Covid Opportunities

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January 26th 2021 CBWC Supported Webinar

By: Shannon Youell

Hello 2021!  We have entered our eleventh month of living in a Covid-19 world.  Eleven months ago, we as church leaders and congregations were scrambling to figure out how we continue to be missionally faithful presences in our neighbourhoods, encouraging and discipling our churches.  As we’ve tackled the challenges that have slammed into us, I am hearing stories of churches both adapting to the challenges and struggling with the challenges and changes.  Many are hanging on waiting for when things can go back to in person meeting so the church can carry on their practices of worship, prayer, discipleship and joining God in his mission.  Others are catalyzing the opportunities within Covid to rethink, reimagine and reorient their ecclesiology and asking good, hard and revealing questions. 

Many have become aware of things Covid is exposing in our lives, our relationships, our work and our worship and how it is accelerating what was already happening. Often what we see is not surprising, we knew it was lurking around us all along and we managed to keep it from breaking the surface, but there are also things exposed that surprised us as well.  The challenge, I believe, is to be open to the Spirit of God to work in the things exposed as opportunities rather than curses that lead us to discern how we are church both amid Covid and beyond.  

One such church is New Life Church in Duncan, BC.  I spoke with Pastor Ken Nettleton a few months ago about the shift this congregation is making in reidentifying themselves as a people on mission with God in their local neighbourhoods and beyond.  As Covid descended last March, the strategy they adopted is a three-fold model of:  House Church, Village Church, Cathedral Church.  Each is dependent on the others with the shared purpose to “train and equip Jesus’ followers in the mission they are on”.  This, of course, sounds like the mission statement of most churches.  But the delivery is different.  (for a brief overview of how each element connects to the whole click HERE  

Full disclosure:  New Life had already been working to reshape themselves, especially in the area of small groups.  Their experience with small groups is likely your experience – add-ons to Sunday Services viewed by many congregants as optional and consumeristic.  Ken and his leaders also conceded that while attendance was increasing and baptisms were happening, “measuring church health by attendance, buildings and cash” is the wrong metric.  Rather, church health is measured by engaging relationally with each other and asking, “important questions of ‘how are you following Jesus this week inwardly and outwardly – how is that going?’ and being really intentional about that.”  Shifting the metric meant also acknowledging that intentional committed discipleship happens primarily between Sundays, not on Sundays.  “We needed to structure Sundays to resource our House Churches instead of expecting committed Sunday attendance but optional small group attendance.  We wanted our people to eventually see their small group (House Church) as their most important community gathering.”      

So, New Life focused on small groups, renaming them House Churches, and is working on shifting them in people’s lives from optional ‘add-ons’ to the most important gathering of the week.  And thanks to Covid these House Churches have become right now the only community – where a small group of Jesus followers gather and are pastored by the House Church leader – a volunteer identified as someone called and willing to be equipped by the pastors to shepherd 8-15 people.  These House Churches begin with the youth group who are organized and led in such clusters and carry on into adult ages.   

Ed Stetzer, planter, missiologist and host of the New Church Podcast describes the differences in Episode 63.  He says that home groups are ministries of the church whereas house churches are churches:  they baptize and administer the Lord’s supper; they teach and preach for the purpose of deep, intentional, accountable disciple making; they have a mission.  Ken agrees, and again points out that Covid has created exactly this opportunity to reorganize, learn and grow.    

Ken also notes that house churches must look ‘outside’ themselves.  “They have to go out into this valley as 35 churches that are New Life, each having a specific mission in this valley – and the mission isn’t the same.  We should be having an impact all over this valley, working with non-churched people who are also committed to addressing issues of justice and mercy, and bringing Jesus with us as we do.”  

Again, it’ is important to point out that New Life had already committed to shift in this direction prior to Covid, and see this pandemic as an opportunity to accelerate what God was already up to in our Canadian culture.  “As I prayed about things, God impressed upon me that many of us have been asking Him to renew and revive His Church for a long time, and that we shouldn’t be surprised that the answer to our prayer would look like this.  “What were you expecting my refining fire to look like?” were words that burned into my heart, and I had to admit that God’s activity almost always brings external pressure and change.”   

 As 2021 unfolds and we are all hopeful that we will begin to see restrictions relax, New Life is bringing imagination and good questions as to how best to gather in the ‘Cathedral’.  As Ken explains, not all things work as well in House Church in a similar way that not all things work well in Cathedral.  That is why all three aspects of House Church, Village Church, and Cathedral are integral and necessary.  The strategy is to continue using the opportunities Covid has gifted us with as we wrestle with asking good questions and reimagining, through prayer and discernment, how God is shaping his church for the future.    

