Change can be unbelievably exciting. Change can be incredibly difficult. This tension of releasing the old and embracing the new has been a journey for my family and also for Bethel over the last year.
In just the last few months, Jessica, the kids and I have moved to Fort Saskatchewan. We have settled in to a new community and are building many new relationships. Over the last few months, incrementally my work time has been moving away from Bethel and to the Bridge. On December 1st, Jessica gave birth to a new baby, Isaac Jack. Everything in our lives is new right now.
Leaving Bethel is bittersweet. I have experienced many lasts recently. This Tuesday will be my last staff meeting after ten and a half years of them. This is my last Pastor’s Corner. Soon I will preach my last sermon as an employee of Bethel. There will be tears and hugs. Joy mixed with sadness. Every week I take a few more of my books from Bethel to my home office in Fort Saskatchewan. While the future is filled with promise and Kingdom opportunity, I cannot help but be sentimental and reflective right now.
For Bethel, the Fort church plant represents exciting change but also sadness as well. It is exciting because you are being obedient to God’s call to Mission in the world. However, building the Kingdom of God takes real sacrifice, prayer and hard work. You will say goodbye to families you have loved for many years. Finances have been sacrificed to send these families off well. A new pastor will be called soon. New volunteers will fill the empty places of those who have left. It may not be always be easy, but I can promise you that we will all be blessed.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 19 that those who leave family, houses or fields for the sake of Jesus’ mission will gain these things back 100-fold and gain eternal life. We can take comfort in these words. Why do we do these kinds of things? Simply put, the whole world needs to know that God loves them and sent His Son Jesus. It is what Christmas is about, and a message worth living for, sacrificing for, and dying for to spread.
This is not goodbye yet, we will save that for February.
Grace and Peace,
At the end of December, Pastor Ryan will finish his work at Bethel. He will spend January studying and preparing for church planting, and then he will embark on his new role as pastor of the emerging Bridge Church. That means that as 2019 unfolds we at Bethel will be opening a new chapter in our life as a church. What should we expect?
There are some things we cannot know about the coming year—like who will fill Ryan’s shoes after he leaves and when that person will arrive at Bethel. But some things we can know. For example:
Our Youth Director Melanie Wright will be taking on leadership of the young adults’ ministry starting January 1. She will be adding 10 hours to her current 30-hour work week to bring her up to fulltime. She will turn over her young adult responsibility to the new pastor once he or she arrives.
Wendy Werkman will be assuming responsibility for Bethel’s small groups till we get a new pastor. She will not be adding hours to her work week; rather, she will rearrange her work responsibilities to make time for small group’s ministry.
We are exploring ways to get preaching and pastoral assistance. Our current plan is to invite preachers to fill the pulpit occasionally. We will also consider hiring someone part time who can both preach and carry out some pastoral responsibilities. We look forward to Pastor Ryan’s preaching at Bethel on occasion, as well (before the Bridge Church starts its own Sunday worship services in September). There are also some significant events coming up in the New Year.
On Sunday February 3, the Sunday following Pastor Ryan’s sabbatical, we will officially bid “farewell” to Ryan, Jessica, and family. On February 9, we will celebrate our church’s 40th anniversary with a potluck supper followed by an evening of activities. Then, the following Sunday (February 17) we will lay hands on the Bridge launch team members and officially commission them for their missional work.
We are in an exciting time as a church. All of these plans reflect that God is doing a significant work among us. We can move into the future expectantly, knowing we are in His hands.—Pastor Tom
A DREAM FOR GIRLS
I love talking with our GEMS Girls’ Club director, Viola Dueck. She is so enthusiastic about her ministry. This week she stopped in to tell me about some of the exciting things happening with our grade-two through grade-six girls. Allow me to share them with you.
The club has a record high number of girls this year—45. Of these, most are from the broader community. A whopping 25 of them are from an unchurched background. This is truly astounding.
I asked Viola what motivates her to do this ministry. She answered, without hesitation, that she wants every girl in her club to know the goodness of God. “He loves me and gave Jesus to die for me so I would not have to pay for my sins—and He did that before I was even born!”
Viola recently had an encounter that deeply affected her. It was with a girl from the broader community who graduated from the program the previous year. Viola asked the girl: “Do you miss GEMS?” The girl’s face turned sad, and she said, “Yes. But the program isn’t for girls my age. That’s just the way it is.”
This encounter birthed a dream in Viola. Her dream is to extend the GEMS program (come fall) past the grade-six level to include grade-seven and grade-eight girls, and also to make a place in the program for even older girls to be Counsellors in Training.
