A Word From Steve Jones
April 7th, 2020
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,
Have you ever heard of the “Parable of the Three Trees”?
Once upon a time, three young trees were planted close to one another. They matured together, sharing sunshine, minerals and water. They shared their dreams and aspirations with one another.
They all aspired to become huge and live for hundreds of years. There is a sequoia redwood tree in Northern California called “the president” that is close to 300 feet tall. Its trunk is 27 feet in diameter, and it’s 3200 years old. Another redwood close by, named “General Sherman”, is even larger.
The three trees continued to dream big dreams about the impact each would make in the forest. But one day a lumberjack cut all three trees down before they could make the impact they had aspired to.
One was carved into a feeding trough, the other into a boat bench, and the third into a cross beam. They were disappointed. They had become such ordinary things that would make no significant or discernable impact in their world. They got depressed.
But soon after that, they discovered why they had been formed into these ordinary objects. Each would be of service to a carpenter — a carpenter who would be their master. The feeding trough would become a manger in which the Christ child would lay. The boat bench would become a pulpit for Jesus to preach atop, while in a boat, for the thousands who heard the beatitudes. And the cross beam became the beam that our Saviour would be nailed to in order to redeem all humanity.
These three trees never imagined their aspirations for greatness would turn out this way. Their disappointment turned to joy.
As we mature as followers of Christ, often we need to let go of our dreams, goals, values, priorities, and desires — our spiritual maturity is dependent on it.
We strive to be a treasure chest, full of jewels, money and riches. But God is calling us to be a feeding trough full of nourishment to satisfy the soul of those seeking Jesus.
We set our sights on attaining the heights of the mast of a great sailing ship, to be noticed for miles around. But God calls us to the lowly service of a service bench that people can lean on. They never notice the bench, but they always appreciate that it’s there.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that greatness is found in worldly significance. The three trees found importance in ways they had never imagined.
Greatness is found in lowliness. In fact, God tells us that He opposes the proud. Significance is discovered in humility.
This is the way of the cross. Embrace the Lordship of Christ in your life.
What dream, value, misplaced priority, or goal is hindering your walk towards Christ-likeness? Let the Great Carpenter carve your offering into something even greater than you aspire to. He loves to use ordinary objects to do extraordinary things!
Have a blessed week,
Our Fellowship family is celebrating at FNC2018! Our Fellowship National Conference (FNC) is happening early this week in Richmond, BC…very close to beautiful Vancouver.
Our conference title is: “Saturate your World” and the theme is discipleship!
Our two keynote speakers will be addressing the discipleship need in churches today. Jeff Vanderstelt will be talking about establishing missional communities in our churches that reach out to our community. Paul Watson will be sharing the principles necessary to create a disciple-making movement from his book, “Contagious Disciple Making”.
I have been praying for months that this FNC will make a spiritual impact on our leaders.
Fellowship International adopts DMM model
Two years ago our Fellowship International department made an important decision. They would shift from seeking to establish church planting movements in specific regions of the nations we served, to establishing disciple-making movements (DMM) in these same nations where our missionaries live and minister.
This does not mean our missionaries no longer plant churches. Their primary focus will be to establish disciples who make disciples who collectively become local churches.
This past August most of our Fellowship International missionaries gathered in Poland for a week to receive further training on DMMs by their director, David Marttunen. I was there too. It was an inspiring time with our mission’s personnel leaving with a new approach / model to win many to Christ.
Fellowship International - Poland Summit 2018
One of our missionary couples serving in Spain are especially excited by the early results that occurred among their seekers and young believers by adopting the DMM principles. Here is a brief testimony:
We praise God for the things we’re learning about the work of disciple-making. Our task (and yours) is to make disciples who will make disciples. For us, this means teaching pre-believers what they will need to know to become obedient disciples of Christ when they allow Jesus to be their King. It also means equipping our group of believers to do the same and allowing God to establish His church. In preparation for our Summit in Poland with other Fellowship International personnel, we were asked to read Contagious Disciple Making by Watson and Watson, and Spent Matches by Roy Moran. We decided to put into practice one of the lessons we learned. During the three gatherings of our group before we left to go to Poland, we used the simple question outline for “Discovery Groups” described in Spent Matches and our group responded very well. It’s like the light finally came on, that the Great Commission is their mandate, too! We are anticipating that at least one new group will begin soon and be led by Salva.
We are thankful for Fellowship International’s Poland Summit. We are thankful for our leadership who is encouraging all of us to take seriously Jesus’ command to make disciples who are taught to obey everything He has commanded us (not just to know more stuff)(see Matthew 28:19-20). It was an inspiring and encouraging week.
Will YOU start a Disciple-Making Movement in Canada?
Can I let you in on a secret?
I invited Paul Watson and Jeff Vanderstelt to better expose our pastors and church leaders to the principles outlined in their books. How do we create disciples who automatically make disciples? The multiplication principles.
What our Fellowship International mission is exposing our “international” missions personnel to, which they are embracing, needs to be prayerfully and soberly considered by our “domestic” missionaries…namely, our pastors and local churches in Canada. Will disciple-making movements start in every Region of our needy nation in the years to come?