What opportunities are you seeing in your church community?  In what ways has the Spirit been encouraging you to reimagine being church?  What good questions are you asking yourself?  

Come join CBWC January 26th for a CBWC supported event for Pastors and their teams in an interactive webinar with Ken Nettleton, Cam Roxburgh and Tim Dickau and myself.  We will hear stories both ours and yours and have time to ask good questions together.     

 Details and Registration HERE 

Update on Emmanuel Iranian

By Shannon Youell

At Assembly in May, we welcomed into membership Emmanuel Iranian Church, a church plant in North Vancouver, and as of May 4th, a second plant in Coquitlam.

On June 23rd, EIC held a service of celebration in which BCY Regional Minister Larry Schram and his wife, and myself and Cailey as the church planting team welcomed the congregation into our CBWC family of churches, and what a celebration it was and is!

The warm and embracing welcome we received as guests was incredible and we met so many lovely people that we now consider family. It was like a family reunion where we were meeting relatives from afar for the first time, and they us. Hugs and cheek kisses were abundant as the joy of the Lord active and living in the community poured out upon us.

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As we participated in vibrant and alive worship singing (in Farsi), and in prayer for the congregation and the pastor, we were aware of the presence of the Spirit and to the church’s obedience and response to both Spirit and Word. This is a community who are fully alive in Christ and hopeful in their challenges because Christ is with them.

Larry and I both spoke, with Pastor Arash interpreting.  I warmly welcomed the community to the CBWC fellowship of churches, speaking of our shared labouring in the Gospel and commending the church as they continue in our deep and rich Baptist heritage of people who join God at his work of redemption, reconciliation and restoration of God with humans, humans with one another and with all creation itself.

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Larry spoke from Colossians 1:9-14, reminding the congregation “…since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” He then encouraged and commissioned the church to the ministry of the gospel, just as they are doing and an extended time of prayer for EIC and Pastor Arash concluded the service…..or so we thought!

As the last amen was spoken, something beautiful unfolded as one by one, twelve people stepped out of their chairs and came up to the front and declared they wanted to submit to Jesus as Savior and Lord. It was incredible!  I was standing beside Elder Kam, who was taking down names for discipleship follow-up. I asked him if this happened often. “Every week,” he responded! He looked back on the last month and counted more than 25 commitments! Twenty-five new followers of Jesus, in one month. God is present and working in this place.

Talking with people after the service, we heard stories of those who felt as though God himself had plucked them up and placed them at EIC and the obvious response was following Jesus, many for the first time. We also heard stories of personal challenges of life as new Canadians and of prayers for those who are still back home in Iran. 

And the celebration continued from there. Then there was cake! And food and an exhibition by the communities artisans. More hugs, stories, photos, kisses and joy to be a part of God’s family.

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“…thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

What a celebration. What a welcome. What an aroma!

Expressions: Blended Ecology

By Shannon Youell

“In a smaller church we sometimes look at our barriers rather than our assets.” Jill Beck, Co-Pastor, Wildwood United Methodist Church

During our Assembly workshop “Staying is the new going,”we began our conversation around the question, “What barriers do we have that hinder us from participating in local mission right where we are?”

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Jill and Michael Beck remind us that only looking at and identifying our barriers, and in particular, the barriers of being small churches or of an aging declining congregation, can negate looking at what assets we already have to overcome those barriers.

Blended Ecology is the path this congregation took that both takes care of the saints who have long and faithfully laboured and invested into the church and also sends them out right where their own lives take them.

Pastor Michael says it this way, “Our church is no longer defined by just the ‘root stock’ or just the ‘tree’ but now people in our community experience us in all these different ways – their church in the tattoo parlour, the park, the walking club.”

One of their parishioners who has gone into the neighbourhood observes “Our church is growing and a lot of the growth is coming from people accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.”

Praise God! So many new expressions are attractional to already believers and the big disappointments for many mega church plants is when they realize that though they appear successful in all the usual ways, their growth is between 96 and 98 percent transfer growth – already believers!.

Here we have a small, aging, declining community being intentional about continuing the work that God put on them in the early days and stepping outside their known understandings of traditional church and their comfort zones to engage in the community in a way that is bringing growth and flourishing to all.

Pastor Jeff concludes that in all aspects there is a bountiful and fruitful exchange that’s life giving and he credits it to “an inherited mixed economy (when) you release the mission force that’s sitting in your pews every Sunday.”

