy cakes to leave in the kitchen at work for people to take for free. Find a way to offer your skill set today. Take someone for lunch or find a way to use your home to host someone you know. Intentionally speak words of encouragement today.

Day 6—Love

Ask God to show you someone you can be a person of peace towards. Find a food bank that you can serve in some way.

Day 7—Pray for the world

Take one issue from the news today and pray about it. Remember to pray for those who are being persecuted. For more details about praying for the persecuted church see www.idop.ca.

See also CBM prayer line:

http://www.cbmin.org/prayerline

If you take Cid up on his Missional Challenge, let us know how it goes! What did God teach you? What did you see?

Mission in Your Neighbourhood

By Shannon Youell

The last weekend in January found Cailey, Faye Reynolds, Sherry Bennett, Ike Agawin and myself doing something we’ve not done before:  (wo)manning a booth at Missions Fest 2017 in Vancouver.

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With our theme of “Join us on mission in your neighbourhood” and our new engagement cards in hand, we handed out copious amounts of candy, CBWC pens and lip balms (very popular by the way!) and fielded all sorts of questions and remarks. Unremarkably, most of the questions had nothing to do with what we were promoting. In fact, many who stopped at our booth couldn’t quite make the connection between “mission” and “in your neighbourhood.”  One man peering at our banner argued that “it’s not mission if it’s not in another country.”

This was surprising to me, inasmuch as Jesus called us to be on mission both where we live, in our city, in our nation and to all the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).  I wonder how it is that many see missions as only in a foreign land, far away from where we are. My cynical side says it’s because when mission is seen as far away, we can stay comfortably home and support others to go–which, of course, we should be supporting! But using it as an opt-out to be a minister right here of Christ’s work of reconciling man to God and to one another, is a travesty.

But, I think it is more likely that because we’ve grown up into a culture of Christendom, we still consider our land, our city, our neighbours as already gospeled merely by where we live. Yet the times we live in, as I said to a pastor in India while I was teaching there, reflect that North America actually needs missionaries to come here from those far-off lands that we’ve been missioning for centuries. Canada needs to be re-gospeled!

Of course, I was being facetious, as in fact, God has called and placed missionaries all around our land.  In all likelihood, if you are reading this, then you are one of them.

There were also the ones who stopped at our booth who were excited to talk about mission in our neighbourhoods.  Those were, of course, the best conversations.  The most memorable, at least for me, was a conversation Cailey had with two ten-year-olds.  They, too, stopped and were perplexed about our banner, but once Cailey explained to them what joining God on mission in neighbourhoods is, they got it!  I’ll let her convey their reaction…

After the youth rally one night, some grade 5 boys came up to my booth–pockets pull of pens, cheeks full of chocolate from other booths.

Kids: “So what is your ministry all about?”

Cailey: “In my job, we help people in Western Canada start new churches, and one of the ways we do that is by helping them love their neighbours, so that their neighbours come to Jesus. I believe that we are all missionaries where we live—in our neighbourhoods, our schools, and even our soccer teams.”

Kids: “I can be a missionary right now?”

Cailey: “Absolutely! You are a missionary. In what ways do you guys think you could be missionaries in your neighbourhoods?”

Kids: “Well, we could love our neighbours—like, be nice to them, and play with them. Or tell them Jesus loves them.”

Cailey: “See? You’re already a missionary.”

Kids: “Cool! What’s your biggest dream?”

At which point I scratched my head, wondering who had raised these boys to ask such deep questions!

Cailey: “My dream is that people in all of our churches in Western Canada would see themselves as missionaries, and as God uses them to bring their neighbours to Jesus, more and more churches will be born. Then, the new Christians would start doing the same thing: loving their neighbours and telling them about Jesus.”

Kids: “Wow. If everyone in Vancouver did that, and then Canada, and then America…we could infect the whole world!”

So of course, I pulled out a copy of Ed Stetzer’s Viral Churches for the boys to peruse…ok maybe not, but I was so thrilled to see these young men catching the vision and call of Jesus for us to be disciple-making disciples.

Mostly, what MissionsFest revealed to us is that there is still so much work to do as leaders. We must disciple others to understand the calling of Jesus to join Him at His work of delivering justice, mercy, hope, grace, salvation, and love to those whom these things have not yet been realized.  To remind us that right next door to us—whether next door means our homes, our seat on our commute, our work place or where we hang out—there are people who are lost in the lost-ness of identity without Christ. Wherever we are, we are the one to help them find God.

