Is Our Plan Working?

By Shannon Youell

Dallas Willard said that “every church should be able to answer two questions: First, what is our plan for making disciples? Second, does our plan work?”

Is what we are currently doing shaping disciples who live out the gospel in such way that others are drawn to them and are discipled by them? When I say “gospel” I am referring to everything Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God present on earth, and what that looks like in our everyday living…and that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life into it.

Our last post left us thinking about these two questions. Willard’s second question, “does our plan work?” assumes we understand what “working” implies. Our ingrained understanding is that in teaching people to read their Bible, pray, tithe, engage in good works both in the church community and the greater community around them, that we are making disciples. I believe the church has mostly done a very good job of doing these things. But have we made disciples?

In last week’s blog, I observed that the good and faithful folk at my home church were reluctant to engage in the 77 Days of Prayer because they felt they didn’t know how to pray, how to engage with the scriptures, and were uncomfortable being with folk they didn’t choose themselves to meet with! So have we made disciples as Jesus made disciples? We certainly have made good and faithful church folk.


So is our plan working? Well, yes, if the above is what we planned to make – good and faithful service attendees. Perhaps now is exactly the time, then, to revisit our plans. Not because we shouldn’t be pastoring, leading, teaching, guiding people to discover life in Christ and the tangible ways it shapes how we choose to live our lives, but because Jesus encouraged this and then pushed us out a little further (or, depending on your particular context, a lot further).

From what I read in the Gospels, Jesus’ method of making disciples was less about corralling the sheep in a safe place, and more like inviting them out of the boat without floaties. He sent them into the leper colonies without vaccines; He sent them into the world purse-less and with no outward protection to face wolves disguised as sheep.

Jesus’ method of making disciples was life on life: take a risk, get out of your comfort zone, practice/make mistakes/learn something more/go try again until that demon listens, that mountain is thrown into the sea, that challenge is met and the Kingdom of God reveals itself right in front of our sometimes-unexpectant eyes!

When Jesus gave His disciples some of His final words while on this earth, He commanded them to make disciples devoted to and covenanted with God, and to teach those disciples to listen to and live by everything He had been teaching to the current batch of disciples. Those first disciples, upon doing that, likely told their disciples to do the same when they were ready to be sent out, since they would have been doing and saying what Jesus instructed them to do. And so on. Disciples make disciples who can make disciples.

This was what Jesus Himself called His followers to do. He commanded us to make disciples and stated He would build His church. In our current evangelical model, we usually build the church and bring those we’d like to be disciples to someone else to disciple.

So is our plan working?


Something Happened Along the Way

By Shannon Youell

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Joyce and Betty–Church Planters: the ongoing story

Since originally posting the amazing stories of Joyce Oxnard and Betty Milne Anderson, we had the joy of hearing from Betty with an update of what they’ve been up to since our blog story ended. We’re honoured to hear these stories and see the incredible faithfulness and humble generosity of these two leaders–loving the Lord with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength by serving and witnessing to the people of Canada. Enjoy this continuation of the story straight from Betty’s keyboard! ~Cailey

When we first became involved with the BUWC (CBWC) the term “Church planting” was new to us and I think to many churches in the denomination.  So many changes and such exciting ones.


While it’s true that Argyle Road Baptist Church was our last assignment in the sense of church planting or Interim ministry, we weren’t done yet! While we were in Regina we were called to serve in Yorkton, SK.  They had been without a pastor for considerable time after the retirement of Rev. Daykin who had ministered there for 24 years. I think there was difficulty finding someone who would follow such a long time of ministry because historically, pastors stayed for a short time following a lengthy ministry.  When we were called, a member of the Search Committee stated that we were the last resort!  We served in Yorkton for five years and felt that the Lord blessed us and the church during that time. After that we spent the next year in Inuvik after which Joyce officially retired.

I wasn’t quite ready for retirement and in 1998 I was called to First Baptist Church in Saskatoon as Part Time Associate Pastor. Blake Anderson was the Senior Pastor who retired early to care for his wife who was dying of cancer.  Joyce assisted me with providing Pastoral care for a few months until our new Senior Pastor, Paul Matheson, arrived in 2000. Official retirement for me was in August, 2003.

A new phase of ministry and service opened up for me when Blake and I were married the next year and we have been involved in the Lord’s work in various ways ever since.

