District Conference Summary: Time

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When I reflect on the district conferences (3) I attended in October, the word that pops into my mind is time.  In Ecclesiastes 3 we read, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.”

This was the time to hear what God has been and is doing in and through the ministry of many of our Free Churches – and there are some very exciting things.  It was encouraging to hear and read reports of how churches are becoming more involved in their communities.  Some were actively ministering in ways that met practical needs – by handing out a cup of coffee or providing a food hamper.  Others were involved in outreach activities to young people through VBS events or soccer camps.  And some got involved in community events by putting a float into the local parade.

I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words when he wrote to the Corinthians:

“Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings” (1Cor 9:22-23).

I get the feeling the Free Churches in Canada have caught Paul’s vision for sharing the Good News.

Each conference was quite different.  How would I describe them in relation to the word “time”? Well, three conferences, but four “times”.  One was a bridging time, another was a brief time and the other a busy time, but all of them were blessed times.  And the blessings came in a variety of ways, including new and renewed relationships, too much very good food and great Bible teaching – spiritual food.

Wow!  Insightful, thought provoking, challenging, inspiring messages were a part of every conference. Allow me to share just one of the memorable insights that Dr. Lyndon Wall shared with us at the Alberta Parkland District conference.  His theme was “Jesus Sightings: Rediscovering the Living Christ.”  In John 20:1, Lyndon drew our attention to the fact that when Mary came to the tomb “the stone had been rolled away from the entrance”.  Something was out of place.  The stone was not where it should have been. Lyndon then challenged us to be on the lookout for “things” we see in our world that appear to be out of place because, just maybe, we are very close to a “Jesus sighting”.

I reflected back to last January, when Adele and I first met with the Director Team of the EFCCM.  We thought we were just meeting with them to have coffee.  That’s what was out of place.  They were busy, but took time to invite us over for a short “visit” to ask us to pray about the Church Partnership Director position. Since then we have witnessed numerous “Jesus sightings” which included the quick sale of our home this summer, finding a great place to live in Abbotsford and a wonderful new church family that have made us feel welcome.

Have you seen anything out of place lately?

Core Values: Diversity

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In our EFCC Who or What is the EFCC? Brochure, we highlight the eight core values of our movement.  Some of these are really core and some are more aspirational (see Patrick Lencioni’s new book The Advantage for a great chapter on this topic!).  This month I would like to highlight a value that may be more aspirational than core.  We may want to be this way but we are not there yet: Diversity – of methods, styles and peoples.

I suspect that the people of God have always struggled with diversity.  Even though Solomon understood that the temple would be a place where all peoples could see and meet God, by and large the Jews looked down on Gentiles as unclean, immoral pagans.  Jonah clearly viewed the Assyrians this way, though we can hardly blame him for his disgust at such a vile, cruel, evil, oppressive bunch of violent warriors, and was truly angry when God spared them from His wrath after they repented of their sin (Jonah 4).  The disciples didn’t like Jesus talking to a woman – a Samaritan one at that (John 4), the early church stayed in Jerusalem until persecution drove them out (Acts 8) and Peter was revolted by the vision in which God told him to “arise and eat” unclean things.  Only later did Peter understand that “God shows no favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him” (Acts 10:34).  When Gentiles across Asia and Eastern Europe accepted the gospel, Jewish Christians vehemently attempted to guard the purity of the church by forcing Gentiles to adhere to Jewish rules – hence the need for the ‘Jerusalem Council we read about in Acts 15.

Most of us equate diversity with pluralism and a 21st century political correctness that seems to assume all cultures are equally good and truth is relative.  This is, of course, a problem for those of us who believe in truth – in Jesus.  Yes, as believers in Jesus, the Living Word, we must not embrace a mindless relativism.  However, we must also avoid reacting against pluralism and resisting God’s plan for His church: uniting a diversity of peoples under the headship of His Son.

Paul talked about the diversity of the Body, at length in I Corinthians 12.  However, I believe that it is the book of Romans where Paul most fully explained why we ought to “watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned’ (Romans 16:17).  Paul spent eleven chapters fleshing out the theological implications of the gospel (i.e. how the gospel breaks down the walls between Jews and Gentiles) and he gave similar explanations in Galatians and Ephesians.  My friend, Fariborz, recently reminded me that in western literature, thesis statements are at the front of books.  The “real truth” is the first ¾ of the book and the last bit is simply application.  We often read the Bible that way.  However, the Bible is an eastern book and in eastern literature thesis statements are at the end of books. So Romans 12-16 is not “just application”, it is the whole reason that Paul wrote the book!  Paul addressed disunity in the church.  The Jews had been thrown out of Rome so the Jewish Christians left too.  When they returned, the Gentile Christians had multiplied.  The minority Jewish believers started bossing them around: telling them what they could not eat, drink, and do on holy days etc. (Romans 14-15).