GEMS is just one of the amazing ministries Bethel offers. Other leaders are reporting similar, startling, God activity in their ministries. God is blessing our efforts to serve Him and is entrusting us with many lives. Let’s keep GEMS and all of our ministries in our ongoing prayers. —Pastor Tom
BETHEL’S COMMUNICATIONS GET A FACE LIFT
You will notice that our newsletter and worship folder have a new look this week. We have combined the two documents into one. The new bulletin will be distributed on Sundays, and will also be sent out electronically to those who request it. Why have we made the change? Here are some of our reasons:
Many people were not reading either the worship folder or the newsletter. This is because the worship folder was repetitive from week to week, and the newsletter contained a lot of information that people found irrelevant.
Many items that we have been placing in newsletter can be delivered in more effective ways. For instance, the teens look to the Bethel Youth webpage for their information and prefer to receive notifications by text. The schedules we put in the newsletter to inform us of our church responsibilities can easily be replaced by electronic reminders.
Our guests, and those just starting to attend Bethel, do not received the newsletter electronically and they do not have a mail slot to get their newsletter that way; consequently, they are missing out on important information. Now it will be placed in their hands each Sunday.
If you have been receiving the newsletter by email, you will now receive the bulletin by email. The newsletter will no longer be placed into mail slots, rather a bulletin will be handed to each person who attends worship on a Sunday morning.
You might say our new approach is the “new, old way” of doing things, because we used to deliver our Bethel information in precisely this format. We hope it can be useful again.
Try it out for a few weeks, and then let us know what you think. Give feedback to any staff member and they will relay it back to the church office. In two months we will evaluate our new approach.
THE ALL-IMPORTANT INTANGIBLE
For the last two weeks we have been celebrating our church’s overwhelming response to the ALL IN Campaign. To date, over $247,000 in cash and pledges has been raised. This means we can move ahead with The Bridge Church plant, and we will pay off our church’s mortgage within a month. What an outstanding result!
But there is another important facet of this campaign that we need to keep in mind. The first line on the ALL IN giving envelope invited us to pledge something less tangible than money but every bit as important. It said: “I will pray for The Bridge Church Plant.”
There is no doubt in my mind that the amazing momentum behind this church plant is only explainable in terms of God’s power. We decided to plant a church because we prayerfully discerned that God was leading us to do so. We then bathed the project in prayer culminating with our 24/7 week of prayer last spring. Now we are seeing God’s power on display.
It is not only the campaign result that demonstrates God’s power at work. Pastor Ryan cites new answers to prayer almost daily in connection with the work in Fort Saskatchewan. God is clearly blessing the efforts of our launch team.
So let’s not forget the all-important intangible of prayer. We will need to continue to rely on God’s power in order to see the church plant fully established and many coming to faith in Jesus, and also for Bethel to find the right person to be our second pastor. –Pastor Tom
THE SHAPE OF THE FUTURE
November is going to give us a chance to taste the future. This is because of an assignment given to The Bridge Church members.
The members of The Bridge launch team have been asked to unplug from Bethel for the month of November in order to visit other churches. Their goal is to experience what it is like to be a first-time visitor on a Sunday morning. They are to learn, first hand, what makes them feel welcome, and what makes them feel left out. And to make it a completely authentic experience, they are not to go with friends or other Bridge families.
This exercise is going to give The Bridge members a taste of the future in an obvious way. They will learn what their guests will be experiencing when they visit The Bridge for the first time. They will also know the kind of warm welcome they want to extend to them.
It will give Bethel a taste of the future, as well. For one thing, we will experience what it will be like to not have the nine families who departing for The Bridge in our midst from week to week. But positively, and more importantly, this group’s intentionality will inspire us to be more welcoming in the future.
This last item shows us the biggest way this exercise is giving us a taste of things to come. We are starting to experience one of the great benefits of planting a church. The fresh, experimental way this new church is pursuing ministry is helping us to learn and grow. I am confident that there are many, many more things we will learn in years to come. –Pastor Tom
WILLOWWOOD IS ROCKIN’ MINISTRY
We don’t hear much about Bethel’s WillowWood preschool program. Because it is oriented toward people who do not attend Bethel Church, the ministry tends to run quietly in the background. Nevertheless, WillowWood is having a big impact, and I’m eager to tell you about it. Here are just a few highlights:
There is a full morning class consisting of 20 children ages three and four.
Many of these little ones are not from Christian homes and are learning about God for the first time.
Kim Dalmeijer, our WillowWood teacher, says: “At WillowWood we pray when we do circle time. We pray before we eat, and we pray to end our time together. In this way, we encourage a healthy routine of prayer and thanksgiving. This practice supports our aim to introduce children to the concept that God, our creator, made them.”
