Ethnic Churches are Sent

By Shannon Youell

Most of us love hearing stories of missionaries who have brought the Good News of Jesus as King–the King who brings the salvation of God’s kingdom now breaking into human reality to those who have followed other gods or not known God in any form or shape. The church has done a good and faithful job of bringing this news to most of the world. Stories of new faith and new communities brings us all new life and hope and energy.

When I was teaching in churches and discipleship schools in India, I had hours of “car” time with some of the pastors whose churches and schools I was teaching (Canada, quit complaining about traffic – it is insane in Mumbai!). Many of them asked why the church in Canada was declining and faithfulness to God was becoming a private pursuit when it was faithful Canadian missionaries who brought the gospel to much of India. My quip back was that perhaps their church needed to begin sending us missionaries to reignite our passion to be faithfully present where we are and to share the Gospel with our neighbours.

For years the pray-ers in Canadian churches have been praying for God to revive us, to reignite our passion for God’s mission, and to breathe new life on us. And we are seeing new life coming to us as God sends us the nations.

At Assembly 2019, CBWC welcomed into full membership four new churches: three Filipino and one Iranian church. Almost all our other plants in process are ethnically based – Cantonese, Arabic, Spanish, Karen, Kachin, African. We should take note of this….God is actually sending missionaries to Canada! And they are planting churches here.  

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Welcoming new churches into the family

There is two-fold purpose behind their plants: the first is that first generation new Canadians long to worship God in their ‘heart’ language, just as we do. The second is that when Christ followers come, they recognize there are many from their own lands that have not settled into communities of faith, are not following Christ, not engaged in a faith community and in true missionary fashion, they want to share Jesus with those folk. 

There are many conversations around what this trend means, but I think the pertinent point is that God is doing ‘something’. These communities are exciting us with their stories of folk coming to Jesus, in their devotion to gathering, to intentional missional discipleship, to sharing Jesus boldly and courageously wherever they find themselves. Perhaps they are the ‘wake-up’ call our complacent, contemplatively established churches need, to help re-excite us to the reality that Good News is still Good News for the world. 

The question is how do the second and third generations, who will be English speaking and whose culture will now be predominantly Canadian, stay engaged? How does the existing church begin to be a place where ethnic diversity truly has a place?

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, in his book Future Faith, tells us that when non-Caucasian people go to a church where all the leaders are of one ethnicity, they do not see a place for themselves. Our churches themselves are not ethnically diverse. The existing churches that are growing the most are those that have multi-ethnic staffs of both males and females. The interesting piece of his research is that the other ethnic leaders do not even have to be of the same ethnicity as the person seeking to join a church – they just have to be non-Caucasian!

The other important note I want to comment on is something that a Korean pastor of a Vancouver church said in a church catalyst meeting: multi-cultural is not the same as multi-ethnic: multi-cultural means that there is a diversity of cultures and the expressions of faith and worship of those cultures are reflected in the gathering and scattering times. Our warm welcome of all people assumes they will worship, reflect, pray, and minister like our dominant culture does, which would make us multi-ethnic but not multi-cultural.

This is an important distinction to make as our new-Canadian church plants move to the second and third generations who will be looking for multi-cultural expressions of faith to stay engaged in church life. Canada’s young people are growing up in a diverse world and they too will gravitate towards diverse expressions of faith and community. We should be right beside them opening the pathways.

I would like to say this is a near-future challenge for us and for our new churches, but we are past that. This is our challenge now and it would certainly appear as though God is sending the world to us to help us engage together in a place of all nations gathered together, worshiping and serving our God and our King.

Culture Shift

By Shannon Youell

Last week we posted the great resource from Anna Robbins, Fearless: A guide for relating faith and culture in today’s world. When I downloaded and watched this free resource, I was encouraged in the work Anna has done on helping us understand the complex time we live in.

Much of what she shares reiterates what I spoke about at the BCY Assembly this past July. My topic was Culture Shift and our conditioned understanding of culture, the sub-cultures existing within dominant culture and how we, the church, interact or withdraw from culture or oppose the prevalent culture.

The challenge I was suggesting, for us, is that we often view culture as something outside of the church—something which we must transform. The reality, however, is that culture shift begins first with us and as we are transformed, the dominant culture around us observes something different. My premise is that, we as Christians (the church), are no longer distinguishable from the dominant culture as the early Christians were.

I then posed that the way for the church to find its way back to transformation from the inside out is to re-engage with Jesus as Lord. We must realize there are many “Caesars” we now serve in our dominant culture. When the early Christians declared that Jesus is Lord, they were clearly stating that Caesar, or the dominant values of the day, is not. Cultural commentator, author and pastor Mark Sayers posits that though Christians have tried to influence culture, the dominant culture of our day has actually “colonized” us to look just like anyone else. He and John Mark Comer of Bridgetown Church in Portland, USA, have launched a podcast that explores the intersection between faith and culture.

I am very much enjoying how Mark and John Mark discuss world views, the rise of secularization, the marginalization of the church, the current and historical influences that challenge cultural values of individualism, consumerism, de-institutionalization, identity politics and the trends of the day that are influencing and shifting our cultural norms in the western world.

