Into the Neighbourhood

by Shannon Youell

“We have lost much of our capacity to invite average Canadians into the good news life we say we believe in.”

This quote from Jared Siebert’s book Gutsy, as featured on this blog last week, is the challenge we have across Canada and in fact, the Western World. We’ve addressed this challenge here before, often under the language of “we’ve lost our evangelistic impulse” or “we no longer have a mission as local, church members as missionaries ethos.” These are valid statements being proven by our own realities and by good and faithful researchers every year. But what, then, do we actually do with such statements? They don’t help us understand and grasp how we can faithfully begin to address this.

Well. we have something to help!

We’d like to invite you to join us at Forge Canada’s upcoming two day workshop events, Into the Neighbourhood, in both Edmonton and Vancouver in October. Have a read, watch the short video below from David Fitch (last year’s Banff speaker) who is one of four incredible presenters and practitioners of moving into the neighbourhood.

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Here is what it is about:

“Into the Neighbourhood: 2018”
Forge Canada Tour

Purpose
The Missional Movement begins with who God is. It helps us to discern what God is up to in context, and then encourages us to receive the invitation of Christ to follow Him into His work in the world.

Over the last number of years, many have come to see the Missional Movement as a call of Christ to become neighbours, and to join Him at work in neighbourhoods across the country. What is needed is intentionality to disciple people into learning to practice hospitality in their neighbourhoods and then to remind us that we, the Church, are sent to be a Faithful Presence in the world, bearing witness to Christ in everything we do.

Forge Canada presents Into the Neighbourhood. This 2-day event hopes to equip people with an imagination to become neighbours, and to challenge churches to look at how we measure what it means to be faithful. This event is for individuals, and even more so for churches who have understood the importance of bearing witness to God through community.

Day 1 – “Won’t You Be a Neighbour: 6 Priorities for Neighbouring”

Day one is presented by Karen Wilk and Preston Pouteaux of Forge Canada. Both of these author/teacher/practitioners lead churches that are seeking to raise up those who are learning what it means to become neighbours and to see neighbourhood transformation. Their sessions will include the following:

* Rediscovering the Commission and the Commandment
* Renewing Imagination
* Rejuvenating Senses
* Redeeming Hospitality
* Reducing Scale
* Realizing Shalom

Day 2 – “A Faithful Presence: Being the Church in the Neighbourhood”

Day two is presented by David Fitch with Cameron Roxburgh. David—as well an being an author, teacher and speaker—is a local practitioner. More than any strategy, for our country to see the transforming work of the Spirit in neighbourhoods, the people of God need to engage in practices that allow them to bear witness to the presence of God in that place. David’s wisdom and experience are a gift to those churches that desire to participate in God’s mission. The scorecard is not about how big a church grows (although we pray and long for growth) but rather about recognizing the presence of
the Kingdom.

David’s sessions will include the following:

* The cultural dislocation of the church and the restructuring of the church
* The practice of the table
* The practice of the least of these (children and poor)
* The practice of reconciliation
* Moving towards a Faithful Presence

This 2-day event is for pastors, leaders and those who take seriously the call of Jesus to follow Him. It is for all who seek to become neighbours and to see neighbourhood transformation.

As part of our emphasis on healthy churches and growing disciples who make disciples who then become active in new churches, we invite you to contact me (syouell@cbwc.ca) if you would like to attend. Pastors/leaders, you will receive this invite also from your Regional Office. If you and your church are longing to be engaged with those who do not attend church, have rejected church, or in growing percentages, never really heard of God, Jesus, church, then come.

Grab a van, pick up friends along the way and come. If you live in the Heartland region, it looks like there is the possibility of a van coming to the Edmonton workshop, so contact me for registration details and Mark Doerksen for van information.

Here’s a short piece from David Fitch to help spark your imagination:

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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.

The Discipler’s Journey

By Shannon Youell

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From the very moment I began to emerge into leadership and ministry, my central theme—the thing I kept coming back to regardless of how many other paths pursued in shaping life as church—is discipleship. So, too, in the church planting and church revitalization conversation. I always seem to land back on discipleship, possibly because it was intentional discipleship relationships that allowed my brand-new Christian adult self to ask endless questions, challenge many of the “pat” answers I received, test the waters, be put into positions of leading when I did not see myself as a leader or even ready to consider leading, and then gently corrected when I made mistakes.

Disciple-making Disciples
When I talk to some of those fine, fine folk now, I ask them how they managed my never-quenched thirst to learn and know and be everything I was learning, and they tell me I challenged their thinking and their theology in ways that had become latent or by which they hadn’t been challenged before. They tell me we discipled one another. Seriously, me, a brand new believer with next to no church exposure, a discipler!

In this blog series, we’ve been talking about whether the things we tend to consider as discipleship leave us perplexed when we ask if our plan of discipleship is working. We noted that often we are very good at discipling one another to be faithful service attendees, but yet find ourselves frustrated that often we have really made faithful consumers rather than Jesus-disciples. It’s not that discipleship isn’t happening; it’s just that the results are not fully what we hoped to see.

