THINKING AHEAD, Vol. 16, No. 1 - Fall 2012

In This Issue

Making Your Retirement Count for the Kingdom

In North American culture, many look forward to retirement as a season of endless leisure with time and money for travel or other pursuits. Here are the stories of three men who believe the most satisfying retirement is purpose-filled and God-focused.

Gordon King

Gordon and Norma King “Our goal is to finish well,” says Gordon King about himself and his wife Norma, now both retired. “The people we admire most are those who died with their boots on. They served meaningfully until the end of their lives.”

Gordon’s father had serious heart disease and multiple sclerosis for the final twenty years of his life. “He preached from his wheelchair. He didn’t let his physical limitations keep him from serving the kingdom,” says Gordon. His Dad had his next sermon in the works when he died.

At the age of 45 after 28 years of service in the Canadian Air Force, Gordon responded to God’s call to serve on staff at Mount Carmel Bible School, the Edmonton discipleship centre. Gordon and Norma worked at the Edmonton Bible school in what he describes as a “post-retirement dream job.” Fifteen years later, the couple enjoys seeing former students who are now leaders in the Church. More recently Gordon and Norma, who attend Capilano Christian Assembly in Edmonton, have been member care personnel in Thailand with Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF). In September 2012, Gordon began serving as the interim National Director for OMF Canada for one year.

Frank Parker

Dianne and Frank Parker Frank Parker agrees with Gordon King about staying active in ministry throughout your life. “I don’t think that any Christian should think they have retired until they are retired in glory,” says Frank.

Frank wasn’t a Christian when he joined the Canadian military. When he and his wife Dianne got saved at a little church in Victoria, BC he wrestled with whether life in the military was “conducive to being a Christian.” He felt led to stay in his job. He and Dianne made it a priority to get involved in a church wherever they were stationed. “We served the Lord where we were.” Their hope was always to be involved in full-time Christian service when they retired.

When a ministry opportunity opened up with Bethel Gospel Chapel in 1999, Frank retired after a 30-year career in the infantry at the age of 49. More recently Frank and Dianne have been encouraged by the church to do community outreach in the local area “as the Lord leads.”

While in the army, Frank gained experience in international settings and relationship building that helped prepare him for ministry. Bethel Gospel Chapel is a multi-ethnic church located in one of the most culturally diverse neighbourhoods in Edmonton. About one quarter of attendees were not born in Canada.

Among other venues, Frank and Dianne connect with new Canadians through the church’s conversational English café. “It gives an opportunity to talk about spiritual matters especially with those who come from atheistic countries,” he says. Frank also volunteers with camps in the summer, preaches, and does other pastoral work.

Len Habermehl

After Len Habermehl retired from Ontario Hydro at 57, he served in a pastoral care role at Lakeshore Bible Chapel in Waterloo, Ontario. Len’s experience as an electrician and project manager came in handy when Lakeshore moved into a larger facility and became Lincoln Road Chapel. For several months in 2002, Len was relieved of pastoral care duties to manage the extensive renovations needed on the YMCA building that the church had purchased—including turning a workout area into a sanctuary.

Though he is no longer on staff with Lincoln Road Chapel, he still is a “pastor at large” as he visits people in the hospital, and comforts people in grief. Len enjoys more time with Joan his wife of 46 years. He also likes having time for his grandkids and feels he is having an impact on them. Recently he took his teen grandson golfing and they got into a deep theological discussion. He’s also been a loving, but neutral, third party when his grandkids needed to talk to someone during a tough situation.

Len encourages Christians to plan for retirement—to find out their gifts and what kind of service they might like to be involved in. He says we’ve all heard about people who retire on Monday and die on Tuesday because they’ve got nothing of consequence to look forward to.

Some people may be able to retire early (even if it means taking a lower pension) while others need to work until 65 or later. But anyone can be meaningfully involved in kingdom work after retirement. Len says, “Listen to the Spirit. Don’t be afraid to take chances, Christ will build his church. He will do the job. If you don’t follow the Spirit you are missing out on the joy of seeing God work.”

VMC Team Travels to Burundi and Kenya

In 2007, Gord Martin of Vision Ministries Canada (VMC) met pastors Simeon Havyarimana (Burundi) and Ishmael Ochieng (Kenya) at the International Brethren Conference on Mission (ICBM) in Germany. Those meetings led to a ministry trip to Burundi and Kenya in July of 2012.


