A Word From Steve Jones
August 19th, 2019
Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
How might you describe a flourishing local church? A congregation that is alive and thriving.
A major study asking this very question is being conducted in Canada. Sociologist, Dr. Joel Thiessen of Ambrose University and other academics have completed an initial exploratory study which has led to a larger study of hundreds of local churches across the country. I encouraged many of our churches to participate in the second study several months back.
I wanted to give you some of the findings from their exploratory study report published in the “Springer Review of Religious Research.”
The first study asked Canadian Catholic, conservative and mainline Protestant leaders how they would define what constitutes a flourishing congregation. Their findings were drawn from interviews (109 face to face), and focus groups (nine groups with 66 individuals), and data from leaders across Canada. The study wanted to gather the perceptions, narratives, and experiences that church and denominational leaders hold about flourishing congregations.
There was some wide divergence between the faith traditions, urban and rural churches, liberal and conservative theology, large and small congregations, among other things, however, several common themes did surface within the differing Christian faith families in Canada.
The study captured these common themes within three overarching domains:
1. Organizational Ethos or the “hardware” (strategy and structure) and “software” (style, systems, staff and shared values) of the local church. Four distinct ethos surfaced:
2. Internal factors or the initiatives, demographics, and realities that primarily pertain to those within the congregation. Four distinct factors surfaced:
3. Outward variables or the activities that link these within the congregation to those outside the congregation in the community. Three distinct variables surfaced:
There was divided opinion on whether flourishing necessarily means numeric growth. The importance of numerical growth seemed to be directly related to the influence the consecutive church growth (1960s-70s), church health (1980s-90s), and missional church movements (2000s) have had on the leader being interviewed. Also there was some difference in describing the supernatural impact on flourishing churches among the differing faith traditions especially between those mainline Protestants who espouse liberal theology and conservative Protestants and conservative Catholics. Lastly there was difference of opinion among the faith groups when referring to diversity. Conservative Protestant and Catholic leaders referenced the importance of ethnic and socio-economic diversity while many mainline Protestant leaders reference diversity based on sexual orientation.
Despite these differences, the study discovered seven major common themes, among the three faith traditions, concerning what makes a flourishing congregation:
Next week, I’ll spend more time describing each of these common traits as we discover what defines a flourishing local church.
Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Our Fellowship International department is partnering with Fellowship churches and pastors to get involved in the training of pastors and leaders in churches around the world. You could get involved in the Fellowship’s “LeadersFormation” ministry led by our Coordinator Hannibal (Hanni) Muhtar.
What is Leaders Formation?
Hanni Muhtar, LeadersFormation International Coordinator
Due to limited resources, pastors in a number of countries around the world have had no opportunity for theological education. LeadersFormation is a ministry of The Fellowship that promotes a joint effort of churches across Canada who are partnering with churches in other countries to provide leadership training and development where it is either unavailable or not possible. In the last two decades LeadersFormation has trained hundreds of church leaders in a number of countries while our own churches have benefited from both the partnerships and the training they facilitate.
Facilitating and More in Nigeria
(report by Pastor Mark Farrow, Stoney Creek Baptist, London, ON)
Facilitators from Canada lead the sessions and help participants complete one manual per visit. They have the opportunity to see benefits just as Mark Farrow and Hanni Muhtar did in the town of Owerri. Mark shares,
“We were able to finish the book "Passing On Your Beliefs" with time to spare on Thursday. Many of the men seemed to be quite challenged by the Word of God’s charge to men to be the spiritual leaders in their home and to be actively training their children to pass on the faith. Several shared positive testimonies of what God had been teaching them, and they were all very encouraging. It was also a blessing hearing many of their stories of the spiritual opposition they have faced (and continue to face) in the planting of their churches and how God continues to show Himself stronger time and time again. It was beautiful. The stories were like stories straight out of Acts. I praise God for what He’s doing in southeastern Nigeria!”
Mark Farrow and a Nigerian pastor
And there were unexpected highlights for the team:“In Owerri on the way back, the security guard who checked my bag saw my Bible and asked me to pray for him right then and there. The security guard beside him paused checking the bag of the person beside me and bowed her head along with us. Then the final security guard, who saw and heard everything, asked me to pray for him! When I pray in those situations, I always preach the Gospel in my prayer. Join me in praying for these guards.”