Some of our CBWC churches are leaning into blended ecology mission. Northmount Baptist Church realized their barriers and their assets and determined that to continue the legacy of the faithful who had invested themselves faithfully in the work of the church, they needed to become reacquainted with the neighbourhood in which they found themselves. You can read more of their story here.

At Wildwood, the folk of the church looked at where their own passions were, where they spent time in pursuing those passions and then began to build community in those places. You can read all about them here.

New life brings excitement and rebirth and an ecology shaped around resilience, mission and faithful presence. What might God be saying to you and your congregation? Ask the questions, be quick to listen and slow to disregard or discard out of the box ideas…you could be the next tattoo parlor ministry!

The Gentle Way of Jesus

As we seek to explore the way of Jesus (His way of humility that seems upside-down in our culture of power and pride) we will inevitably have to consider Jesus’ constant invitation into loving one another as a testimony of the Father’s love. Dallas Friesen from our sister denomination CBOQ shares these words about how we as Baptists in Canada can choose the humble way of Jesus as we wrestle together through conflict and diverse perspectives. Thanks, Dallas for your words (originally posted on baptist.ca).


A Gentle Answer

By Dallas Friesen

“Christ, present in the lives of congregational members, leads them corporately to discover and obey his mind and will. Such ‘congregational government’ calls for and expresses the equality and responsibility of believers under the Lordship of Christ.” 

“Why Baptist?”, p. 13 

It has been said that if there are 80 Baptists in one room, there will be 85 opinions. We are infamous for disagreeing with one another on everything from crucial theological points to whether pews should have cushions. We can do this because we have autonomy, meaning that each church is free to make its own decisions on many subjects. While we are all people of Scripture and of conscience, it doesn’t mean we’re all the same. Though we choose to gather around the same table and share the same distinctives, we are free to express the unique flavours of our respective congregations. Sometimes it is like a glorious feast. At other times, a culinary disaster.

Before we berate ourselves too harshly, let’s remember this: even those closest to Jesus had conflict. Ten of his disciples were fairly annoyed when James and John wanted to secure their right to sit and Jesus’ right hand. (Matt. 20:20-24) Paul had strong words for Peter over his choice in dinner guests, (Gal. 2:11-14) and parted ways with Barnabas for a time over a disagreement regarding Mark’s fitness for service. (Acts 15:36-41) And who can forget poor Euodia and Syntyche, forever remembered in Scripture as the women who couldn’t get along? (Phil. 4:2-3) And that’s just the beginning!

Even when we are in the presence of Christ, we, his broken followers, will disagree. Given that, how do we do it well?

Peter Scazzero, in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, looks at how to deal with conflict—not by avoiding it as “false peacemakers,” but by responding as Jesus would respond. “Jesus’ profound, contemplative prayer life with his Father resulted in a contemplative presence with people… This ability to really listen and pay attention to people was at the very heart of his mission. It could not help but move him to compassion. In the same way, out of our contemplative time with God, we, too, are invited to be prayerfully present to people, revealing their beauty to themselves.” (p. 180)

When we are faced with conflict, it is easy to seize passionately on to the idea and forget the person from whom it comes. It is tempting to steamroll over others, hear only the points we want to hear and enjoy the temporary delights of the offended. But righteous indignation isn’t one of the fruits of the Spirit. Gentleness is. We need not compromise on what we believe to be true, but our love for Christ and our brothers and sisters in his kingdom compels us to share our ideas and opinions… gently. Christians are meant to be builders—those upon whom Christ can build his church—not bulldozers.

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Tools, like words, can be used to build or to bulldoze.

When I was in grade 5, attending a Christian school, we were required to memorize Proverbs 15:1—“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I cannot count the number of times in my life that I have returned to that piece of deep wisdom. As you go about your day, I hope you will join with me in this prayer from Scazzero’s book:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. I am aware, Lord, of how often I treat people as Its, as objects, instead of looking at them with the eyes and heart of Christ. Lord, I have unhealthy ways of relating that are deeply imbedded in me. Please change me. Make me a vessel to spread mature, steady, reliable love so that people with whom I come in contact sense your tenderness and kindness. Deliver me from false peacemaking that is driven by fear. Lord Jesus, help me love well like you. Grow me, I pray, into an emotionally mature adult through the Holy Spirit’s power. In Jesus’ name, amen.” (EHS, p. 194) 

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

1 Peter 3:15-16

 

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.

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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 (cmorgan@cbwc.ca).
  • 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.

