A Word From Steve Jones
May 18th, 2020
John Newton penned these familiar words:
“Amazing grace how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found,
Was blind but now I see.”
These lyrics, sung in churches and stadiums, have sought to capture the saving work of Christ in the life of an individual sinner saved by grace. But, words like “saved, converted or born again” get bad press these days. Should we use them?
I won’t weigh in on this question specifically. I suppose other words could easily be used. However, one of the key tenants of evangelical Christianity is the conviction that “conversionism” is a necessity.
Conversion is a concept found throughout the New Testament. The gospel writers used the Greek words “metanoia” (to change your thinking, to repent), “epistrephein” (to turn back), the “new birth” (1 Peter 1:3) and “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). All these terms sought to describe people turning from their former loyalties to a new allegiance with Christ.
This “turning” looks different with different people, but an identifiable turning is clearly experienced. Augustine’s “light of confidence” over a process toward monasticism, Luther’s sudden conversion after years of inner struggle, Wesley’s heart being “strangely warmed” after years of religion, thousands responding at Billy Graham crusades and the “belonging” before “believing”, that seems to happen at Alpha and Christianity Explore local church dinner meetings. All have in common the reality of turning and changing one’s allegiance. Let’s never forget the necessity to call people to change, not just a decision.
In recent years, Willow Creek (Chicago) and Bill Hybel’s admission that a new emphasis of “making disciples, not just decisions," was necessary (in their REVEAL book) sparked much thought, studies and books. A good emphasis on our call to “make disciples”, not converts has occurred. The Engel’s scale emphasized the process many people are in towards a decision. Missional Communities were a means to go to the people and engage them in that process. Evangelism has become or is becoming the natural outflow of your daily life in Christ. Not just a tool, even of ministry. None of these are bad, but better used in a life lived in community.
In this development and understanding of the process to conversion, and the critical nature of discipleship in the local church; is there a possibility that “conversionism” is being pushed out? Do we lose the language because we see the discipleship failures of the late 20th century? Hmm…
I still remember hearing one of my pastor friends (thanks John) say in a sermon: “If you’re not sure when you decided to become a Christian, maybe it’s because you’re not. Surely such a life-changing event would be memorable!” Good counsel.
The decision may happen over time or in an instant, but it must happen.
Register for our upcoming Fellowship National Conference (FNC 2018) by clicking here. This year we will be in Richmond, BC from November 12 to 14.
Our speakers, Jeff Vanderstelt (Missional Communities / SOMA) and Paul Watson (Disciple-Making Movements) will certainly challenge all of us in the work of “making disciples”. We will also be voting on two important documents at FNC 2018; our new “Marriage and Human Sexuality” policy and a new Bylaw, Article 15.1, which defines the authority of all national documents. The wording for these policies will be sent to all Fellowship churches in September.
Have a blessed week,
Steve Jones here… The local church ministry season is about to pick up… September is about to appear. I thought I’d share some counsel on best practices for church leadership Boards.
The health of a church Board is essential for maintaining church health. Most of the following is borrowed from the BoardSource paper, “The Board Building Cycle.”
Board members are often in short supply. But the job of building a church Board is more than just filling slots. It is also about being strategic about the composition of who should be on the Board. Is the individual passionate about Jesus, the mission He has called us to accomplish, and deeply committed to our church’s vision? How are we constantly identifying and cultivating these potential future candidates? The “nominating committee’s” role is not just to fill the slots, but also to ensure the Board continuously strives to be as effective as it can be with the best leaders.
BOARD ROLES and RESPONSIBILITIES
The governing Board of any local church should be thinking about accomplishing the following:
- Develop and maintain focus on mission and vision.
- Establish strategic direction.
- Delegate authority for organizational management.
- Articulate, safeguard, model, and promote organizational values.
- Develop policies related to the generation of financial resources.
- Ensure that the necessary resources are made available for implementation of the mission.
- Ensure that the organization has the leadership needed at both the staff level and the Board level.
- Establish financial policies and ensure accountability.