Nigerian pastors studying together
Beyond the four days of working with participants, how else do our facilitators get involved locally?
“I would highly recommend any facilitator that (participates) to plan to stick around for the National Conference of the TETMI churches. It was fantastic getting to see several of the men in a different setting (outside the “classroom”), being pastors to their church families. And it was great to be able to meet their wives and children! I spoke three times over the three days and it was an absolute blessing!”
Growth in the Philippines
(report by Pastor Ian Smith, Mayerthorpe Baptist, AB)
This project consists of two cohorts, one based in Ormoc, Leyte and one in Banga, Mindanao. Pastor Ian traveled to the Philippines along with his family, and took Jason Eklund, one of his elders, as well as Jason’s family. Jason has been trained as a LeadersFormation facilitator.
Jason Eklund facilitating a training session
The Philippine cohort has been in operation since 2015 and students are at the point where they are involved in the actual facilitation of the sessions. Ian shares, “The participants handled 95% of the facilitation time and overall they did a very good job. In fact I was surprised by the engagement of certain leaders.” They were able to ask key follow-up questions and had the opportunity and skill needed to challenge fellow students on their responses.
After gathering together over the last four years, it is an encouragement at this stage to see how much students have advanced since they first began to participate in the program. Ian writes, “I could see growth in them since May 2018, and when I think back to 2015 it is almost unbelievable that this is the same group. They continue to do well.”
Pastor Ian Smith with pastor Edsil
And just as with other projects, there is more to the week than just facilitating. Ian continues, “The Eklund family visited a sponsor child they support through Compassion Canada. I was privileged to preach four times during the Ormoc week and again in a church in Banga. As well, our team was invited to a couple of birthday parties being celebrated within the church family. We also visited Lake Sebu as tourists for a few hours before we began the co-hort.”
In the Banga cohort, the work of facilitating has its highs and its lows. It was a great encouragement for Ian to see one particular student excel in his ability to facilitate the cohort and to engage his classmates in in-depth discussion. However, students are still needing some prompting for deeper questions that bring about more in-depth discussion.
These two cohorts graduate this year and several of the participants are planning to continue mentoring others.
(by Paul Harbourne)
In May 2018 we had the initial session of the latest LeadersFormation Kenya project in the town of Kisii in the western part of the country near Lake Victoria. We were blessed with a good group of 23 passionate church leaders from three different areas of the country gathering at the St. Vincent Centre to begin our learning together. The participants quickly blended and for that we were thankful as many had met for the first time. We had some very in-depth and, at times, animated discussions as the group worked through the issues of baptism and Christian liberty. We had an excellent spirit of questioning and explanation as we came to the biblical truths on the issues. What a blessing to see this dynamic develop so quickly.
Cedric Shibuyanga, Regional Coordinator
Much of this would not be possible without our Regional coordinator Cedric Shibuyanga who lives in Kenya and understands culture and language so very well. He can quickly clarify concepts that get lost in translation and has become an invaluable partner and a dear friend.
Cedric has already planned to check in on each group in their home areas before the next session.
—Paul is senior pastor at
Fellowship Baptist Church in Collingwood, ON.
We are looking for four more churches to partner in the project in Indonesia which is due to begin in 2019. The Kenya and Nigeria projects are also looking for additional partner churches.
Partnership includes spiritual support through prayer, financial support by giving through Fellowship International, and practical support by sending trained facilitators to the project once a year. >Click HERE< to contact Fellowship International for more information.
Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve Jones here…
Are Canadians generous? Depends who you ask.
In recent years we have seen some unfavourable trends in charitable giving within Canada. Giving is down among every age group with only one-fifth or 20% of Canadians donating to charities. Studies show that if you have not given in the past, it is unlikely you will begin unless you make it a priority (2015).
The average annual donation per Canadian has decreased from $365 to $343 from 2006-2015. More alarming is Canada’s donors are changing what they give. Canadians aged 55 and older collectively donated $6.4 billion to charity in 2015, almost double the $3.5 billion given by Canadians aged 25-54. This reality is also due to the more discretionary cash that older Canadians have to give. But that is not universally true. Giving habits are changing among a large millennial demographic.
As government funding dwindles, donors in the older age groups “age out”, we potentially lose charitable status in Canada. As churches and charities neglect to focus on millennial donors, there will be funding gaps in the near future among churches and faith mission organizations.