The team of VMC leaders who did teaching and saw the work of Christian leaders in Burundi and Kenya (L to R): Paul Fletcher, Gord Martin, Eodie and Simeon Haviyarimana (Burundian leaders), Chris Atkinson, Doug Loveday and Brian Larmour

The Church is Growing in Burundi

VMC staff Paul Fletcher, Doug Loveday and Gord Martin along with pastors Brian Larmour (Assiniboia-Charleswood Community Church/Winnipeg) and Chris Atkinson (Pinewoods Chapel/Angus, Ontario) travelled to Burundi in July. The team preached in at least six churches (another 12+ churches were represented at those events) and taught in a five-day program for 200+ church elders/pastors from 109 of 111 churches in a Burundi network.

These lively churches were full of young people and children—and lots of singing. Half of the population of Burundi is under 17 years of age! Many of the churches have 300-400 people and a couple are up to 1,000. New churches are being planted despite war and extreme poverty. Burundi is one of the five poorest countries in the world. The number of congregations doubled during their recent war which lasted from 1993 till 2005.

The teaching team discovered they had much in common with these Burundian brothers and sisters despite obvious differences of language, culture, and development. All want to help churches in their network to flourish, all have an interest in church planting, and all desire to move beyond some of the traditional way of doing things.

Vision Ministries Kenya is Vibrant

After meeting in Germany, Ishmael and Gord talked on the phone and exchanged emails. Ishmael was operating an orphanage, school, clinic, and church (Shelter of Hope) in a Nairobi slum. An active leader among the churches in Kenya, Ishmael felt a ministry like VMC was needed in his country. Though Gord was unsure about helping to launch a ministry in a country he had not visited, conversations continued and Vision Ministries Kenya (VMK) was formed in 2011. VMC supplied coaching, some funds, written materials, and a website to help VMK create a supportive network of churches in Kenya. VMK also strengthens church leaders and helps to plant churches.

When they visited Kenya in July 2012 for a week, Gord Martin and Brian Larmour were impressed with Ishmael (VMK Executive Director) and the VMK board. Brian and Gord conducted two days of teaching sessions for church leaders in Nairobi and Gord did another series of teachings in Nyanza province. They found the leaders of the congregations that they worked with to be vibrant and eager to move forward. The table has been set for “something more” in Kenya.

Thinking Shrewdly V Conference Highlights

Please see pages 4 and 5 of the PDF version of Thinking Ahead for photos and quotes from our May 2012 conference.

A Missional Coalition

This past spring VMC hosted another Thinking Shrewdly Conference. Leaders from across the network gathered to celebrate God’s grace, nourish relationships, and share ideas for greater kingdom effectiveness. Like the conference before it, this biannual event once again challenged participants to consider how we should participate in the missio Dei—to collectively respond to God’s initiative in our country.

Out of a longing to see inspiration and ideas translate into concrete action, VMC is working towards the formation of a “Moving the Mission Forward” coalition within our network.

Historically, one of the hallmarks of Brethren churches has been autonomy. Grassroots congregations thrived without the restraints of ecclesiastical structure and the burden of denominational edicts. This was balanced with a desire for unity that generated a functional solidarity which was nurtured through Bible conferences, itinerant preachers, common publications, and cooperative global mission.

However, over the years it’s been difficult to work together while honouring local church autonomy. More often than not, leaders have prioritized congregational independence over cooperation. An emphasis on teamwork, interdependence and needing each other at the local level seldom extends to the relationship between congregations across our network.

In his New Testament correspondence, the apostle Paul hints at an alternative model for cooperative church relationships. Close relations were evident in the warm greetings expressed between churches. The sharing of ministry personnel, financial resources and a body of teaching material (Paul’s letters) indicated a resolve to work together. The Jerusalem council in Acts 15 even provides an example of shared deliberation. Leaders from different churches gathered to seek consensus and make decisions that had theological and pragmatic impact for the whole Church.

This fall, we will begin experimenting as we gather a selected group of leaders from across the country. At a one-day event we will begin shaping a strategy that could catalyze cooperative mission among our churches. We will consider how to better celebrate our good news stories, support each other in the struggles we face, and focus our collective energy, creativity and resources to capitalize on the kingdom-building possibilities represented across our network.

The challenge remains: can a family of autonomous churches find ways to overcome a proclivity towards independence in order to forge missional partnerships that are more genuinely interdependent? We believe it’s possible. Pray for us as this experiment takes shape.

Mike Stone is the lead pastor at ForestView Church Without Walls in Oakville, Ontario. One day per week he has been seconded to work with VMC on Moving the Mission Forward.

VMC Network News

Pastoral Leadership from the “Inside Out”

Fall Regional Pastor Gatherings, October/November 2012

All of us want to be fruitful in ministry. Sometimes not knowing ourselves can be a hindrance.

At our Thinking Shrewdly conference in May, Gary Nelson asked us to consider: What are the dominant themes that have shaped our lives (our master story)? And how does the Master fit into our master story?

Over the years, we’ve observed some essential “inside out dimensions” that lead to success.

