Enchant’s 100th Birthday!

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(Photo by Cory Skretting, used with permission.)

100 Years of the EFCC

Well, as I write this, Canada is getting ready to celebrate its 150th birthday. We will highlight all the things that make Canada unique and a great place to live. We may even think back over our history and reflect on how that has shaped our understanding of Canadian values – but I wouldn’t count on it. Far too often our reading of history takes today’s events, beliefs, realities and values and reads them back into our history – making it say what we want it to say.

I trust I am not about to do that with my reflection on this past weekend’s celebrations in Enchant, Alberta (look it up on a map folks!); the longest serving church in the EFCC.

First of all, kudos to those who did all the work planning the event! It was fun and the reflection on the faithfulness of God and His people was inspiring. This was a huge undertaking for a small church. But this shouldn’t surprise any of us. The list of Christian leaders who have been trained and mentored in the Enchant church is impressive!

As we were served a wonderful meal by our Alberta friends on Saturday night, I was so taken by the list of those God has called into full time ministry from this tiny town! These folks were pioneers who planted churches, became missionaries and sacrificed for the gospel and their Lord. Their lives are convicting – they really did believe that the gospel was the power of God for salvation!

My second impression from the celebration is how powerful the faithful service of those called to lay ministry has been in this church and throughout the EFCC across generations. The Enchant story reminds us that everyone has a calling to follow Jesus! The heroes of the Enchant story are lay and clergy alike! Sam Odlund becomes a believer – he attends the Free Church Bible College in the US – comes home and returns to his calling as a large farmer in the area. Pretty unimpressive, right? Wrong! He and his wife serve the church and the people in the area lovingly, share their home, and lead many to Christ – Carl Fosmark among them! Carl Fosmark and his younger brother Lee eventually become pastors in the fledgling Free Church movement in Canada. Carl later returns from Oregon to pastor in Enchant and is a key leader of the EFC in Canada! Lee the big gentle encourager, plants churches all across the Canadian prairies. Yet neither one of them is used of God unless the Odlunds follow Jesus in a life of hospitality and Christ witness – in farming!

Lastly, I was struck by how the Free Church began in Canada. All of this happened because a preacher from the US came to Canada and preached revival – repentance and commitment to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We in the EFCC are currently focused on “Revitalize: becoming a gospel sharing people”. We want to return to that pioneering spirit where we obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit and share our lives and our hope with others. Yet I am reminded that it all begins with personal revival.

I must first have a white hot faith in Jesus, the Messiah, King and Lord of all creation – and my life. I must really believe that he is the Hope of the nations. And I must live as part of His family in such a way that others will ask me to give an account of the “hope that is in me”.

This church has been a community of saints (not perfect, I am sure), but to see the love they had for former pastors and that love those pastors had for these people was inspiring. That kind of Christian community will be key to sharing the gospel in the next 100 years as it was in the last 100! May we be a movement, reflecting the love of Christ, obeying his calling as pioneers who sacrifice so lives will be transformed for eternity.

Serving with you,

Bill

PS — you can see more impressions of Enchant’s 100 year celebration on Facebook and Twitter.

Prayer Calendar: Team Prayer

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LDCat

Dave Acree is our Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst. This is a welcome to the monthly Prayer Calendar which we publish to promote prayer throughout the EFCC family. If you would like to receive the Prayer Calendar by e-mail, you can sign up for it on this page, or you can see the latest copy here.


Let’s get to the point right at the start. I have a “big ask” to make. Would you be willing to become part of a team praying for the EFCC, that we would fully enter into Revitalize, asking God to help us all become more and more a Gospel sharing people?

That’s the “ask”, now let me explain. I’ve become convinced that solo praying is not enough. It’s good, even important, but it minimizes the power of community. Right before Pentecost and after, the early church prayed in community. “They all joined together constantly in prayer.” (Acts 1:14) “They raised their voices together in prayer to God.” (Acts 4:24) We seldom do that today.

If you say “yes” to the challenge and “sign on” we will set up an electronic network joining us together across the EFCC through which we will pray regularly “together” for the EFCC to be “Revitalized!”

We will pray for your church and the churches of the EFCC. Read these passages: Matthew 22:37, 39; Acts 1:8; Philippians 2:14-16; Luke 10:2; and Colossians 4:3. We will pray for our churches that we will have love, power, character, harvesters and opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

We will pray for the people of our churches. Read Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:4-6; and
1 Peter 3:15-16. We will pray that our people will be bold, gentle and respectful in sharing the Gospel.

We will pray for your “neighbours”. We will pray together with you that God will reveal himself to them and be involved in their lives in such a way that they will recognize him. We will commit together to seek tangible ways in which to express Christ’s love with them. We will ask God for opportunities to share with them what Jesus means in our lives.

Now the hard part. If all of this resonates with you, email me at dave.acree@efreelethbridge.ca and join the team.

The Pulse: Outside of my Communicator Speciality

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The Pulse is starting a new writing exercise: we’re getting our EFCC Catalysts to offer your perspective and maybe even advice from within their area of experience. Brad serves as the EFCC’s Communications Catalyst.


Clearly, it was time. When our 3 year old son started to exhibit signs of frustration in his inability to get his ideas across, we needed to reach out for help. Apparently, his cute toddler-ish babblings had real intent behind them, and we just weren’t getting it.

With encouragement from caring people in his life, we signed up for a class offering training to specific parents whose children were behind their age-group’s expected ability, and yet who could be reached with relatively minor intervention — there weren’t medical impediments which would require surgery, for example.

For me, in some ways, it was a return to the basics — the beginning was stuff that I learned in the very first course of university Communications.