So what are donors giving to these days? In the 2018 Global Trends Giving Report (click here to read the report), the following was discovered:
May is Leave a Legacy month in Canada
Canadian Christians typically give more than the average Canadian. As stewards rather than owners, we give faithfully and generously. We are conduits, rather than hoarders of God’s blessing to others. We seek to give cheerfully as an investment to advance the Gospel cause. We can do this in our lifetime as well as beyond the grave through wise estate planning.
During the month of May, I’m encouraging our Fellowship family to think strategically about leveraging their good deeds well into the future by giving a legacy to our Fellowship Foundation.
Our Foundation began in 2015 and has grown to almost $6 million in direct gifts, legacies, and investments. See the pie chart to discover where generous donors have designated their legacy gifts to benefit Fellowship local churches, Regions, schools and national ministries.
Legacy Gifts and the different Fellowship Ministries
Please prayerfully consider a legacy in your will toward the Fellowship foundation. Consider contacting Gord Baptist to learn how you might do this.
A Word from Gord Baptist
“If you are considering this step and would like more information, feel free to contact me. We will assist in helping you fulfill your generosity by providing you with the means to distribute that which God has laid on your heart and direct your legacy to the ministries that you are most passionate about. If you do not have a will, we can provide the legal support to have one done for you quickly, easily, and with a legal cost that is affordable. Feel free to contact me and together, let’s complete your legacy to God’s Kingdom.”
Gord Baptist is Fellowship Advancement Director and can be reached >>HERE
Occasionally I’m asked what the difference is between the work of Fellowship chaplains and our pastors. In the manual, “The Work of the Chaplain”, Paget and McCormick state:
“It is important to keep the two roles (pastors and chaplains) distinct. Chaplains are, ‘providing a credible spiritual service and pastoral support as they bring the presence of God into the workplace’.
“A chaplain is essentially a spiritual representative attached to a secular institution. They are expected to serve the spiritual and emotional needs of others.
“A chaplain is one who formally serves as a recognized spiritual provider in a ‘particular’ context that is not generally accessible to the public, including pastors. As chaplains bring Christ’s presence into the workplace the Lord opens doors for them to provide, ‘credible spiritual service and pastoral support’ to those who may or may not be intentionally seeking help.”
Some News from a couple of our Chaplains
Danielle Presseault: Community Chaplain
Currently, 17 of our 88 Fellowship chaplains are female. Chaplain Danielle is a “community chaplain” in the Ottawa, ON area. She is also a mother, and wife of pastor Kevin Presseault of Greenbelt Community Church (a Fellowship church).
I will let Danielle introduce herself and her chaplaincy ministry to you:
Danielle Presseault, community chaplain
“I serve as a chaplain in the Beacon Hill community, and am a member of a committee which specifically reaches out to the Jasmine Crescent neighbourhood, a community paralyzed by a long succession of violent crimes. Working alongside the local resource centre team (police, child and youth workers, the city councilor, as well as Jasmine Crescent neighbours) we seek to help restore hope in the community.
“Initially, there had been pushback from local stakeholders as to whether or not to allow the Christian community onto the team, as there were concerns about proselytization, but God brought down one wall after another. I am now just another member of the team who is relied upon as part of the puzzle offering services, support, and hope.
“Free space in the Ottawa Public Library has been generously offered to provide spiritual care and counselling right where the people are – in their community. I have begun a partnership with volunteers so that Beacon of Hope can offer ESL classes, paint workshops, and seniors groups, also in partnership with the library.
“I’ve also hosted a small Bible study in the Library using video resources from RightNow Media which is being made available to us by Greenbelt Baptist Church. We are seeing people gain a greater understanding of who God is and how that makes a difference in their lives.
“Our prayer is that God would give Beacon of Hope Chaplaincy favour in the community and that the people He wants us to reach or meet the needs of would be receptive to the activities and services offered. We want to build a positive and warm rapport with whomever God brings.
“I have been sincerely amazed by our volunteers and their willingness to share their gifts with our community! I have also been in awe of God and how He has connected us to so many beautiful people. Our weekly ESL and Bible study, entitled Spiritual Rhythms, are just a couple of ways I remain connected to our community.”
