A Word From Steve Jones
April 15th, 2019
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Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains, and friends,
Steve here… The times are “a changin’”, as Bob Dylan once sung. The secularization of Canada and the subtle establishing of a secular public confession continues:
It is because of this that our Fellowship National Council has planned a Communication campaign this year to make our churches and leaders more aware of what is at stake regarding religious freedom in Canada.
Religious Freedom Survey Results
You’ll receive further blog reports from “A Word from Steve” and Religious Liberty Communiques. This past Fall our Fellowship National office hosted a “Religious Freedom Survey”. Almost 20% of our churches responded; 88% of the respondents were our Lead Pastors. Here is a snap-shot of what we are saying on the subject:
A December 2018 senate Committee on the Charitable Sector in Canada may possibly be suggesting some of these very same things.
When asked in the survey what Fellowship National might do to practically support our churches in protecting religious freedom in Canada, the top five responses were:
We are looking for local churches who will become our first Fellowship Religious Freedom local churches. These are churches who will seriously consider their involvement in the religious liberty fight in Canada; churches who will assign a leader or team to identify, plan and implement attempts to influence our culture; churches who will put some of their resources behind this endeavor, sharing tools, documents, resources, lessons learned, and finances to continue battling the current negative trajectory in Canada related to religious liberty. If interested, please contact Steve or your Regional Director.
The most important thing we can be doing is pray. Pray for our country. Pray for our churches to remain salty. Pray for our civil authorities. Pray for righteousness in our land. Stay tuned for more updates.
Have a blessed week,
Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains, and friends,
Steve here… Our churches have remained committed to the social and spiritual welfare of children in our communities and around the world. Many times in recent years our FAIR appeals (Fellowship Aid and International Relief) have addressed the need to care for children, whether that be children victimized by cybersex trafficking in the Philippines, educating Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, feeding hungry school children in Haiti, or ensuring safe maternal care in the DR Congo. These appeals continue to be very well received and funded by our churches and donors. I thank you.
Our latest FAIR appeal seeks to care for children in Honduras. The current “Casa Hogar” children’s home is in critical need of one-time gifts along with donors who will commit to monthly support that will address the needs of these children. I will let our FAIR Director, Dan Shurr explain more.
“The streets can be a dangerous place for children anywhere. In Honduras this is especially true. Predators abound, particularly in poor neighbourhoods where children are left on their own to fend for themselves as best they can. Some children are abandoned. Some are orphaned. All lack the basic necessities to eat, to be safe, to get a good education or medical help. Most of all, they don’t know about a Heavenly Father who loves them as no one else ever could. Casa Hogar was established to help meet the needs of abandoned, abused, and orphaned children and to provide them with a place to call home.
But a new chapter is being written in the story of Casa Hogar. Over the past months negotiations have been ongoing between FAIR and Casa Hogar’s mother organization, Vida Y Libertad, in Spain. Lord willing, FAIR will be assuming much more responsibility for the home and its ministry. We are launching the Fresh Startproject this month to raise $110,000 needed to make provision for this change, provide bridge funding to support the children until the sponsorship program is fully in place, and to put a roof over a play area, making it accessible in any kind of weather.
The child sponsorship program currently in development will guarantee the sustainability of Casa Hogar for the future, and will be uniquely designed to meet the needs of the children in the home.
Two hundred and fifty sponsors giving $35 monthly will provide for the needs of the children currently at Casa Hogar. The program will become the model upon which other child sponsorship programs will be built, each one tailored to its specific setting and need. This exciting addition to FAIR’s ministry is expected to be launched in the Fall of 2019.”
Thank you Dan. This is the first of future child sponsorship appeals. We need 250 sponsors to join the team to meet this critical need. Please prayerfully consider this request; we need to hear from you soon. Thank you.
Have a blessed week,
Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve here… One night Jesus met with Nicodemus, a Jewish leader and a religious man. Nicodemus was born in sin, so he could not inherit the Kingdom of God. He was also blind to sin, so he could not see the Kingdom of God. He was bound by sin, so he could not enter the Kingdom of God. But, the Spirit of God breathed life into this religious man and he was born again. He was brought back to life from the dead.
Today, we conclude my “President’s Address” from FNC2018 in November 2018. The past couple of weeks we’ve investigated the discipleship drought in our churches and the solution from Ezekiel 37:1-5:
“Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones. Dem bones, dem bones gonna walkaround!”
