Friday, February 27, 2009

Touching Base! Part 29

Being Threatened or Empowered

From the early stages of childhood until our death bed, competition is something we live with, enjoy watching and at times engage with. Great sports events are often such because the score was close, the teams see-sawed back and forth and the outcome was not determined until the last minute of play. The thrill of the competition in sports entices fans to pay top dollar for tickets and sometimes results in fan hysteria as their beloved team either crashes and burns or rises to triumph.

Competition is also very much alive and well in the corporate world. “Dog-eat-dog” and “climbing the corporate ladder” and stepping on a few hands and heads as one ascends are often the mindset of the corporate-minded person. In this day and age of recession people are fighting even harder to guard and maybe even gain market share.

Unfortunately, the Church has fallen prey to the spirit of competition. Sometimes Churches in a community do not see each other as part of the same team but as threats potentially jeopardizing one’s own “work of God” in town. This does nothing good for the Kingdom of God. Instead, competition divides a Church that needs to be united, dilutes resources and demonstrates to the world how small in our thinking and dreaming we have become.

At Bethel we are grateful for the many wonderful expressions of the Church that exist in Kingston. While we don’t agree with every Church, there are many who are passionate about making disciples, are reaching redemptively into their community and are filled with our brothers and sisters in Christ, with whom we will spend eternity. Their songs may be different, their sanctuaries of a different shape and size, their sermons longer or shorter but their Saviour is our Saviour and that makes us all part of the same team.

We are committed to learning about ministry and building a healthy church as we witness other churches in the community growing in God. We are committed to offer what wisdom we may have, what expertise we my posses to help another church reach its full stride. We are committed to guarding the integrity of our partner churches and speaking well of them, and praying for them as they experience seasons of turbulence. Their gain is our gain. Their pain is our pain.

I encourage you to learn from the different models of Church in the Kingston area. May their unique way of doing ministry and their God-given vision help you appreciate how awesome God’s Kingdom is!


Monday, February 23, 2009

Touching Base! Part 28


One thing that is true about human nature is that unless we are prodded, challenged, or stimulated, we can settle into routines and patterns that do not encourage much growth. Do you agree with that statement?

Let me give some practical examples.

• In the world of fitness, it is widely understood that by changing up my exercise patterns and introducing some new disciplines into the workout routine, I am actually increasing the effectiveness of my workouts. Change, creativity, and variety all serves to push the body in different ways and increase positive results.

• In the world of relationships, pushing beyond one’s normal sphere to encounter people who may think differently, have a different orientation, can do much to expand one’s understanding of the world, self and even God. I found going cross culture for almost seven years in Jakarta did much to “disturb” my world for the better.

• In the world of academia, reading a cross section of authors on an issue can do wonders to broaden ones understanding on a particular subject. When it comes to reading God’s Word, I find disciplining myself to read the whole counsel of God, not just my favourite book or testament (for many that’s the New Testament) challenges my thinking, expands my theology and helps me appreciate the wonder of God’s work.

One of the issues we are discussing these days in various contexts (elders, staff, one-on-ones) is the issue of movement. How can we develop an environment that is conducive to spiritual growth? How can we best lead so that Bethel is the stimulus, the context of challenge and change for people on their spiritual journey? In one sense, as leaders we are environmentalists - we are responsible to create an environment where people will be challenged to grow. For example, we wouldn’t go up to an apple tree and say “Grow, produce apples!” However, we could nurture the root system so that apples would eventually appear.

We, as leaders, want to nurture the “root system” of Bethel so that growth occurs. Paul makes it very clear in 1 Corinthians that some plant and others water, but in the end it is God who makes things grow.

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything,
but only God, who makes things grow.
1 Cor. 3:7

Our goal is not to create an environment where no growth is the accepted norm. All the various ministries of Bethel need to be, in some way, contributing to the positive change in people’s lives.

Genuine followers of Christ grow. While being anchored to the Rock our lives are to be engaged in the process of transformation. For the believer in Christ there is no standing Still. In this life, we will never finish the process of being changed by His grace, day by day.

Are you growing? Is Bethel helping you grow? I trust the answer to both those questions is YES!


Friday, February 13, 2009

Touching Base! Part 27


What do the following have in common?