(Captain) Alexander Krause: Military Chaplain
I visited with Alex in Winnipeg in November 2018. As a military chaplain with the Canadian Armed Forces, Alex is required to be credentialed through his Church Association. Alex will be completing his MDiv Studies and beginning a two-year internship with Bethel Baptist Church in Winnipeg, MB. Pastor Arden Boville will have the joy of coaching this godly man for two years as he prepares for chaplaincy ministry in the armed forces.
In a recent phone conversation, I learned from the “Baptist Rep.” on the Canadian Armed Forces Chaplains Council that the fastest growing group among new chaplain recruits are “evangelicals”. Alex and several new Fellowship military chaplains have a ministry of presence among the soldiers they serve.
I will let Alex introduce himself to you:
Captain) Alexander Krause, military chaplain
“My name is Alexander Krause and I joined Fellowship Chaplaincy in 2015. I am a military chaplain and am currently studying at Providence Seminary within the Masters of Divinity program.
“This past year, I have had the opportunity to minister in Winnipeg with some fellow believers. We try to go into the city once each week and distribute sandwiches to the needy and pray for those who are open to us doing so. I have talked with many homeless people and have had the opportunity to tell them about Christ's love for them.
“Please pray that God would continue to reveal himself to me and that I would seek him through my studies as I work toward completing the MDiv program at Providence Seminary.
Take Aways – Fellowship chaplain one-liners collected from visits with them
The month of May is a time when pro-life ministries and organizations especially, double their efforts promoting the life of the unborn in Canada. This week, on May 9, many pro-lifers are traveling to Ottawa to lobby the federal government and the rest of Canada through the “March for Life” campaign.
One-third of hospitals in Canada perform abortions. They perform two-thirds of the abortions in the country. The other third is performed by doctors in public and private (for profit) clinics. Some 97,254 abortions occurred in Canada in 2005. In one year (July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018) 385,777 babies were born in Canada—do the math. One in five pregnancies are terminated by abortion in Canada. Doctor-assisted death (suicide) has increased exponentially since it became legal in June 2016. We live in a culture of death promoted and sustained by a radical view of individual rights.
In 2016 the Canadian birth rate was 1.6 babies per mother. Experts state the sub-replacement fertility rate in any country must be 2.1 children per woman to sustain the country’s population. Without a robust immigration program, Canada’s population will decline due in part to the culture of death prevalent in our country.
There has been a new attack on the unborn in recent months. This should concern people of faith committed to sanctity of life issues.
Summer Jobs and Pro-Life Ministries
By now you’ve heard that the attestation was removed from the federal government’s Summer Jobs funding program. What happened and how has it affected faith groups from receiving public funding?
Employment minister Patty Hajdu wrote this concerning the federal government’s constitutional mistake:
“While the government had tried to make it clear the attestation wasn’t targeting ‘beliefs or values’, some people were still confused and uncomfortable.”
Her explanation inferred that the citizen’s “confusion” was the fault of overall public ignorance. The federal government’s claim is that it was misunderstood. This, of course, is not true. Every major media outlet (newspapers) in the country called them out for being constitutionally off-side. Also, most faith-based groups saw past the federal government’s feigned effort to distance themselves from their extremist, abortion values.
While many politicians, including the Conservative party of Canada, and several Christian organizations, were quick to claim a victory, it is clear that removing the value attestation was a step forward in eliminating any eligibility for funding of any organization whose core mandate is viewed (by the Employment Ministry) as hindering the reproductive right (code for abortion rights) of women. They would become ineligible for any public funding.
Global News noted this, saying:
“Now groups that work to undermine those [abortion] rights or that promote discriminations simply won’t be eligible for funding.”
The Fellowship’s National Council mentioned their concerns in a January 2019 letter to our churches. Many view this new reality as being just as bad as the attestation, especially for pro-life organizations. The federal government is saying you can be pro-life, but you can’t get public funding and the government wants you to keep quiet about your views that hinder women’s “reproductive rights”.
21-week-old Human Fetus
Once again, let me say it among the chorus of well-informed Canadians, abortion is not a Charter right. This is not hear-say nor a private opinion, this is a fact. The current federal government seems to intimate this is not a fact. As some like to say, facts don’t care about our Prime Minister’s feelings. The fact is abortion is widely available in Canada (since 1988) not because of a law (or right), but due to the absence of one. In 1988 the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the 1969 law as unconstitutional and gave Parliament one year to institute a new law. Parliament tried, failed and seemingly gave up. Canada is one of only a few countries in the world with an enduring legal vacuum when it comes to abortion. God have mercy on us and the successive governments that are hoping (happy) to ignore this reality.