Unfortunately Joyce has been struggling with Alzhiemer’s Disease for the last few years and we have been her Caregivers. Frequently she says, “We have been so blessed. God has provided everything we need.” A true statement of faith even in the midst of memory loss and confusion and one which I agree with completely.

Our lives certainly don’t end at retirement. Even in her confusion and uncertainty with Alzheimers, Joyce frequently says, “I wish there was some way we could still serve the Lord. Do you think the three of us could start a church somewhere?”

I remind her that praying may be what the Lord wants us to do just now. And that might be the most important.




Learning from The Canopy

Everyone likes to read the “success” stories. Successful ministry initiatives, successful church plants, successful events. As a culture we celebrate our “successes” and try to forget our “failures,” or to phrase it in a way more palatable to us, those initiatives that “didn’t meet our expected outcomes.” Notwithstanding that our metric of “success” or “failure” is subjective, we often can miss what we learn from the things that didn’t go the way we hoped.

The irony is that most things that we determine are a success grew out of the collective experience of things that didn’t quite go the way we planned. We have much wisdom to glean from those experiences and today we will look at one such story.

Pastor Eric Brooks is currently a pastor at Strathcona Baptist Church in Edmonton. He and I sat down together for coffee and donuts a while back and among other things talked about his experience as a church planter. He shared with me that though the plant closed after seven years, he came to realize one very important element was missing. ~Shannon Youell



The Canopy Christian Community was an NAB church plant in south Edmonton. We were located on Gateway Boulevard, in the basement of CKER radio (in a space that at one time had been The City Media Club, but had sat vacant for several years). We started in 2001, and closed the doors in 2008.

When we planted the Canopy, I believe we had a very compelling and well articulated vision. In fact, not only did our team feel that way, we had feedback to that effect from several quarters. We were also convinced that if we communicated a compelling vision in a compelling way, people would join us. But three things were missing:

1. What we realized later was that something significant was missing: an effective strategy for facilitating community. While we were calling people to something meaningful, we failed to help them build good relationships with one another. I think in the end we realized that vision will bring people, but community will keep them around.

2. We intentionally established our meeting place outside of a residential community (we had a great meeting space in an industrial area), and in retrospect, it could have been beneficial to have intentionally been in a residential community.

3. We had good financial support: we were being supported by 5 churches. We also had good formal support in the form of church planting training, a coach, etc. What was missing was a sense of personal connection to another church: prayer support, personal connection and mentoring for our planting team… while we received invaluable financial support, that was the extent of the connection that we had.

As I write these three things, the common thread of missing significant community connections seems obvious. The irony that we were “The Canopy Christian Community” is pretty thick.


There is much for us all the consider in Eric’s reflection on his time with The Canopy. He highlights the crucial aspect of building rich relational equity–within our worship and discipling community, within the surrounding community and with other partners, supporters and mentors.

The Canopy had all the criteria to be a successful plant based on a particular metric and model: a compelling vision, a great space to gather, excellent coaching, training, financial and prayer support. And yet, the community felt a sense of disconnect from one another, from their surrounding neighborhood and even from those who were enthusiastic supporters of the ministry they envisioned.

What can we learn about our own context from Eric’s story? Are there ways we might re-imagine the shaping of what a successful plant requires? What about in our existing congregations? Is our relational equity formed solely around our weekly gathering in the building we meet in? Or is there a richness of relational discipleship happening outside of those times? What about in the area in which our meeting place is located? And the places where the congregants spend their everyday time? Are we intentionally building relational equity in our communities beyond ourselves in a manner where trust is built with those who do not yet know Christ as their Lord and Saviour?

These are some of the pieces that come to my mind as I consider Eric’s message. Let us know what comes to your mind too! In this way we can build relationship here–listening and hearing from one another, sharing our places where we experience success and the wisdom we’ve gained where we experience failures–both in our initiatives and in our vision of flourishing and renewal in our existing congregations. ~ Shannon


Joyce Oxnard and Betty Milne Anderson – Church planters

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

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


Hearing the Call

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Rethinking Success

With Guest Blogger, Alberta Regional Minister Dennis Stone

There are a multitude of voices and assumptions, both historical and cultural, on what constitutes a successful church plant. In today’s blog, we hear from Alberta Regional Minister Dennis Stone and his gained wisdom in the metrics we use to determine a “successful” new community or church plant. ~Shannon

Everyone is behind Church Planting, but as the Alberta Regional Minister I’d like to put a twist on our perception of it. Usually we think of Church Planting as an effort to have a ministry group form, develop finance and worship structures, support a pastor, gain a church building and become fully independent. Those elements are often how successful church planting is perceived.

