Where We’ve Been and What’s Ahead

By Shannon Youell

As we look back on the fullness of the work we’ve been involved in this past year, Cailey, Joell and I are keenly aware that as we’ve paused to pray and discern in the 77 Days of Prayer initiative, the daily 10:02 prayer for workers of the harvest, and our several articles and resources on prayer and on neighbourhood prayer walking, God continues to be at work all around us. The challenge in all that He is doing, is for us to continue the discipline of praying and listening to where God invites us to focus and join Him in this season.

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Listening may mean a change of direction or rethinking some of the pillars we’ve been relying on, as God calls us to rely on Him more and more in our changing cultural landscape and increasing population of those who identify as having no religious affiliation whatsoever. Many who identify this way, when surveyed by researchers, report they have deep and meaningful relationships; find purpose and meaning in their life; are generally happy and fulfilled.What does this mean to us, the Church, as we attempt to engage them? How do our own ideas of “what they need” have to change? These are deeper questions to explore in prayer and discernment. God is re-igniting the desire of the Church for those who don’t know Jesus the King, so He’s preparing us as workers for the harvest, but perhaps we need to retool some of our methods as we harvest a different kind of crop.

We are excited and encouraged by where we are seeing God preparing you and me and all our congregations–His workers–for harvest. We have had more folk talk to us about missional innovations, engaging neighbourhoods, replants, new churches and revitalizing existing churches to join God on mission in 2017 than the previous three years! So we’ve been praying and waiting. Praying for God’s kingdom, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Praying for planters, pastors, lay leaders and all the local missionaries in our pews who are discerning the call of God to reimagine evangelism, church and mission. Praying for God’s wisdom and provision as our CBWC tribe partners with these works.

Will you pray? Will you pray and listen to where God is at work? There are several new churches preparing and discerning beginning something new, whether a new location, new plant or renewed vision of local missionaries. Some are brand new initiatives; others are folk who have been meeting together and desire to join our CBWC family; others are new immigrant churches as God brings believers from other nations to establish refuges of faith for new Canadians. Each of these cannot do the work on their own, nor are they meant to. As they pray and discern, we also pray and discern for provision, for trust, for God’s Kingdom to be revealed through each one.

We see in Acts and in Paul’s writings that the churches collected money to send to those churches who were struggling and those who were planting: churches supporting churches as they stepped out in the mission of sharing Jesus with the world God so loves. In John 17, Jesus prays that all of us would have that same love for the world as Jesus has for us and that God has for Jesus. Think about that! We are to love with the same generosity and sacrifice of God, who loves so much so He sent His one and only Son that none may perish and all could find the salvation of God’s Kingdom through the love of God revealed in Jesus.

As this year closes and so does our collective season of making space to pray, listen and discern, the next year opens full of the possibilities of how, then, we shall respond. How then shall the good and faithful folk in our approximately 168 churches respond to the call of the Spirit as we engage our world for Christ? One of my practices as each year closes is to take time to pray and ask God two things: Have I been faithful? And have I been obedient? Faithful means I have given, I have blessed, I have served–it’s something based on my metric of that generosity. But I always then ask the second question as I also need to be obedient to God’s metric in my faithfulness.

A HUGE THANK YOU to the faithful and obedient Joell Haugan, who has worked alongside Cailey and I for the past few years as director in the Heartland Region.  Joell brought with him an understanding and love for church planting, particularly in the rural context, and a huge heart of grace and generosity.  He has often hopped in his car and travelled from Swift Current where he pastors, to the towns and cities dotting the Heartland Region to encourage churches in engaging in and partnering in new and existing plants.  He has joined us in hosting CP initiatives at retreats, Assembly and Banff Pastors Conferences, Celebration Dinners and ministerials.