Choice42.com: A Pro-Life Organization
I encourage you to check out the choice42.com website and videos on YouTube . This pro-life organization was started by some Fellowship friends. Laura Klassen has been featured in several brief videos produced by “Choice 42” (choice four-two, not choice forty-two; clever eh?!)
I love their brief video, “The Magical Birth Canal”. I encourage you to click here to watch this “tongue in cheek” approach to unmasking the insane thinking related to when a baby becomes a baby affording human rights.
This pro-life organization is looking for friends and allies. Please check their website by clicking here .
How do we continue to speak up for life in a culture of death? How do local churches speak up or come alongside pro-life organizations like local crisis pregnancy centres and give them a lift? Good place to start the discussion.
Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve here… Forty-four thousand people daily flee their homes. More than 10 million are stateless, living a life deprived of identity, education, healthcare, the possibility of work or the freedom to move about.
A Crisis in our Time
According to figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) close to 70 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Almost 26 million of these have been forced to seek refuge in other countries. Half of these are young people under 18 years of age. Many have overstayed their welcome in their host countries. As illegals they move from place to place, hiding from authorities, fearing jail or deportation back to their homelands to face even greater hardship, and possibly death.
For countries close to the epicenters of the conflicts that have resulted in these forced migrations, the challenges of handling an influx of refugees can be overwhelming. For example, Lebanon has a population of six million people, almost a million and a half of which are refugees. Not only does this have a serious impact on the resources needed to look after those crossing the border, but it also threatens to upset the balance of power that maintains the uneasy peace between political factions within the country.
The UNHCR website notes: “In Lebanon, life is a daily struggle for more than a million Syrian refugees, who have little or no financial resources. Around 70 per cent live below the poverty line. There are no formal refugee camps and, as a result, Syrians are scattered throughout more than 2,100 urban and rural communities and locations, often sharing small basic lodgings with other refugee families in overcrowded conditions.”
Two Fellowship International Missionary Families
Two ministries supported by our Fellowship and staffed by Fellowship missionaries, Cedar Home and the Clementia Learning Centre, deal with the realities of the situation on a daily basis as they seek to provide for refugee children and their families.
Cedar Home in Beirut, Lebanon
Fellowship International missionaries Karim and Rita Anayssi direct a Christian home for young girls, many who are Muslim and several who are Syrian refugees, all who are experiencing the love of Christ. Karim is looking for partnership with Fellowship churches to care for these girls.
Clementia Learning Centre in Beirut, Lebanon
Fellowship International missionaries Bechara and Roula Karkafi give direction and care for a Christian school specifically designed to minister and educate the thousands of Syrian refugee children living in Beirut. Clementia Learning Centre is looking for partnership with Fellowship churches to help care for these poor children.
God’s Word on the Care of Refugees
As Canadians, we understand immigrants. Almost all of us come from immigrant stock. But somehow welcoming refugees feels like the “elephant in the room” — too big and too scary to talk about much less deal with. The “elephant” often seems threatening. Its presence engenders fear. Its needs makes demands on our time, our money, our energy, our patience, and even on our faith.
But as believers, we can’t ignore “the elephant.”
“…the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, who shows no partiality…He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:6, 7)
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The king will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you have done for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”
The Elephant in the Room: Our Response?
A few of our Fellowship churches are engaged in helping the aliens, wanderers and strangers in our world. In fact, it was in response to an expressed desire of some of our churches that the Fellowship, through FAIR, formed a partnership with the Christian & Missionary Alliance in 2015 to facilitate their wish to engage in refugee sponsorship.
But “the elephant” is still daunting. How do you tackle something that big?
How do you “eat an elephant?” You know the answer: “One bite at a time.”
Which in our context would mean one refugee, or refugee family, at a time.
And that’s refugee sponsorship.
“The need is urgent!” writes a member of one of our Fellowship churches involved in sponsoring refugees. “The situation for the refugee families I know of in Turkey has only grown less hopeful with the UNHCR completely leaving Turkey and the U.S. accepting extremely few refugees. That is, almost hopeless apart from private refugee sponsorship.”
