Gone Fishing

By Shannon Youell

I like my space.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dennis’ boat FOLDED UP ON A TRUCK!

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

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My new friend Pike.

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

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

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

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

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

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Summer Video Series 4: What is a Missional Church?

by Cailey Morgan

At CBWC’s 2017 Gathering in Calgary, we were able to share several short videos we thought were particularly helpful for our context. Over the summer, we will be sharing those videos here on the blog in hopes of continuing the conversation, and hearing from you about these important topics.

In today’s video, Alan Hirsch: What is a Missional Church?, we consider the Sending God and His call for us as a Missionary People. What could missional look like in your context?

Jim Putnam’s Discipleship Scorecard

By Shannon Youell

Our church has visitors every week. They come, they go, they shop and some even stay.

I, and others in our community, are always watching to greet these visitors, which is what I did a few weeks ago when one caught my eye. I welcomed him and introduced myself, then asked him what brought him here this morning. He told me that he has spent his adult life living in close relationship with God; that he found Jesus through the Salvation Army Church, attending and serving there many years. He said he prayed, worshiped, read and meditated on Scripture every day, though he had not attended a corporate service in seven years since the Citadel removed the pastor he loved.

By measurement of his spiritual life, we may conclude this man was discipled well. He tried in every way to live a good Christian life and was devoted to God. On the other hand you may disagree that he was discipled well since he doesn’t “attend” worship services. Yet, in reality, he was discipled into exactly what many of us consider a disciple of Christ to be: one devoted to God and living a life of integrity and character and attends church services. He and many, many of us are discipled into individual relationship with God and service within the church programs as being the outcome.

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Indeed, this is central to us having relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters. But does this describe fully what Jesus discipled his followers to?

Jim Putnam and Bobby Harrington, in their book Discipleshift, draw our attention to how we “keep score”—how we evaluate success in our churches and in disciplemaking. I quoted Putnam a few months ago on his definition of a disciple:

If that definition does not end up looking like one who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and committed to the mission of Jesus, then our definition has holes in it.  The bottom line is that a mature disciple of Jesus is defined by relationship. We are known for our love for God and one another.”

Often, I hear pastors and leaders lamenting that their good and faithful folk don’t do relationship well. They are kind and generous, but keep to themselves in everyday life. How then are we “known for our love for God and one another?” And how do we reflect being “committed to the mission of Jesus”?

In Discipleshift, the authors walk us through how we need to change our scorecard, the way we evaluate “from attracting and gathering to developing and releasing.”

“Deploying (releasing) means that people in your church are equipped and motivated to demonstrate God’s love and share their faith with the lost wherever they work or live or go to school—any place they interact with other people. They are also able to do life with other believers in relationship connection. They understand that they are ministers who serve wherever they go in the world. They are becoming people who make disciples at home, love a lost and hurting world, and win people to the Lord as they serve as missionaries in the communities where they live. That is the new scorecard for success.” (pg. 214).

They emphasize that our goal in being the church, or starting new churches, isn’t to gather a crowd and give them information, but rather to “raise up biblical disciples and deploy them into the world so they can raise up other disciples. These disciples are to grow into accurate copies of Jesus who rightly deliver his message in his ways.”

I know in my own church, there are many different ideas of what a disciple of Jesus is. Which creates part of the problem we have with being credible witnesses to those who do not yet know Christ or have decided they are good with their own personal life of worship and devotion.

Could our challenge be to relook at this and teach into what the Bible says about discipleship in the gospels? Here are several questions the book challenges us to look at with open minds and hearts:

  • How does the Bible define discipleship?
  • What does the Bible say a disciple look like?
  • What is the discipleship process as we see it happening in scripture?
  • What are the specific phases of discipleship, as seen in the scriptural models?
  • How will everyone in our church come to know this process?
  • What characteristics (values) must be present for real-life discipleship to occur in our church? (values include love, acceptance and accountability.)
  • How will our church (at every level) emphasize the discipleship process?
  • How will our church practice keep the focus on discipleship by making church “simple” and “clear”?
  • How will our church raise up, reproduce, and release disciple-making leaders?
  • How will our church serve as an attractional light on a hill?
  • How will our church send people out to serve incarnationally in the community?

I am going to start with the first three questions. I will do my best to put aside my already conceived ideas of this and honestly look at this. If I can’t do this, then what am I testifying about what Jesus mandated the Church to do? Who would like to travel this journey with us? Could we begin some dialogue about it? Then we can ask ourselves, our leadership teams the next questions and prayerfully begin to redevelop some of our methodology that has perhaps grown stale and ineffective to mentor and apprentice all those who choose to gather with us for services to participate more comfortably in God’s mission out to the world He loves.