Joining God in His Work: Reconciliation

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By: Rev. Shannon Youell

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one spirit.”  Ephesians 2:14-18 

Like most I am weary of the increasing divisiveness in our society.  And I am saddened that Jesus followers seem just as susceptible to falling into polarities as the rest of our culture. It hurts me.  It hurts us.  Equally important, it hurts our witness of ‘joining God at work’ in his mission in the world. We preach and posture God’s love towards humanity, his redemption through the submission of Christ and his invitation to follow Christ and to join him in his work of reconciliation and restoration of humans to God and to one another.  

Joining God at work is a phrase often used to describe a posture of participation in his mission. The question we must always be attentive to is what is God doing in that work? The overarching answer is his kingdom has broken into the earthly realm to facilitate his shalom in the human experience through the birth, life, and death of God’s Son. We often simply call it Good News – Gospel. 

Of course, this inbreaking work didn’t stop at Jesus – we are each called to be God’s ministers of reconciliation as a priesthood of all believers. We should not attempt to minister in this alone. God invites us into the work where he is already present and we must take the time to be attentive to him and to what he is doing in that space. 

Reconciliation is a key word in our understanding of the Gospel. Paul reminds us that believers are to be ministering reconciliation – participating in the reunification of people who have been separated by some means, whether political, religious, societal, racial, or behavioral, through the grace, mercy, love, and salvation of God extended through Christ. While the foremost aspect of that reconciliatory work is between God and humans, it extends from there to reconciliation between humans and one another and reconciliation with all of God’s creation. Reconciliation in all three aspects facilitates God’s kingdom of his Shalom. It breaks down the barriers that divide which Paul speaks of in his letters for the purpose of unifying the (two) divisions and making peace – Shalom.  It opens up space to foster healing, forgiveness, redemption.  

Reconciliation (originally named Reunion) is a sculpture by Josefina de Vasconcellos.

Theology professor and pastor David Fitch, in his book Faithful Presence, writes on reconciliation, emphasizing that in times of division the posture Christ invites us to take is one of mutual submission. Engaging conflicts with any other posture perpetuates the us/them divide; the I’m right/you’re wrong divide. Coming together in a posture of mutual submission – submitting to listen and hear one another – allows the Spirit of God, who is present, to guide us to love, grace and mercy towards one another and towards God’s kingdom breaking in.  

When I spend time with others each of us have different ways of viewing the world and those views are not only shaped by ‘those who believe’ and those who are ‘not-yet-believers’. I have found that when I back off the argument aspect of different opinions, (even though I can personally thrive on those hearty discussions!), and am attentive to discovering how my neighbour thinks, then I am more aware of how they came to a particular conclusion.  

It opens up space for a deeper kind of conversation and makes me aware, if I am attentive, of not forging ahead for God, but rather recognizing that God is already at work and I am joining with God as he enacts his Gospel in the hearts of each of us.

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

Three Elements of Church Revitalization

By Shannon Youell

I am often asked to talk about “church renewal.” As with many titles or terminologies, this term can be so ambiguous that the meanings are multiple.Recently I was asked with two of my colleagues to do a workshop on Renewal in the Church. The understanding we had of this came out of three areas that had impacted how we think about church and the activities and missions surrounding it.

The first was around context. Where a particular church community is situated can change the dynamics of our lives as both gathered and scattered bodies. Mark Doerksen shared about one of the Heartland churches situated in the heart of farmland. How that church approaches engaging their community can look quite different than an urban church or even an urban church in an economically-depressed area of the city would.

The second was around culture. CBWC world traveler Shelby Gregg shared with us an interesting observation she made while exploring the city of Lisbon in Portugal. She noted that the town itself was a series of concentric circles that formed around church buildings. The church was the focal point of the community development plan because at the time, church was a dominant cultural place of community gatherings. In our post-modern culture here in North America, that is not often the case anymore. Especially in urban centers, the centrality of a church building and the activities found within are no longer the focus of social structures.

I took the group on a story-walk around the neighbourhood and the community around it. Participants in the workshop mapped their own place, some mapping the neighbourhood they lived in, while others did their workplace or church location neighbourhoods. neighbours CC pnwra The purpose of this exercise is to raise awareness in us that we all live and work and shop in the mission field. This is the third area: We are the renewal in our churches. As we share our lives in relationship with those we are surrounded by in our everyday lives, people introduced to living life the Jesus way, and we ourselves find new wonder and joy in seeing how Jesus works in mysterious and amazing ways through us to bring his redeeming, reconciling, restorative hope right here in our neighbourhoods!

Often, we think of renewal in the church as internal changes to programs, to music selections, to small groups. We should continue to reflect on these elements of our culture and context, but systems theory tells us that if we want to change something, changing the system is the wrong way to do it. Systems effectively change when we change our thinking about the things we do. Imposing changes on a system just changes how we approach a particular task, not why we do it in the first place. That was a part of our task at the workshop – to stir up the whys of what we are doing and how effective or ineffective those things may be in differing contexts, cultures and generations. If the why of what we do is to see the kingdom of God advance, then everything we do as gathered and as scattered should reflect that. And since the church is no longer the central community hub in many of our contexts, we will need to rethink how we meet and be salt and light to the world God so loves.

Over the next several blogging articles, I will be sharing with you stories of our CBWC family who are hearing God’s leading into their neighbourhoods and creative ways they are connecting with people beyond their Sunday service gatherings. I would love to hear from you out there in the blog reading galaxy with your stories too! Contact me at syouell@cbwc.ca so we can chat and share with our tribe how you’ve discovered connecting within your context and culture to those where you live, work, play, and pray!

Shannon Youell
CBWC Church Planting Coordinator

Help a CBWC Church Plant Get to Family Camp

God’s House of Many Faces Church in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, BC, is a CBWC church plant. Many church participants are First Nations, and Pastor Jodi Spargur and her team have been doing an amazing job in helping to bridge Aboriginal culture and the Christian faith.

campAn important piece of this reconciliation process is their annual Wiconi Family Camp and Pow Wow. Jodi says, “having the opportunity to participate in this event strengthens our families, helps us understand faith in the context of our culture for those of us who are First Nations and allow us to connect with others who are on this journey as well.

Jodi has launched a campaign to raise funds to bring 40 people to the camp. Will you join us in helping this great tradition continue for another year?

Check out the campaign page here to give today!

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.