If each one of our 500+ churches across Canada sponsored one refugee family, we’d still only be taking a small “bite” out of the “elephant”. But it would be a good beginning.
Visit: https://www.fellowship.ca/CMA for more information on FAIR’s partnership with the Christian & Missionary Alliance as together they seek to help our churches through the process involved in sponsoring refugees. Contact us for further information at email@example.com.
The Fellowship is all of us as believers and imitators of Christ, working together on that “elephant” just one “bite” at a time, and knowing that in following the Lord’s command a blessing always follows:
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-drenched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:9-11)
Have a blessed week!
Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve here… The following are some fresh ideas on how to celebrate Easter with your church family from some of our colleagues. Enjoy.
“One of the most memorable Good Friday services in my memory was one we planned two years ago. The service followed a dramatic thread called, ‘Living Last Supper’. Thirteen of our guys were situated on stage at a long, low table (similar to da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ painting). Throughout the service, each disciple, in turn, came to the front of the platform and shared a monologue of their own perspective of Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus, and exited. Jesus led everyone (congregation as well), in the Lord’s Table. A very impactful and moving experience.”
— Lee Brubacher, Worship Pastor, West Highland Baptist, Hamilton, ON
“I have been part of a Maundy Thursday foot washing service as well as a Maundy Thursday Tenebrae service. Both were powerful experiences for us as we thought about Christ’s service in the midst of suffering and how Christ’s candle was the only one in the darkness. We also did a Maundy Thursday midnight watch service at my first church.
At Temple, we have had musicals on Easter weekend and had a Passion Art gallery where the artists from our church submitted art that reflected Easter. Our Good Friday services are also a highlight every year!”
— Jonathan Stairs, Lead Pastor, Temple Baptist, Cambridge, ON
“I get someone to build me a mock door and I paint it while I preach about the first Passover. When I am done the sermon, people have to walk through the door to pick up their communion bread and cup. I have had people come to Christ as they listen and take part in communion like this.
— Phil Webb, Fellowship International missionary, Colombia and Edmonton, AB
“We decided that a great way to celebrate Easter and going from death to life, old to new, lost to found — would be to share stories of those in our church community who were willing to share their struggles and victories. We then had them boil down their story into a few short words with the ‘old’ on one side of a large cardboard sheet, and the ‘new’ or ‘victory’ on the other side of the sheet. This was a great way to show the power of the Gospel in the lives of our church family and was one of the highlight services we have had at West Park in the last years. Things that were shared, were (before) loneliness, (after) in community, or (before) addicted to pornography, (after) free from sexual bondage. Very powerful images.”
— Corey Brown, Worship Pastor, West Park, London, ON
“We use the arts. We have a large contingent of young girls and teen girls that are taking tap/ballet/jazz at our local dance studio. A few years ago we decided to choreograph a worship dance (ballet style) to the worship song, ‘I Will Rise’ as part of our Easter services. It was beautiful and struck a chord with people in the congregation that respond to the arts. The feedback was, ‘Thank you so much for using the arts—that spoke to me this morning in a different way than a sermon or worshipping in song. As I watched—it felt like more of a prayer.’
“Four years ago for our Good Friday service we had a local artist paint live on stage as I preached. I had given the artist my Good Friday sermon 3 weeks before which allowed her time to sketch out themes and concepts. As she painted on stage the eyes of the congregation were glued to her as they listened to the gospel being proclaimed.”
— Darin Phillips, Lead Pastor, Oceanview Church, Ladysmith, BC
“We started the Good Friday service with all lights on and all curtains opened (like a typical service at Grandview). The first piece of our service was a welcome and a reading from Matthew 26:17-35 (the Last Supper). Following the Scripture reading we sang a song that emphasized that Scripture passage. Then we read from Matthew 26:35-56 (Jesus in Gethsemane) and responded with a song related to that passage. We proceeded to bounce back and forth between song and Scripture, through the Gospel of Matthew. Each time a passage of Scripture was read (and we moved closer to the Crucifixion), the lights became more dim until the whole room was dark as we read about the crucifixion of Christ (Matthew 27:45-54). After reading this passage, nothing was said. We left the room in a state of darkness and awkwardness (is the service done?) much like the uncertainty and awkwardness the disciples must have felt. After wrestling with the awkwardness, a few people began to leave in silence and others followed until the room was empty.