CBWC Gathering 2017.5.25-158.jpg


In Alberta at the present time we are working with several worshipping congregations that are far from being independent as listed above. These are, however, vibrant congregations hungry for the Word of God, discipling and evangelizing … all on a level that would be outstanding for any of our established churches. In Alberta at the present time we have groups meeting for worship intentionally seeking association with the CBWC (not just meeting in CBWC buildings) in the following languages: Birundi, Karen, KaChin, and Haitian/Creole (Bonnie Doon-Edm). These situations do not include already affiliated groups that serve immigrant communities such a Premiere Eglise d’Expression Francaise de Calgary (PEEEFC) a Haitian group, or Greenhills Christian Fellowship that effectively ministers to those from the Philippines, nor does it include the efforts of FBC Calgary in providing ministry for Spanish and Ethiopian ministries or Westview Baptist in providing ministry for Japanese, Arabic and Deaf (sign language) ministries.

In the new year it looks like we may have another Spanish congregation to work with in Edmonton. Our Calgary Korean church is an exception–independent and healthy, effectively ministering for decades in the Korean language.

These congregations almost always work on a shoestring budget while renting facilities. They usually have pastors who serve out of the goodness of their heart with little financial return for their efforts. Few of these worshipping congregations will ever be fully independent or successful church plants in the traditional sense, but the CBWC cannot stop helping these ministries that do evangelism, immigrant integration, worship in a known language, and intentional mission work within our Canadian borders.

Shannon’s note: Consider how you might join where God is working in some of our new ethnic specific churches as they struggle financially. CBWC and Church Planting are committed to these groups as they do the good work of sharing faith and worship as they gather and as they scatter. Contact us to become a Venture Partner to encourage our brothers and sisters who need the body of Christ so they do not become discouraged in their labour. The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 8, commends the Macedonian church, who even in the midst of their own financial lack, pleaded to share with other saints who were also doing the work of the kingdom of God. And along with Paul, I praise God that we have and can have the privilege of seeing generosity extended among our family of churches.


Evangelical Emmanuel Fellowship Church

By Shannon Youell

Imagine a church that is an enthusiastic worshipping community, a family dependent on prayer, and a “home away from home” for those new to a city and culture. Evangelical Emmanuel Fellowship Church is all of this and more. Pastor Elie Pierre and the male and female leaders who are part of his team are pursuing spiritual renewal in Edmonton’s Haitian community.

Evangelical Emmanuel.jpg

“It takes a village to raise a child.”
This African (Igbo & Yoruba) proverb, which exists in varying forms captures the shared responsibility of everyone in a community, both immediate and extended, to nurture and develop young ones and comes from the African worldview that “children are a blessing from God for the whole community.”

In the same way, it takes a village to support, plant and grow churches. There are many ways a new church needs support and the joy of sharing with these new works makes me think of the apostle Paul’s statement about his joy being complete when those he discipled, mentored, and supported continued the work of the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

A few years ago CBWC was introduced to a lovely group of Haitian believers by our Alberta Regional Minister, Dennis Stone. They had been gathering as a church for a time and desired to be part of a larger family of churches. Their hearts for gathering together and for the people in their neighbourhood are evident and contagious. One of our first tasks in supporting them was in their provincial registration as they are mostly French speaking. Dennis engaged a member of Bonnie Doon Baptist Church in Edmonton to help with translation.

Pastor Elie.jpg

Pastor Elie

A while later, I had the wonderful honour to meet with them and then we introduced them to our wider Edmonton family at a Celebration Dinner.

They felt so very welcome by all. Pastor Elie attended Banff Pastors’ and Spouses’ Conference that year.

Though I was concerned about the language barrier and how he and his wife, Clertude, would be able to engage, on the very first night, Colin Godwin from Carey Theological College happened to be seated with them and engaged them in French!

As we worked towards affiliation, this group continued to move out into the neighbourhood from their rented facility. Early this past spring, they were delivered the news that their rent would be increased to an amount that was out of reach for them. Staff at the Alberta Regional Office began to seek the possibility of sharing space in one of our other Edmonton congregations.