God is a missionary God and He sends. He sent Abraham on mission. He sent the prophets. He sent John.  He sent Jesus. He sent the disciples. He sent Paul. He sent Barnabas. He sends you and He sends me.  On mission. In our neighbourhoods.

 

Sabbath Book Reviews

In my article about how our life pace impacts our witness, I mentioned the importance of Sabbath in the rhythm of the local missionary. The Sabbath conversation is huge, and something that I’m still working through in my life in bivocational ministry (i.e., what does the Sabbath look like for pastors? Can we ask our people to take Sunday off when really, we as ministers have Sundays as a major work day? And is it biblical to celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday in the first place, or does it even matter which day it is?).

Here are two book reviews from my dear friend and pastoral colleague Rick Eitzen. My hope is that you will not only read Rick’s reviews of Brueggemann and Heschel, but will be inspired to pick up the books themselves.  ~ Cailey

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Sabbath As Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now by Walter Brueggemann
Reviewed by Rick Eitzen

Using the Exodus as the context of the Ten Commandments, Brueggemann demonstrates that the Sabbath is a powerful practice of resistance and alternative to a society of anxiety, fear, restless productivity and slavery represented by Pharaoh. It shapes and defines Israel as Yahweh’s people who receive the gift of rest and God’s presence while protecting those vulnerable in their society. The Ten Commandments, given in the context of the Exodus and deliverance of God’s people from slavery to new life, govern how Israel relates to Yahweh and one another.

For Brueggemann, the Sabbath as the fourth commandment connects the first commandment (no idols) to the tenth (no coveting). It reaches back to the first commandment by providing a practice of trust, rest and resistance in a culture of commodification and endless acquisition (serving Master Money) and it reaches forward to the tenth commandment: no coveting, defined as the pursuit of commodity at the expense of the neighbour. “Sabbath is a big no for both; it is no to the worship of commodity; it is no to the pursuit of commodity. But it is more than no. Sabbath is the regular, disciplined, visible, concrete yes to the neighborly reality of the community beloved by God” (p 86). When we do not practice Sabbath we easily slip into covetousness, for life that consists of frantic production and consumption reduces everyone else to threat and competitor. In the Sabbath, anxious productivity is replaced with committed neighbourliness (p 27).

For Brueggemann, the Sabbath is primarily a social issue. He insists that the social power and relevance of the Sabbath requires it be practiced with neighbours, that we as Christians are to “sponsor a system of rest that contradicts the system of anxiety of Pharaoh, because you are no longer subject to Pharaoh’s anxiety system” (p 30). He does not outline specific ways or rules by which we might resist on the Sabbath but rather calls us to examine ways in which we participate in the anxiety of our socio-economic system and “are defined by busyness and by acquisitiveness and by pursuit of more, in either our economics or our personal relations” (p 31). He questions the value and the statement of allegiance we make in every action, from buying and selling (shopping) to sports and entertainment and kids activities. “Sabbath is a school for our desires, an expose and critique of the false desires that focus on idolatry and greed that have immense power for us. When we do not pause for Sabbath, these false desires take power over us” (p 88). Jesus said that we can’t love God and money and Sabbath is a practice that actively resists the lure of money and our obsession with acquisition. The Sabbath day is a gift and calls us to recognize that “we live by gift and not by possession, that we are satisfied by relationships of attentive fidelity and not by amassing commodities” (85)

I appreciate the social implications of Brueggemann’s emphasis on practicing Sabbath. It is always a crucial part of our faith to remember the marginalized, the immigrant, the orphan and widow, thereby actively showing ourselves to be Christ’s disciples, creating an alternative community with different values and a different identity. I’m unsatisfied with his definition of Sabbath as mostly something negative, as “restraint, withdrawal, or divestment from the concrete practices of society that specialize in anxiety” (P 85), as well as his emphasis that the Sabbath is primarily social in significance.

Social justice is important and often overlooked but it is not the most important facet of our faith or identity. Yes, we love our neighbour as ourselves and Sabbath can certainly help us “come out from them and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17), but to love neighbour properly we must love God first, which requires an imagination for what we are coming into, not just coming out of. And what we come into is not only a social alternative but the very holy, loving and transformative presence of Christ as a people with a new identity, new family and new calling. Otherwise we risk becoming just another good social service agency and miss the empowering and transforming presence of Christ.