- Ensure compliance with applicable laws and ethical standards.
- Monitor progress toward strategic goals and evaluate outcomes.
INDIVIDUAL BOARD MEMBER RESPONSIBILITIES
- Attend all Board and committee meetings and functions, such as special events.
- Stay informed about the organization’s mission, services, policies, and programs.
- Review agenda supporting materials prior to Board and committee meetings.
- Serve on committees and offer to take on special assignments.
- Make a personal financial contribution to the organization.
- Inform others about the organization.
- Suggest possible nominees to the Board who can make significant contributions to the work of the Board and the organization.
- Keep up-to-date on developments in the organization’s field.
- Follow conflict-of-interest and confidentiality policies.
- Refrain from making special requests of the staff.
- Assist the Board in carrying out its fiduciary responsibilities, such as reviewing annual financial statements.
—Adapted from “Six keys to recruiting, orienting and involving non-profit
Board members” by Judith Grummon Nelson, BoardSource, 1993
Good governing Boards do not just happen. Boards must be intentional. Wise leaders spend time not just doing the work of the ministry, they also spend time and attention on the training and equipping of current and future Board members. Good Boards need to work to become great Boards. Below is an example of a nine-step Board Building Cycle. Good Boards will ensure they are regularly taking steps to strengthen their performance at each step of the cycle.
The Board Building Cycle
Step 1: Identify the needs of the Board: the skills, knowledge, perspectives, connections, etc., needed to implement the strategic plan. What do you have? What is missing?
Step 2: Cultivate sources of potential Board members and identify individuals with the desired characteristics. Ask current Board members, senior staff, and others to suggest potential candidates. Find ways to connect with those candidates, get them interested in your organization, and keep them informed of your progress.
Step 3: Recruit prospects. Describe why prospective members are wanted and needed. Explain expectations and responsibilities of Board members, and don’t minimize requirements. Invite questions, elicit prospects’ interest, and find out if they are prepared to serve.
Step 4: Orient new Board members both to the organization and to the Board explaining the history, programs, pressing issues, finances, facilities, bylaws, and organizational chart. Describe committees, Board member responsibilities, and lists of Board members and key staff members.
Step 5: Involve all Board members. Discover their interests and availability. Involve them in committees or task forces. Assign them a Board “buddy.” Solicit feedback. Hold everyone accountable. Express appreciation for work well done.
Step 6: Educate the Board. Provide information concerning your mission area. Promote exploration of issues facing the organization. Hold retreats and encourage Board development activities by sending Board members to seminars and workshops. Don’t hide difficulties.
Step 7: Evaluate the Board as a whole, as well as individual Board members. Examine how the Board and chief executive work as a team. Engage the Board in assessing its own performance. Identify ways in which to improve. Encourage individual self-assessment.
Step 8: Rotate Board members. Establish term limits. Do not automatically reelect for an additional term; consider the Board’s needs and the Board member’s performance. Explore advisability or resigning with members who are not active. Develop new leadership.
Step 9: Celebrate! Recognize victories and progress, no matter how small. Appreciate individual contributions to the Board, the organization, and the community. Make room for humor and a good laugh.
Steps 1-4 of the “Board Building Cycle” addresses the need to replenish the Board with the best people possible:
I trust this brief study on Board recruitment and performance helps your church experience a great ministry season.
Have a blessed week,
If love is more an action than a feeling, what action best represents one’s love for another?
The “love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13) declares that love is kind; it does not envy; it is humble, respectful, and patient. The ultimate test of my ability to do all of these is found in a single act.
When someone hurts me, how do I respond? Do I keep a grudge, seek revenge, or get bitter? 1 Corinthians 13:5(b) says that our love should “keep no record of wrongs”.
One husband said, “When my wife and I get into an argument, she gets historical.” His friend said, “You mean hysterical”. The husband responded, “No, I mean historical. She brings up the past!”
