Friday, May 29, 2009

Toucing Base! Part 40

Knowing What We Are All About

If you were to ask the average Bethelite, “What is this place all about?” do you think they would know what to answer? Do you think the average church attendee knows what our purpose is and how we intend to fulfill that purpose? My bet is that the majority would not be able to answer either question.

One of our goals is that everyone that calls Bethel their home church would be able to not only answer these questions but also be committed to living out the answers.
What is our purpose? Our purpose is to Love God Passionately and Serve Others Significantly. We believe that this is a good summary of Matthew 28:19-20. This statement is simple and memorable and needs to be on the lips and in the hearts of all who attend. This sums up the task that Jesus gave every church - to make disciples. This is our business, our priority and our focus!
How do we intend to fulfill our purpose? We must be able to articulate this answer clearly. Would you know how to respond? It is one thing to say we have a purpose, but if we don’t understand what loving God passionately and serving others significantly looks like in our lives personally, then we are dead in the water.

We believe that in order to fulfill our purpose we must encourage, challenge and lead people to experience significant growth in three areas. We call this “The Big Picture of Discipleship.” The big picture is more clearly defined by our 3 g’s.

Growing in Intimacy with God (GG) points to our upward focus, and it characterizes the most important relationship of a disciple. We are committed to ensuring that when people attend various ministries at Bethel, such as our Sunday morning service (in the auditorium), they will be drawn into a more intimate relationship with God. David penned these words in Psalm 27:4, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” Our desire is to ensure that people from every age and stage of life come away from a Sunday morning worship experience with a deeper understanding of what it means to walk with God.

Growing in Intimacy with Others (GO) points to our inward focus. For a disciple to grow, the next most important relationship is their relationship with others. God’s desire is to use the Body of Christ to transform, minister and build up each important part. “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”Ephesians 4:16) We must go deeper with each other. Our small groups are one venue that contributes to this aspect of growth. However, we also realize that growing deeper with others may look different for families, teenagers, college students and seniors. We are excited to see these areas of GO strengthened as new initiatives are being developed.

Growing in acts of Service (GS) - points to our outward focus. When we as Christ-followers are intimate with God and relationally intimate with others, we find ourselves living with our cups full. When people are full, the natural tendency is a desire to serve. Check out Acts 2:41-47 and you will see in verse 45 an attitude, lifestyle, a higher code that was one of their hallmarks - they gave! They saw themselves as a river, not a reservoir, and from this vantage point they powerfully impacted a community, city, nation and world.

So, do you now know what to say if asked “What’s that church you go to all about?” More importantly, are you growing in these three key areas (3g’s) and consequently Loving God Passionately and Serving Others Significantly? As we do, we will radically transform the culture and the world in which God has called us to live.

Mark

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Touching Base! Part 39

Deeper

One of the toughest decisions some of us face is to take the time and muster up the courage to go deeper in relationships. Community is essential to our own personal growth as Christians and to being a healthy church. However, relational depth takes time and sacrifice. You cannot “microwave” relational depth, you must “crock-pot” relational depth.

The following are a series of questions that have been used by various groups to develop community. I encourage you to find a few others with who you can build community and use some of these questions to go deeper!

Quakers in the 1600’s developed small groups where they would ask “How goes it with your soul?” They understood that questions unlocked stories of people’s souls. The early Methodist used a similar format. Types of questions they asked were -

Have you forgiveness of your sins?
Have you peace with God?
Have you the witness of God’s Spirit with yours that you are God’s child?
Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart?
Has no sin inward or outward have dominion over you?
Do you desire to be told of your faults?
Do you desire that each one of us should tell you from time to time whatever is in his heart concerning you?
What sins have you committed since our last meeting?
What temptations have you met with?
How were you delivered? (making an assumption)
What have you thought said or done of which you doubt whether it be sin or not, we will tell you!

In more recent years another group of questions have been established.

How has your soul been since we last met?
How have you seen God at work in and through you since we last met?
What have you been struggling with?
What have you been grateful for?
What God-given dream have you been nurturing?
How have you been able to serve the least of these since we last met - poor, elderly, sick, the physically or mentally ill, people of minority religions, refugees, prisoners, strangers outcasts?
What have you been experiencing in prayer?
What Scripture have you been focusing in on?

Questions unlock our stories, and storytelling unlocks our lives and our hearts. And when we start sharing our stories, they interlock and this miracle of community happens.