Brueggemann comes closest to a positive definition in his description of Sabbath as gift – “Sabbath is not simply the pause that refreshes. It is the pause that transforms. Whereas Israelites are always tempted to acquisitiveness, Sabbath is an invitation to receptivity, an acknowledgement that what is needed is given and need not be seized” (P 45). It is an invitation to trust, to cease striving, to “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt 11:29).

Sabbath As Resistance raises significant issues around social justice and the responsibility of God’s chosen people to daily choose whether they will serve Pharaoh and his system of anxiety and acquisition, or Yahweh and his way of trust, rest and new social order based on neighbourly community. It causes us to ask uncomfortable questions as to how our actions betray our worship and pursuit of commodity rather than love of God and neighbour.

Sabbath is a wonderful means of resistance, reshaping our identity and priorities and calls us out for the sake of the world, especially the vulnerable who do not thrive in a capitalistic system where striving to gain the world always comes at the expense of our souls.

The Sabbath by Abraham Heschel
Reviewed by Rick Eitzen

In 1951, Abraham Heschel, a Jewish rabbi and professor, wrote The Sabbath, a short and elegant book about its meaning for our modern age. Heschel begins and ends with a distinction between time and space.

Space
He argues that “we are all infatuated with the splendor of space…Thing is a category that lies heavy on our minds, tyrannizing all our thoughts” (Loc 172). God created the physical world and declared it good so although we are to enjoy the blessing of space/things, we are not to be obsessed or enslaved by them, for “life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our sole concern” (loc 150). And although “there is happiness in the love of labor, there is misery in the love of gain” (loc 158).

Time
“However, the Bible is more concerned with time than with space…it pays more attention to generations, to events, than to countries, to things…time has a meaning for life which is at least equal to that of space…a significance and sovereignty of its own” (Loc 202). Time is the realm of the main themes of faith and meaning. Herschel is careful to avoid a sacred/secular divide in distinguishing between time and space, emphasizing rather that we are too preoccupied with space at the expense of time/soul/eternity and that Sabbath is the cure to keeping both in proper perspective.

Beginning with Creation, Heschel notes that “things created in six days God considered good, the seventh day He made holy” (p 63). He did not create a holy place but a holy day, holiness in time – the Sabbath. “The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of the things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world” (Loc 248). It is a vision of a window in eternity that opens into time. In the Sabbath, “Eternity utters a day” (p 89). “The work on weekdays and the rest on the seventh day are correlated. The Sabbath is the inspirer, the other days the inspired” (p 10).

Sabbath is not a break from the week but its climax. “It is a palace in time which we build…made of soul, of joy and reticence” (p 2). God did not take a break on the seventh day; he finished His work. The Sabbath, just like the other six days, was an act of creation. “And God rested” – the word used is Menuha, which means rest, tranquility, serenity, peace and repose, “much more than withdrawal from labor and exertion, more than freedom from toil, strain or activity. It is not a negative concept but something real and intrinsically positive.” (p 10) (Note that “The Lord is my Shepherd…He leads me beside the waters of menuhot” – still, quiet, tranquil). Menuha was created on the seventh day which later became a synonym for the life in the world to come, eternal life. Much more than a day off, Sabbath is a glimpse into and opportunity to practice eternity.

Practicing the Sabbath
Even more significantly, Heschel declares that “who we are depends on what the Sabbath is to us” (p 89). So how does one practice Sabbath? Herschel gives very little practical advice, partly because he assumes a Jewish audience but mostly because his intent is to get at the significance, beauty, purpose and theology of the Sabbath. Certainly the day requires anticipation and planning, even to the point of orienting the week around the day. “Preparation for a holy day…(is) as important as the day itself” (loc 29).

What would it look like for Christians to practice Sabbath? Questions of date/time, practices of abstinence and engagement surface and certainly “there are some helpful Sabbath laws – those that require shutting off secular demands and refraining from work” (loc 114) which should be discussed and observed as communal practices (rather than private/individual) but the emphasis should always be on the spirit of the day and not the technicalities of the laws/practices (Jesus had much to say on this). Celebration of Sabbath is not routine or regulation but relationship and one should cease from work on the day just as one would cease from all other work on one’s wedding day. It should be practiced joyfully and with delight, although it “is not an occasion for diversion or frivolity…but an opportunity to mend our tattered lives; to collect rather than dissipate time” (p 5).

