THINKING AHEAD, Vol. 15, No. 3 - May 2012

In This Issue

Moving the VMC Mission Forward

As we evaluated our ministry at our staff meeting last July, we were very grateful for the way God has led and prospered us; but there was a restlessness in the room. Could there be something more? What should a network of increasingly flourishing and effective churches look like, in 2012 and beyond?

Since then, we have been thinking, conferring with others, observing our ministry landscape—writing, talking, and rewriting. We believe we are close to the beginnings of a new chapter in our ministry.

Here’s what we’ve noticed and are chewing on:

More Collaboration Needed

As leaders, our ideals about how to serve Christ can lead us in quite different directions and we tend to stick with people who have chosen a similar path. Leaders of larger churches mostly talk with leaders of other larger churches. Multi-site people, church planters, ethnic church leaders, and incarnational community based types also generally confer with their own kind.

Each of these ministry streams have their own gurus, books, conferences, websites and, oh yes, critics. The methods are different to be sure, but aren’t the intentions of each of these approaches to ministry similar?

Because these ministries are so isolated from each other, it is hard to track our collective impact. Are we progressing? Are good things happening? Should we be rejoicing, or should we be repenting and getting to work?

And could we share our discoveries, productive ways of doing things, and people resources more effectively? Might churches of different kinds cross-pollinate each other’s ministries with fresh ideas? Could struggling churches receive guidance from thriving congregations?

More Celebration Wanted

As a network of churches, we don’t always celebrate enough. At times, we at VMC have too narrowly defined growth as a new church planted while missing other forms of progress. We want to see more flourishing and effective congregations formed in our country, but what kind of congregations qualify? How should we count? Could we find a “flexible common denominator” to help us? It’s not just about math. It’s about evaluating our missional progress so that we can make course corrections. And about celebrating so we can be strengthened in our faith

More Prayer Required

As you all know, growing God’s kingdom can be full of difficulties, problems and troubles of all kinds. When we hear about other leaders and congregations that are struggling, it’s easy to thank God we’re not in that situation. But do we pray, I mean really intercede for our ministry colleagues?

As a result of our observations and discussions, we want to take action in three main areas:

1. Fostering Greater Cooperation

What if we learned to cooperate more effectively to develop new congregations? With fresh thinking, we believe it’s possible for very diverse churches to focus their efforts in order to form many new congregations. As large churches, planting churches, grassroots organic ministries, and ethnic churches work together, God’s kingdom will be expanded. We know the why, we are working on the how.

2. Facilitating More Celebration and More Intercession

What if we more intentionally praised and honoured God for all the amazing things he is doing in and through his people all across Canada?

We want to start counting and celebrating ministry impact more purposefully. In addition to recognizing new daughter churches planted, we also want to take note of other measures of growth, including:

  • a congregation growing by 50 members
  • an additional worship service starting
  • an ethnic group forming a new congregation
  • a somewhat positive congregation division taking place
  • a group of people gathering to initiate a new community ministry

We believe it’s possible to collectively witness one of these ministry impacts every month! As we hear these praise stories and encourage one another with them, the joy of the Lord will increase our strength. What if we all became more vigorous in our faith as a result?

And what if we learned how to pray more earnestly for one another in times of distress? Tragedies might be prevented and relationships could be restored if we interceded for fellow leaders and their congregations.

We believe VMC could facilitate communication about both joys and troubles among us so we can rejoice and pray as the people of God.

3. Connecting Struggling Churches with People Resources

In addition to celebrating more frequently and praying for each other more strategically, we also want to help churches that are feeling stuck to move forward. We believe that there are “people resources” in the churches of our network that could provide major help to churches in need of assistance. VMC can’t afford to employ more and more people to do this work. But perhaps we can facilitate the exchange of resources, ideas, and learning. Churches with capacity to help could be brought together with congregations that are struggling. We’re working on it.

We are not there yet but we are getting closer to moving our mission forward along these lines.

We praise and honour God for all the amazing things he is doing in and through his people all across Canada. We believe there is much more to come!

Faith in Action: Fighting Human Trafficking

The Bible calls us to act out our faith. Micah 6:8 tells us to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. In Proverbs 31: 8-9 it says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Speak and defend are action words, they are not passive.

God is leading me to take action on behalf of victims of human trafficking.

My sister-in-law, who works for Samaritan’s Purse, invited me to a three-day conference about human trafficking in 2009. I attended with a few ladies from my church (Millcreek Christian Fellowship). It’s hard to walk away from a conference like that and not be affected.