“Then, on Easter Sunday, we began with the room in darkness. The first song we sang was, ‘Death was Arrested’; a song that begins with the hopelessness of man, ‘alone in my sorrow… and dead in my sin… lost without hope… no place to begin…’ The song ends with hope in Christ, and when we sang the lyric, ‘but then Jesus arose with our freedom in hand,’ the lights flashed on and the curtains were opened! Symbolizing and emphasizing the hope and life that Christ gave his followers when he conquered death in His resurrection!
“This effect caused people to appreciate the awkwardness and hopelessness seen on the cross which then helped people appreciate, all the more, the power of Christ over death and the life He gives us, as we celebrated His resurrection during the remainder of the service!”
— Jacob Elliot, Worship Pastor, Grandview Baptist, Kitchener, ON
“On Good Friday we gave everyone a large iron spike when they came in. During the service when we talked of Jesus having taken away our sins, the ushers came up to collect the spikes. They passed metal bowls up and down the rows to collect the spikes, then poured the spikes into metal pails. A CD was playing as we did this – Kiriye Elieson – Lord, forgive. It was very impacting.
“On Easter Sunday we had the two biggest guys in the church dress all in white and stand by a cardboard tomb. Two women came up the aisle asking each other (in a Mennonite-Yiddish accent!) how they would open the tomb. The worship team began singing, ‘Hear The Bells Ringing’ by Second Chapter of Acts and it was timed so that when the ladies reached the front, the words rang out, ‘the angels up on the tombstone said He was risen, just as He said!’ Then as they pointed to the back, the women rushed out as the team sang, ‘quickly now go tell His disciples, that Jesus Christ is no longer dead!’ Then we all stood to sing the chorus together, ‘joy to the world! He is risen! Hallelujah!’ That was wonderful!”
— Rod Black, Fellowship International missionary, Pakistan and Edmonton, AB
“We purchased enough hot cross buns from our local bakery (best on the Island in most people’s opinion) for 250 people on Easter Sunday. Our services are 9:00 a.m. – 10:20 a.m., and then 11:00 a.m. – 12:20 a.m., so the 40 minutes in between allows us enough time to really have a great social time between services. We talk about the local bakery, the great deal they give our church and what a hot cross bun symbolizes.It’s dead simple but it means something to our local merchants in town.
“I was at a Downtown Business Association meeting a couple of years ago and a number of business owners honestly shared their frustrations. They said an event is put on in town like the Soccer Mini-World Cup (25 kids’ soccer teams from the central and North Island invade Ladysmith for the weekend). The organizers ask the local grocery store for free water/oranges/Gatorade mix, etc. The store owner approves the donation for this great local event. As soon as the organizers decided they wanted to run a concession stand they didn’t choose to shop local, they ran to the next city and bought everything at Costco. That frustrates local business owners who had been so gracious in the beginning. Churches need to think about this! Where you purchase can be a testimony to your local businesses.”
—Darin Philipps, Lead Pastor, Oceanview Church, Ladysmith, BC
Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve Jones here… When the Moravian missionaries first visited the Inuit peoples, they struggled to find a word in their language for “forgiveness”. So the missionaries created a new Inuit word made up of 24 letters:
The word has a beautiful connotation, meaning:
When it comes to forgiveness, this is the very attitude Jesus is looking for. In Colossians 3:13 (NIV) we read: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you”.
As the Easter season approaches, it is important for us to keep this in mind. A genuine believer is familiar with both giving and forgiving. Jesus gave all He had and forgave all He could.
Why do you suppose it is important to both give and forgive?
Likely because it is very difficult to love one person while remaining angry or resentful of another person. Bitterness divides the heart and chokes love from our system. It is toxic.
You say: “Wait a minute. You don’t fully understand what I’ve gone through. My father, mother, spouse, boss, teacher, friend, neighbour, coach, pastor, church treated me horribly. They need to pay in some way for what they did to me.” I agree.
But the truth is, Someone already did!
You say: “Hold on a second. They don’t deserve God’s unconditional love, unfailing grace nor my forgiveness.” Again, I’m not going to disagree with you. But if they don’t deserve it…do you?
Before you pass judgement and demand payment, try to recall the last time you broke your word with the Lord. Likely, you need only think back to the past 24 hours. What was God’s reaction to your broken promise?