The Circle of Church Life
Around this same time, one of our well established faithful congregations were considering the possibility of closing the church, as their congregation was aging. Bonnie Doon Baptist Church was a plant out of Strathcona Baptist Church in Edmonton in 1913. Sam Breakey reports that the church had a long history of investing in next generation leadership. Many fine CBWC pastors and leaders came from that ethos. Their forward-thinking nature led naturally to Dennis Stone’s encouragement to entrust the building to CBWC so that another congregation could come to life in that community.

A high percentage of French speaking people reside in Bonnie Doon around Faculté St. Jean (University of Alberta) and a newly built French elementary/high school. Thus began the discussion that perhaps God was leading our new Haitian church plant out of their soon-to-be unaffordable space into a new ministry context in a more affordable and strategic location.

Dennis and Sam facilitated meetings between the two groups and they both had growing excitement at the possibilities of new life flourishing in the beloved building and neighbourhood. With the help of our head office and some folk in other Edmonton CBWC churches who provided on the ground assessments and advice on both the building itself and the community, we began to move towards this great opportunity. There was much work to do in assisting with some necessary building upgrades, official motions, and paperwork updating; many hands were involved!

In early June Evangelical Emmanuel Fellowship Church held their first service in the Bonnie Doon facilities. With representation from Bonnie Doon Baptist, they celebrated in worship and thanksgiving for how God made provision in ways beyond anything they could have imagined for both congregations. Much joy was shared and I wonder, as tears were present, if some felt their joy had been made complete.

Written with assistance from Sam Breakey (see, it really does take a village!)


Opening Space for the Proclamation of the Gospel

By Shannon Youell

“Every day in our neighborhoods, amid strife, broken relationships, and tragedy, whether we are Christians or not, we need the gospel. Christians must play host to spaces where the gospel can be proclaimed. As we gather around tables and the various meeting places of our lives, if we will be patient and tend to Christ’s presence among us, the moments will present themselves for the gospel to be proclaimed contextually, humbly out of our own testimony. And in these moments Christ will be present, transformation will come, and onlookers will catch a glimpse of the kingdom. This is faithful presence” (David Fitch; Faithful Presence: Kindle Location 1568).

Many of our CBWC pastors, spouses, staff and friends will gather for our annual Banff Conference, where David Fitch will be sharing with us regarding being Faithfully Present as a discipline in all the circles of our lives.

Today, I want to write a bit about his chapter titled The Discipline of Proclaiming the Gospel, from which the above quote is found.

I’ve written on this blog before about our sleepy approach to proclamation, where historians recount that when the church becomes comfortable in society, we tend to leave proclamation to a few. Fitch addresses this as well by placing it back into our thinking that we all need to hear and proclaim the gospel daily as a discipline of Christ’s daily presence with us.


I have often said that as believers we are to be “gospeling” one another continuously. This may seem confusing if our understanding of the gospel is reduced to a one-time conversion experience. Gospeling is the discipline of bringing the presence of Jesus and His good news of God’s Kingdom into our daily and present realities where we wrestle with relationship issues, justice issues, our own brokenness that affects how we react/respond to others and how others react/respond to us. In any and all of these places we daily find ourselves in, are we proclaiming the Jesus Way to one another, to encourage, to spur, to clear our clouded vision?

Proclaiming the gospel is always pointing people to God’s shalom, which hopefully is what we primarily do in pastoral counseling as Joell wrote about previously. To Jesus being in the midst of our hopelessness, shame, guilt, confusion, pain and brokenness; of allowing Jesus to shape us to his gospel rather than to our own experiences and opinions. It can be as simple as saying to a fellow believer who is wrestling with offense against another and just wants to cut them out of their life, “How did Jesus respond to offense? To power struggles? To those who look, think, believe and act differently than I do?” Reminding and re-focusing one another to the reality that the story of God and humans is active and transforming makes room for the Spirit to do the shaping and re-shaping.

But, as Fitch asserts, we must also proclaim the gospel in the other circles of our lives as well: to those we encounter along our way wherever we live, work, play and pray. When I read the gospel stories of Jesus’ encounter with those who are suffering the effects of living in our broken fallen world (which is all of us), I see Him bring the gospel message in many different ways. He contextualizes it, finding an entry point that immediately grabs the heart of the hearer.

To the woman caught in adultery He extends grace and mercy rather than condemnation, leaving room for her to step into being reconciled to community through abandoning the way of living that brought her there and inviting her to experience Christ’s reality of restoration. To the sick, the crippled, the leper, He extends both the caring of physical healing and of being able to re-enter community relationships. To the one struggling with guilt, He offers forgiveness. To the one wrestling with broken relationships, He offers His company, His presence to demonstrate that God is already at work to restore those relationships. At this place we decide whether to submit or to reject the invitation.