Following the conference, I signed up with ACT Alberta, a coalition of government agencies, social agencies, trafficking survivors, and individuals who are identifying and responding to human trafficking in Alberta (www.actalberta.org). After becoming an ACT volunteer, I realized that a huge barrier to their work is a lack of funds.

One day while driving from Edmonton to Calgary, God planted an idea in my head for an art gala fundraiser. I sat on it for a while, wondering if it was really from God. But after much prayer, I realized that I should act on it. My husband always says, “If you think God is asking you to do something, then you’d better obey.”

The Spero Gala takes place June 2nd, 2012 and will feature work by high-calibre Alberta artists, including art professors from University of Alberta and Alberta College of Art, as well as other professional artists. (My fine arts background connects me to some of them.) While a band plays, people will mingle, sip wine, snack on cheese and bid on the art in a silent auction. A great speaker, Bethany Hastie, will talk about sex and labour trafficking. People will be able to make online donations at the venue.

We will advertise through Facebook and Twitter and an event website (www.sperogala.com). Friends will distribute printed invitations to their community of friends and co-workers. We will also invite churches.

There have been a few road blocks along the way, but also many surprise blessings. For example, a church is considering covering the cost of the venue out of their social justice fund. And a neighbour of a friend from church did the website for free.

I want to say that we will raise $50,000, but am afraid to put that in print for fear of falling short of our goal. I mostly feel that I am in over my head, but that is when God steps in. It kind of excites me because God is glorified when I feel ill-equipped and he uses me to accomplish his work anyway.

Through the Spero Gala fundraiser we want to help ACT continue to bring hope to victims. In my lifetime, I would like to see an end to humans being trafficked as a commodity. And I pray that those who are rescued from trafficking will find hope in Christ.

Lisa is married to Jack Teigen, pastor of Mill Creek Christian Fellowship, a church plant in Edmonton (www.cometothetable.ca).

Facts on Human Trafficking

  • Sexual exploitation is the most common form of human trafficking.
  • Labour trafficking, which is on the rise in Canada, is the second most common type.
  • 80% of all trafficked victims are female and half of all cases are children.
  • Most exploitation takes place close to home. Data show intra-regional and domestic trafficking are the major forms of trafficking in persons.
  • About 27 million people are being trafficked worldwide, and valued at $42.5 billion annually, the global market is second only to drug trafficking.

Welcoming People to the Gospel

Creekside baptism
Creekside’s baptism services have become prime opportunities to share the gospel. In warmer weather, the baptisms take place in the pond in front of the church. “People see life change and want to be a part of it,” says Pastor Ken Taylor.

There’s a buzz about Creekside Church in Waterloo, Ontario that makes community members curious. Those who attend regularly are passionate about the church and invite their friends.

As the Hospitality & Integration Director at Creekside, Jen Taylor has an inside track on why people are attracted to the church and what keeps them coming back. “You will often hear us say, ‘Come as you are. No perfect people allowed!’ I believe this is the main reason non-Christians are drawn to Creekside,” says Jen.

Even before new people get into the service, Creekside extends a hand of welcome through parking attendants, greeters, and complimentary snacks and beverages at the Creekside Café. “First impressions are critical to people’s decision to return or not, so making people feel welcome and wanted is a priority.”

A recent study done at the church determined that approximately 3,900 guests will visit the 1,500-person congregation in just one year. “That’s a lot of people to invite to lunch. It’s also 3,900 opportunities to help someone take the next step on their spiritual journey,” she says. According to Jen, many of the guests come in response to years of prayer and invitations from friends, family, or coworkers. For this reason, it’s important to get the welcome right.

Jen recently reminded congregation members that each person who visits the church has a story. “Everyone who walks through our doors is going through something; maybe it’s a promotion at work, a divorce or a new baby at home. Whatever it is, they are attending church because they want something more and we want to be able to help them find it.” Regular attenders are encouraged to keep their eyes open for new people and to introduce themselves.

Creekside’s intentional focus on hospitality seems to be working. “Many people talk about how friendly the church is and how positive people are about their faith,” says Jen.

Another thing non-Christians have told Jen they like about Creekside is that they don’t waste people’s time. “Every single element of our service is purposefully selected and planned in order to help people see God clearly, participate meaningfully in worship and take spiritual next steps.” Creekside leaders realize that most people are with them for only an hour per week and they want to make the time count.