The reality of life is that discipleship starts from the moment we are born and really never ends. We learn how to be a family, what opinions we should consider, what biases and prejudices we will have, how we treat one another, how we view ourselves and our place in the world. We are all being discipled all the time and our biggest discipler is culture itself. So the question is not whether we’re being discipled, but what we’re being discipled to.

Directions of Focus
In church life, we are often reminded that we need to focus on upward, inward, outward expressions of life as Jesus’ disciples. Upward is the abiding on the vine, the quiet prayer times alone, practicing gratitude, singing songs, meditation, all building intimacy with Christ our King, God our Father, Spirit our comfort, empowerer and guide.

Inward are the practices we do together as gathered people and include praying together, worshipping together, learning together, practicing the fruits of the Spirit together, sharing tables together in communion and in community. This is our one another-ness.

Outward are the ways we move outside of our close circles with one another (using Banff 2017 Speaker David Fitch’s Faithful Presence language) and engage in the lives and activities of those who haven’t yet seen the kingdom of God realized in their life, and those who have rejected church life but perhaps not belief.

If we look honestly at our own churches, we will likely discover we are practicing and living well in one or two of these three focuses, though rarely will see all three being active together. It’s not that any of us are not doing discipleship, it’s more likely we emphasize one of these particular elements over another.

When we look at how Jesus discipled his disciples we can see that all three of these movements are evident.

Jesus’ Example
His disciples watched Jesus go away to quiet places to pray, would have heard Him praying in times together and when He was teaching crowds. They both saw and heard Him express His level of intimacy with the Father. And they were impacted. So much so, they asked Jesus to teach them to pray like He prays.

As a community of disciples they would have learned how to be together. Jesus addresses some of the interpersonal complications of close community with them. There was accountability for how they behaved towards one another, talked about one another, treated one another. They broke bread together. They learned to support one another in their mission and to uphold one another when things went awry.

And they hung out in all the wild and crazy places Jesus took them to. I’m not sure how comfortable Matthew the tax collector was at the house of the Pharisee…there was a level of animosity likely simmering below the surface there! Or the uncomfortableness when the disciples discovered Jesus engaging in conversation with a Samaritan (whom the Jews did not associate). On top of that the Samaritan was a woman (it would be entirely inappropriate for a man to be in the company of a woman not his relative while alone), and the Samaritan woman was viewed by her community and the codes of the day as sexually immoral as she has had several husbands and currently lived with a man without the benefit of marriage.

It was as Jesus and the disciples went outside their own cultural norms and were faithfully present in uncomfortable or unfamiliar places that the kingdom of God was realized in the lives of those resisting God’s rule and reign.

Self-Examination
If we are wrestling with how do we move from being church attenders to engaged disciples of Jesus, we need to wrestle with the culture we’ve created around what being the church means. What is the church’s purpose? And we need to wrestle with the idea that the church is multi-faceted, not singularly purposeful. Jesus challenged his followers on so many levels and pressed them towards understanding their journey with him as encapsulating the fullness of the kingdom in upward, inward and outward activity.

So today’s question? What might you need to rethink and relearn around the kind of disciples you are creating, whether intentionally or unintentionally by the emphasis in your context? Do you do well with inward/upward while weak or lacking in outward? Or very engaged outwardly in justice and mercy but weak on sharing the good news of the kingdom with the people we are serving? Or in the shared work of justice and mercy, find you have a closeness in community but are lacking spiritual maturity in their day-to-day lives?

Each of these questions should challenge us not to despair but to hope. Jesus took this ragtag gang of folk who had nothing much in common and through the trials and joys, the successes and failures, drew (discipled/apprenticed) them in a life-long transformation in worldview, culture, faith and personal self-focus to be vessels of God’s love, grace, reconciliation and restoration of his good creation.

“This is to my Father’s glory, that bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples…If you obey my commands (everything I taught you), you will remain in my love…I have told you this so that my joy may be complete in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:8, 10, 11).

Being co-labourers with Christ in making disciples who makes disciples can be challenging, frustrating and disappointing, yet the joy of seeing people transformed and thriving and the kingdom of light moving into the shadows brings life and joy to those who are engaged.

Resources from Banff

By Shannon Youell with Cailey Morgan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Art of Neighbouring Leader Guide

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Neighbourhood Block Map

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Thirty Days of Prayer Walking Guide

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

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.

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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).”

 

Refereeing in the Kingdom

By Joell Haugan

Thoughts spawned from David Fitch’s book Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape The Church For Mission.

David will be joining us in Banff in November, so we at Church Planting thought it would be a good idea to read something of his in advance.

Here is my reflection on the chapter regarding reconciliation.