Join us for a three-hour, over-breakfast or lunch session as we talk and pray together about:

  • Gaining an accurate perspective on ourselves
  • Developing wholesome confidence
  • Leading with spiritual integrity from the inside out
  • Helping leaders and emerging leaders in our fellowships learn these same skills

VMC staff (mostly Gord and Jay) will lead these discussions. The sessions are geared toward full or part-time pastors, but any pastoral staff and many elders would benefit as well. Pastors not connected to VMC are welcome to attend—feel free to invite them.

Coming to a City Near You:

Waterloo, Tuesday, October 16th, 8-11 am

Toronto, Wednesday, October 24th, 8-11 am

Vancouver, Friday, October 26th, 8-11 am

Peterborough, Saturday, October 27th, 8-11 am

Edmonton, Saturday, October 27th, 12-3 pm

Halifax, Saturday, November 3rd, 8-11 am

Check the VMC website for details and additional locations.

New Book Studies Water and the Bible

VMC Board Member David Knight has just released Downstream from Eden, a comprehensive study of water and the Bible. Well-researched and highly readable, with stories from Icelandic waterfalls to the Aral Sea, from the origins of the universe to the Apocalypse, the author weaves a conversation that turns water into wine. Safe water is an urgent global concern—David adds a unique voice to this social justice issue with insights from the Bible, science, history and more. It will inspire you and bring you hope. Purchase book or ebook

Evaluating Progress in Churches

Regional Church Leadership Events, April/May 2013

How should you assess progress with the mission Jesus entrusted to you?

Is it good enough to try hard and hope for the best?

Is it better to focus on faithfulness rather than success?

What is your role, the place of Scripture, the workings of the Holy Spirit as you evaluate progress?

To help you and your leaders discern answers, VMC will host one-day church leadership events in the spring of 2013. We are planning to host seminars in Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, London, Kitchener/Waterloo, Toronto, Peterborough, Montreal, and Halifax.

Expect:

  • biblically centred teaching
  • practical tools
  • advice tailored to your situation.

More details will follow.

Connect with Us

  • “Like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/VisionMinistriesCanada
  • Go to www.vision-ministries.org/news to read thoughts from leaders in the VMC network. You’ll find articles on: Leadership Life, Ministry Philosophy and Practice, Recommended Resources, Book Reviews, and Stories from the Frontline.
  • Interested in guest posting on VMC’s blog? Send an email to Thinking Ahead editor Sandra Reimer at sandra [at] reimer-reason.ca.

Review, Reboot, Renew ...the Church

The Church of God seems to have to continually review/reboot/renew its approaches to spreading the good news. Humans are not fundamentally that different throughout time and space. But specific language and culture and prevailing worldview make a difference, and “the times” do change. And that of course is why we need “men of Issachar” who understand the times (1 Chronicles 12:32), and why we need people like the apostle Paul, who became “all things to all people.”

The latest reboot that has been influencing the western Church for about the last 20 years includes re-emphasis on God’s mission, focus on context and exegeting culture alongside scripture, plus a deeper and wider understanding of the death of Christ.

One of the results of this reboot is a bunch of new “looks” for the local church, and even more dialogue about the possibilities. There is no shortage of these kind of conversations and manifestations in the VMC network.

Here are a few quick examples.

Cultivate Learning Party

Jay Gurnett and some of his friends are getting together on November 16 and 17 at ForestView Church Without Walls in Oakville, Ontario. This will happen in conjunction with one of Pernell Goodyear’s Cultivate Learning Parties. Pernell is a friend of Vision Ministries, and Jay sits on the board of the Cultivate Network. This Learning Party is number 12 in a series of “unconferences” where there are no gurus. Presenters are chosen from among those attending and presentations take a back seat to the dialogue that follows. More info at www.cultivatenetwork.com. The day before the Cultivate event, VMC “new approaches” folks will have a long talk about ways to work together and anything else that comes up!

Southview Christian Fellowship

Southview Christian Fellowship in Edmonton was a smart church plant out of Capilano Christian Assembly, led by Stan King and Gary Short and others. A fine group of folks who did lots of good, meeting in the south-central part of the city. Over the last few years, with new leaders influenced by Michael Frost’s (and others’) thinking, Southview has reorganized itself to have an even stronger focus on the mission of God’s people. They’ve pushed everyone to make mission primary. And that has led to some quite astonishing stories of neighbourhood connection.

Downtown Windsor Community Collaborative

Bob and Margo Cameron lead a group in Windsor, Ontario that gathers together (and disperses out into the community) under the name Downtown Windsor Community Collaborative. DWCC has a strong commitment to a geographic “parish” – not an uncommon theme amongst new churches. Homes that DWCC folk live in are seen as “lighthouses.” Everyone connected is committed to being light and salt in the neighbourhood.