How Involved Should a Minister Be in the Community?

Pastors and other church leaders have busy lives. How much of that time should be spent in their local community? Thom Rainer from Tennessee offers his opinion on the matter, and some helpful advice on how to expand your relationships in the community for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

Listen to the podcast here:

What about your experiences as leaders? How have you succeeded or failed in making every aspect of your life an example of God’s goodness? What steps will you take to be present in your community? Send us your thoughts to cmorgan@cbwc.ca.

Reconciliation

By Kelly Maurice

Première Église Évangélique d’Expression Française de Calgary has been ministering to the Haitian community of Calgary for several years. Although we would consider ourselves a healthy, growing church, since 2009 there have been two church splits, each time with a group leaving PEEEFC to form a new congregation. Those who remain at PEEFC have been holding on to that hurt and choosing to not connect at all with these other churches.CC Creativity103

However, in 2014 everything changed. Each year for our church anniversary, we invite a guest speaker (usually from out-of-town) and a guest performer preceded by local artists from different ethnic communities. This year, we invited a popular Haitian artist called Ti-Bob de Nazareth. His manager accepted under one condition: that we would invite all members of the Haitian community.

For obvious reasons, that was a hard one.

In the past, PEEEFC never invited the other churches to its events. But God had started to work in our hearts, especially in Dorcasse, Pastor Roger’s wife who was still grieving the splits.  We wrote letters of invitations and were about to send them to the other churches when Dorcasse proposed to go herself with two of PEEFC’s board members to visit those two churches during their service.

The members of those churches were really moved. On the day of the concert with Ti-Bob, the room was packed with members of the Haitian community that were pleased with Dorcasse visiting them. There was deliverance for Dorcasse from that day on: she was delivered from the bitterness in her heart.

After being reprimanded by God for his bitterness and lack of forgiveness toward the other churches, at the end of 2014, Pastor Roger invited the pastors of those two churches to join him in a common service on Sunday January 4, 2015 for all three churches. The event was a success. And at the end of January, we joined together for a 3-day revival conference with a guest speaker and artist.

Though the churches may or may not ever come together, the blessing was the reconciliation which seems to heal individuals on both sides. But also, it is the power of God to do great things through PEEEFC despite the fact that we are small.

Please pray with us that we remain humble and follow God as we learn how to collaborate with these other groups.

Pastor Roger Maurice leads Première Église Évangélique d’Expression Française de Calgary (PEEEFC) a French-speaking, mainly Haitian congregation in Calgary. PEEEFC operated as a CBWC Church Plant for a few years before becoming an affiliate church with the denomination in spring of 2013. 

Bad Church Planting

This article was published in Issue 22 of GO WEST!.

Some church planting strategies are crazy—but they work. Other philosophies, however, are just plain bad, and can suffocate the dreams of the best-intentioned pastor or planter.

Here are two philosophies worth chucking out, according to church planter Steve Pike:

“Planting small churches is not as efficient as growing one large church larger!”
Actually, it is true that one large church can run more efficiently than several small ones. But efficiency is an American value, not a Kingdom value. Discipleship, on the other hand, is a core value in the Kingdom of God, and discipleship is anything but efficient! It is personal, creative, messy and powerful!
“There is one right way to plant churches!”
Not only is this statement not true, it is dangerously divisive. Too many good church planting ideas have been scuttled by this narrow-minded concept. There are many good ways to plant churches, some of which include:   
1. Single church parenting – when a church planting team is sent out by a single church to plant another church in an adjacent neighborhood or community. The daughter church may or may not resemble the parent. This type of planting is typically utilized by churches of 300 or above.
2. Satellite planting – when a church reproduces itself exactly in multiple locations. This often involves a video message by the senior pastor of the sending church. In some cases, the satellites become stand alone churches. In other cases, the satellite locations remain connected to the  central church. This type of planting is typically utilized by churches of 1,000 or more.
3. Multiple church partnering – when several or many churches join forces to help send out a single church planting team to raise up a church within an unreached people group or underchurched community. Any size church can participate in this type of planting, although it works best when one church takes the lead role….

Pike’s list of church planting varieties goes on, and you can read the entire article here. At CBWC Church Planting, we’ve been working hard to provide room for creativity for churches or individuals interested in participating in church planting. Email Tom at tlavigne@cbwc.ca to find out more about Venture, congregational planting or other ways we can help support your church’s outreach efforts.

Do you have experiences of narrow church planting philosophies? What strategies work in your context? Share your thoughts by clicking the comment bubble.