The ultimate test of my love is whether I will FORGI VE. Forgiveness gets abused and misused; there is a lot of faulty thinking around the Biblical concept of forgiveness. Take the following test to see how well you grasp the concept:
Forgiveness Quiz T F
A person should not be forgiven until they ask for it.
Forgiving includes minimizing the offence and pain caused.
Forgiveness includes restoring trust and reuniting the relationship.
You have not really forgiven until you’ve forgotten the offense.
When I see someone hurt, it’s my duty to forgive the offender.
Carefully read these statements and you’ll agree that each is false according to Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness.
To demonstrate true Biblical forgiveness, we are going to need to ignore our right to get even.
Romans 12:19 (NLT) says: “Dear Friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord”.
Many of us feel that if we give up our own right to get even, then somehow that is unfair — you’re right! It is unfair. But who said forgiveness is about fairness? Was it fair for Jesus to go to the cross? Thank God, the Lord does not treat us fairly. Instead, He treats us graciously… and he promises that one day He will settle the score and make all wrong right.
If we don’t do this we fall into the trap of bitterness. Like a cancer, it will eat us from the inside out. You become miserable and make others around you miserable.
In Simon Wiesenthal’s book, “The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness”, the Austrian Nazi hunter tells his own story in the first half of the book. He was pulled out of his Nazi concentration camp, brought to a hospital and into a room with a lone SS officer lying in bed near death. The SS officer spoke of the atrocities he had done to the Jews. He thought they were all gone until the nurse mentioned there were still some in the camps. The SS officer was burned beyond recognition and near death. He asked Simon to forgive him on behalf of all Jews. Simon quietly left the hospital room, never saying a word. He then asked if he had done the right thing. The second half of the book is comprised of the answers he received from people who responded to his question. People of faith, politics, philosophy, and great thinkers responded, and, except for a few Christians, all agreed that he had done the right thing in not forgiving the monster that lay dying in his hospital bed.
Had Simon done the right thing? I can’t imagine being in his predicament, being asked to forgive a fanatical Nazi with the blood of innocent Jews on his hands.
Some of us have been deeply hurt. I don’t want to come across as insensitive or to minimize the wounds that others carry. The hurt, rejection, abuse, and betrayal that some have lived through is horrendous.
But, the only way to get on with life in a healthy way is to forgive. The ultimate test. It’s the only way to get over the hurt. Do it because God forgave you — He expects this of His children, and the alternative is miserable.
Have a blessed week,
Christianity Today reports, “Researcher found that 82% of Protestants consider a sermon’s Biblical lesson as a major factor that draws them to worship services.” Another 80% of these same worship-goers said they valued sermons that connect faith to everyday life.
Churches spend a lot of time on the quality and excellence of a lot of things in congregational life. But do we spend adequate time on the one thing most people show up for Sunday by Sunday?
It should not surprise anyone that people are especially hungry for truth in our current post-truth, post-facts culture. People are finding it harder than ever to identify fact from fiction, fake news from real, and reality from conspiracy. People are thirsty for what Scripture promises… the truth that is Christ Himself.
Ed Stetzer pointed out that one mega church has started to “beef up” its teaching in response to unchurched people asking for it. Ed writes, “In other words, those for whom sermons were being dumbed down for aren’t dumb. They are interested in the truth or else they’d be out golfing.”
The Church will never win the entertainment battle. So stop trying. Gathering for worship isn’t ultimately about us anyways. We gather to be instructed, admonished, equipped, and encouraged.
To do this takes hard work. Preparing Biblical, deep, practical sermons resting firmly on the authority of Scripture requires a lot of study, imagination and prayer. There are no short cuts.
If preachers consistently take short cuts, their churches too often become “a mile wide but an inch deep.”
Let me encourage you to study hard, write, wrestle, prevail, pray and remember the measure of judgement applied to preacher-teachers. A sobering thought that must drive the preacher to depend upon the Lord.
Preaching God’s Word. Foolishness to the worldly wise. However, still the most powerful way to change and transform the hearts and minds of truth-hungry people.