How does one rest on the Sabbath and what about all of the work that still needs to be done? “’Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work’” (Ex 20:8) (note that both work and rest are commanded)…Does not our work always remain incomplete? What the verse means to convey is: Rest on the Sabbath as if all your work were done” (p 19).

Heschel’s concept of Sabbath with its distinct laws and rituals is of course Jewish and at times his personification and almost deification of Sabbath is uncomfortable but his emphases on the purpose, Biblical basis and reason for practicing Sabbath should be considered very carefully. There is something about the Sabbath that is biblical, rich, beautiful, and absent in many Christian circles. Not only is it the climax of creation and one of the ten commandments, it may also be “the answer to the problem of civilization: not to flee from the realm of space; to work with things of space but to be in love with eternity. Things are our tools; eternity, the Sabbath, is our mate. (We) are engaged to eternity” (p 37).

Space to be Truly Present

By Cailey Morgan

Over the past several articles, I’ve been taking a look at some of the paradigm shifts that Brad Brisco suggests in Missional Essentials are crucial to us as God’s people learning to live out our purpose as His sent ones.

We discussed how our posture must change from doing ministry to, or even ministry for, to ministry with. With is a much more patient and intimate way of gospelling, that takes place wherever we happen to live our lives—our homes, our workplaces, our schools, our shopping haunts.

But practically, what does this look like for us? How do we live out ministry with in a hyper-individualized, over-scheduled culture of fear and isolation? Again, my themes arise from Brad Brisco’s work, as well as thoughts from Ray Oldenburg, Tim Keller and Richard Swenson. In the next few posts, let’s take a look at our homes, our workplaces and third spaces—and ultimately our hearts—to explore opportunities for mission in each sphere of life.

First Places: Our Homes
Our homes and neighbourhoods are a very basic building block for living as missionaries. Jesus exemplified radical hospitality, and had a lot to say about how we are to treat our neighbours, and the opportunities that our homes present us for genuine witness. Having people into our homes, and finding ways to be present in the community in hopes of being invited into others’ spaces, is an avenue for evangelism we all should be living out.

Home Sweet Home by jlhopgood CC BY-ND 2.0

However, most of us are not.

As Brisco says, “How on earth can we expect to love our neighbours if we don’t know their names?” We all have neighbours, but everyone I’ve talked to has said it’s a struggle to get to know those living near them. Some of us don’t like initiating new relationships. Some of us see our neighbours in their gardens as we drive by, but never have the time to stop and chat. Some of our neighbours operate under “stranger danger” and don’t trust us—or sometimes we’re the ones who have built walls to “protect” our families, which really end up perpetuating the lack of trust.

So how do we grow in using the first space—our homes—as part of our life of mission? I think there are three elements we can evaluate.

1. Trust. What are three ways that your willingly offer your time, talents, treasures and relationships to the Father? What are three ways that you take matters into your own hands? This evaluation can be sensitive, because we need to look at who’s really in control of our iCals, our kids, and what we turn to for identity and value.

In the book Untamed, Deb Hirsch does not mince words in her evaluation of whether we trust God with our home life:

the family has effectively become a pernicious idol…missional hospitality is seen as a threat, not an opportunity…our families and our homes should be places where people can experience a foretaste of heaven. Where the church is rightly viewed as a community of the redeemed from all walks of life.

2. Relationship. Do you know your neighbours? Shannon and I love the neighbourhood mapping exercise of drawing the street and seeing how many neighbours you can name. This exercise becomes especially helpful when you use it as a basis for prayer. Lord, how should I pray for the people in that home? What are my opportunities to be the answer to those prayers? Sometimes, the next step is to just knock and say hi.

3. Space. How about an audit of your home and how it could be used creatively to bring people together? Some of us might need to roll our barbecues onto the front porch so that we’re more visible from the street. Others could throw a neighbourhood party in the garage.

I have some friends in an apartment building who got permission from the manager to turn an unused piece of courtyard into a community garden. Not only are they spending evenings sowing and weeding with their neighbours, but they also bring their morning coffee out to the patio table in the garden and hang out with whoever joins them.

A helpful resource here is Don’t Invite Them to Church: Moving From a Come and See to a Go and Be Church by Karen Wilk. This flexible guidebook will help you, your small group, or your church get started in neighborhood ministry and missional living.

Next time, we’ll work through the major roadblock to neighbouring: our time, or seeming lack thereof.