Max Lucado writes: “The key to forgiving others is to quit focusing on what they did to you and start focusing on what God did for you.”
Let’s all keep re-learning the importance of giving and receiving forgiveness. As we approach another Easter season, as we celebrate the cross and empty tomb, may the marvelous news of Christ’s forgiveness guide our actions in the days ahead.
Have a blessed week,
Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve here… I recently studied the giving patterns of our local churches toward Fellowship National ministries and our Fellowship Regions.
There was good news and bad news. I thought you might be interested in learning about some of the data regarding relevancy and added value.
Some of you may be saying, “We don’t partner because we see no relevancy or added value inherent in our relationship with our Regional or National ministries.” I beg to differ. Our Regional and National ministries’ sole existence is to support our local churches to mission effectiveness. I am more convinced of this than any time in my life. I encourage you to take another look.
The proof is in the growing spirit of interdependence in our Fellowship at large. Our Regions are experiencing this. One of the fruit of this reality is the remarkable number of churches being planted in shared partnership in our Regions. Our National ministry has seen record numbers of missionaries and chaplains being appointed. It has been very gratifying to see our local churches coming to their Region and National ministries looking for partnership, support, and help. We exist for our local churches. We love the church.
Where Your Heart is, Your Wallet Will be Also?
Our Fellowship Association of churches is currently about 510 churches. The chart below is the giving results of 500 of our churches based on what churches gave to their Region and National ministries in 2017:
A Few Observations from 2017
A Humble Suggestion for Next Step(s)
I thought long and hard before writing this “Word from Steve”. Whenever you talk about money you’re sure to be misunderstood. However, I thought it important you know the results of this recent study. We generally support what we value. Now, back to you…
Have a blessed week,
Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve here… Each day I pass a store called, “Wacky Tabacky” on my way into the Fellowship Ministry Centre. It reminds me that times have changed.
On October 17, 2018 recreational use of cannabis became legal. As the first G7 nation to legalize recreational use, there has been no precedent for best policy practices for provincial, municipal, or other public or academic institutions. The Federal government put close to $100 million over six years in the Health Canada 2018 budget for cannabis public education, awareness, and surveillance.
Canadian universities face a dilemma. Katie Gross, Dean of Students at Brandon University, mentioned in a Maclean’s magazine article (November 2018) that, “no help from the Trudeau government” was sent to her. She said, “I would have loved to have seen the government say: ‘Here is a package of material. Here are the best ways to inform your faculty and staff of harm-reduction strategies for your students’. We did not receive that yet.”
Cannabis Policies in Universities
Canadian universities are busy formulating policies in the wake of the legalization of recreational use of pot. The policies vary from campus to campus. Brandon University is viewed as a “no-toking university” which fits within the more restrictive Manitoba provincial policy which prohibits cannabis use in all public spaces. However, Edmonton’s bylaws permit smoking on sidewalks and in some parks, therefore, the University of Alberta’s cannabis policies are equally liberal. The U of A permits smoking and vaping of cannabis products in safe, accessible locations on campus. Under the Cannabis Act, Canadian universities must provide safe areas for students to use legally obtained “medical marijuana”. It will be another eight months before any form of cannabis consumption can occur in our schools or public places as authorities weigh the liabilities and other risks.
It feels a little like the “Wild Wild West” as municipalities and schools seek to come up with the best policies to mitigate harm while allowing citizens to claim their right to consume pot. Should other “public spaces” be preparing policies for their institutions? Many are doing that and most often closely follow their local or provincial guidelines and bylaws. What about churches?
Cannabis Policies for Churches?
Do local churches have policies on the use of alcohol, designated smoking areas, or use of medical marijuana? Should churches?
One Fellowship church, West Highland Baptist in Hamilton, ON chose to make a public statement (not a policy per se) to their congregation this past October 2018. The pastors and elders thought it important to clearly speak about their views concerning this new public policy. They have heard mostly only appreciated from their church family concerning this statement.
In the event you would like to learn more about West Highland’s statement, contact West Highland at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for their “Statement on the Legalization of Cannabis”. West Highland’s lead pastor, John Mahaffey, will make a presentation on this subject during a workshop entitled, “Responding Biblically to the Legalization of Marijuana”, at the upcoming FEB Central Regional Conference on April 8-9, 2019.
Interesting days, eh?!
Have a blessed week,