Core values — Local Church

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In our “Who or What is the EFCC?” brochure, we list 8 core values – things that are important to us as “EFCCers”. In my last blog post I highlighted the first value, “the gospel”. We are evangelicals – gospel people. In this post I would like to focus on another core value, “the local church”. While we are gospel people and believe that the gospel saves individuals, we also recognize that throughout history God has chosen to gather together those He has redeemed, to worship and serve Him in communities of faith – local churches. In our individualistic society, this is easy to overlook. Additionally, the ongoing critique of the church can lead us to downplay the importance of the local church especially when it comes to carrying out His mission; making disciples and even in the development of real, authentic relationships.

First, let’s admit that the local church is imperfect! It is imperfect because it is composed of flawed, weak human beings: recovering sinners, saved by grace but with more than enough baggage to undermine the most perfect of structures! My bookshelves are full of books decrying the problems with the church and proposing solutions: Deep Church, Simple Church, The Deliberate Church, The Connecting Church, Church on the Other Side, The Purpose Driven Church, Re-Thinking the Church, Viral Churches, The Essence of the Church…and another dozen or so books about the church, but without “church” in the title! I appreciate almost all of these books. They raise good corrective points and they urge us to do “church” better. And I desperately want to do church better because I don’t think God has any other strategy for reaching the world. Jesus and His Church are the “hope of the nations”. The real enemy of the church is less constructive critique and more apathy. It is so easy to become cynical and just throw the church under the bus; to give up on it, to look to para-church or gifted individuals and ministries to stand-in and carry out the roles we used to think the church was responsible to fulfill. However, with Kevin DeJong and Ted Kluck I must declare, “I love the church and the Free Church in particular”! I recommend their book, Why We Love the Church for those of you who are losing patience with the church.

Now I should clarify something. Church doesn’t have to look like we think it does. Many of us assume that every local church must look like our church. After all, my church building, program, Sunday morning service, leadership structure is the perfect reproduction of an Acts local church, right? Wrong. In fact, I would suspect that if we were honest, we would find that there are a number of things about our church that are…well…uh…extra-biblical if not unbiblical. Much of what we do and how we organize and program our local churches is cultural. This is why there are a myriad of church structures, styles and programs in North America today, not to mention the endless varieties of church in different times, places and cultures. So, is there only one biblical way to structure your leadership or run a worship service? I don’t think so.

Are there biblical principles that can help us? Of course!

Does God expect us to work those principles out in different ways? Of course!

I am blessed by attending different churches within our own movement. We have cowboy church and Journey Church, churches with contemporary music and traditional music, churches with elder boards and deacon boards and ethnic churches. And I pray we will plant many more kinds of churches! It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people and God loves diversity which is another EFCC core value we will consider later. Nobody I know complains that Baskin-Robbins has over thirty flavours of ice cream. Neither should we be ashamed of having different flavours of local church!

We need local churches that are dynamic, spirit-driven communities of people, living life, multiplying disciples and leaders and carrying out mission together. Sometimes I wonder if we think that merely gathering people together at a certain time and place on a Sunday morning means we are automatically a united body; a church.

I was at a trans-denominational, inter-church event on New Years’ Day. The pastors went on and on about how this gathering of local churches into the “One Church of Langley” was such a model of biblical unity. I am all for inter-denominational/church cooperation but please! — do we really think that proximity equals unity? Whether it is one church or a gathering of one hundred churches, unity is not achieved by sitting in a chair beside someone. The world needs to see communities of faith that lovingly live out the messiness of following Jesus and carrying out His mission together. As a result we in the EFCC, labour to build environments within the movement where local churches can be healthy, missional and viral, multiplying disciples, leaders and churches. We long to see local churches with Jesus as Head and Lord of all, drawing lost sinners to our supernatural God who redeems, transforms and sanctifies.

We exist as EFCC Districts, Home Office and EFCCM to serve churches – not the other way around. May we have the joy of becoming known as a growing family of local churches that, while engaging in the messiness of new birth, community and mission, see God supernaturally intervening in ways that cannot begin to be explained by anything other than the fact that Jesus is the Head and Lord of all!

Serving with you,

Bill

Outreach to Vineyard Workers

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This is a great little video update from Lane and Sheri who have started a new work amongst migrant workers from southern Mexico.

Click here to see in on their blog.

They are raising money for Bibles to give to these workers, at a cost of $5 each. If you would like to give the gift of the holy Scriptures, you can use our donation page, and input code 2-2102.