At church planting we have been praying and discerning the best way to cover this vast territory and Joell has gifted us with his insight based on his experience. Though Joell will no longer be the official director of Heartland Region, he will still share his gifts and insight in what is reshaped in the future.  Please drop Joell a big thank you or buy him a Timmy’s if you see him.  He has been and continues to be a huge blessing to our CBWC family!

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Joell roadtripping last year.

We have the wonderful privilege of joining God where He is working and expanding His Kingdom around us. May our prayer and our response in 2018 be “Your Kingdom come and Your will be done” in us and through us as we are faithful and obedient to God’s missional calling to our CBWC family.

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Peace to This House

By Shannon Youell

Praying in our neighbourhoods is not some new postmodern formula for evangelisation. Though some see it as quite foreign, Jesus and His disciples did just that. One of my favorite verses–well actually a combination of two from John’s writings–is when Jesus said He only did what He saw His Father doing and spoke what He heard His Father speaking (John 12:49, 5:19 my paraphrase).

Jesus walked about His ordinary everyday praying and listening: listening and praying to know where God was at work in the world. Jesus was waiting to step in and reveal the Father to those around Him.

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When Jesus sent out others to share the Good News of the kingdom of God, He instructed them to go from place to place looking for where God was already at work: “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house’. If a man of peace is there your peace will rest on him: if not, it will return to you” (Luke 10:5-6).

“A man of peace” indicates someone who God is already at work in, whether they are aware or unaware, someone who will listen to what the disciples have to share.This required the disciples to be attentive to where God was at work, which required them to be listening to the Father in a posture of prayer.

Luke 10 gives us much more to ponder and act upon, but as we are focusing on prayer in our neighborhoods, we leave the other instructions for another time. As we have been talking about how we engage with our neighbours, friends, co-workers, we must never lose sight of the fact that, as Cam Roxburgh states in Forge Canada’s new E-Book Volume 1, Loving God and Neighbour, “the missional conversation is about the nature and action of God in our midst, and not first about how we develop a strategy for reaching our neighbours.”

When we develop strategies without first praying and listening, we can have all the best intentions and plans in the world, but still be faced with indifference when the soil is still fallow. Prayer is our dual action of becoming more comfortable and confident that God still speaks to us today, and of preparing the hearts of ourselves and those we are praying for. As we pray for our neighbourhoods and other significant spaces, we invite the Spirit to shine light on the fields and reveal to us what He has already prepared. We are the workers. But without walking those streets, those halls, those trails and cubicle aisles, without praying as we walk, we are the unaware ones–unaware of where God is inviting us to stay awhile, eat and drink, hear stories of the lives of the people around us, and see how God is working.

From my experience, neighbourhood praying isn’t a single prayer. It is prayer that does not cease until God reveals his work both to us and to those we have been praying for. There is strategy for sure….strategy is praying consistently and listening intently. Listening to the Father always comes first for it is, after all, His work that we are joining.

I’ve mentioned before that I prayer walked our neighborhood for many years before something began to shift. Once the shift happened, I then asked God for a strategy. He gave me an uncomfortable one: to invite all the neighbors over for a “meet the neighbours” party. From that party we have been building deeper relationships with one another. These have become some of our people of peace, but it only happened because of prayer and listening.

I’m Increasingly Bothered. Are You?

By Shannon Youell

Missional Prayer is intercession arising from the fact that God’s  Kingdom has not yet come fully in this world and his will is not yet fully done. As  Kingdom people this should bother us. But do we pray as though we are bothered? Missional Prayer, Urbana

The disciples of Jesus, noting that Jesus prayed…a lot…and that things seemed to happen when He prayed, asked Him to teach them how to pray. As far as we can tell, most of these guys were raised with the Torah and understood prayers: morning and evening prayers, prayers of repentance, prayers of mourning and supplication, prayers of thanksgiving and joy. Yet, they wanted to see God act in response to their prayers the way that Jesus’ prayers were answered. They saw Jesus pray and  Kingdom happened!