This is the fourth article in a series. Read the other posts here:

  1. Why, Oh Why?
  2. The Missionary Nature of God and His Church
  3. Incarnational Presence
  4. Space to be Truly Present
  5. Missional Margin
  6. Missional Mindset in Everyday Spaces

The Missionary Nature of God and His Church

By Cailey Morgan

In my previous article, I explained how Brad Brisco, Director of Bivocational Church Planting for the North American Mission Board, suggests that until we truly understand the why of our life as God’s people, we won’t have eyes to see how God is trying to shape our what and how. Brisco gives several paradigm shifts in our why thinking, the first being the missionary nature of God and therefore of the church.

CC Kevin T. Houle

Kevin T Houle

God is a Missionary and God is Missionary
When someone says the word missionary, what image comes to mind? Often, the picture is of an individual passionate about bringing the restorative work of God to a group of people far away. They’re so passionate, in fact, that they are willing to move into a new and uncomfortable context, learn a new language, incarnate into the daily life of those people, and in many cases (Jim Elliot and his colleagues come to mind), missionaries are even willing to be killed by the very people to whom they have come bringing hope. When described in that sense, I’m comfortable considering God as a missionary, especially as seen in the life of Christ.

However, when we say He is a missionary God, we are not only saying that He is a missionary, but that He is missionary: mission-focused, mission-like. His person is one of mission. Being missionary is one of His attributes.

From Genesis’ creation narrative to the promise of Christ’s recreative work in Revelation, the grand story of Scripture is about God and His mission. He is at work in the world. His nature is missionary.

God’s Called and Sent Ones
What does God’s missionary nature mean for us, then? As His people, following in His footsteps, we are to be a called and sent people. This paradigm shift helps us see the church not primarily as a mechanism for sending missionaries. Indeed, as Brisco says, “the church is missionary! We are individually and collectively the sent people of God.”

The language in Scripture is almost overwhelming on this point. The prophetic books are stories and words of people sent by God to participate in His redeeming mission and redemptive deeds. Jesus refers to Himself as the sent One over 3 dozen times in the book of John.

God’s people are called to Him and then sent as part of His mission. And this cycle of calling and sending is to be reflected in the rhythm of God’s people as it was in the book of Acts. We are to be a gathered and scattered people, called and sent, as it were, daily, weekly, yearly.

A Gather-Scatter People
Becoming missional does not mean abandoning everything about our present structures. Take, for example, a typical weekly church routine. Rather than a Sunday service being the main missional activity of our week—the program we bring our friends to so they hear about Jesus—what if this service was the calling, the gathering of a people who have been sent into their streets and schools and workplaces to share the gospel in every moment? The service becomes a celebration of God’s transformative work in the lives of us and our friends, and a time of equipping in order to again be scattered into spheres of influence for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

In this upward spiral of gathered and scattered, weeknight home groups become evenings of intercession and of vision: how do we support each other as we search for God’s action in our neighbourhoods and step out in faith to follow Him there? Bible studies become more vital than ever as we hide God’s Word so richly in our hearts that it not only changes us but begins to spill over into our daily interactions, bringing hope to those who don’t yet know Christ.

Let the Holy Spirit guide your imagination. Are there other elements of your congregational life that need to be steeped in the missionary nature of God? Is Jesus inviting your family into a new way of following His footsteps? Or a renewed understanding of your call and your sentness?

Next time, we’ll look deeper into God’s calling for us, and how it could be that His exhortation “Go!” in fact means “Stay!”

For more from Brad Brisco on these issues, check out these video sessions with Brad, made available for free from our friends at Forge Canada Missional Training Network.

This is the second article in a series. Read the other posts here:

  1. Why, Oh Why?
  2. The Missionary Nature of God and His Church

  3. Incarnational Presence
  4. Space to be Truly Present
  5. Missional Margin
  6. Missional Mindset in Everyday Spaces

Whatever Happened to Talking about Jesus?

By Shannon Youell

And we’re here today bringing you good news: the Message that what God promised the fathers has come true for the children—for us! (Acts 32:13-The Message)

I wonder if we’ve lost the ability to explain the “good news” part of the Good News? Is that why we are so afraid to talk to people about this Good News outside of our Christian circles (where, supposedly, we all understand it completely and don’t need it explained to us)?

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To be frank, the number of times I hear the Gospel preached, and indeed, preach it myself, to those who have already heard it, really causes me to lean into the concern that we’ve lost the ability to truly convey what amazingly, marvelously Good News the Kingdom of God present here on earth is to those who do not yet know there is such Good News.