“We address relevant topics and apply the ancient scriptures to everyday issues. We believe that the truth of God’s Word is powerful and life-changing,” says Jen. According to Pastor Ken Taylor, about one in 20 people who attend on a Sunday morning are unsaved. He preaches sermon series that are perfect for inviting friends and neighbours, like “The Five Questions Skeptics Ask.” The church also hosts “Creekside at the Movies” during which contemporary movies are shown and used as a springboard to discuss God.

“We make it a priority to reach out to people where they’re at and to give them time to process the message of the gospel without feeling pressured or singled out,” says Jen. Creekside also provides tools and programs, like Alpha, that give people an opportunity to ask questions about God and to study the Bible and wrestle with issues for themselves.

20 Years of Less Talking and More Doing

Gord Martin says that starting Vision Ministries Canada was “a process and a crisis.” During the 1980s, as pastor at Lakeshore Bible Chapel in Waterloo, Ontario, he began connecting with other leaders of churches with Brethren roots. He helped arrange leadership events for pastors and elders of Ontario congregations in 1985 and 1988. Gradually, he got a sense of the challenges church leaders were facing and the questions they had.

The crisis came in 1990 when Gord attended The Canadian Consultation on Evangelism in Ottawa, which was hosted by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC). “It was the first time I had a glimpse of the Canadian church from east to west rather than the church from north to south,” says Gord. At the conference he was shocked to hear that only 5% of Canadians were members of evangelical churches. “I remember driving back from Ottawa to Waterloo and thinking, ‘More of the same can’t be the answer. We need to do something about this.’”

When Gord returned home, he called his good friends Dave McClurkin, Paul Fletcher, and David Booker. Together they planned an evening at Don Valley Bible Chapel in Toronto in June 1991 called Vision Ontario: The Need for Evangelism and Church Planting in Ontario. Like-minded elders and pastors of churches in the province gathered at this event to discuss cooperating on a “home-missions” organization that would facilitate church planting, strengthen existing churches, and cultivate a supportive network of congregations. The Mount Carmel Bible College (Edmonton, AB) President, Jay Gurnett, was in the crowd—mostly enjoying a free pizza dinner.

Bruce McNicol from Interest Ministries in Chicago (which was associated with Stewards Ministries) happened to be in town and attended the gathering. He said to Gord afterward, “We were thinking about doing something like this in Southern Ontario.” The following year, with funds from the sale of an Ontario church property, Stewards Ministries provided a critical grant to Vision Ontario (VMC’s original name). Bruce also provided some long-distance mentoring for Gord.

All fired up to take action, Gord surveyed 131 churches in Ontario over the phone. He wanted to find out basic information like when they got started, who helped them, if they had a full-time pastor, and if they had any potential church planters among them. “Some people were suspicious. A few hung up on me, but mostly it worked out quite well,” says Gord. Through the calls, he recruited about 30 people to participate in a six-month church planting course using Bob Logan’s Church Planters’ Toolkit.

In addition to the church planting classes, Vision Ministries hosted several seminars for pastors and elders in the early 1990s. Gord was working half-time for Vision and half-time for Lakeshore. He was supported administratively by Henrietta Koenig who also worked half-time for both organizations. In 1996, Bruce Fournier, the first board chair of VMC, suggested hiring “that tall guy who just went back to Edmonton.” He was referring to Jay Gurnett, who had been in Waterloo for a year completing his MBA at Wilfrid Laurier University. Jay came on board half-time in 1997.

Jay says he joined the VMC staff because “I love to see new things start.” He had already been a key lay member of four church planting teams. A popular itinerant preacher and strong relationship builder, Jay had connections with many Brethren-rooted churches across Canada—especially in the West. With the addition of Jay’s western connections and David Booker’s contacts in the Maritimes, a name change to Vision Ministries Canada made sense.

Gord recounts that an early board member once said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be known for what we do instead of where we came from?” Gord agrees and is pleased that the impetus for starting Vision Ministries has not changed. “What we started out doing in 1992 is still the same thing we are doing today. We are still committed to planting new churches, we are still supporting existing church leaders and we are still cultivating a network of churches that supports this vision.”

Though VMC has experienced their share of painful experiences and things that didn’t work, they maintain a forward-moving focus. They have chosen to steer clear of unnecessary controversies and to include rather than exclude churches and individuals. “We have been willing to work with anyone who wants to work with us,” says Jay.