“Proclamation is spoken from a place of weakness and humility. It tells the gospel from a place of having witnessed it, seen it, been humbled by it. It is unsettling. It calls for conversion (a response) every time…Proclamation creates the conditions for either submission or rejection. Proclamation cannot be argued or debated, only accepted or rejected…will you give up control, submit to Jesus as Lord, and participate in this world?” (ibid Loc 1482)

“It seems so foreign to proclaim the gospel to others around (us). As we sit around a table and share our lives (our stories) with one another, expose our sufferings and joys (our rants and our hopes!), a moment comes that begs for the proclaiming of the gospel into our lives. And so we must wait and listen, and when the time is right, we might even ask humbly, ‘may I say something?’ And then, as with the first disciples, the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth (John 16:13).”



The Lord’s Table: A Sacrament of Missional Reorientation

By Cailey Morgan

In just a few weeks, many of us will gather in Banff for CBWC’s Pastors, Chaplains and Spouses Conference. Every year this event is a fruitful retreat and celebration of God’s work in us together, but the Church Planting Team is especially thrilled this year to be hosting David Fitch as our keynote speaker. He will be sharing about several practices God’s people have been called to engage in as we seek to live in the way of Jesus.

Between now and then, we will post some of our comments regarding Fitch’s reasoning and approach to these practices in order to prime our minds and hearts for what David will bring to Banff in November.

In his book Faithful Presence, Fitch uses the framework of three circles to explain how our identity as God’s people is to be lived not only within the core church community (close circle), but in our homes and neighbourhoods (dotted circles) and in the public sphere, especially among the marginalized (half circle). Today, I’m going to share a few Faithful Presence quotes and thoughts about communion in those circles.


The Lord’s Table has become rote in some of our congregations, and forgotten in others. However, this sacrament is central to Fitch’s idea of what shared Christian life should look like–and for good reason. As Paul reminds us, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

A Kingdom Act

The close circle represents the first space of the Lord’s Table…there is the closest of fellowship and unity with one another. No one can miss this closeness around the table on the night when Jesus was betrayed. Here, at the celebration of the Passover, Jesus is seated as the host.

Communion is a Kingdom of God act–it tells us the Kingdom of God is near. It reorients us to God’s ways as we have all been twisted up and spun around to focus on things that don’t really matter.

When we sit around this table and tend to his presence…each of us must come to grips again with the reality that Christ is present at the table in a real, sacramental way. We must tend to his special presence because his presence always brings the reordering of our lives together into his kingdom.

Communion reminds us that we are God’s subjects and His kids–our identity is secure in His right-side-right Kingdom. Therefore, as we begin to live out our calling on this earth as ministers of reconciliation, we can do so with submission to each other and humility to all, following the example of our King who humbled Himself by coming to earth and becoming submissive to even death on a cross (Philippians 2).

There is no kingdom without subjects….our submission to Jesus spreads out into mutual submission to one another, and a new social order is birthed out of this, which is nothing less than his kingdom.

We don’t need to stand up for our rights, or fret over our reputations. We are His and can submit to His ways knowing they are good. What an intimate and empowering reminder we are invited into at the Lord’s Table!

A Table of Welcome

This invitation to become children and co-workers with Christ doesn’t end with us around the table of the faithful.

The Lord’s Table happens every time we share a meal together with people and tend to the presence of Christ among us. Granted the formal Lord’s Table only happens at the close table. But that table extends from there…

If we can recognize his presence at work around the table, we will be able to recognize his work in the rest of our lives as well. If we can be trained into its logic of forgiveness, reconciliation, and renewal on Sunday, we can recognize that same logic of his presence in the world…Like Jesus, we go, not as hosts inviting people to our table, but as guests, submitting ourselves to the hospitality of others…we give up control, risking humiliation and even scandal…The question is not whether Jesus will be present, but will he be recognized?

I have to admit that most of the time I don’t recognize Christ’s presence around me, but I long for the day where His Kingdom logic is so ingrained that I can recognize His presence at work and maybe even be an arrow drawing others’ attention towards His goodness and grace. And I believe fostering a robust understanding and practice of the Lord’s Table is the next step in this growth process for me.

