Rebooting What Matters


(A reflection in response to Shannon Youell’s “How then, Shall We Meet?”) 

By: Mark Archibald – Pastor of Spiritual Formation, Lethbridge First Baptist Church

 Prior to COVID-19, I was WAY off in my ministry approach and priorities.  A friend from several years of summer camp moved his family down to Lethbridge for a 3-month contract job.  In years previous we had very important conversations about life and faith.  This is a good and dynamic relationship, one that continues to grow.   In the three months this important friend was in town, how much do you think we saw each other?    

 ONCE!  And that was to help him move in!  There’s something wrong with my lifestyle, including both busy-ness and work, when there is no space on the schedule for a friend like this.   

 I am busy with community stuff outside of church (a flag football team, school council, and other community connections), and parenting takes its share of work, but the fact that I took zero time to nurture this relationship with a friend is significant!   Much of my busy-ness was church stuff, which doesn’t always have the community building and connecting benefit that it should.    

 See if you relate to this pattern in ministry: 

  •  Step 1 – “I need to help our families with parenting resources.” 
  • Step 2 – “I will prepare an event for families and spend hours and hours investing in it.” 
  • Step 3 – “I need to convince families at my church to attend or I will have wasted my time.” 
  • Step 4 – Advertise and convince families to attend, and be a little sad more didn’t show up. 
  • Step 5 – Begin planning the next event – fingers crossed that more show up next time! 

 There is a LOT of time expended coming up with programs that I think are important, and just as much time convincing people to attend them.  The time spent on programming may have been better spent personally with those attending families AS WELL AS other ones! 

Walk With Me

 I’m trying to shift away from “attend my event” to “walk with me” approach.  That seems to be healthier for everyone and puts less pressure on everyone.  It allows for real community to grow. 

 COVID was bad.  Awful.  But few things have given us permission to shut things down and re-evaluate life patterns as much COVID has.  I have written down “In what ways do we meet again?” on my office white board as a reminder of how we best move forward as a community of believers.    As I reboot, I’m returning to a familiar and favourite verse: “let us spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).  

The Transition: Instead of “Fell Swoops”

By Cailey Morgan

Over the past several weeks on the blog we’ve been gleaning wisdom from a church that took on the monumental task of transitioning towards a more missional culture in their church family. We learned how easy it is to fall into the trap of casting big vision without the daily practices through which to live out that vision, and that we must guard against letting our earnestness to purge consumerism from our congregation end up destroying our disciples instead of building them up. Transitioning is hard.


And in fact, our role of supporting you as you engage in whatever the next steps are for discipleship and mission in your context is just as difficult, because each church family, each neighbourhood, each leadership team will face individualized challenges and have specific strengths. But here’s what we can offer:

1. Contact us if you could use some help in discerning and stepping into the next season of health and growth for your congregation. Sam Breakey, CBWC’s Church Health strategist,  is here to work with you to facilitate a tailored Church Health Engagement process for your church. Your Regional Minister is just a phone call away and can provide more geographically-contextualized support. And of course Shannon Youell here in Church Planting is a wealth of insight and would love to offer everything from prayer to book recommendations to opportunities to engage in church planting partnerships or new initiatives.

2. Check out these resources you may find helpful:

  • Saturate the World (the blog where we’ve been sending you to read about the Austin Stone transition to missional) has a helpful article series on transitioning.
  • David Fitch, author of Faithful Presence ad our keynote speaker at Banff last fall, has written a helpful article on how to get started with reshaping expectations in your congregation (and if you haven’t read Faithful Presence, I highly recommend it!).
  • Scot McKnight says this in Renovation of the Church: “Jesus issues a high call to all those who are his followers. We take up our cross and follow him. It is daily death. We keep in step with God’s Spirit. We engage in the challenging work of putting on the new self. We decrease so he can increase. We live in the name of Jesus. This is not a calling for the elite few. It is the normative way of apprenticeship to Jesus.” You can read a review of the book here, and we’re also offering a free copy of the book to the first person who would like to read it and write their own review for us here on our Church Planting blog. Contact me via email if you’re interested (
  • And our friends at Forge Canada Missional Training Network are offering two-day Into the Neighbourhood workshops in both Edmonton and Vancouver this fall. Forge’s events are designed to evoke and equip, so we’d recommend bringing a cohort of your church leaders to engage in deeper discussion together about your particular church context and what movement forward could mean for you.

We all experience growing pains as we mature as disciples. My prayer is that you and your churches would be stretched and formed into by the Potter’s hands into who and what brings Him glory in your community.

Seven Ways Churches Should Die with Dignity

This article by Thom Rainer is speaking to an American audience, but I thought it was interesting nonetheless. What are your opinions on the topic of how churches should die? Please comment! ~Cailey

Death is not a popular topic.

I get it. It’s more encouraging to talk about birth, life, and growth.

But I want us to deal with the reality of dying churches in this article. And I hope we can move to a positive approach about these churches.

There are approximately 350,000 Protestant churches in the U.S. Many pundits estimate the number of closings to be about one percent, or 3,500 churches a year. For reasons I will discuss in a future post, I estimate the number to be closer to two percent, or 7,000 churches a year.