Jesus then instructs them to pray for this: “Our Father….Your  Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” He prayed for God’s  Kingdom to break into the places on earth where darkness and evil continued to oppress and break humanity’s spirit, where humans are drowning in judgement, rejection, marginalization and their own broken places.

And yes, just as the quoted blogger states, it should bother us that those places and people are all around us: work with us, shop with us, live with us, are us.

Really Bothered?
The question I’m forced to ask myself is if I am indeed bothered when I am aware of the struggles in my community, neighborhood, city, nation, and world. Most of us, being asked that, would say, “of course!” But the deeper question is how much does it bother us? Am I, are we, bothered enough to compel us to pray? To pray continually? To pray until we see God’s acting on behalf of and in response to those prayers? As the prophet Isaiah writes, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait (hope) for him” (Isaiah 64:4).

From the perspective of sharing Jesus, am I bothered enough that most of the people around me in my everyday life do not experience the life-giving grace, forgiveness, justice, mercy, hope and love of Our Father who is in heaven? Enough to pray for them everyday? Enough to allow those prayers to change me and give me Spirit boldness to invite them to consider Jesus and his redemptive restoration into their lives and circumstances?

Sadly, I’m not always quite that bothered, and perhaps not even often enough. And, indeed, that is reflected in how I pray or not.

10:02
This past May I was inspired by an international movement to pray Luke 10:02. Luke 10:2 instructs, by Jesus words, to pray, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

The movement has us setting an alarm on our watches or phones for everyday at 10:02 a.m. And then to simply pray what Jesus said to pray for. Easy…right?

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So we at CBWC Church Planting created a little magnet to affix to your fridge, or car, or filing cabinet to also remind you. And of course, we set our phone alarms. Everyday when the alarm went off, I would pray for a few minutes. It was exhilarating! Though I did find that the little alarm (which I programmed to have its own ring tone) went off at completely inconvenient times, like in line at the bank, or in a meeting and so I’d just hit “stop,” thinking I’d come back to it, which rarely occurred. So I talked to God about that because I really did want to take those moments everyday, joining with others, to pray for God to send workers to those who don’t yet know the presence of Jesus and the  Kingdom in their lives.

Here’s where I should make a slight clarification, just in case you didn’t realize this….Jesus is sneaky in Luke 10:2. He’s getting us to pray for ourselves! To pray that we will be the workers in the harvest, that we would be the ones bothered enough to pray, to engage, to invite, to share, to live among.

During my hit and miss time of praying the Luke 10:02 prayer, I have found that as I prayed for God’s  Kingdom to come into the lives and circumstances of folk around me, God has been doing some deep work in my heart. I feel, well, bothered. Bothered that there is so much pain in people’s own histories; bothered that inequity is rampant in a wealthy nation that has access to God’s provision for the whole world; bothered that humanity polarizes and shifts values and allegiances based on fear and scarcity in their own hearts. And bothered that I have not been bothered enough in my life about folk and situations that don’t in some way affect or trespass on my life.

In that bothered-ness, I have found myself weeping for others, even strangers as the Holy Spirit has made me more attentive and aware of people I barely have interaction with. Just so you know, I do not like weeping. It makes me feel weak and vulnerable, but the result is I am growing in compassion. It’s a by-product of the Luke 10:2 prayer.

It’s a dangerous prayer to pray for, because we get bothered. Jesus called us to love strangers, enemies, the unlovable in our eyes. No wonder. When we pray for them we begin to feel compassion towards them, empathy for them. We begin to see our own brokenness in theirs, or perhaps, acknowledge for the first time that we too, are broken, damaged, hurting people in need of the continual healing grace and mercy of Our Father. Of seeing God’s  Kingdom realized in our own spheres of earth as it is in heaven.

Perhaps the 10:02 prayer will inspire people to become missionaries at home and abroad, but I wonder if Jesus’ plan all along was to make us bothered. What do you think? Are you feeling a little bothered right now?

Then pray.