Some questions to ponder:

  • How does your congregation practice the Lord’s Table? How could practicalities like frequency and atmosphere deepen your understanding of this invitation into Christ’s presence and mission?
  • Do you see yourself as a host of Christ’s presence? How? What fruit has that reality borne in the life of your faith community or neighbourhood?
  • Are you willing to undergo regular reorientation of your identity and purpose?
  • Where are some tables in your community where Jesus is present but not yet recognized? How could humility and submission on your part bring light and hope around those tables?

I look forward to hearing your responses at #CBWCbanff2017!

All quotes from David E. Fitch, Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission (InterVarsity Press): Kindle Edition.


Gone Fishing

By Shannon Youell

I like my space.

My comfortable space. The place where I feel sure that everything is as it should be and where it should be. It’s safe. It’s predictable. I don’t have to do contortions to fit into it. I know what to wear and how to act; I know the best place to sit and that the food in the fridge is something I like.

My space is just…there. It doesn’t do much; not really. But I easily fall into it when I’m tired or challenged; bored or unimaginative; scared or unsure. It’s black and white familiarity without the uncertainties of those grey areas.

Problem is, God’s good world isn’t primarily black or white or even grey. God’s good world is full of colour, wonder, adventure and challenges. Yes, it’s also a fallen place, with a despiser of all that is good, true, pure and lovely; where there are traps and snares and enticements. But when life is spent avoiding anything that might disturb us, it is at the expense of the colour, wonders and adventure. I find in those moments that I have also avoided joining God in the goodness of His redemptive, restorative, reconciliatory work. And I miss the joy and beauty of witnessing God’s good gospel alive and at work. These, in retrospect are my deepest moments of grief. When I recognize that my fear of stepping out of my comfort zone also caused me to avoid stepping into what God was doing around me.

Out of the Zone
So I made a decision some time ago not to be haphazard or frivolous, but to be prayerful and attentive. And when fear wells up from some long-rooted source, to examine the benefits of plunging instead of being sidelined. So choosing not to be sidelined yet again by fear and past experiences, I went fishing.

A few weeks ago, staff gathered at Gull Lake in Alberta for meetings, prayers and reflections.

During a few hours off for recreation, I was invited to go fishing. Now I’m not a fishing person. Never really held much interest for me. And even more so, I am not a boat person—at least not when that boat is floating in deep water, and especially when it is smaller than a BC Ferry. So initially I gave all my pat reasons for not going, including the two goliaths: one, that the boat is quite small and two, Dennis Stone folds it up flat like a surfboard when he’s transporting it. It has bendable seams and a super soaker to suck up the water that leaks into those seams! But, sensing God was doing something here with me I plunged ahead.


Dennis’ boat FOLDED UP ON A TRUCK!

I swallowed my fear and allowed God’s good creation to woo me. And there I saw God at work all around us. And I reeled in a wall-eyed pike. And I held it. And I kissed it…well I posed that I kissed it. It was amazing and fun and I wasn’t afraid or nervous because I was too in awe of how God had a hold on all my fears and excuses, while He unfolded His wonders around us.


My new friend Pike.

So what has all this to do with church planting and being missionaries in our neighbourhoods?

Staying in our comfort zones causes us to miss out on what God is already doing. We have all sorts of excuses for why something that doesn’t look like it always has won’t work, couldn’t work and surely isn’t what God might have in mind.

Yet, in our purpose as God’s missionaries in the places we live, work, play, and pray in, we will be faced over and over again with our own uncomfortableness. Because stepping into our uncomfortableness demonstrates our willingness to live among and amidst the brokenness and bruising of our shared human experiences. We begin to see the big scary things as lovely things that God has waiting for us to unwrap and discover, hold and kiss.

I believe our biggest challenge to sharing the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, of seeing God’s redemptive work all around us is our retreat to our comfort zones. The zone may look different for each us and for each of our collective selves gathered on any given Sunday, but those comfort zones can be barriers that make our faith sure of what we’ve already determined and certain of what we see rather than a faith where we are sure of what we hope for (the reality of God’s in-breaking Kingdom on earth), and a certainty in what we do not yet see.

We are praying this year for breaking out of our comfort zones, of looking at God’s goodness in the world and joining there. Will you pray that too? Can we step out and discover, that indeed we are the missionaries, the harvesters, the fishers, in our everyday spaces and places and there is nothing more wondrous and beautiful and exhilarating than seeing God transform hearts—ours included.