Get your walking shoes on and your earpods in place and listen to challenges we are all wrestling with how to navigate these intersections in our own lives and world views, but also in our faith communities. https://thisculturalmoment.com/

I would suggest that we listen to this with the posture of what do we, as Christians and communities of faith, need to shift in our own practices and commitment to “Jesus is Lord” to begin to once again become distinguishable while engaging the dominant culture around us.

I believe this was the challenge Jesus was giving to the people of faith in His day, in His Great Sermon, when He reminded God’s children of being salt and light: when the people of God no longer are distinguishable (have flavor), we are like a light under a bowl, hidden from the world that is searching for the light switch that brings peace into our homes, neighbourhoods, cities and world.

 

 

 

 

FEARLESS: A guide for small groups

By Anna Robbins

When I was with you for your assembly back in 2013, and with the pastors and spouses in Banff in 2016, I engaged with people on some of the basics of relating faith and culture in today’s world. I have given similar workshops with regularly-updated material in many places before and since, and the MacRae Centre for Christian Faith and Culture at Acadia Divinity College has decided to produce this as a six-week small group resource, complete with teaching sessions and leader’s guide with discussion questions and bible studies.

FEARLESS for Small Groups
We are so deeply committed to the contemporary church in Canada, that we want to share this educational resource with your leaders for free. We have already given out over 100 copies to pastors and churches in Atlantic Canada, and we would like to offer it free to the wider Canadian Baptist family as well.

The world is changing so rapidly; we find it difficult to understand what’s happening to our churches, or where our faith fits. We can lock the doors and hide in fear, or we can engage our mission to the world with courage! Fearless is a new resource designed for small groups to tackle what it means to live out the Christian faith in an ever-changing culture. Lively introductions by Lennett Anderson, and clear teaching by Anna Robbins, together with a leader’s study guide, will equip your group to understand the relationship between faith and culture, so that they can live courageously as Christians in the world today.

Click here to download. CBWC churches and leaders use the CODE: CBWC-Fearless at checkout for free access.

The six sessions include the following topics:
* What is culture?
* How do faith and culture relate?
* How does culture influence faith?
* What does it mean to be in the world and not of the world?
* How does faith influence culture?
* How do we live out Fearless faith today?

Course-correction around Consumerism

By Shannon Youell

“In our attempts to avoid catering to consumerism, we forgot to love consumers.”

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The past two weeks we have been diving into the story and journey of Austin Stone Community Church, that tried and initially failed to reshape their church culture to a missional culture based on what the author calls “three cardinal sins.”

First: We Assumed the Gospel
Second: We Cast Vision without Practices

These are humble and transparent leaders, who share with us the places where they had to make course corrections so they could continue the hard work of changing their culture. Their experiences are timely wisdom for all of us who desire to see our worship communities become families of disciples who are missionaries in our own local places and spaces.

Their pain and insight and subsequent stories of how they corrected course and successfully engage as missional communities offers us great help and understanding in our own missional work in our own communities.

Here’s number three: We Didn’t Love Consumers

 

Failures in Disguise

By Shannon Youell

The North American church is filled with passionate Jesus-following people. These people desire to join God at work in revealing the Kingdom among us through the message of Jesus our Savior AND our Lord–to realize the redemptive, restoration of community relationships: God to human and humans to humans.

Because we are humans, our best attempts can fail. And sometimes, our successes are failures in disguise when it comes to reproducible practices of disciples who make disciples who make disciples.

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We all love the success stories because we want to be one, but the reality is that because mission is contextual and cultural, methodologies are only replicable in like contexts and cultures.  Often, though, it is the stories of those who tried and failed that help us the most when it comes to our own missional work in our own communities.

For the next three weeks we will be re-posting a series aptly titled Killing Missional Culture. 

In reading this blog we were impressed with the honesty and insight that these leaders demonstrate. Each post is applicable to our ongoing discussions about creating a discipleship culture both within our existing congregations and our new expressions of gathered community.

3 Ways We Killed a Missional Culture 

  1. First, We Assumed the Gospel
  2. Second, We Cast Vision without Practices
  3. Third, We Didn’t Love Consumers

Read the introduction here so you have the context. Then, check out the first way they killed a missional culture here.

 

The Route to Fruit

By Cailey Morgan

The theme of CBWC’s upcoming Banff Pastors Conference is Life on the Vine. I find this tagline quite fitting, as John 15 was the focus of study at my church recently. Man, what a gutwrencher!

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Not only is this teaching of Jesus full of beautiful imagery, but His simple if/then invitations have poked and prodded me in ways I’d rather not have to deal with. My Mission Group has helped me process by examining the chapter together piece-by-piece but also in the context of the broader Scriptural narrative and of our own lived experience. Even with the Group’s help, though, I still found verse 5 to be particularly prickly:

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

In some ways, this instruction from Christ is extremely straightforward. I’m the Cord; you’re the bulb. As long as we stay entwined, there will be light in and through you. But without Me–your Source–you’ll be dark and useless (See Ephesians 5:8-13 for the basis of this paraphrase). Do A, and B will happen. Open invitation; simple response; clear outcomes. Remaining = fruit.