VMC has a strong sense that they exist for the sake of the churches they serve. Their emphasis on less talking and more doing has led to incredible fruitfulness as individuals, leadership teams, and churches have prayed, given sacrificially, and obediently stepped out in faith over the past 20 years.

Pine Grove Bible Church: Envisioning the Future

“If you don’t like the sermon this week, come back next week,” Don Buckingham laughingly says about Pine Grove Bible Church of Ottawa, Ontario. Don isn’t really joking. Each month, two elders, a part-time youth pastor, and various itinerant speakers take turns speaking. In addition, five worship teams—ranging in style from hymns on piano to a full worship band playing contemporary music—lead the 120-person congregation in worship.

“I happen to be someone who likes a lot of variety, so for me it’s a perfect fit,” says Don, who has been an elder there since 2005. Pine Grove is led by a team of elders and does not currently have a pastor. Its decentralized leadership and small size make it attractive to many people. In this kind of environment however, it is important for the leadership team to keep refocusing on who the church is and where it is going.

To navigate through these questions, the elders consulted with Gord Martin of Vision Ministries Canada.

Gord began by leading the elders through a series of thoughtful questions to help them more clearly define the identity of Pine Grove. Within the spectrum of churches, ranging from seeker-sensitive to Bible study-driven, they determined that their church was right in the middle. In the second part of the exercise, Gord asked, “Given that you’re this type of church, do you want to move toward one end of the spectrum?” Together, they created a questionnaire, which the elders will take to focus groups in the congregation.

For Pine Grove, it is an important time of evaluating. As an elder, Don feels the heavy load of church leadership. The elders support each other well, and have a mandatory sabbatical every four years. Yet, Don admits at times he would like to share the load of pastoral care with paid staff. And, he questions whether the church has the capacity to engage in their community more.

Though the congregation is small, it is very active, with over 70% of people volunteering in the church. Pine Grove has a strong women’s ministry, runs a successful youth program together with a local Baptist church, and has been investing into a francophone Haitian congregation that meets in their building. Still, Don eyes a nearby apartment complex, and wonders if they are called to reach out there.

The visioning process has been immensely helpful to the elders, and as they look forward to hearing back from focus groups, Don says, “It’s exciting.”

Pine Grove Bible Church
The Pine Grove Bible Church elder leadership team (L–R): Don Buckingham, Paul Beaubien, Danny Wright and Paul Huston.

A Fresh Set of Eyes

Gord and Jay (and others from VMC) have helped us greatly at Assiniboia-Charleswood Community Church (ACC, Winnipeg) by functioning as a set of external eyes to aid us in looking at our challenges and opportunities with a fresh perspective.

Recently, Gord met with members of our leadership team and asked us probing questions that led us to share some of our strengths and weaknesses as a congregation.

One of the exciting areas of ministry God has uniquely equipped us to pursue is an involvement with HIV/AIDS in Africa and Nairobi Chapel in Kenya. This has happened because two of our long-term members, Dr. Allan and Myrna Ronald, are internationally recognized for their medical research and advocacy for HIV/AIDS sufferers and their families.

Gord suggested that our involvement on this issue could present a way to invite our neighbours to connect with us and to experience something of the character of our congregation.

In February 2012, we held a dessert evening about “The Face of HIV/AIDS in Africa and Manitoba” where the Ronalds shared about the effects of this dire pandemic. Handouts were distributed to our immediate neighbourhood and an excellent article was printed in the local newspaper. Consequently, just over 80 people attended the evening. Many were neighbours who had never been inside ACC before.

Gord helped us see an opportunity for connecting with our community that had been under our noses for years. But it took a fresh set of eyes to recognize this. Thanks Gord and Vision Ministries!

Canadians and Immigrants Working Together for Christ

The Jesus Network Shawn and Hayley, the young couple who spearhead The Jesus Network, have learned a lot from living with and working alongside newcomers to Canada. Their vision is to lead people to Christ and then empower them to reach their friends, family members, and neighbours with the gospel.

Hayley appreciates the depth of the life experience of the men and women who have immigrated to Canada or come as refugees. Many of the women became mothers early and bore a good deal of responsibility at a young age. Hayley admires her neighbours’ strong attachment to their families and their culture and their deep respect for older people. She likes their cooking too. “I have learned how to cook nice Basmati rice. In PEI (where she is from), we ate meat and potatoes. I never tasted rice as a child,” she says.