• Going to several doctors’ appointments in one week!
• Standing in a long line at a grocery store because only two of the ten check-out counters are open.
• Telemarketers
• Increased taxes
• Dealing with conflict
• Cramming for exams
• An early bus on the only day you are running late

They all fit into the category of “most disliked”! No one I know is looking to “up the experience quotient” in any of the above listed areas.

Another item I would add to our list is… leaders that do not listen. We have seen this in politics and in the workplace. Some leaders believe that they are wiser and smarter without collaborating with the people.

At Bethel we are working harder at listening and collaborating. We believe that there is much wisdom, insight and counsel to be gained by opening up about issues that we are working through as an elders’ team. I believe we have much to gain in enlarging the circle of discussion on various issues. I also believe that once leaders have listened, then leaders need to make prayerful decisions that will see the ministry move ahead. Collaboration without leadership results in lots of ideas but no definition, vision and direction.

Over the next several weeks, the elders will be discussing some of the issues that we as a team have been working through since September regarding our purpose, process and vision. We’ll do it in the context of small groups, leadership meetings, one-on-one coffees... Once we have met with several groups, we will be having an elders’ retreat to reflect on the input and continue to put into place the resources, structures and leadership that will help us move in the direction we believe God is leading.

We are all committed to helping Bethel reflect Christ’s agenda for His Church. This is His body, His work and His city to reach. We are stewards desiring to do the best with what He has given us! We would appreciate your prayers as we continue to lead.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Touching Base! Part 26

Building Strategically

At Bethel, it is our desire to build strategically. That means keeping both our purpose and our emerging vision before us. These two issues (purpose and vision) need to greatly influence the decisions we make regarding our staff, resources and facility. Without these two objective markers, we can quickly devolve into making decisions and prioritizing items based on tradition, personal preference or even on who has the greatest influence at a certain meeting.

At our most recent congregational meeting (February 3rd ‘09), I shared on the elders’ desire to move in the direction of hiring a full time Director of Family Ministries. We are grateful for the input and affirmation we received about this.

The following are three key questions as we think about this strategic hire.

1. What is our purpose and how does this hire fit into that purpose?

Our purpose statement that is rooted in Matthew 28:19,20 says, “We desire to love God passionately and serve others significantly.” We want this to characterize every generation at Bethel. However, there is one generation where the window appears bigger, and more receptive than in any other generation. That generation is our children.

“Research regarding all facets of moral and spiritual development- whether related to worldview, beliefs or behaviour- shows that such development starts as early as age two. The process then progresses rather quickly. Social scientists have known for years that the moral foundations of children are generally determined by the time the individual reaches nine. Our research confirms a parallel outcome in the spiritual dimension: By age nine, most children have their spiritual moorings in place.” (Barna)

The Implications are clear. As we work towards being a disciple-making church, a key investment area needs to be our children. What we create in a young person’s life determines that person’s behaviour as an adult.

2. What is the emerging vision and how does this hire fit into that vision piece?

A vision is a picture of a preferred future. Several years ago people from this church had a vision:

“On May 4, 1874 a group of 25 people gathered in a home to form the 2nd Congregational church to minister to a destitute and unevangelized part of the city.”

“Even back 100 + years ago Bethel did some things in unconventional ways – i.e. contrary to the practice of some of the churches of the day the seats were free…”

Note their vision! And that vision is still present. As I have talked with many of you, you have expressed your desire to see not only the people, but this building, serve the community. We do need to align our building with the purpose statement more and more - to serve others significantly. Our building should not be a relic of the past, but a tool of the present to embrace a needy world. This means ministry that not only services our people but looks at ways of investing in the community. A key hire in seeing this vision realized is the DFM.

- Every square inch of this building being used 24/7 to bless the community
- People from the community coming in during the week to be ministered to and to go out again with hope and healing
- Multiple ministries being offered to address the many unmet needs of our community
- A building that is a servant to the community, not an old relic of the past
- People engaged with culture and going out into the community as well as inviting the community into the body of Christ

This hire has everything to do with envisioning what could be and trusting God to provide the resources to realise that vision.

3. Based on the staff team we have what piece would help bring balance?

While it is the goal to one day hire an Associate, we believe that right now we have many of the functions of an associate being met in Bill Duffy – pastoral care, and Carmen - admin, policy making and a host of other responsibilities. What is lacking is someone to develop our children’s ministry with a full time focus.

Please feel free to provide any comments you wish. The IQ of the team is higher than the IQ of the individual.