Have a blessed week,
Steve here… On April 23, a terrorist plot in Toronto resulted in human misery and loss of life. I contacted Pastor Bruce Jones of Willowdale Baptist Church the day after the event. This Fellowship Church is very close to the location of the terror incident.
Bruce wrote back:
“It has been an absolutely surreal time over the last few days… so many interviews and opportunities to share the love of Christ. We have opened the doors of the church since we’re so close to Olive Square; the ground zero of the situation. Coffee, tea, snacks, food, conversation, a warm, dry place… it has been well used and we’re trying to set things up to keep it open for a few more days.”
“Someday, maybe I can give a more detailed response. Suffice it to say, it’s been heavy and exhausting, but we can tell that God is up to something at Yonge and Finch. Thanks for your prayers; we need them more than you know!”
“Blessings in Jesus, Bruce”
It’s been a few months since the terror event. So I contacted Pastor Bruce to comment on what happened. What did he and his church learn from this tragic event?
I’ll let Bruce comment:
“When a deeply hurting person drove a rented van onto the sidewalk just steps away from our church on April 23rd, taking the lives of 10 people and severely altering the lives of 16 more, the Willowdale community was just like any other community in the mega-city of the GTA… bustling and self-focused, yet relatively secure and unconcerned with safety issues any more complex than walking unscathed across the very congested streets.
“As the immensity of the tragedy reverberated around Canada and the world, however, folks living and working near the main artery of Willowdale — Yonge Street from Sheppard Avenue on the south to Finch Avenue on the north—quickly realized that life was never quite going to be the same again. Our church (Willowdale Baptist — just steps south of Yonge and Finch) made the decision to open our doors to the growing number of people drawn to a make-shift memorial in Olive Square, a 30 second walk from our door. People were visiting this site to sign letters of condolence, lay flowers, light candles, pray and cry for the lives affected. This tiny greenspace became the headquarters for the city and country’s grief for weeks to come. News and camera crews cluttered the area and the site became a place of pilgrimage for hurting people.
“We simply put out a sandwich board sign near Olive Square alerting the people to the fact that we were open to attend to some immediate needs — a warm and dry place, washrooms, hot drinks, prayer, a quiet place for reflection and/or to talk to someone who cares. When we opened the church lounge, we had no idea if we could handle the needs or would have enough coffee or enough caring ears to make any difference at all. That’s where the Lord took over!! Within an hour of opening the church, I met a couple of blue-shirted blessings who identified themselves as ‘Rapid Response Chaplains’ from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. They had arrived on the scene that morning, sure that their training in Critical Incident Stress Management and their skills in sharing the Gospel could be of benefit. They were simply looking for a place to ‘set up shop’. We accepted their offer with thanks and for the next full week we had six trained chaplains operating out of our building! In addition, the Family Life Centre of Tyndale University sent various professional Christian therapists who met with folks needing counsel — a couple of them brought trained therapy dogs who helped to create safe spaces for people to open up. Other trauma counsellors and Christian workers were drawn to the area, playing an important role in the first steps of dealing with the grief of the community.”
“The challenge now is to continue the care started in late April, taking opportunities to present the Gospel of Christ to those who need to respond to His love. A member of our church who works at Yonge Street Mission has started a grief support group. In addition, one of our associate pastors, working with a group of other pastors and Christian leaders, created the ‘We Love Willowdale’ team which has spearheaded the interdenominational Christian response to the tragedy, beginning with a stirring worship walk down Yonge Street just days after the attack. As a church, we have seen an increase in the number of hurting people coming through our doors on Sundays and throughout the week which has provided us with many discipleship opportunities.”
“In the weeks following the event, we keep coming back to a couple of scriptures — Genesis 50:20, where Joseph tells his brothers that something they had meant for evil, God meant for good, for the saving of many lives… and Romans 12:21, ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’! God is working, even through tragedy!"
—Pastor Bruce Jones, Willowdale Baptist Church
A big thank you to Pastor Bruce, his pastoral staff, and the Willowdale Baptist family who represented so well Christ’s love and compassion.
Have a blessed week,