James Johnson’s famous spiritual, made more famous by the Myer Jubilee singers in 1928, helped to popularize Ezekiel’s vision and underscore the supernatural work of God. New birth, whether in people or churches, is a supernatural event! Ezekiel 37:10 (ESV) says: “…they live and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army”.
But it’s not enough to just connect the bones. God also strengthened them sufficiently enough to stand, and to stand without the aid of crutches, splints, or a respirator. They were strong! We pray earnestly that many would come to faith, but also be strengthened by His Spirit and discipled by His Church, to stand and withstand. “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father”, prays the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:14-19 (ESV): in that believers might be, “strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being” (vs 16b), and “rooted and grounded in love, [that you] may have strength to comprehend” (vv 17b-18a), and “be filled with the fullness of God” (vs 19b). We pray for new birth, we pray for new disciples who make disciples and churches who establish new churches. We pray that the supernatural work of God might reanimate the bones of this valley and then move as a “great army” to the next valley and to the next and the next. Verse 7 notes there, “was a sound and behold, a rattling…” (ESV).
Is there a “rattling” going on in Canada? In the Fellowship? Any signs of new life? Are there any places where the Holy Spirit might be “breathing”?
The Fellowship’s church planting story since 2010 is most definitely a sign of “rattling”.
Our Fellowship Pacific Region has planted 11 churches. Our Fellowship Prairies Region has planted three churches. Our FEB Central Region has planted 48 churches. Our AÉBÉQ (Quebec) Region has planted 11 churches, and our Fellowship Atlantic Region has planted three churches. This comes to a total of 76 churches planted in the past eight years. Previously, between 1990 and 2000 our Fellowship planted another 87 churches. Over the next 25 years, in many ways, we’ll look back on this period of our Fellowship as a time when we returned to our heritage as a church planting movement.
When it comes to church health, we’re also hearing some “rattling” as well.
Our FEB Central Region has identified and classified 23 churches as “turn-around churches” in the past five years. This means that churches who were on the descending end of the “Church Life Cycle” are now in varying stages of good church health.
The story of our Fellowship Pacific Region is one of revitalization. After 3o years of a four percent decline (-4%) each year, leaders decided together that was not acceptable; this could not possibly be God’s desire for their Region. The result was a five year partnership (which was completed in 2016), whereby a greater degree of collaboration and interdependence would occur among churches. The outcome is a “turn-around Region” that is no longer experiencing -4% decline, but a healthy 7% growth annually on average among its churches. This is remarkable, in that this is not happening in most Evangelical circles in Canada today.
And to top this all off, this past year our Fellowship International department deployed nine missionaries from our churches, and our Chaplaincy department appointed 18 new Fellowship chaplains. These are recruitment records among our churches.
However, I would still contend that this is still the sound of the “rattling”, not the “thunder clap” of a marching army rising from the dry valley. As encouraging as all this fruit might sound, it still is only the “rattling”. The sound of a “reviving wind”—the Spirit of God is looking to envelope our churches with his “breath”. The “sinew, tendons and muscle” growth has only started to happen; there is still lots of dry bones out there; still plenty of graveyards, and too many “Boneyard Baptist Churches”!
When I started in my role as Fellowship National President in mid-2011, we were a movement of churches numbering 507. Seven years later we are 510 churches from coast to coast to coast. Seventy-six church plants were established in that same time frame, and yet we remain the same number of churches across our nation. Obviously, there has been some death. Some dry bones succumbed. Death is a natural occurrence, even among churches, sometimes even for good reasons.
But if our birth rate only keeps pace with our death rate, you do the math. We need to follow Ezekiel’s lead and pray for a resurrection. Church leaders in three mainline Protestant denominations woke up this morning to start their work day as real-estate agents trying to sell off 5,000 closed church buildings. The church does not have a mission, the mission has a church. Are we joining in with God on mission? Are we allowing Him to “breath” on us and bring “times of refreshing” (Acts 3:19)? We’re just starting to hear the “rattling”.
Every Fellowship Baptist church needs to discuss, identify, and implement and intentional Discipleship Path for every one of their current members and the ones who will be won. We need this intentionality, so that the “sinews, tendons, and muscles” might grow strong, so we might become the visible army that Ezekiel saw in the valley (vs 10). This army will fiercely take on the “gates of Hades” here in Canada and beyond.
