What Does the Summer Have in Store For Us?
This Sunday’s message will be the last I preach for a while. My sabbatical (one month of study leave, plus one month of vacation) will start this coming Saturday, June 23. On that day Janet and I will embark on a trip to Vancouver. I will start a course on the gospel’s passion narratives at Regent College on Monday the 25th.
Here is what you can look forward to in in the months ahead:
· Pastor Ryan will preach a two-part series on God and politics.
· Roy Berkenbosch, an ordained pastor and the Director of the Micah Centre at King’s University, will preach a three part series on justice and the Christian life.
· Then Pastor Ryan will preach four sermons in a series called Bon Voyage. It will feature four scenes from four ships in the Bible.
I leave you with a final word of encouragement. For many of us the summer months will mean a big change in our schedules. Our patterns will be upended because the kids are out of school, we will be traveling, or because we will be hosting guests in our home, or for all of these reasons combined.
I have found that these months, while exhilarating, can be spiritually challenging. The unsettled nature of this season can take a toll on our disciplined pursuit of spiritual practices. A vacation can easily become a vacation from God. As a result we can emerge from the summer physically refreshed but feeling disconnected from our Heavenly Father. This is a good time to take stock of how we will negotiate these weeks so the summer is one that leaves us both physically refreshed and stronger in our walk with Christ than ever.
Have a wonderful summer. –Pastor Tom
ARE YOU “ALL IN”?
Today we are launching a campaign called ALL IN. It is a campaign to raise the prayer, volunteer, and financial support necessary for our next big missional step: planting a new church while seeing Bethel Church continue to grow in health, vibrancy, and new disciples. We are calling the campaign ALL IN because we believe that, as we are all ALL IN, we will see God work powerfully. There are three ALL IN’s that are the special focus of this campaign:
Let me explain each one:
By the time you read this Pastor's Corner (barring unforeseen circumstances) Janet and I will be in Ottawa, Ontario, joining other family members for the funeral of Janet's brother, Ron. Ron died about a month ago, and the circumstances of his death are particularly tragic.
In the last several years, life had not treated Ron well, and it affected him deeply.Once an outspoken Christian, he became depressed and withdrew from family and friends. He started to drink alcohol excessively.
Family and friends had tried to engage with Ron and encourage him, but no one guessed how bad his situation had become. Isolated and alone, Ron had quit taking care of himself. While he died of natural causes, it is evident to everyone that he had given up on life.
His death has occasioned a lot of perplexity and soul searching on the part of family members. We've all asked ourselves: "Why didn't I see this coming? Could I have done something to prevent this?"
The experience has made me to think a lot about loneliness. It has made me want to reach out to people around me who feel isolated and alone. –Pastor Tom
A NEW JOURNEY HAS BEGUN
After two years of effort, Bethel’s Church Renewal Lab Team has completed its work. The only thing left to do is celebrate (which our team will do when we meet with the other CRL teams in June to share what God has accomplished in each of our churches). Though the team’s work is done, the journey toward health and growth has just begun.
Here are just some of the Church Renewal Lab outcomes that will continue to shape our church for years to come:
· Six people have been baptized at Bethel so far this church year, and we are expecting still more people to be received as members by evangelism. This is a greater number than any year in known memory. There is no doubt that these baptisms are directly related to what we learned at Church Renewal Lab meetings about connecting people with the Gospel and the church.
· We took the Reveal Survey, to assess our church’s health. It humbled us in many ways, but set us on a path of improvement—as sober self-reflection often will do. As a result of this survey we made at least 25 specific goals that have been guiding us in our church year.
· As pastors, elders and deacons we laid aside the devotional books that we often used to read from at the start of our meetings. Instead we spent the past year telling one another our personal stories of faith. (We shared many of these stories with the congregation in our Bethel Informed newsletter.) It has been a growing experience.
· Our week of 24-7 prayer came about because the “Lab” encouraged us to have quarterly prayer events. We did these events, but as we sought the Lord’s will, we began to dream a dream for prayer that was bigger than any of us could have imagined. The dream was a full week of uninterrupted prayer that turned out to be a wonderful blessing for Bethel church. We believe we will see much fruit flow into our church’s life from this outpouring of prayer.