Hayley has also learned spiritual lessons from new immigrants who are believers. “They have risked a lot and it makes them more dependent on God.” Hayley is impressed that when she and an immigrant Christian go to pray with someone, the person expects God to answer. “They pray and believe that something is going to happen. Surprisingly it does.”

One of Hayley’s co-labourers is a former Muslim believer who they call “Dreamer” because Jesus visited her dreams (they also use this name to protect her identity).

Originally from a Middle Eastern country where the gospel is restricted, Dreamer came to Canada with her family. In the midst of a life crisis, she had prayed all the prayers she knew with no result. In desperation at Easter in 2004, Dreamer prayed to Jesus asking him to show her a sign on a specific day—and he did. The miraculous answer to prayer sealed her commitment to Jesus.

Dreamer slowly and carefully grew in her faith as she became friends with The Jesus Network team. The team handed out their first 10,000 Jesus film DVDs and Christmas baskets in December 2007. When they followed up with about 400 people in 2008, they invited Dreamer along to translate.

Dreamer was nervous but as she translated for the team, she began telling her own story and encouraging people to pray to Jesus. Fears about how her family would respond and deep questions about her religious identity remained. Through learning how to pray and bearing witness in her own language, Dreamer’s boldness and faith grew rapidly. God gave her access to the homes and hearts of many families. She listened to their stories, empathized with their pain and constantly pointed them toward Christ.

Two years ago, Dreamer joined The Jesus Network staff.

Through The Jesus Network, God is forging strong relationships among Canadian believers and new immigrants. As they pool their talents, unreached people are hearing the gospel in Canadian neighbourhoods as well as in the newcomers’ home countries. Together they are helping to build the throng of worshippers from every tribe and nation that will honour God in heaven.

Find out more at www.facebook.com/jesusnetwork

MoveIn Makes a Difference

Last week, I was going to work when I saw a neighbour on our floor being kicked out of her apartment by her partner. Her belongings were all over the hall. I was able to help her gather everything and get herself together to go to a shelter. I saw a Bible inside one of her containers and told her that God loves her and will look after all her needs. I prayed for her and told her to call me when she was at a shelter. – Christian living in a Toronto MoveIn patch

Christians are making a difference as they live among and love their neighbours in poor, unreached Canadian neighbourhoods, through MoveIn.

Begun in 2009, with a handful of 20 and 30 somethings, MoveIn has grown to more than 150 individuals on 25 teams living in nine cities across the country. Teams now include singles and couples, as well as families.

MoveIn’s Vision Team identifies and profiles micro-neighbourhoods that are dense, have a high percentage of people in poverty, and/or people from unreached nations living in them. Individuals interested in relocating to these “patches” go through a discernment process with MoveIn and find housing in the neighbourhoods. Teams are asked to pray together weekly for their neighbourhood and then respond to God’s Spirit as opportunities present themselves. Most “MoveIners” work or go to school and build intentional relationships with their neighbours as they carry on with their lives.

In 2011, members of the MoveIn Vision team connected with Christians in England, Germany, France, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo about the possibility of starting MoveIn teams in some of their needy urban neighbourhoods. A MoveIn couple also researched potential patches in the Philippines and India. Their hope is “to see thousands of Christians prayerfully moving in among the unreached, urban poor.”

See available neighbourhoods at www.movein.to. MoveIn staff are available to speak to churches, college & career groups, Sunday School classes and small groups. Get in touch by email: contact [at] movein.to

Vision Trip.jpg

A couple with MoveIn researched potential patches in the Philippines and India.

Live Well, Love Much, Laugh Often

On Wednesday, December 28th, during a walk with his wife Gladys, VMC staff member Dave McClurkin slipped on some ice and hit his head. He seemed okay, so they continued their walk and had lunch. Later that day he was unable to speak clearly and was rushed to the hospital. He went into a coma and never regained consciousness. On December 30th, Dave went to be with Jesus.

About 800 people attended Dave’s funeral, held at Creekside Church in Waterloo, Ontario. It was truly a celebration of his life as friends, family, and people who had been impacted by Dave’s ministry shared memories. There was lots of laughter and many tears. Dave’s young grandson even sang a song he had composed for his grandfather.

Memories of Dave

Dave has been such a supportive brother to me at VMC for the last ten years it’s hard to imagine life without him. He was competitive without being difficult. He challenged us [VMC staff] in such wonderfully rich ways. Dave loved the Lord and His Word—he loved to teach it and to discuss anything and everything related to his God who loves prodigals. And he loved his wife Gladys! – Gord Martin, VMC

Dave always gave life. He hugged me every time he saw me. We regularly, wonderfully, joyfully took contrary positions in order to think things out together.