“When the Philistines saw that their hero (“champion” [ESV]) was dead (Goliath), they turned and ran. Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued…” (1 Samuel 17:51b-52a NIV). Goliath is dead, and the Lord’s “great army” (Ezekiel 37:10) “surged ahead”. I love this picture. We need to get this picture in our heads. How will our churches “surge ahead” with Gospel advance in our land? Let’s follow Ezekiel’s prescription:
Near the tip of South India lived a godly missionary named Amy Carmichael in the late 19th Century. Her own mother and father had been “revived” during the Ulster Revival of 1859 in Northern Ireland. Amy devoted her life to the rescue and care of the “devadasis” women. These were young temple prostitutes who were used and abused in savage religious service. Amy took them into her care in her well-known orphanage in the town of Dohnavur in southern India. Amy and her mission helpers prayed for years for a visitation of the Holy Spirit upon all of India akin to the Holy Spirit’s visit during the Welch Revival of 1905. When the Revival did arrive this is what she wrote in her diary: “On October 22, to quote one of the little girls, ‘Jesus came to Dohnavur’. He was there before, but on that day He came in so vivid a fashion that we cannot wonder that it struck the child as a new coming.” Notice what Amy was saying: Christ was already there, but on that day, it was as if He had come again – a new coming.
Ezekiel writes in chapter 37:8 (ESV): “Flesh had come upon them and skin had covered them. But there was no breathe in them.” There was no power in them! The remarkable thing about gaining the Spirit of God’s power is that any work of the Spirit must be precipitated by a death. Ezekiel 37:12b (ESV): “I will open your graves and raise you from your grave.” The insight: we must first learn what it means to die (to self) before we’ll ever see a resurrection in any Boneyard Baptist church” in Canada.
Have a blessed week,
Under the heat of the scorching sun the bones were sapped of all moisture. They were absolutely useless. One step away from dry dust. Behold – what do you see when you see the state of the church in Canada today? Could Canada be characterized in the same way? A land of dry bones.
Today, we continue my “President’s Address” from FNC2018 in November. Last week we clearly stated the discipleship drought in our churches and the dry bonesfound in the pews. The problem was outlined in last week’s blog; the solution follows from Ezekiel 37:3-5: “And he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.’”
Recent surveys and studies indicate the Canadian church is shrinking. One of the starkest indicators is the exponential growth of the religiously dissatisfied in Canada, often referred to as the nones, or those expressing no religious affiliations. The Canadian average is 24% indicating no religious affiliation and this grows to 29% on average among those born between 1987 and 1989 – the millennials. In BC it’s even worse with 44% on average indicating no religious affiliation. The trending is bad across the country.
Last week we investigated in vv.1-2, that:
Ezekiel’s vision should cause us to pause and look at our own land
The dry bones of lives that exhibit no spiritual life, lost in sin with no means of escape. Churches that are so spiritually sapped and dry that they have become useless to the Lord. Slowly being pounded into dust by the constant waves of secularism, distraction, and apathy. Churches that have forgotten they’re supposed to be on mission. In fact, some have forgotten what the mission is. Now they’re only seeking their own survival.
A few months ago I heard a report about three mainline Protestant denominations who are currently seeking to sell almost 5,000 church building due to closures. It was heartbreaking to hear, knowing that at one time these were vibrant witnesses who lost their way. Denominations are becoming real estate business, rather than mission agencies.
Is the Evangelical church in Canada doing any better?
It actually is, but the trends don’t point to a future of tremendous vitality. Church health and church planting barely keep up with the national birth rate. And so, a visitation of the Spirit of God needs to invade our typical Boneyard Baptist Church, or we could be closing many churches in a generation or two.
What is the solution?
The Lord spoke to Ezekiel and told him what needed to be done. He had a responsibility to be on mission with God to reignite and revitalize these “dry, dead bones.”
“Can these bones live” (v.3). “O Lord God, you know.”
This responsibility rests upon the preachers of our churches, and I’m not only talking about the clergy.
Ezekiel’s first responsibility was to:
A. Preach (37:4 ESV): “Prophecy over these bones and say to them, O dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord.” Like any fellow follower of the Most High God, Ezekiel was to preach life into these dead dry bones by preaching the Word of God. The level of death and desolation represented by these dry bones in the valley must have made Ezekiel initially feel his assignment was utterly futile. But God’s Word is more powerful than our plans and methodologies.