· We adopted a “discipleship path.” In the new year we will introduce this pathway to the congregation. It involves three practices: Communion, Community, and Calling. Communion is about walking with Christ. Community is about serving in the church, and Calling is about loving God and neighbour in the world. We think the simple strategy of encouraging these three practices will help us all to see a clear direction for growth in Christ.
I believe the Church Renewal Lab has been a tool the Holy Spirit has used to move us along Christ’s path. I am looking forward to the continuing journey with you. –Pastor Tom
BETHEL’S WEEK OF PRAYER
This past week we did something unique in our life as a church. We spent a full week, taking turns, filling hour after hour with prayer, night and day. I thought I would share some initial observations and highlights:
Did you participate in the week of prayer?We would love to hear about your experience. You can talk to one of the Prayer Planning Team members or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
--Pastor Tom, for the Prayer Planning Team (Art Dubbeldam, Lorie Groth, Adrienne Kelsey, Melanie Reynders, and Joanne Rozendaal).
The Managing Elders have granted me four weeks of study leave, to add to four weeks of vacation time this summer, to create a mini-sabbatical. My time away will extend from Sunday, June 24 till Monday, August 20.
Believe it or not, by the end of this summer I will have been serving as pastor at Bethel for almost six years. Bethel normally allows pastors to take a three-month sabbatical after seven years. However, with Pastor Ryan set to leave for the church plant, we want to take advantage of his availability to preach while he is here; so I am taking a shorter sabbatical time, and taking it a little bit earlier than I normally would have.
A sabbatical has two main purposes: it should refresh the pastor and bring benefit to the church. My limited experience with sabbaticals has shown me that they have the potential to do both of these things. My breaks in the past have left me reinvigorated and full of new ideas that have made sermons more relevant and provided fresh directions for ministry.
Here is how I plan to spent my time:
That is a lot to fit into four weeks, but if I even get most of this done, it will be well worth the investment of time and energy. –Pastor Tom
Youth Stepping Up
Its has been a while now since I stepped back from youth ministries at Bethel and Melanie Reynders took on full leadership of the ministry. Because so much of youth ministry happens behind the scenes, and not publicly on a Sunday morning, it can easily slip off our collective radars. This last week I had a chance to talk to Melanie and hear about what is happening in Bethel’s Youth Ministries. She shared some exciting moments. I also asked her how we as a church can better pray for the youth of Bethel.
The first moment she shared was about youth worship. This last week Kevin Rietema, the usual leader of youth worship, was away leading at the Dunamis conference. In his absence the youth completely took charge of worship. Leading all the students in worship were two grade eight students (Owen & Miriam) and one grade seven student (Rachel). They did an incredible job leading the group into God’s presence. They really made it clear to everyone that you do not need to be in high school to lead your peers in the youth group!
The second story that Melanie shared with me was about the youth missions trip to Mexico. She shared how going into the trip she was praying for kids who are normally quite shy to be able to step out of their comfort zones. On the trip that was exactly what happened! Students of all ages stepped up to share testimonies and share faith! It was one of the best missions trips Melanie has ever been on.
How can we pray for the youth of Bethel? Melanie immediately told me that the retreat she has planned for this weekend is going to be very special for our youth. I cannot tell you what it is, or where they are going because it is called a “MYSTERY Retreat.” What I can tell you is that our youth will be stretched and challenged to serve in new and fresh ways. She also said to pray for transformation in the hearts of our youth, and for a breakthrough into the community of Bannerman this summer.
Every week a dozen or so youth leaders come together to pray for, listen to, and mentor Bethel’s youth in their faith. We are very blessed to have such a committed and talented team. Lets continue to encourage them and pray for them in their work with our kids.
LIFE IN THE ‘HOOD (Part II)
Last week I told you about how I am working with a few of my neighbours to throw a block party for our cul-du-sac. I mentioned that nurturing good relationships with neighbours opens doors for the Gospel. This is true and is super important! This week, however, I would like to talk about the larger Kingdom vision out of which we serve our neighbours.