Mark

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Touching Base! Part 38

Of Vision… and Outhouses

(This week’s Touching Base was written by Jamie Stinson, Bethel’s new Director of Family Ministries)

Early Monday morning I headed out with my new team to the “Kotch-a-Pad”, a beautiful cottage in Kaladar owned by our fearless leader, Pastor Mark. Having only been on staff at Bethel as the Family Ministries Director for a grand total of 10 days, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

After arriving and unpacking, followed by a quick tour that highlighted the outhouse, we wasted no time diving into the task at hand. Over the course of the two days, we wrestled through many topics, including a discussion on the importance of emotionally healthy leaders, our shared vision for Bethel, and a variety of ministry action plans.

We challenged each other, prayed for each other, served meals to each other, watched leadership videos and cleared our heads by taking short walks. We laughed together after supper as we watched a Christian comedian. We lived in community for 30 hours, shared our hearts and committed to support each other in ministry. Although there are some things that happened at the cottage that will stay at the cottage, like Mark’s bad outhouse jokes, there are some insights I’d like you to know about this team of which I have become a part.

First of all, I have quickly realized that I am on a team that bleeds “vision”. Bill Hybels defines vision as “a picture of a preferred future that produces passion.”
We are all becoming very familiar with our purpose statement here at Bethel, which is to ‘love God passionately, and serve others significantly.” To accomplish this we are committed to:

Growing in intimacy with God
Growing in intimacy with others
Growing in acts of service


As a team we are committed to this kingdom vision. We feel it deeply and we are dedicated to making sure that everything we do at Bethel revolves around it. Why? Because we recognize that life change can and will continue to happen in transformational ways if we remain faithful to this simple yet strategic vision.

Second, I believe I am on a team that is on the ground level with the potential of becoming an unstoppable “God movement”… but this leadership team has no hope of fulfilling this mandate alone.

As we embrace and model this preferred future, it is our prayer that the wonderful people at Bethel will ignite with passion as well! We are going to need everything you have to give…

your talents and creativity…
your prayers….
your money,
and most of all, your time.

Then together, as we invite God to come into our midst and ask for His heart for the lost, I am confident that God will use us to transform Bethel into a place where all generations are empowered to radically transform their culture for Christ.

So thank you for allowing me to join the Bethel team. I’m excited to become a part of what God is doing in your midst.

And when you are this excited, you can put up with a lot… even Mark’s bad jokes.

Jamie

Touching Base! Part 37

One Service Is A Breeze

So how did you like going back to one service last Sunday? I can hear some saying, “It was great to see people that I didn’t even know came to Bethel. It is so much easier doing ministry or organizing ministry for just one service…”, “I feel like Bethel is a much warmer, friendlier church, easier to get to know people with one service…”, “It feels like the good old days...” However, I can hear others saying “I like the 11a.m. slot a lot better…”, or “I like the 9 a.m. slot a lot better…”

If we are honest, our likes and dislikes for the one-service format often comes back to what suits us best. Agree? We analyze and evaluate based on what it did for me, or how it fit or how didn’t fit into my expectations. I can say from personal experience it is so easy to solely base the perceived success of an event based on how I feel. However, I think you would agree with me that this kind of thinking is dangerous. It results in the world evolving around me. The results are very “I”-centered, “me”-focused, “you”-fixated.

The next several months of single services will represent relative ease to what we are used to. However, as September approaches we will once again rally up our energies and jump back into the world of two services. What is our motive for doing so? To accommodate the returning students and vacationers? To frustrate those that think Jesus attended a single-service church and thus we should maintain what Jesus did? To burn out our workers and spread our people-power thin?

Our motivation must not root itself in comfort or some kind of misguided bent. It shouldn’t even find its source in wanting to be the biggest and the best. Our motivation must be primarily focused on honouring what Jesus said about making disciples. We must be willing to stretch, sacrifice, work hard, be challenged, get out of bed a little earlier, dig deeper for more people resources because making disciples matters more than our comfort or our preference. We believe that Sunday morning services represent a great starting point for aiding us in making disciples. That’s what it’s about, that’s what we need to be about!

Single services a breeze? You betcha, in comparison to two. However, it’s not always about what’s easier or what is more comfortable. Jesus said “make disciples”… and we agree.

How about you?

Mark

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Touching Base! Part 35

Raising The Bar On The Dialogue

Ever notice how our dialogue often reflects the current events of the day? Now that we are into the hockey playoffs, you can hear people talking about who won last nights game, who played well or who stunk the joint out. And no doubt, much dialogue has occurred over the recent global financial crisis. We all have been singed or burned by this global reality.