We Are Now a CCCC-Certified Member

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You’d be forgiven for thinking that this post’s title looks like we stuttered. CCCC (sometimes referred to as the 4C’s) stands for the Canadian Council of Christian Charities. They help charities (including churches) to develop strong financial practices. And as laws change, especially concerning taxes, CCCC ensures that churches and para-church organisations are informed of the changes, and what they mean.

We are pleased to announce that the EFCC has complied with the rigourous standards of certification, which allows us to use their Seal of Accountability.

This is how CCCC defines it:

“The Seal of Accountability indicates that a charity adheres to high standards, is operating with integrity and is certified by the Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC).”

You will start to see this seal appearing on a lot of our materials. We’re proud of our capable finance team, headed by Cathy (Manager of Finance), for achieving this for us. This offers you confidence that donations to and through the EFCC and EFCCM are handled with the greatest responsibility, and that as an organisation, we are complying with all of our legal responsibilities.

The 4C’s is also available to help with your church (if you’re reading from within Canada, that is). They have a bunch of resources on their website which you can visit by clicking here, and you can follow the CEO’s insightful blog by clicking here.

A Sample of Superstition

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In her ministry to rural people in El Salvador, Cecilia faces some unique beliefs and practices. The following excerpt is in her words:

“One of the new things I have learned is that a fruitless tree must be put to shame by hanging old shoes on it – it will then have no choice but to give fruit!”

Then she continues:

“The Lord continues to show me the depth of all kinds of beliefs and cultural practices here. People believe that when someone gets sick, more often than not, it is some form of witchcraft act that has been committed against them. Please pray for wisdom and discernment as I address these topics in my conversations with the local people.”

Clearly there is a difference between these two anecdotes. The first is rather humorous, and presents a quirky interpretation of life’s incidents. However, the second isn’t funny at all — it speaks to both a mistrust of community and a deep-seated fear of the whole spirit realm.

May these people in rural El Salvador find that trust in Christ overpowers fear, and brings peace!

Missions Training in Mexico

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This update is excerpted from Reg and Linda’s latest prayer letter.

Last night the church missions group arrived at Hacienda de los Arboles for a 10-day orientation. This is the group of young people that will be visiting Buffalo Narrows in Canada, and India this summer. When their leader, Alejandro, saw the place he said, “This is perfect.” He wanted the team to adapt to living in less-than-ideal conditions.

So, Reg and I hosted this group one night, and we can tell you it has been a joy to see them, and hear them also — all night in fact! They sang and played all night by the campfire, we are not sure anyone slept, including us.

They had planned to sleep in the main building, but the girls were unsettled by the excrement on the floor. “Is it rat droppings?” Not rat, bat. “Will they bite us?” Only if you’ve been watching too many Dracula movies. Reg’s last-minute preparations, included hooking up the propane for the stove, and the electrical connections for the inside lights.

They began their orientation by studying the Pentateuch. Not long after Reg and I went to bed, the campfire was built, and we heard the fun starting. It went from singing choruses, to fireworks, to, much later, hammering on something!

2:00am — The fire is glowing and there are wannabe missionaries out there.

6:00am — Reggie, with his classic dry humor, “They are going to smell great after the whole night around that fire. How long will it be until they ask about having a shower?”

7:00am — I asked if staying awake all night was part of the orientation, maybe to reach the nocturnal people in India. They played along for a while before they admitted that, no, this was just for fun. Amazingly, Alejandro kept up with them the whole night, in good spirits. “Ahh, they’ll be tired out in a couple a days and they’ll all be in bed by ten.”

8:00am — Alejandro led the morning exercises, starting with warm-up stretches and then a long jog.

9:00am — Alejandro asked about showers, and Red told him they wouldn’t be available for two more days. Two young men found an old tub, and for the next couple there was a continual parade of youth, going to the cistern, drawing up a bucket of cold water, and heading for the bathtub. Brrrrrrh. Ahh sweet youth!

12:00pm — they started “paying” for their free boot camp; 12 young energetic bodies (after a night without sleep? You gotta be kidding!) mixed gravel and sand into cement right there on the ground.

3:00pm — after some hours in teaching sessions, they began a team-building exercise, and then a game of American football on the street.

Add another teaching session on the Pentateuch, the arrival of some of the church worship team, to join Abram in worship.

10:30pm — everything is quiet. Ahh, sweet youth!

A great day! A privilege to be here investing!

Above: this is the plan for what the Hacienda Los Arboles property will look like when completed.