All Called to Be Sharers
Some of us exempt ourselves from this conversation by saying that we do not have the gift of evangelism. But are not all of us convicted and called by Jesus to “go and make disciples?” To be fair, there are those folk among us who are wonderfully gifted in communicating the Good News. Often it is from a public platform, or by placing themselves strategically within communities where darkness still prevails and the Kingdom is groaning to advance. They are particularly and uniquely set apart by their giftedness to engage this way, and we need to celebrate and support these evangelists in our midst.

But that does not exempt me, or you, or us. As I stated in my previous article, I haven’t really been able to find an exemption for myself in Jesus’ teaching. Or for that matter in the Story at all. It appears that those who worship our Father in heaven, who are professed disciples of Jesus, who are empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit to do good the work of the Father, are sharers of Jesus. They communicate (evangelize) to others the great Story of God and help them find their place in the Great Story within the story of their own lives.

So why are we so darned afraid? And how did we, the ekklesia of God, get that way?

Taking Steps Forward
Friends, I think these are some of questions we need to start asking ourselves and our communities of gathered believers. I am pretty confident that were one to ask a faith community if we are to share Jesus, they would mostly agree that as an absolute. Yet we do tend to leave it to others to do so, while sighing with relief that indeed there are those who ‘like’ to share Jesus with others.

Can we engage in the evangelism conversation again? Can we imagine being a people set apart by God to herald the Grand News that God, through Jesus, has come to earth with the rule and reign of His Kingdom that brings us justice, liberty, hope, love, peace, joy and salvation from the corrupt and oppressive rulers of the kingdoms of this world? And the wonderful news that we are invited to join Him in living it and sharing it?

We’d love for this to be a dialogue as we explore and share together to attempt to answer, frame new questions and reimagine how we can create of culture of communicating the Good news of the kingdom of God for the sake of the world.

For those who will be at the Banff Pastors and Spouses Conference next week, come and join in a round table discussion around this very topic: Mission—Impossible? Can we re-engage evangelism? We will discuss three questions to frame our conversation together and begin to face the evangelism vacuum so common in our Baptist culture.

Join us there, and here on this blog as we listen and learn from one another to pray, equip and share Jesus in the spaces where we live, work, play and pray!

God’s Blessings in Church Planting

We asked some of our CBWC Church Plants where they have seen God at work. This is what they said:

Kelly Maurice, Première Église Évangélique d’Expression Française de Calgary:

GospelFest was very hard this year in terms of organization but God was gracious enough to make it all work in the end. We had to relocate the event due to the flood and our new park was just beside the biggest mosque. To my surprise some Muslims came and even danced with us! God definitely had a plan for this year despite the terrible lack of organization. Moreover, people who were just hanging out at the park came and joined in to celebrate with us! God is good!

Norm Sowden, Mill Bay Baptist Fellowship:

We participated in a local fair, offering people a shady place to sit and chat. It was great! We made lots of connections. One couple who moved from Edmonton to retire here in the Cowichan Valley are now coming to MBBF.

Vicki Hazelwood, The Well, Lethbridge:

Our family at The Well continues to grow. We are so encouraged by what God has been doing. We just celebrated two baptisms, and on any given week we can have up to 20 kids ranging in age from 2 – 14.  We need God’s direction, creativity, and provision of helpers as we move into the fall.

Yoichi and Miyuki Taniguchi, Crossover Japanese, Calgary:

We finally got a landed immigrant visa after 9 years’ of struggling. We are very thankful to God! Thank you so much for your prayers and support for our family!

Hizon Cua, Greenhills Christian Fellowship, Vancouver:

The Sunday we had at Bethel Baptist, Sechelt, was a blessing for us. It was a wonderful time spent in fellowship in the spirit of Christ’s greater body of believers. Who will forget the dynamic Auntie Mary who provided water fun for the young kids. One of them said, “I wish I had a grandma like her, she is so much fun.” Our church was also truly blessed with Martin and Grace, who lovingly took the time and effort to drive back to the campsite later that day and brought to us firewood and branch sticks which we used for our memorable bonfire and marshmallow night.

If you would like to support one of these young churches or would like to know more about initiatives in your area, contact the Director of Church Planting, Tom Lavigne, at  tlavigne@cbwc or visit churchplantingatcbwc.wordpress.com.

This article originally appeared in October’s issue of Making Connections, the CBWC‘s monthly stories and events publication. Subscribe to Making Connections today.