When we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are asking God to bless people with all of the good things He intends for them. Remembering this larger vision causes us to see all of the needs of our neighbours and keeps us from looking at our them as mere targets for evangelism.
Consider just a few of the many benefits that come from developing relationships with our neighbours:
· It combats loneliness: Did you know that loneliness has been identified as a health risk that is as serious as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and lack of exercise? People who feel connected with their neighbours will likely live longer than their lonely counterparts.
· It is good citizenship: A few years ago MacLean’s magazine ran a lead article that documented the social disintegration taking place in Canada. The article’s author opined that our increasing insularity from one another is eroding our country’s social fabric. For any country to remain unified, it citizens need to have a level of understanding of, and toleration for, one another. That kind of social cohesion can be built as we talk to one another in our neighbourhoods.
It creates a safety net. The Bible says, “Better [is] a neighbor nearby than a relative far away” (Prov 27:10). Having good relationships with your neighbours, means that you can give each other rides to the hospital when you are in a jam, watch over one another’s homes when you are away, and even care for one another’s pets, if necessary. There are a lot of practical mutual benefits that come with “neighbouring”.
For all of these reasons I have begun to take time on Thursday mornings to pray the “BLESS” prayer for each household in my neighbourhood. The letters of “bless” suggest the multifaceted needs of my neighbours:
B. Body – Physical needs, health
L. Labor – work, income
E. Emotional – inner life, joy
S. Social – relationships, family
S. Spiritual – Faith in Jesus! Salvation!
CONNECT WITH YOUR NEIGHBOURS THIS SPRING!
Despite initial appearances, there are strong indications that spring will actually arrive this year. That means that we can look forward to everything from walks in the park to gardening to golf.
It is also a great time to connect with neighbours. I have been talking with the people in my cul-du-sac about having a late spring barbeque. In fact, I applied for a grant from Strathcona County so we can go a little bigger this year than the last time we had a barbeque. I’m hoping that a block party with music will coax some of our more reluctant neighbours to come out .
I always look at spring as a unique window of opportunity for this kind of connection. This is because people are emerging from their hibernation, after a long, cold winter, and are willing to socialize. At the same time, the summer months have not hit when people’s vacation plans will make it hard to coordinate schedules.
I have really enjoyed the process involved in planning this get together. Since we needed a minimum of three signatories to get funding for the event, it meant that I had to interact with my neighbours to get them to sign on. This led to some fun and unexpected conversations. For example, Janet and I talked at length with our heavy metal, lead vocalist next-door neighbour and learned that he has fans around the world. (I am happy that he has fans somewhere in the world, because he doesn’t have fans of his music next door.)
Most of these neighbours have happy memories of the last barbeque we had and are looking forward to spending time together. This year I hope to arrange to block off the cul-du-sac to traffic so we can hold the barbeque in the middle of the street, set out some games, and create a festive atmosphere within close range of all.
Our time together will be good for our neighbourhood. I hope it will also open doors for relationship, since relationship is the best context for caring for others and, possibly, sharing the Good News of Jesus with them. --Pastor Tom
At 6pm on Monday April 16th Bethel’s World Missions Team will be screen a documentary entitled “Poverty Inc.” You are invited to watch and then discuss this critically acclaimed, award-winning documentary. This documentary, which features the work of CRC-affiliated “Partners World Wide”, explores the modern poverty industry. It asks questions like “Is what we are doing in the west to alleviate poverty around the world actually working?” and “Who profits the most from our efforts?” It effectively and provocatively presents a new empowering paradigm for missions work and relief work, which does not create a culture of dependency or paternalism.
The documentary “Poverty Inc.”, along with the book “When Helping Hurts” have been critical in bringing Bethel’s World Missions Vision to where it is today. Before the movie, at 6pm, you are invited to join us for a spaghetti dinner. It has a suggested donation of $25 and all proceeds go towards this years El Salvador trip. Our missionary from El Salvador, Roland Vanderburg will be leading a discussion after the movie.
If you have any interest in missions, in helping the world’s most vulnerable people, or just want to be part of an evening with good food and conversation – you do not want to miss it!
Come here for news on what is happening in Bethel Church from our Pastors.