Pulse Podcast 021: Priesthood of all Believers

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We’ve often heard, and often said the term “priesthood of all believers,” but have we stopped to contemplate what it means? What kind of an audit could we give ourselves for this? And how well would we do on it?

Join us as we give some fresh thought to this subject for the EFCC family.

Here is the preview/teaser version, which you can show at church or with your small group, etc.:

And here it is in audio-only format:

The Pulse: Reaching Beyond our Borders

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As a young college student, with a heart to share the Gospel and make a difference in the world, I believed I was “called” to serve the Lord as a missionary. For me, that meant leaving the country and culture I was used to, learning a different language, and going to some unreached corner of the world to share the Good News about Jesus. At the time, I was part of another denomination, one that had all kinds of cultural trappings, including our own language and even a cookbook!

I couldn’t imagine going out to plant that denomination’s churches in some primitive tribal location. And so, like many passionate prospective missionaries of that time, I applied to a non-denominational mission to pursue my missionary career. A career, by the way, that continued in conjunction with my 40 years of pastoral work here in Canada! It is a great organisation, and continues to do great work around the world.

Now I find myself the Director of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada Mission (EFCCM) — the international ministry arm of the EFCC. Not everyone knows that this is part of the EFCC, and it makes sense to explain why this is so.

In a Christianity Today article called “Missions, Denominations and Honest Questions”, author Ed Stetzer points out that denominations are a tool and not the goal. Our primary goal is not to plant Evangelical Free Churches in the places where we serve. Our goal is to see lives transformed by the power of the gospel, and to see new believers enfolded into new or existing churches where they can be lovingly nurtured and discipled to become obedient followers of Christ.

The task of the church is defined by The Great Commission — to go into the world and share the good news of Jesus Christ. Each local church has a responsibility to fulfill that task, but no single local church could accomplish this. One of the core reasons our churches have associated is to partner, to share resources and encourage each other in this. And together we can accomplish far more than the total of what we can accomplish if we continue to work independently.

Not only is the EFCC’s Statement of Faith a compelling, comparatively simple expression of what unites us, our ethos endorses collaboration. Our commitment to inclusivity of all those who share the Hope that is ours in Christ allows us to partner with other like-minded ministries. We can build bridges because of our doctrinal position where others cannot. We can bring people together to impact communities and nations in ways that are unique and creative.

The EFCCM is not a mission committed to any one specialised form of ministry. We are a generalist kind of mission, committed ultimately to seeing the Gospel work dynamically in lives and seeing local churches being born and being strengthened to further the work the Christ began. This gives us freedom to be creative in our approaches to sharing the Gospel as we seek to serve with cultural sensitivity.

We can encourage each local church in Canada to be a Great Commission Church. We can encourage every member and adherent of our churches to be Great Commission Christians. And we can help churches and individuals find way to give practical expression to that commitment.

Ed Stetzer raises an important question that must always be before us: “Is our denomination being a good steward as a tool for the mission?” By God’s grace, we want to come together as one body across our nation, united around our ethos, and empowered to carry out the Great Commandment and Great Commission of our Lord.

Prayer Calendar: Getting Past Salt and Pepper Prayers

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The other day I was talking with my friend Ron Swanson regarding the way most of us North American Christians pray. He used a phrase that I just can’t get out of my head. He said we often treat prayer like salt and pepper – an add-on, a little seasoning on top of the meal we have made.

Is this really the way we pray?

Sadly, if we are honest, we probably have to admit – yes prayer often feels like salt and pepper. We get busy doing our own stuff, and then perfunctorily sprinkle a little salt and pepper prayer into the mix.

Could we find a way to get past salt and pepper prayers?

I’ll be the first to admit, this is often where I land.

I want to pray. I know I need to pray. I know there is power in prayer. I know prayer moves the heart of God. I know that God desires a deep connection with us through prayer. I know prayer is one of the few practices that Jesus specifically taught his disciples how to do. I know lots about prayer. However, there is a huge difference between knowing lots about prayer and praying. There is even a wide chasm between desiring to have a better prayer life and actually praying. Sadly, I often fail to act on the knowledge and desire that I have. I often fail to pray deeply and passionately. I simply, sprinkle a little salt and pepper on what I am already doing.