But in other ways, I got so tripped up. Take for instance that word remain. My initial reaction to the concept of remaining–or abiding as other translations say–was that it sounds kind of passive and maybe even a bit boring. It would seem Jesus is presenting us a lose-lose situation: either remain (which sounds boring), or go apart (where “you can do nothing.” Talk about even more boring!). However, through yet another processing session with my Group, I came to see the possibility that I’ve got this whole thing upside-down.

Staying Put in the Current

What if my understanding of abiding was less like a passive lack of movement and more like the labour of a fish in a raging river? My life is so easily pulled along in the currents of a culture that is not only yanking me away from Christ’s Kingdom way that I am called to walk, but also panders to my short attention span, my laziness, my habit of watching non-existent people’s problems explode on a screen rather than dealing with my own, my pursuit of self-important busyness, and my robust case of millennial individualistic egomania that lets me believe I am so special that I accomplish anything I put my mind to (and all by myself, might I add). For this fish that is me, the act of actually remaining, abiding in the true Christ-like life that comes from the Vine, facing upstream and staying put as the river pulls past, takes infinitely more effort and intentionality than passively letting the water take me where it may.

Ok, we’ve gotten past presumptions of boringness to an active picture of remaining. But my next hangup came with the fact that my new definition of remaining sounds like a life of lonely and impossible striving. Kind of like religion for the sake of religion. But thankfully, at that point I had not considered the rest of the characters in this story.

Not Alone in the River

Abiding in Christ is not passive (Ephesians 6:10-17 and Colossians 3:12-13), or easy (John 16:33), or boring (John 10:10). And it’s also not one-sided. I’m not alone in this river. The Message version of John 14:4 suggests that Jesus was saying “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you.” As we learn to cling to the Vine, to our Source of life, love, identity and purpose, He is clinging right back.

And how is it that we actually do remain? John 15:9-10 reminds us that we remain in His love by keeping His commands. Thankfully, He spells out what He means by “commands” in verse 17:

My command is this: Love each other.

So Lord, what you’re saying is this: You give me Your love so that I can love others as a way for them to receive Your love while I show You my love by obeying Your command to love others as they love You by loving me. Huh? Sounds like these Vine and branches are a big, tangled, intertwined mess, maybe like the structured-organic Kingdom family I wrote about last time.

My prayer for all of us as we seek to abide in the Vine is that we would have the patience and endurance to bear much fruit:

Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.

But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.

They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do…

In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord has planted for his own glory (Psalm 1:1-3, Isaiah 61:3).

BPC Registration is now open, so sign up today!

A Renovation Reflection

By Cailey Morgan

My husband and I just bought a home. It’s what many would refer to as a “fixer-upper.” But we’re 3 back-breaking weeks and 750 kilograms of demolition waste into the overhaul of our kitchen and living area, and we’re starting to see the light.

See? Back-breaking!

See? Back-breaking!

No longer a brass-embellished shrine to 1981, our dining room is now a dusty plywood box furnished with a ladder and a pile of old lightbulbs. That’s what I call potential!

I’d like to think that we bought our place because we saw the opportunity to offer hospitality and love our community. But somewhere amidst the paint samples, Rona trips and appliance deliveries, this whole renovation project became about us again. Our measuring stick became the “Wow” factor, and we very quickly lost sight of why we had purchased the property to begin with.

We started deciding what we need based on whether it would impress people instead of whether we can use it to bless people.

And it made me think of how we sometimes behave as God’s people. Consider Peter’s exhortation in his letter to the Christian exiles:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight (1 Peter 3:3-4).

Now, I know Peter was talking to literal wives here, and I’m applying it more broadly to God’s Bride, us. But the issue is the same: humans like having the attention. We strive for recognition from others in ways that distract from the only Person truly worthy of praise.

So how do we take Peter’s advice seriously? When it comes to my renovation dilemma, it’s reasonably easy. We can choose simple furnishings that make people feel at home rather than envious. The people next door don’t know us yet, so we have the perfect opportunity to introduce ourselves, and the space to grow our reputation as hospitable, loving, gentle-spirited neighbours. But what about as the Church?

What was once, and will soon again be, a kitchen.

What was once, and will soon again be, a kitchen.

I’m as guilty as the next person of accepting and proliferating a Christian culture that thinks worship necessitates a drum kit and evangelism means a fancy website with sermons on podcast. Is that a stigma we can solve with a coat of paint?

Everything we do and build and say as God’s people needs to be a funnel directing eyes towards Christ. We’ll never be hip enough and our buildings and Twitter follower lists will never be impressive enough to draw people to God. Jesus’ life in us is the most glorious thing about us, so we need to have the humility to get out of the way and let Him do the shining.

Maybe I should stop mixing metaphors here, but what fancy backsplash in your congregation is distracting from worship? What trophy shelf in my church makes too much of our accomplishments rather than God’s goodness? What colour-coordinated curtains block the view of the broken people outside?

Isaiah says that “as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you (Isaiah 62:5). I long for us to be that Bride—the one Christ is proud to come home to. How do we get there? Please share your thoughts below.