The prophet and preacher Isaiah reminds us of this in Isaiah 55:11 (ESV) saying: “So shall my Word be that goes out from my mouth: It shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” God’s Word penetrates “joint and marrow … [and the] thoughts and intents of the heart” according to Hebrews 4:12. God’s Word will infuse truth, infuse life, into these dry bones.
For the past few years I have been meeting with our five Regional Directors discussing and considering best practices to revitalize the 30+% of our congregations that are not exhibiting mission-effectiveness. They find themselves on the descending side of the church life cycle, feeling dry and struggling to turn the ship around. But there is some good news on this front in every Region. Signs of health are showing in all our five Fellowship Regions, though we still have lots of work.
One of the critical reasons why revitalization is happening is because of what Ezekiel is commanded to behold or look for, found in verse 5 (ESV): “Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.” Until the Spirit of God breathes new life into these dry bones, our preaching will be in vain.
B. Ezekiel’s Second Responsibility is to Pray (v.5): Ezekiel had preached the Word of God to these dry bones. They seemed to appear to be alive, but they remained dead. They needed to be touched by God before they were fully alive. Ezekiel was commanded to pray that God might breathe on them and reanimate these dead corpses.
One of the seven reality principles of the Experiencing God discipleship toolkit is to look, watch, behold, and engage wherever God is already clearly working. Revival, revitalization happens when we join in where God is already doing a work of grace. Pray and ask the Lord to show you where He is breathing new life into dry bones. Join in with God’s purposes by not only preaching with urgency, but also praying with fervency. And let the outpouring of the Spirit of God bring life to dry and lifeless people and churches who have lost their way and have forgotten their purpose in life.
Next week we’ll investigate Ezekiel 37:6-10 and discover the result of this kind of preaching and praying. The insights we’ve learned so far is as follows:
Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve here… I recently heard a church planter say, “Our future is in the harvest”. That got me to thinking: If we have no harvest, do we have a future? What are our churches doing to ensure we have a future harvest?
So started my address at our Fellowship National Conference (FNC2018) this past November. I spoke about what I was seeing across Canada in these days. We investigated Ezekiel 37 and the valley of dry bones. My hopeful message was the “rattling” I was hearing among the dry bones.
A young 25 year old must have been thinking just how lean his future seemed as he and his people were marched into exile.
Ezekiel was a preacher’s kid who was taken to Babylon in 598 BC with King Jehoiachin, who had only enjoyed his coronation, becoming king three months previously. Thousands of the finest and most promising citizens of Judah who had not been left for dead in a brutal battle in a valley were taken into exile to Babylon.
Ezekiel’s name means “strengthened by God”. There is little doubt his repeated visions over his 20 years of faithful ministry were used to challenge and strengthen God’s people.
In Ezekiel chapter 37 his vision of a valley full of dry bones is a message specifically for the nation of Israel. Verse 11 mentions: “the whole House of Israel” (ESV). The nation is dead but God promises it will come back to life and bring glory to God.
So, is Ezekiel’s vision a word for the church today?
The church in Sardis was described in a similar way in Revelation 3:1: “…I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” Like Ezekiel we too are surrounded by the dead. Everywhere there is existence of decay. It dominates our cities, our counties and our country. Our task is to spread the message that the dead can live again. God is in the restoration business. The conditions that surround us, should sober us, cause concern, and stir us into action. Ezekiel’s vision was shocking, even gruesome! A valley full of bleached white, scattered bones; this is the remnants of the nation of Israel.
So, in this growing hostile environment, what is the solution? We believe the hope of the world is Christ and the platform to deliver this hope is the local church. Is the local church healthy enough to stem the tide? In 2015, the Barna Group completed a significant study on the state of discipleship. Let me briefly share several findings from this large study on the state of discipleship health in the church today. While listening to these stats, ask yourself: Is there sufficient evidence to indicate that the Canadian church is healthy enough to address the growing indifference and even hostility toward the church?
Barna’s study involved the interviewing of 833 pastors and 2013 Christian adults:
An encouraging 52% of Christian adults definitely believed the church was doing a good job of helping people to grow spiritually, with another 40% saying the church was probably doing a good job.
However, church leaders were far more pessimistic. Only 1% said the church is doing very well at discipling young believers, and 60% said our churches are not doing well at discipling.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Edinburgh Mission Conference of 1910, four conferences were held in the four cities of: Edinburgh, Boston, Tokyo, and Cape Town. At each conference, just eight years ago, the overwhelming concern was the lack of discipleship in churches as a universal worldwide problem.