Paul took eleven chapters to explain how we are one – yet diverse.  Then in Romans 14, he told the Roman Christians to not condemn each other (the weaker Jewish Christians) and not look down on each other (the stronger Gentile Christians).  In chapter 15 he told them to not please themselves but to bear with one another, build them up, be unified as fellow worshippers of God and accept each other (verse 1-7).

His rationale is important for us to understand, supported by the theological framework of the first eleven chapters: “for I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy” (15:8).  Paul quoted from the Law, Prophets and the Writings: the entire Old Testament, to show that the very nature of the gospel is to grow the family of God beyond a homogeneous people (the Jews) and to multiply disciples among a diversity of people (the Gentiles).  In fact, Jesus served the Jews by pushing them past their prejudice to embrace a diversity of “unclean’ Gentiles in the Body of Christ, the family of God.  I doubt the Jews really felt that Jesus was serving them when He was doing this!

All of this has direct application for the EFCC today.  We worship in fourteen languages on Sunday morning, and that will keep growing.  I heard this past week of the possibility of a Russian Church Plant wanting to join our family!  This is not your father’s Free Church anymore!  We are not predominantly Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.  Olson, Johnson and Fosmark are no longer the predominant names in our local churches.  The more the gospel spreads in this country the more blessed we will be to have more cultures and peoples join our family.  This will not always be easy.  We will have to commit to valuing diversity, instead of resenting it.  We will need to avoid condemning and looking down on each other over non-essential issues that we disagree on.  Yes, we will need to accept each other, build each other up. As different as we will be, we will glorify our God as we worship with one voice.  This will stretch us – but I believe we are so much richer for having Eastern Christians and many others joining our family and challenging our western assumptions.

This has nothing to do with being politically correct.  This is the very essence of the gospel.  It pushes us past our prejudices and introduces diverse peoples into the family.  May we be known as a people who celebrate that diversity; who value a family that has a common Head and a wonderful variety of members, for His glory!

Serving with you (all 14 languages and many more cultures),

Bill Taylor

A Living Legacy

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This year, Dr. Jerome Harvey was honoured by the Ontario Medical Association by being awarded the prestigious Glenn Sawyer Award.

The Glenn Sawyer Award is given to doctors in recognition of outstanding contributions to the association, the medical profession or community.

In the 1960’s Jerome was a member of the OMAs committee on Accidental injuries which was influential in bringing in seat belt laws.

In the late 60’s he sat on the admissions board of McMaster Medical School. ln 1970 Jerome founded the Nipigon Coronary Care program which trained 1000 residents in CPR and established a coronary care unit in the Nipigon Hospital. Both achievments were unheard of in the early years of Coronary care. ln 1976 Jerome and family spent 4 years in Sub Sahara Africa.During this time he founded the Galmi Hospital Barefoot doctors program serving 16 surrounding villages to Galmi Hospital.

The program continues to this day.

In 2004 Jerome founded Medical Equipment Modernization Opportunity (MEMO). The purpose is to show God’s love to the Cuban people by recycling used but still useful medical equipment to worn out Cuban Hospitals and clinics (this is the basis for the strong connection between Jerome and the EFCCM). To date, 45 ocean containers full of equipment and supplies have been shipped!

As well 22 medical/surgical/technical teams have gone to Cuba to insure the appropriate use of the equipment.

Jerome is an executive member of the Lakehead University Centre for Health Care Ethics.

We are thankful to have servants like Dr. Jerome Harvey serving with us at the EFCCM. He is a man of remarkable courage, energy and commitment to Jesus Christ. It’s great to see him being celebrated in his field as well.

Why Small Groups Won’t Work

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This is a conversation that’s popped up on our radar a couple of times recently. Churches that are pursuing missional communities (sometimes known as clusters) or small group ministry might want to stir this perspective into their thinking.

The video is of Todd Engstrom, and is hosted over at the Verge Network.

There’s got to be a way that we can make the intention of small groups work better as an outreach connection.

Anybody have ideas to share about that?

Wednesday Missionary Roundup

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Update from Mexico

In a post from Mexico called Fruit is Coming!, Lane and Sheri are excited to share the next steps of a youth outreach ministry.

“My vision in this ministry was (and still is) to pour into the more mature youth in our church and train them to lead this ministry, which they are now doing.  Those first months after we started, really that first year, had its share of bumps along the road.  The youth who were running it weren’t very faithful in showing up and taking much leadership and the kids who came from the shanty town absolutely bounced off the walls!  Well times have changed!”

Update from Japan

Japan is still in recovery mode from the devastating tsunami ~1.5 yrs ago. Dale and Ann have been exploring a variety of community-generating ideas, and they landed on sewing sandbags for seaweed growers. Seaweed is an important part of the Japanese diet, and the sandbags are a crucial component of . These sandbags weigh down the ropes embedded with seaweed seeds, which keeps them stable in the ocean water in the growing months.

The manufacturers of these sandbags have not been able be nearly keep up with demand. So Dale and Ann’s group of sewers has added to what’s available — enough that the growers can at least look forward to a nominally better crop next spring. Read more about this project, and the future dreams of what it could lead to, by clicking here.