What strikes me most about Fitch’s approach to reconciliation is the stress he places on presence (yah, I know, it’s in the title to the book). We in church ministry often get called on to help mediate situations and, more often than not, we end up being an arbitrator or judge. And, more often than not, we end up rendering a decision that offends one party or the other….or both!

Instead, Fitch shares, being faithfully present in the situation means coming together in the conflict not so as to render a verdict but to be present with the ones in conflict, and to be Spirit-led into finding the heart of Jesus in the matter.

That sounds like a lot of work. And it goes against the roll-up-our-sleeves-and-fix-it mentality that many of us have as pastors. But, actually, it sounds Biblical.

When I reflect on how Jesus managed his little church of 12, I see an amazing commitment to long term faithful presence. And, I wonder, how many times Jesus mediated conflicts with them (I’m sure they were many)? His faithful, long-term presence with them was what turned them into a band of brothers that set the world on fire. Mark 10 recounts the time there was jockeying for positions in the coming kingdom. A huge conflict arises and Jesus’ management style kicks in, as exemplified by the phrase “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” Conflict was defused. Disciples were left pondering and realizing that they needed to get their priorities sorted for the kingdom’s sake.

It also sounds like something that will not be possible when people in conflict walk in off the street. There needs to be relationship. There needs to be trust. There needs to be mutual submission between all the parties. And, actually, that mutual submission needs to start not with the conflicting parties, but with the leadership… the “referee” in this case.

Aside: wouldn’t it be nice if when an NHL fight breaks out the referee would sit with the two players in a private room (the “quiet room” for concussion protocols will probably be available) and have them enter into being present and attentive with each other and having the ref demonstrate mutual submission as they listen for discernment… oh, wait. Nevermind.

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It won’t work in the NHL, but it is the right way to approach conflict in the Christian Church League (CCL). Yes, sometimes folks aren’t going to allow for this kind of laborious process to bear fruit… but fruit we will bear if we bear with it. As we plant new churches and grow/refresh existing ones, learning to lean on God’s direction while we practice this faithful presence is going to bring about Kingdom relationships and Kingdom change.

It’s going to be cool. I may not like it because it cuts down on my ability to just walk in, speak from my own wisdom, and walk out to head back to my office and write blog posts. But, I think it’s the right thing….er….way to do.

Joell

PS. Here’s the 7 disciplines Fitch lists:

  • The Discipline of the Lord’s Table
  • The Discipline of Reconciliation
  • The Discipline of Proclaiming the Gospel
  • The Discipline of Being with the ‘Least of These’
  • The Discipline of Being with Children
  • The Discipline of the Fivefold Gifting
  • The Discipline of Kingdom Prayer

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.

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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.

Book Review: Prodigal Christianity

Review by Kathy Cheveldayoff of David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw’s Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier (Jossey-Bass, 2013).4603052529_5dc6265d6b_b

For me, this book report has been a difficult, painful exercise because:

  1. I have been tried in the fires of persecution for my faith numbers of times.
  2. I have lived through the 20-something-year cycles which the church goes through (Ecclesiastes 1:9: nothing new under the sun.)
  3. I have come to this book to perhaps finally find answers about engaging the post-Christian world. I have been disappointed.

My Christian faith has been tried and tempered by a number of precepts:

  1. God’s Word is the truth.
  2. Faith needs this truth foundation to flourish.
  3. There cannot be any relativism in Scriptural interpretation.
  4. Contextualizing from culture to Scripture will, in the long run, create a watered-down version of the Gospel.
  5. We can’t fix anything. Only God can.
  6. God’s message is spoken through believers using all the gifts, or not (see Romans 1 on Creation speaking God’s message.)

Therefore: The Gospel of Jesus Christ must be allowed to be the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We cannot fall for the utopian agenda because Jesus comes to minister exactly where life is the darkest. I have seen this so many times in ministry amongst the marginalized and persecuted unto death. The circumstances may not change but the capacity to stay the course in spite of circumstances is what Jesus Christ brings to the table.

So, yes there is pluralism, and yes there is diversity. There always has been. Jesus Christ experienced it many times as well as the apostles in their witness. Jesus spoke truth, lived truth, and ministered truth amongst the people groups He encountered. And everywhere He went He brought hope and healing. That is why His message was believed and why the faith exploded.

We cannot be like those Paul warns about in 2 Timothy 3:5  who, having a form of godliness, rejected the power thereof. Case in point: many Muslims are coming to Christ solely through experiencing God’s power through dreams, visions and actual healing and with nary a believing Christian in sight. Fitch and Holsclaw’s book should have talked about this aspect of the faith as this is what secures the heart of the unconverted.

So, no, this book did not really answer my question but it did give me an idea that really, over the millennia, we have been on target and we will continue to do so, as we are coerced by the Holy Spirit to dive into the river of God, experience His radical love  and  then share it with our neighbour.

Do you agree with this assessment? What did you find helpful in this review? What would you add to the conversation? To offer your feedback or to learn more about how you can read and review a book for us, email Cailey at cmorgan@cbwc.ca.