The Cape Town conference produced a document referred to as The Cape Town Commitment (2010). One commentator writes: “The Cape Town Commitment (2010) uses the language of confession, lamentation, and repentance more than 25 times referring to the scandal of the shallowness and lack of discipleship in churches.”
The encouraging thing is that in Barna’s 2015 study, 77% of practicing Christians indicated a desire to see growth in their spiritual life. In fact, 23% or one quarter indicated they are currently discipling someone and 94% of pastors said they were discipling someone. 25% of practicing Christians wanted their spiritual growth to happen in a small group while 40% wanted to grow all alone and another 16% would prefer to be discipled one on one with someone.
The picture is not an encouraging one. There remains so much our churches could do to help people grow spiritually. Very few Fellowship churches have developed a clearly defined Discipleship Pathway or Process. The result is a lot of spiritual dryness in the pews.
Ezekiel looked over the valley and he saw death. In verses 1-2 of chapter 37, Ezekiel sees a revelation. He looked over the valley and he saw death. The bones pointed to death. Many Bible commentators believe Ezekiel’s vision was the scene of the aftermath of a great battle. A valley filled with the bones of his own countrymen after their battle with Babylon. Thousands of Jews never receiving a proper burial (a horrific thought to a Jew), were left to rot where they fell, this was death on a massive scale.
What do we see in our own communities?
We see the living dead, the spiritually dead, sheep without a shepherd. The Fellowship’s mission statement declares that we are, “A movement of churches making passionate disciples of Jesus Christ.”
“Lord, open our eyes. Help us to see the devastation, help us to not become so familiar with the stink of death that we remain half-hearted in our work of making passionate disciples.”
John 4:35 (KJV) reminds us: “Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest.” The word behold used in the ESV and KJV is a dramatic way to say look; look carefully and feel the immensity of the moment. Look carefully and see what the Lord is doing, and will do. Behold the mighty deeds of the Lord are at play, at work. Look! We must see the world as it really is: dead.
But in Ezekiel 37:7 (ESV) we read: “And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a great rattling, and the bones came together, bone to bone.”
Next week we’ll investigate the rattling that is going on in our land. Some encouraging signs of health and Gospel advance in our Fellowship of churches and the Evangelical church in general in Canada.
Have a blessed week,
Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve here… He attended the Council of Nicea in 325 AD where he supported the Biblical doctrine of the trinity. There is a rich tradition that speaks of his commitment to Christ despite much persecution and threats of martyrdom.
Stories abound of his compassion and shepherding character that compelled him to love and care for children. He became well known for giving gifts to young children, gifts that would symbolize God’s ultimate gift…our Saviour.
Nicholas would somehow morph into today’s Santa Claus and largely be forgotten. Born of wealthy parents in 280 AD in the small town of Patara in Asia Minor, his parents died in an epidemic when he was very young. But, they had instilled in Nicholas a strong faith.
He was later made Bishop of Myra and imprisoned for his faith by Roman Emperor Diocletian and later released by Emperor Constantine. Stories abound about his generosity and compassion. He begged for food to feed the poor, gave a girl’s dowry to marry her future husband, but the best known story is the disguise he wore while giving gifts to the poor children. He gave away everything he owned and died penniless.
Poets and writers have written strange things about him. Clement More gave him a red nose and eight tiny reindeer. Thomas Nast illustrated him as big and fat wearing a red suit trimmed with fur. Others renamed him Kris Kringle, Belsnickle, St. Nick, Pelznickel, Father Christmas, Père Noël, Babbo Natale, Kanakaloka, Julenissen, Ded Moroz, Kerstman, and Santa Claus.
But most important Nicholas possessed the self-giving character of Jesus…. Their love would touch the whole world.
We celebrate Jesus, not Santa, at Christmas. We rejoice that our Saviour was born in a cradle to later die on a cross offering all humanity the gift of salvation.
On behalf of the entire Fellowship National staff, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a blessed 2019!
Merry Christmas from the Fellowship National Staff
You won’t receive “A Word from Steve” for a couple of weeks. We will connect once again on January 7, 2019. Happy New Year!
Have a blessed week,
Some of us may over-eat this Christmas…some of us will remember the 1970s ad: “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!”