– Jay Gurnett, VMC

Sharing Life

My role on the Grace leadership team was to be David’s host. We quickly formed a friendship. When he had spare time, we would go to the beautiful town of Chester to sit by the harbour and enjoy a beer with fish and chips. There, often in the bright sun, we would share our lives. David was a very good listener. He loved the church and we would talk about how the church can reach out to our culture. He was very open to new ideas, and encouraged creativity. He was always positive and his wit and laughter are well known. He will be truly missed.

– Graeme Higgs, Pastor, Grace Chapel, Halifax

Let’s Do It

I appreciated Dave’s gentle and pure spirit. He used any opportunity to share something to bring a smile on someone’s face. Dave was always saying, “Let’s do it, why not?” Once when we were really financially short, I asked Dave, “How will the money come?” He said, “Siamak, let’s do it.” And we did it and amazingly not only did we come through the issue but also we received many blessings. Praise the Lord!

– Siamak Shafti Keramat, Pastor, Spirit of Truth (Persian Congregation)

Joy and Laughter

Dave listened attentively, then had a practical solution that he didn’t shove on you, but asked you to consider. He encouraged me to keep trusting the Lord, to take small, deliberate steps, to keep moving forward and most of all, just to love people. I loved his enthusiasm for life, for his wife and family, for photography (he’d often tell me about the latest great shot he took), his motorcycle and for God and serving Him. Dave brought joy and laughter wherever he went.

The last time Dave stayed in our home, about a month before he passed away, he listened to my wife and I for two hours. The next morning, Dave had a scripture for us. When he left, both my wife and I had a new joy and sense of a burden lifted.

– Mark Barrett, Pastor, Faith Bible Church, Charlottetown, PEI

Releasing New Ministries

My first memory of David was back in 1970. A group of us approached the Bethel Chapel elders about starting a work in the Lakeshore subdivision of Waterloo. Aware of what we felt God wanted us to do, David encouraged the other elders to let us go.

In those first years at Lakeshore, David would often come to speak. I confess that I was envious of his speaking capability. He would come with three points on the back of an envelope, and give a helpful sermon. The fun that came through in his sermons and one-on-one was reinforced by his hearty laugh. Dave’s love of life and fun was infectious.

We really appreciated his sharing with us elders at Colby Drive, through some of our ups and downs. David and Gladys were such a joy to have in our church and home.

– Chris Watts, Pastor, Colby Drive, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Dave McClurkin
David T. McClurkin: March 21st, 1939 – December 30th, 2012

Jesus at the Party!

Liz and Karen from Lighthouse attended a neighbour’s St. Patrick’s Day party. I wasn’t expecting to talk “church” at my neighbour’s rowdy Saint Patty’s Day party. But a few of the neighbours were curious about the church and cornered me. “My daughter has questions about God these days. Would it be OK if we visited? I’d like to come and check things out.” A few families agreed they would come to the church together.

Before moving to Newcastle my neighbours were never interested in talking about church or faith with me. These days, it’s only a matter of time before the topic comes up. And out of these conversations many of our neighbours have connected with the church. What’s going on?

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to unpack this experience at Auburn Bible Chapel in Peterborough (thanks for setting me up, Jay). John writes, “The Word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood” (The Message). This is what we’re seeing.

A few years ago, my wife and I became very convicted over Philippians 2:3 where it says, “value others above yourselves.” In the verse, Paul explains that Jesus lived for our benefit and calls us to live for the benefit of others. Quantifying life through our budget and schedule, we could see that our lives existed only for our benefit. So we committed to change.

It will take a lifetime to sort this out. Meanwhile, we’re finding time, energy, and resources to connect with and treasure our neighbours. Paul’s words are “taking on flesh” in the neighbourhood. As we value our neighbours, they have found themselves embraced by God. And they have become the church with us.

Back to the party. One of the neat things about people coming to faith in a new way is that they don’t necessarily come with preconceived ideas about Christianity. Would Jesus have gone to the rowdy party next door? Well, this year he did! About seven people from the church went to the party with me. Many of them are new Christians who are showing incredible signs of spiritual life as God’s word is “fleshed out” in their lives.

Dave and Laurie Leung planted The Lighthouse Church of Newcastle (Ontario) in 2009. Currently 60 people belong to the faith community. Watch a short video about the church at http://www.thelighthousechurchofnewcastle.ca


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