One WillowWood parent visited Bethel Church, and now attends regularly. She participated in last year’s Alpha Course.
Other parents have either visited Bethel or enquired about the church.
One family had been planning to move to the south side of Edmonton. They put off their move for a full year so their child could attend WillowWood.
The WillowWood staff are always seeking to connect parents with each other and with the church. Thelmè explains: “Some mornings we serve coffee and cookies for the parents. We also have a Facebook group where parents connect and share funny things about their kids—or make requests for help with drop off or pick up. We are also planning to create a space where parents can sit, chat and connect while their kids are in the preschool.”
There are just a few more openings in WillowWood. Bethel parents are welcome and encouraged to enroll their children.
Please pray for Our WillowWood teacher Kim Dalmaijer and assistant Lindsay Van Boom as they seek to guide the children in their relationship to God. Pray that God will move in the hearts of the children—and their parents—drawing them to Himself.
- Pastor Tom
Prayer And Work
When I think about my life with God over the last few years, I am discovering that I tend to move between emphasizing two realities. I pray and I work. I work and I pray.
“Ora Et Labora” is a Latin phrase that means “Prayer and Work.” This was the motto for several monastic communities throughout Church history. St. Benedict viewed prayer and work as partners that cooperate together to build God’s Kingdom here on earth. These communities of Christ followers emphasized both the need for a vibrant relationship with God, and also the need to roll-up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.
Today work and human effort get a lot of attention in our culture. When we talk about growing the church we may focus on building leadership systems that will work the most efficiently. We might talk about combining the best programs, the best preaching, and the best worship teams as a recipe for a vibrant church. Yet without the power of the Spirit all of our human efforts fall flat. We cannot save ourselves. Only the shed blood of Jesus makes us right with God. We cannot build the church ourselves. We need the Spirit of God to lead and empower us. Work alone will not do the trick.
On the other hand, it is possible to emphasize praying for the church and forget the work of the church. Prayer is a catalyst that naturally leads us to invest physically. Pray for any person and you will want to serve them. Pray for a church and you will want to get busy in it! Prayer is essential for any church and for building the Kingdom, but if we become overly contemplative we may miss the mission. Healthy prayer patterns lead us to work.
I am so thankful to be part of a church like Bethel, which is true to its name and has become a place of encounter and meeting with God. In addition to being a vibrant community of prayer, we are also obeying God and doing great work for His Kingdom. May we corporately and personally hold these two practices of prayer and work in balance with one another. To be the Glory!
WHY I’M “ALL IN”
As you are aware, the offering for the ALL IN Campaign will be taken next week, Sunday, October 21. I want to tell you why I am all in with ALL IN.
Planting a church is a missional sacrifice. We are stretching ourselves for God in a cause that is very close to His heart. When we give ourselves to God in this way, in accordance with His Will, there is always blessing and growth that comes from it.
Here are some of the specific things I am looking forward to:
The joy members of The Bridge Church will have when they see God using their sacrificial efforts to bring many to a saving knowledge of Christ.
The joy we will have when we hear of those lives being changed. The personal growth that will occur when people step up to fill newly opened volunteer positions and watch as God uses them in ways they never imagined.
For how we are all going to learn by experiences that we cannot out give God—that God’s blessings flow when we follow His lead into big steps of faith.
The blessing we will be able to pour into our local community if the offering (and I am confidently praying that it will) exceeds the $250,000 goal. (Three fourths of the above-goal gifts will be used in the Bannerman Community.)
Please pray that God will pour out his grace on October 21, and pray about the part you can play in this wonderful moving of his Spirit. –Pastor Tom
SEARCHING FOR A NEW PASTOR
You may be wondering how our search for a second pastor to replace Pastor Ryan is going. Let me bring you up to date.
Our Search Team, consisting of Jacquie Butlin, Caleb Koning, Marci Mast, Randall Huisman, and myself, has been working diligently for the past five months. Since the start of this year we have met about once every two weeks.
We are leaving no stone un-turned. We have placed ads to which we have received numerous responses. We continually scour the denomination’s database of pastors to find prospective candidates. We have sought out referrals, and we have invited some individuals to apply. (If YOU know of anyone you think would serve our church well, let our team know about it.)
While it is too early to be able to report anything specific, we remain quietly confident in the process. We serve an amazing God, and we know that in His time he will bring the right person on our path.
The watchwords for us now are patience and prayer. Patience because finding the right candidate is seldom a quick process— it’s important to trust God’s timing and not make a rash decision. Prayer, because God delights to use our prayers to accomplish His ends!
We are in the process of discovering God’s future together. It is exciting to be on this adventure with you. –Pastor Tom
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