In the story of “Babette’s Feast” we discover a beautiful parable of the wonders of Christmas. It was written by Danish writer, Karen Blixem who spent 1914-1931 in British East Africa (Kenya) farming a coffee plantation. She is best known for her book, “Out of Africa”, which was made into the 1985 film, “Out of Africa” starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. She returned to Denmark and began writing under the pseudonym, Isak Dinesen and wrote, “Babette’s Feast”. I watched the film adaptation a few years back and was deeply drawn into this parable of God’s wondrous grace at Christmas.
This is a longer blog than normal, but let me tell you the story:
The story is set in an impoverished fishing village off the coat of Norway. The movie locates it in a coastal village in Denmark. The streets are muddy, the roofs are thatched, the village is poor, and the people follow an elderly white-bearded austere Lutheran pastor. The villagers of Norre Vosburg renounce all worldly things, and so they wear black clothing and eat a steady diet of boiled cod and a gruel made of boiled bread and ale.
They met on the Sabbath and sang songs of the “New Jerusalem”, while enduring, even tolerating their life on this earth. The old pastor had two beautiful daughters named Martine (named after the great Reformer, Martin Luther) and a younger daughter named Philipa (named after Luther’s brilliant disciple, Philip Melonchton). The villagers used to attend church just to feast their eyes on these two radiant beauties.
One day a dashing young cavalry officer saw Martine and he wanted to marry her, but she resisted his advances, for she only wanted to care for her aging father. The cavalry officer later married a young aristocrat.
On another occasion the greatest opera singer of the day, a Frenchman named Achille Papin, heard Philipa singing one day and wanted her to come to Paris with him to make her a star. She and her father refused the offer and Papin left dejected.
Fifteen years passed. The old pastor is dead and the two sisters are still unmarried and have attempted to carry on their father’s harsh and austere mission. The little church had splintered due to conflict, and only a few still attend the Sabbath worship services, while the two sisters continue to boil bread for the toothless elders of their church.
One night during a terrible storm the two sisters heard a knock at their door. A woman collapsed at their doorway exhausted, speaking no Danish. She had escaped from Paris during the Civil War. Friends and family had been killed. All she had was a note from the opera singer asking them to kindly take her in. The note said: “Babette can cook.”
They took her in and Babette becomes their cook and housekeeper, and for 12 more years she boils cod and makes gruel for this devout group of Lutheran followers. No one ever talked to Babette of her past life. It came as a great surprise to Martine and Philipa when Babette received her first letter from Paris after living with them for 12 years. Apparently, one of Babette’s friends had continued to purchase her a lottery ticket each year and she had finally won. She had won a windfall of 10,000 francs.
The two women thought Babette would leave them, but much to their surprise she did not.
They had been talking about a celebration to commemorate their father’s 100th anniversary of his birth when Babette’s letter arrived.
Babette requested she be allowed to make the meal for the celebration party. She had never asked a favour in 12 years…now she pleaded.
The two women agreed, but it was secretly agreed among their little religious order that no one would comment or gain pleasure from the meal Babette would create.
One might imagine that a steady diet of boiled cod and gruel would have killed their taste buds anyway.
Babette ordered the groceries and many exotic delicacies arrived.
Amazing sights never seen in this austere village were seen. Work men pushed wheel barrows loaded with crates full of small birds, a cow’s head, truffles, pheasants, other strange creatures, even a huge, live tortoise snaking its head around as it was carried into the kitchen.
On the snowy evening of December 15 the party began! They sat down to a table full of china, silver ware, candles and evergreens. Even the dashing cavalry officer, now a general and over 30 years older, was there. While the villagers tasted these strange dishes one after another they never said a word nor changed their grimed-faced expressions. Babette wondered why they were not enjoying it!
The General, on the other hand, was overcome by the culinary wonders and explosive tastes that passed his lips. He raved about the meal over and over again during the feast. But, something began to happen. The villagers began to enjoy the wondrous feast placed before them. Undeserving of so great a gift lavished before them, they began to warm up to the occasion.
Their blood warmed, their tongues loosened, and they began to speak of the old days. Two brothers confessed to one another and were reconciled. Two women who had not spoken to one another for 10 years began smiling and talked to each other. One little lady burped and a brother next to her yelled: “Hallelujah!” They all laughed…this had not happened in years!
Heady with the moment, overwhelmed by the wondrous gift of the sumptuous meal the General rose to make a speech.