  • What’s the definition of a word?
  • What are the building blocks of communication?
  • What’s the difference between speech and language?

But quickly we departed from my area of education and experience, and began to ponder how speech interacts with the mystery of communication. Like so many things in life, it’s only when we’ve encountered a glitch in the process that we stop to examine what’s really happening. The physical and mental processes which go into talking are far more complex and intricate than most of us think about on a regular basis, or maybe ever.

For example, the speech therapists explained that to pronounce the word ‘church’ requires 42 different muscle movements. 42!

I was there for a practical reason — to get some resourcing and training for my son. And I did (those speech therapists are pretty special people!). But I also found that it was as amazing for me as a person, as it was for me as a dad.

It was a reminder that not only am I fearfully and wonderfully made, but that each of us is, and together, we are! Our ability to share ideas is a bewildering blessing (even if we sometimes turn it into a curse). How we share perspectives, inspiration and our whole selves with each other in the process of communication is worth considering.

Often.

Maybe even before there’s a crash! :-)

This journey with our son isn’t over. We’re taking time to practice the hard words with him. And there are still times when his speech is indecipherable. But the improvement he’s showing after some directed attention is remarkable. The way his confidence has increased is obvious. And the thrill he gets from us laughing at his jokes is unparalleled.

Reflections on Theological Summit 2017

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Well, we are finished another EFCC Theological Summit. 120 of us gathered in Okotoks and many dozen more assembled at 10 live stream locations from Ottawa to Vancouver Island to be inspired and challenged by Dr. Mark Yarhouse as he walked us through two of the most challenging issues of our day: Sexual and Gender Identity. I don’t know about how others experienced this time – but I was deeply moved and challenged regarding what speaking truth and love means in our culture today.

Here is what I found particularly helpful:

The Three Lens View

1.) Integrity Lens:
This lens views people through the Genesis 1 and 2 storyline: God designed us as male and female. This is a core truth that we cling to as Christians. We don’t believe that physical sex and gender are unrelated. Hence we cannot condone same sex marriage or agree with the current thinking that gender is entirely a social construct and is unrelated to physiology – we do not believe that binary categories are inherently evil as many in our culture seem to hold. God’s good design is just that – good.

2.) Disability Lens:
This focuses on the Genesis 3 storyline. Yes, God designed male and female, but the fall has left us broken and confused. Our response ought to be compassionate ministry and care to broken individuals who are unclear about their identity and what they should build that on.

3.) Diversity Lens:
Lastly, the diversity lens, which our culture promotes so loudly, elevates individual choice above all, and believes that celebrating the way a person understands their gender or sexual identity — even if it is different than the majority — is the morally-correct option.

As a local church elder, practicing therapist and professor of psychology, Dr. Yarhouse is uniquely positioned to explicate all three lenses.

Call to Abandon “Culture War” Rhetoric

If we watch the nasty culture war between right and left wings in the US, we can get drawn into a very unhelpful pining for the “good old days” when everyone in the culture held Christian values. Firstly, was there ever a day in Canada’s history where we all held Christian views? And second, who cares? Is that really our calling — to make sure that our neighbours all think and live morally like us? No.

We are gospel people. We introduce others to Jesus Christ – who is Messiah and Lord.

The early church did just fine living their faith in a loving manner, with a winsomely different set of values and morals from the rest of Roman society. They did not seek to control the culture – they lovingly and subversively showed people a better way. Read Rodney Stark’s “The Rise of Christianity: How the obscure, marginal, Jesus movement became the dominant religious force in the western world in a few centuries” to understand how the early church lived out its faith. I believe that it’s “show and tell” time for us as evangelicals, not “run and gun” time.

Guarding Our Tone

Lastly, I loved Dr. Yarhouse’s gracious tone.  He didn’t leave us with the sense of “those people” that is so easy for us to hold towards a group we feel are pushing an agenda on us.  Yes, many are pushing an agenda on us. Yet we ought to be careful in adopting an attitude that mirrors that of the Pharisees (remember the Pharisee and publican praying in Luke 18:9-14?). In that vein, I was proud of the spirit in which our EFCC family asked questions during the Q&A times.  It matched the spirit and tone with which Dr. Yarhouse graciously answered those questions.

My Only Regret

I wish that there were more lay people there and at our live streaming sites! This is a topic that all of us need to engage – all of us know someone wrestling with identity issues. May I gently nudge pastors to not attend the next one alone? In May 2019, Dr. Scot Mcknight will lead us to consider the nature of the gospel and the church. Perhaps we assume that theology is for pastors.

Let’s get past that assumption — theology is intensely practical!

We are all called to care for victims of the fall – and we are all called to live out the gospel and be the church, so please invite your lay leaders to the next Theological Summit in 2019.

So Many People Deserve Gratitude

In closing, please allow me to thank the many people who made the Theological Summit possible. Our friends at Okotoks EFC did a fabulous job of hosting. Dave Acree, our Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst, envisioned and planned the days. Our Home Office staff made it possible from processing registrations to organizing travel details to making all the technology work without a hitch. Thanks to all who invested in a rich two days of learning what it means to minister in a challenging culture!

Pulse Podcast 008: What is the Gospel?

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Here we go, with episode 8! Neil and Bill examine some ideas and definitions of the gospel — a critical component of our Revitalize initiative. The goal here isn’t to arrive at a single, definitive statement. It’s to help us make sure that we’re thinking about the gospel in compatible terms.

New! Preview version!

See below for a preview of the podcast. We’d love it if you shared this at your church gathering, or small group where time is precious. It’s an invitation to the larger, ~20min session.