An interesting upcoming DWCC initiative is an event called “love the city | CONTRAST” that peaks on Friday, November 2nd, at 7 pm, with a presentation by Christian activist Shane Claiborne at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Windsor. More info at http://bit.ly/shanec.

Active in Alberta

We have good friends in a mostly-Calgary-based group that could be described as a “free-range Christian community” which has identified shared values and common ground. They call themselves Round Table Initiatives (RTI), and their hope is to catalyze initiative based on those values. RTI explores places on the edges of our lives, culture and the gospel—whether back-alley or back-country, urban or wilderness.

Last winter people connected around topics such as “wilderness, liminality and the church,” “faith and places on the edge” and “fear and risk-taking.”

This past summer saw a number of initiatives become reality: Five Days in May (with Dr. Belden Lane), Limber Pine Adventures, Bare Loon Collective, Festival of Friends, and Easy Company; all held in wilderness settings in the Rocky mountains and northern Saskatchewan.

These are the kind of things that are characterizing the missional/incarnational types that are connecting with VMC these days. Anyone who wants to be part of the conversation should connect with Jay Gurnett: jay [at] vision-ministries.org.

Fresh Thinking on International Partnerships

The 19th and 20th centuries were an era of missions and missionaries. People like us (mostly from western countries) went to other countries at great cost to themselves to take the good news of Jesus to every nation. It’s a wonderful success story!

In Samuel Escobar’s book The New Global Mission he says: “As we look at the religious map of the world today we find a marked contrast between the situation at the beginning of the twentieth century and the situation in the early twenty-first century. Scottish missiologist Andrew Walls describes it as a ‘massive southward shift of the centre of gravity of the Christian world’.”

The size and vitality of the church in Latin America, Africa, India, Korea, and China is quite astonishing. They have become “sending countries.” In fact, we at VMC are finding that people from all those countries are planting churches here at a much faster rate than native-born Canadians. Today the Gospel is from everywhere to everywhere.

What do Westerners like us have to offer? We have a longer Christian heritage, we have education and we have wealth—relatively speaking. Christians in developing nations have a more daring faith, a greater boldness in their witness and they are flourishing both numerically and with spiritual vigour.

Our recent VMC ministry trip to Africa has raised some very challenging questions:

  1. Does the wealthy Canadian church have a responsibility to the materially impoverished, but spiritually dynamic church in other countries?
  2. Which countries?
  3. How should we connect with them?
    1. Work through interdenominational ministries that have experience and connections?
    2. Cultivate direct church to church, or church to orphanage/other ministry relationships?
    3. Collaborate with church leaders that represent entire national networks of churches?

The answer to the first question is yes. Do I need to say more? The Bible says yes. The Spirit says yes. All who have the opportunity to visit other countries and see conditions there first hand will say yes.

Which countries? This question is usually resolved through relationships. Who do we know? Where do we have “people connections”? Sometimes this becomes perplexing because we have more connections than we know how to engage. The normal processes of good leadership, wisdom and the leading of the Spirit will help congregations and ministries determine which countries to work with.

How should we partner with Christians in other countries? In the past we supported pioneering missionaries and to some degree that is still the case. But there are now many countries with a strong national church with little or no missionary presence among those churches. What’s the best way to work with those congregations?

Many North American churches support interdenominational ministries which have experience and connections with people in other countries. The mission agency is the link from here to there. They have established trust with church leaders in the countries in which they work and are able to provide a wide range of support services for churches from a variety of denominations.

In recent years, North American congregations have found it appealing to work directly with a church or ministry in another country. The link is more intimate and there may be direct exchange or even quite close partnerships.

There is another option—network to network. Those who lead among churches get a sense of what is needed for a whole cluster of congregations. Leaders of a network of churches in one country can engage in partnerships with the leaders of a network of churches in another country to facilitate strategic ministry on a large scale!

Working network to network connects “apples to apples.” Youth leaders can collaborate with other youth leaders to increase their effectiveness. Elders can think together and stimulate each other. Financially supported ministry personnel and pastors have much in common and can help each other to grow in their ministry capacity.

This third way caught my attention on our recent trip to Burundi and Kenya. We found networks of churches whose gifted leaders have few or no connections to national leaders from other countries. These groups are flourishing but isolated and lack positive connections with other parts of the global body of Christ.

We are doing homework, looking for practical answers to the questions we are raising. We are hearing that we are on the right track. You’ll be hearing more!


Copyright © 2012 Vision Ministries Canada Inc. Articles may be copied for limited circulation without permission. Please include the author's name in addition to this line: “Reprinted from Thinking Ahead. 1-877-509-5060/www.vision-ministries.org.”

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