The story ends with old parishioners holding hands around the village fountain and singing lovely songs of their faith. It is really a COMMUNION scene of rejoicing in God’s goodness and grace.
Babette’s feast had opened the gate, but grace had strolled in among a grim-faced group for the first time in years.
The AUTHOR writes: “They felt [for the first time] as if they had indeed had their sins washed white as wool.”
The final scene takes place in the kitchen. Babette sits among pots, pans, carcasses, bones, grease, empty bottles and vegetable trimming. She looks as exhausted as she had 12 years previous on the night she arrived in the storm. She is completely spent looking as exhausted as Jesus might have looked while hanging on His cross. Martine and Philipa complement her on the meal and say they will greatly miss her when she returns to Paris. Babette looks at them and says she doesn’t plan to return to Paris, for she has spent the full 10,000 francs on the meal they had just eaten. The women are immediately jolted by the news of the cost. They had done nothing but let Babette live with them and be the housekeeper and cook, their servant in effect. And now she lavishes this undeserved gift on them!
The cod and the gruel eaters are just beginning to understand the riches of turtle soup and pheasant under glass.
How much is your congregation worth in services to your community? Have you ever thought about that? You should.
A Senate Committee has been studying Canada’s Charity Sector since January 2018. They are to give their report sometime this month. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has mentioned that every Western nation that has done a similar study comes back with significant suggested changes to how government treats charities and religious places of worship.
Churches paying property tax, donors not receiving annual receipts, clergy losing their house allowance benefit, and much more is being considered.
Currently, the Church in Canada has very little quantifiable data that indicates the real added-value our churches have on our communities. We know this is true, but the hard data is very scanty. The Town Council, in each of our cities, need to hear how our churches make a significant socio-economic impact on the community. If they choose to tax churches, impeding them from continuing to offer helpful ministries in the community, what would it cost the city to offer these same services. Sometimes money does talk…loudly.
The Halo Project
Our Fellowship has embarked on a study to discover the socio-economic impact the average Fellowship church has on its community.
Halo Canada will be conducting surveys this Autumn with some of our churches across Canada. A cross section of diverging churches have been chosen by our five Regions including city, suburban, and rural churches along with small, medium, and large churches. The objective is to discover our “Halo project” on a community.
Recent Halo Projects in Canada
In a recent Toronto Halo project of just ten congregations, it was discovered they offered the equivalent of $45.4 million dollars of services to their communities in one year.
In a Halo Canada Project where 30 congregations were studied, it was discovered they offered the equivalent of $69.8 million dollars of services or an average Halo effect of $2.3 on each community. In this study the median attendance of each congregation was 100 with a total of 12,535 worshippers attending these congregations. CLICK HERE if you want to read more about the benefits of Halo project Study.
The Fellowship’s HALO Project
Sphere Research conducted a brief study of the Halo effect of the average Fellowship Church in June 2018. We discovered, using CRA data collected from 420 Fellowship Churches, that our national Halo estimate totals of $417,300,000 (urban: $379.2 million and rural: $38.1 million).
We decided to go deeper by conducting a controlled study to the socio-economic benefit our faith communities (churches) are making on Canada. This will become quantifiable evidence for the federal, provincial, and municipal governments as they make decisions concerning the charitable sector in Canada. Our Fellowship Halo Project should be complete in the spring of 2019.
Our Halo researcher mentioned that the average property tax bill on the average congregation in Canada could be in the range of $150,000 per annum. This would adversely affect many of our churches in offering many ministries to their communities. For some congregations, it would close their doors for good.
WHY DO WE NEED THIS INFORMATION
The times are changing! Let’s never get distracted from accomplishing our primary mission (making disciples). However, we need to address the society we live in and its growing Christian- amnesia. Civic authorities need evidence, hard data, that the church in Canada is making a huge impact on our communities. Last year the Halo effect of the charitable/church sector in Canada was $17.7 billion in socio-economic benefit. That is equivalent to 1.1% of Canada’s GDP. Next to the federal government, religious institutions are the largest land holders in Canada at $16.7 billion with $4.2 billion revenue raised through donations.
Charities and churches make a massive impact in Canada. Our politicians need to hear about the good deeds that happen daily without using a single tax dollar from government coffers. The Fellowships Halo Project will be a tool to help communicate this truth.