Let’s split the difference and say more than 5,000 churches die a year.


That’s 14 churches that die every day. And the number is likely to increase.

So what can we offer the leaders of dying churches? How can we help them help their churches die with dignity? I have seven suggestions.

  1. Be willing to move from denial to acceptance. If your church has declined from 200 in attendance to 25 in the past five or ten years, it is likely to close soon. Don’t wait until it’s too late to be proactive.
  2. Move from guilt to grace. Many members of dying churches feel shame and guilt for the state of their churches. It’s time to forget the past and move into the grace of God’s future. Wallowing in guilt precludes action. Celebrating in grace means moving forward.
  3. Avoid merging with another struggling church. An unhealthy or dying church merging with a similar church does not equal a healthy church. At best, it prolongs the inevitability of death from taking place.
  4. Consider a re-plant. Your church facilities are incredible assets God has given you. Many new churches are in desperate need of places to meet and worship. Consider giving your facilities to a church plant.
  5. Consider a merger with a healthy church. But it cannot be a merger of equals. The church with the healthy DNA must become the steward of leadership, facilities, and direction. In other words, it will be more like an acquisition than a merger. And it is likely the formerly dying church would become another campus of the healthy church.
  6. Celebrate the past and move to the future. Before your church transitions to either a replant or a merger, have a service of celebration. Thank God for the past, and look forward to His future.
  7. All members should reclaim another church. Before the door shuts on the past, each member of the dying church should state his or her commitment to get involved in another congregation. Some may even choose to be a part of the new church meeting in their former facilities.

Christ’s Church will never die. But local congregations have definitive life cycles, including birth, growth, decline, and death. If your church is moving from decline towards death, be the type of church leader to help your church die with dignity.

For it is in the death of one church that another church can have a hope for a great and healthy future.

The post Seven Ways Churches Should Die with Dignity appeared first on on March 7, 2016Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam,  Art, and Jess; and nine grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at


Encouraging Church Health and Renewal

You may have heard already, but Sam’s appointment as Church Health Strategist is such a blessing so I wanted to make sure everyone knows about this resource. He offers great tools for churches in many situations. ~Cailey

The CBWC is excited and grateful to announce that Sam Breakey has been appointed as our Church Health Strategist.  Sam will support churches by providing a comprehensive process of consultation, renewal and ministry review tailored to individual church congregations.

Sam BreakeySam’s appointment is part of the CBWC’s long-standing commitment to encouraging church renewal.  Since 1874, when the first congregation of what is now the CBWC opened its doors in Winnipeg, we have been resourcing churches in their health and mission through providing resources and church planting.  Regional Ministers in recent decades have worked directly with churches to encourage evangelism, youth ministry, children and family ministry and to provide models of  best practices in governance, finance, pastoral services and conflict resolution.   With our new Church Health Strategist, we can do more to resource local churches going through a transition or visioning process.

Adding Sam to our ministry team means that resources available to churches can now be tailored to the knowledge, understanding and needs of each local congregation that avails themselves of this new resource.

For churches that want to maximize their health, Sam will facilitate a Church Health Engagement Process, either in person or by designating a two-person team of CBWC leaders and pastors who are trained in church health.  The three-part process will involve the use of:

  • phone interviews and adaptable assessment tools will be used to create a preliminary report
  • an onsite weekend visit by a church health team to discuss the church’s history, strengths, opportunities and limitations with the congregation
  • development of a strategy as a measuring stick for moving forward

The expected outcomes of the Church Health Engagement Process include:

  • an increased level of transparency and trust within the congregation
  • a new willingness to respond to opportunities
  • a recommitment to evangelism and discipleship
  • a better understanding of the assets and needs of the church community.I

In some cases, further followup from the Regional Minister or from Sam and the facilitation team may be desired.

Because of the CBWC’s tight budget, the cost of the Church Health Engagement Process must be borne currently by participating congregations.

Sam is well known to CBWC churches.  Over the past 20 years, he has developed considerable experience in the area of church health as a Lead Pastor, as a former Alberta Regional Minister and as the Executive Director of Mustard Seed, Edmonton. Previously he served with Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec and the Presbyterian Church in Canada. He oversaw the two year intentional transition of one of the largest Baptist congregations in western Canada, as Lead Pastor.

He is passionate about helping people and organizations examine their health and their context, while empowering them to move towards a robust future, fully dependent upon Jesus Christ.

Sam and his wife Nancy were married in 1981.  Nancy teaches instrumental music at Hardisty School in Edmonton. They have three married children and three grandchildren. When Sam has free time, he focuses on family life, building furniture, and renovating their home and cabin.  Frequently he can be found helping his neighbours doing the same.

Sam will be based in the CBWC’s Edmonton office but available to all CBWC congregations across Western Canada.  Contact Sam at or contact your Regional Minister to find out more about the Church Health Engagement Process.

This article was originally published in CBWC’s Making Connections enewsletter. Subscribe to Making Connections here.

Missional Leadership

JD Woodward shares about missional leadership in this hour-long presentation.

If what Francis Chan said is true, that the Church is merely trying to “recruit” leaders rather than “develop” them, we need to empower our people to understand their gifts and to use them for the building up of the Body and the world.