Pray for FNC2018. That the Spirit of God might move us to even greater effectiveness in the advancing of God’s Kingdom in Canada and beyond.
Have a blessed week,
There are places on this planet where there are very few followers of Jesus. Japan is one of those places. Our mission, Fellowship International, has been sending missions-personnel to Japan for decades.
Currently, Rob and Kathryn Fleming, Steve and Jacquie Willson, and Chris Evangelista are in Japan with another new appointee seeking to go after his deputation goals are met. Please pray for Adam Pietrantonio.
The Flemings in Japan
A recent prayer newsletter from Rob and Kathryn caught my eye. A couple paragraphs capture a sense of ministry in Japan and the reason why we need to keep sending Fellowship folk from our churches to Japan. I’ll let the Flemings speak to this:
Kathryn and Rob Fleming
“We visited Hitachi Hope Church (this was our church plant from 1995-2005) last month. I (Rob) still go there to preach/teach once a month. The church is an average-sized Japanese church of 20-25 souls, with no pastor, as are 20% of churches in Japan. A single mom named Maiko will be baptized as soon as the big Pacific baptismal tank warms up in July. The average Japanese church has one baptism every five years or so.
“We also met with Rutsu, one of our Hitachinaka Oasis church members (our work from 2005-2014). Mrs. Fujieta followed her kids to oasis house church outreach in 2008, believed in Jesus along with her sister and children, and has continued in her journey. “She does not “go to church” as we think in the western tradition. She lives her faith, leaving for work 30 minutes early to be sure to have her Bible reading/prayer time, asking God to lead her every step of the day. Dependence on morning Buddhist idolatry has been replaced with the Bible and Jesus, and she has regular times of encouragement with another believer, where Rutsu serves as Mrs. Fujieta’s mentor. That was not what we had in mind when we came to Japan 25 years ago, but it is, I think, a more natural expression of faith for Japanese than our western “go to church” expectations.
“We left behind two very different communities of faith in Jesus when we moved to Tokyo. But we continue to minister to Hitachi Hope Church and the remnants of Hitachinaka’s Oasis Church.
A baptismal service is a big event in Japan. Japanese believers will see few believers baptized in their life-time. Our Fellowship International missionary, Rob Fleming, had the joy of baptizing Maiko this past July. He sent me her testimony which she read on the beach by the Pacific Ocean prior to being immersed. In fact, Maiko and Rob were immersed several times as the baptism occurred the day after a typhoon. The typhoon-generated waves made things a little rough.
I read Maiko’s moving testimony and I thought you would love to read it. So I received permission. Please enjoy, pray for Maiko and the Hitachi Church, and give God all the glory.
“ ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ – Matthew 11:28-30
“I am Maiko, and this passage led me to believe in Christ.
“I started to believe in God right around the time when I gave birth to my daughter in Canada. At the time, my partner and I did not get along, he hurt me often, and did not help out with the pregnancy at all. I had no help because I did not have any Japanese friends and did not know God’s teachings. Every day was tough and agonizing. It was about that time that an organization called, ‘I’m Not Alone’ reached out to me. This organization offered me used baby clothes, gave me tips on how to raise my child, and took care of me during and after my pregnancy. They also offered something similar to counselling as they would listen to my concerns. Around that time, Linda, one of the members of the organization told me about a church that was near by and gave me a Bible. Although I had been to church a few times since arriving in Canada, it was not because I believed in God, but rather because I was curious and because my friends were going.
“Although my partner and I separated after I gave birth, I constantly blamed myself saying, ‘How could I have possibly chosen someone who was so helpless? Did I make a mistake giving birth? How am I going to support myself in the future?’ I thought to myself, ‘I am such a haphazard, stupid woman for giving birth to a baby outside of marriage.’ Linda said, ‘God will forgive you, even if you can’t forgive yourself. Even if no one else forgives you, God will always be by your side and will forgive all of your wrongdoings. If God will forgive you, why would you need anyone else’s forgiveness?’ In this moment I felt God’s mercy for the first time and cried. Although I had never really read the Bible deeply, I felt God’s mercy. I soon began to study the Bible, and upon reading the passage mentioned above, I became a Christian. Since then, whenever I have run into problems, I always look for answers in the Bible’s teachings. Through God’s mercy I have gained peace, and by following God’s Word, my life has completely transformed.
“Before this, if someone mentioned that they were a Christian, I would look down on them thinking, ‘You actually believe in God? Why?’ But now things are different. When I heard from Rob about a church in Hitachi where I lived after returning to Japan, I thought that I would go. God was present even when I was changing jobs. I had thought of quitting my previous job many times because it made me too busy, but I did not quit because I had faith that God was going to give me a sign of when I should resign. Then one day my boss decided to take maternity leave and said, ‘You should probably resign now.’ There could not have been a clearer sign for me, so I decided to submit my notice of resignation. I ended up applying for a new job before my resignation date and was accepted, which allowed me to transition into my current job without being unemployed. “My current work environment is wonderful. Even when I am not in control of things, my life has become much smoother as a Christian.
“There is another passage that I really like. ‘Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?