Have a blessed Week,
Steve here… Our Fellowship family have historically recognized three Theological institutions in our 60+ year history:
They have served our churches well for decades training our future pastors, missionaries, church planters, chaplains, along with church staff and leaders.
Much ink has been spilled in recent years on how best to train these leaders and the transitions theological institutions must consider. I have had the joy of watching our school, Northwest, attempt a grand experiment which is currently bearing “much fruit”. I recall the day I sat down with President, Kent Anderson, who shared what he, our Fellowship Pacific Regional Director, David Horita, and others were planning. An approach to theological education that was church-centric and competency-based. That was seven years ago … much has happened since then.
The Immerse Story at Northwest
President Kent Anderson told the Immerse story in this past year in Northwest’s publication. He shares the recent positive recognition that Association of Theological Schools (ATS) (the accrediting body) indicated toward the Immerse experiment.
Kent Anderson, President of Northwest Baptist Seminary
I thought it deserved a broader audience, and so, the following is part of Dr. Kent Anderson’s article:
Northwest exists to serve our churches. Nothing drives us like our passion to be helpful to the churches God has called us to serve.
For that reason, it was deeply encouraging to be invited to participate in a recent ATS conference in Orlando, Florida on churches and their denominational contexts. Seminaries were invited to participate for free as long as they brought their seminary president, their board chairperson, and their denominational leader. It was our particular honour to be asked in addition to bring a “case story” – essentially an invitation to tell the story of Northwest’s relationship to Fellowship Pacific. David Horita, Dennis Wasyliw, and myself were pleased to agree.
There were three case studies presented. The first was from a network of mainline denominational schools, describing profound administrative malfunction. The second was from a large Eastern Orthodox seminary that had experienced years of public scandal in its relationship with its churches. Clearly our story was going to have a different tone.
When we were introduced toward the end of the meetings, it was suggested that the conference organizers wanted to leave the crowd with a positive story. “We want to leave you with a hopeful instance of a school that has got it right with its relationship with its churches.” After an introduction like that it was pretty cool for David, Dennis, and me to stand up and tell our story.
It is significant to me that when the Association of Theological Schools looked across North America in search of a school that has done well in serving its churches, that they identified Northwest. Of all the accomplishments that we could speak of in recent years, I am most pleased by this. We can do more – and we will – but I am encouraged by this affirmation that we are on the correct course.
What was it that ATS observed in us that would cause them to single us out for excellence in servicing our churches?
Obviously, the Immerse program caught their attention, but it was the origin story of the program that impressed them most. Most seminaries understand their need to serve churches, but Northwest took that interest to another level. We determined that if we really wanted to be effective in serving churches, we would have to do this with our churches. We knew that it would not be good enough for us to simply tell the churches why we knew best what was good for them. We would have to actually listen to the churches and work collaboratively to design something that everyone could own with equal levels of commitment.
This meant that we had to let go of some things. We could not control the outcome if we truly wanted to achieve something different than what we had offered in the past. The seminary institution had to matter less to us than the value of the church. Seminaries have always seen themselves as service organizations – committed first and foremost to the church, and we had been no exception. Yet this kind of commitment proved easier to affirm than to practice.
The development of Immerse required months of deep dialogue with Fellowship and pastoral leaders. It was not going to be enough for the faculty to tell the church what outcomes mattered. These things had to be mutually discerned. The conversation was sometimes painful as we listened to one another, inching toward an eventual shaping of a set of outcomes that everyone could affirm and pursue with passion.
Dr. Kent Anderson
The results over the past couple of years have been encouraging. Students studying in Immerse’s church/competency-based theological education model are graduating students that walk the stage who are already involved in long-term pastoral placements within our Fellowship churches. This is the strength of school and Region working in close collaboration.
Immerse is Spreading
Over the past of couple years our theological school in Quebec, SEMBEQ, formed a partnership with Northwest to begin their own iteration of Immerse among our French-speaking churches and students.
Fellowship International, our own mission, has also formed a partnership with Immerse with our first two students, preparing for missionary service to Japan and Pakistan. Let me introduce you to:
Adam Pietrantonio, appointed for service in Japan.
Kevin and Micaela Miller, appointed for service to Pakistan
Fellowship International has also adopted Immerse among the churches we work with in Colombia and there are hopeful plans to see Immerse established with our missionaries serving in Lebanon.
The power of a dream given life via collaborative partnership which results in multiplication. To God be the glory!
Have a blessed week,