Our dialogue often reflects what is going on around us and reveals what we are passionate about. For example, the Canadian Opera could play at the K Rock Centre Friday nite but you can be guaranteed that I won’t be initiating too much talk about that. It is just not my passion area. However, hockey and the financial crisis are worth the verbal exchange.

When Jesus departed and was about to send the Holy Spirit, He said to the disciples one word in the Greek language which is two words in the English language which was to shape, prioritize and direct their ministry. It was a powerful statement that was to become their passion and occupy their dialogue as they stood around the water cooler at work. Do you know what that was? “Make disciples” (a “disciple” is a life-long learner who is walking in step with Christ). Clear, easily understood and spoken by the one who modeled that command during His public ministry.

At Bethel, there are many good things we can talk about. It is great that as we build community, and the trust that goes along with it, that we can open up our hearts on a number of issues. However, one of the most important dialogues we can have as a growing community of faith is the “discipleship dialogue”. The big news is that Christ has left us with an incredible challenge and given us the Holy Spirit to transform our lives and the lives of those around us.

So, who are you talking about discipleship with these days? Are you at all concerned with how Bethel is doing in this area? Are lives being transformed at Bethel or do we have a static church of calcified saints? What of Bethel’s ministries do you see as doing a great job in this area? On a personal note, how is your spiritual growth progressing these days? What are the challenge areas? Who is challenging you and causing you to growing?

The dialogue is important because the topic is essential to the vitality and the health of Bethel. I would encourage you to use the tool below to help you personally asses your own growth these days. Use the tool to discuss with someone their growth. Also, what would you add to this tool? What’s missing? If you are in a small group, why not discuss this tool with your group and identify how your group helps or hinders transformation in your own life. Let me know your thoughts.

Mark


• Are you building a redemptive relationship with at least one other person who
does not know Christ?
• Are you engaged with the poor?
• Are you using your workplace as a platform for ministry? If so, how?
• How often do you interact with people of other ethnic groups?
• Do you steward your resources?
• How often in the week do you sit down and read God’s word?
• Describe your prayer life…
• Are you part of a smaller community of believers that you pray with, serve with,
study God’s word- basically doing “journey” together.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Touching Base! Part 36

The Need To Know

We all have experienced various levels of difficulty in accomplishing a task. For example, there are days when getting out of bed is a breeze - it’s bright, warm, and the feel and sense of spring leading to summer is in the air. However, getting up at the same time in the winter month of January - when it is dark and cold - is a completely different story. Those mornings require a little more discipline and octane in the tank. Cold mornings may mean we hit the snooze button a few more times.

Based on my observations and interactions with people at Bethel, the “level of difficulty” when it comes to following Christ is becoming more and more challenging. With the plethora of books, websites, and other forms of media that attack the validity of the Christian faith, there is a tremendous need to know what one truly believes. We are living in a day and age where everything is coming into question. It is an understatement to say that the truth claims of Scripture are under attack. Followers of Christ are being accused of being somewhat na├»ve, shallow, vulnerable and simple. There is a tremendous need for followers of Christ to dig deep and truly understand what they believe and why they believe it. If a follower of Christ does not make this commitment, then many will be blown away by the torrid gusts of opposition that are becoming increasingly frequent.

In USA Today, a person being interviewed said, "None of my friends believe in God. When the subject of religion comes up around the table, we all just mock it. It's a source of ridicule." 27 percent of Americans do not even expect a religious funeral at their death. The survey doesn't indicate how many are hoping to skip death altogether.

What are some of those issues that we need to understand about our faith?
• Biblical Origins - How did we get the Bible? Does it stand the test of academia?
• What do we mean by “inspired” and “inerrant”?
• Intelligent Design versus Evolution - is it reasonable to believe in a God who created the heavens and the earth?
• What about hell in this age when everyone can believe what they want and be right?
• How do we explain some of the horrific texts of the Old Testament?
• Is Jesus the only way or might there be others? To say there is only one way seems rather arrogant of Christians.
• What about all those “contradictions” in the Bible?


Pray this week for Bethel and the many that attend the various ministries of this church. Pray that followers of Christ would dig deep, study hard, and be able to articulate their faith in a world that questions almost everything. Pray that we might be able to graciously, lovingly and intelligently engage with people who are seeking truth. The need to know is now, the need to go and reach a lost world hasn’t changed since Jesus said the fields were white unto harvest!

Mark