If you are like me, you don’t really want to hear one more person give you another guilt trip about prayer. So, I will try and avoid that here. You don’t need to read another book on prayer. We’ve all read several of those, and have been temporarily encouraged; but then have found ourselves struggling along again.

Instead, I’m wondering: Do we need to re-imagine prayer?

Mark Buchanan in his book, Your God is Too Safe, writes a chapter on the loss of imagination. He uses kissing as an example – if you describe a kiss in it’s sheer physical form it almost sounds repugnant. It takes imagination to turn it into something incredible. He talks how we can rip the heart out of a communion service but explaining every last detail. He reminds us that one of the missing ingredients in our faith is imagination.

Is this what we have done to prayer? Taken the heart right out of it because we don’t have the imagination to see it in deeper, bolder, and more mysterious ways? I don’t know for sure, but I’m willing to go on a journey of re-imagination.

So, let’s imagine prayer as:

  • listening
  • breathing
  • food
  • life-blood
  • war
  • visiting the King
  • surgery
  • hanging out with our best friend
  • 911
  • I have several more, but you add your metaphor here

At some point, these metaphors all break down. However, could they also breathe fresh life into the old bones of our prayer lives? It’s worth a try!

To see the latest prayer calendar, click here.

Prayer Calendar: The Spark for Mission

I’m old enough to remember the campfire tune, “It only takes a spark, to get a fire going.” It’s fun to envision Smokey the Bear singing it as a fire prevention jingle. Seriously, a spark could be a good metaphor for prayer and mission. Sparks are initial impulses. A spark in an engine eventually moves your car.

Could Prayer Spark Mission?

I firmly believe prayer is the leading edge of mission, or the spark! Over the last two years, the Revitalize theme has called us to grow in gospel sharing. My worry is that we tend towards manufacturing results based on our efforts.

After Dave Acree retired from ably leading us as Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst, we had to make a decision about who was going to be the EFCC champion for prayer. In attempting to make that decision, we kept coming back to a key thought. Simply this, there seems to be a vital link between prayer and mission. Therefore, it could make sense for the National Mission Director to champion prayer and here I am.

Having offered that explanation, I have three quick thoughts as to how prayer can spark mission:

 

Prayer should put us in a posture of submission

Our prayers ought to come from an, “Our Father, who art in heaven”, posture. We acknowledge that we are under the will of our heavenly father and open ourselves up to what he wants to accomplish in and through us. I think that is a key characteristic of a disciple. I have recently been grappling with this simply definition of a disciple, “a person who hears the voice of Jesus and responds in obedience”. If our prayers led us to that kind of obedience, would we see more gospel sharing?

 

Prayer reshapes our understanding of God’s love

Just a bit before the Lord’s Prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” To love as God loves, means all people are worthy of our love, and care. Praying for enemies opens us to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. It sparks true love within us. We move from seeing enemies to seeing people in need of love and the Good News of Jesus. What would our witness look like if we truly took this command of Jesus to heart?

 

We pray to the Lord of the Harvest

Let’s finish with Luke 10:2, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Could our prayers actually multiply the mission workforce? This statement of Jesus indicates they could.

As we contemplate the state of the church, our meager witness, or a seeming lack of spiritual passion, I suspect the spark of a remedy is not in new programs, or better buildings, or more cash…but simply in reconnecting with the One who is the hope of the nations.

 

Pulse Podcast 020: The Supreme Court’s Ruling on TWU’s Law School

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We’re not really a current events podcast, but we thought this was of sufficient importance and interest to engage with it.

The Supreme Court’s decision on TWU’s Law School has implications for the church and for religious education institutions in Canada.

We’re just not sure what they are specifically.

If you’d like to reach out and dialogue with us on this, you can engage us on:

Here is the preview version you can share in more time-sensitive venues:

And here is the audio version: