LEAP OF FAITH
There are so many reasons to love Bethel Church. Jessica and I remember coming here almost ten years ago and immediately feeling the warm embrace of belonging. Over the years here I have been very honored to be trusted with the opportunity to provide leadership in youth and young adult ministries, world missions, Bannerman ministries, preaching & teaching, pastoral duties, and discipleship ministries. After years working away at a Master’s of Divinity on the side, it felt incredible to be extended a call to ministry here last June. In the midst of all these transitions, changes and seasons in my work here over the years, I have appreciated the honesty of the council and the congregation. I want to extend that same kind of transparency in this Pastor’s Corner.
Last year the first whispers of a church plant started to emerge. I went out for lunch with one of our Management Elders who surprised me by suggesting that I might be a good fit as a church planter. My mentor Pastor Victor Ko had been suggesting the same thing for a few years already. Jessica foresaw us planting a church together many years ago when we first started dating. When Fort Saskatchewan, a place that the Spirit had consistently been putting in front of us for years, became the front runner, we knew we needed to start praying seriously about this all. Over the last year we have sought the Lord together and asked Him what He wants. I was asked at the last congregational meeting, in an indirect way, whether we would plant the Fort church. Not having made any sort of concrete decision, I gave an answer, to the best of my ability, which kept the door open but did not prematurely commit us.
As part of “testing the waters,” I took a denominational exam that determines whether they think you would be ideal as a church planter. Part of my thinking was that if I failed then it might settle the issue in my heart. However, I did not fail and in fact I was given a very positive endorsement from the CRCNA. Next, I started to interview half a dozen church planters and other missional leaders. I was asking myself the question “Could I see my family and myself doing what they do?” We began to hear the Spirit’s voice with greater clarity.
This all has created both a great deal of excitement, but also a wrestling within us. We love Bethel with all our hearts, and yet now feel a call from God. Do you transition from a church that you love with all your heart, where you feel very at home, at a time when you feel like you might just be hitting your stride? Do you take a step of faith into the unknown and unseen, when what is right in front of you is really awesome? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, unless all of a sudden it does. Slowly but surely, a picture of the future, which was once very fuzzy, has been coming into view. If our congregation, our classis, and the CRC decide that a church is to be planted in Fort Saskatchewan, I want you all to know that Jessica and I feel called to be a part of it.
Brothers and sisters, please keep this potential church plant and our family in your prayers. We love you deeply and ask for your tender support and blessing. - Pastor Ryan
BETHEL IS AT THE CENTER OF SOMETHING BIG
I attended a very exciting meeting this week. It was a meeting of the Home Missions Committee of Classis Alberta North. (I happen to chair this committee of our regional body of Christian Reformed churches).
What made the meeting exciting is that we discussed Bethel’s plans for a possible Fort Saskatchewan church plant and the strong indications our church has given that we plan to go ahead with it. Bethel’s willingness to step out and start a new church has been a real source of encouragement to the Home Missions Team. I am sure that it will come as great inspiration for all of the churches in our area when we reveal the progress of our discussions at our upcoming March meeting.
In the past, I did not spend a lot of time thinking about the neighboring Christian Reformed Churches near where I lived and served. I didn’t want to get mired in the cumbersome procedures that church government sometimes entails. I tended to focus on my own church and the multi-denomination fellowship of evangelical churches in my city.
So, I was quite surprised, shortly after arriving at Bethel Church, to sense that the Lord was leading me to love and invest in the nearby denominational churches. In the course of loving these sister churches, I have come to appreciate them more. I am also becoming more and more confident that God can do good things among us as we work together.
That is why I was so excited at the recent Home Missions meeting I attended. Good things are happening. One of those things is that our classis has committed itself to planting many new churches. They budget annually for this and many churches are even taking extra collections to support the effort. How thrilling that Bethel Church is at the very center of this hopeful new wind that is blowing in our region!
In March we will ask our classis to formally agree to be our financial partner in our church plant endeavor. By taking this step, classis will pave the way for us to vote on the church plant proposal, come June, with full confidence that any action we take will be fully supported by the other Christian Reformed churches in our region. –Pastor Tom
Renewal in Bethel’s Small Groups
For Pastor’s Corner this week I want to give an update of what is happening in our small group & house church ministry.
The Reveal survey showed us last year that we had a strong need for renewal in our small groups at Bethel. In September, the challenge was given to create new missional home gatherings called “House Churches” to revitalize our small group ministry. These groups are similar to small groups but they seek to embody the whole mission of the church found in Acts 2:42-47 which includes worshiping together and reaching out. Pastor Victor Ko from MosaicHouse church came to our small group kick-off banquet and shared the vision. Our goal was to have 5 new House Churches at Bethel by the summer. I am pleased to report that we now have 7 active House Churches with 2 potential start-ups in the spring. In addition to Bethel, I shared the vision of House Church with churches leaders from around Northern AB at Renewal Labs, and now two others churches in Classis have joined in! God is doing more than we asked for or imagined and it is very fun to watch! In these House Churches believers are actively praying for and serving their family members and friends who are yet to have a relationship with Jesus!
The energy and growth is not just being felt in these new House Churches at Bethel; our existing small groups have been going noticeably deeper. After a round of interviews with almost all of our small groups leaders, we discovered that groups have taken steps to go deeper. A number of groups reported worshiping through song together for the first time. Others spoke of more intentional prayer practices.
I have mentioned all of the small group/House Church growth, and that is not even taking into account the fruit from Alpha groups either! It is clear that God’s Spirit is working in Bethel! He is revitalizing and creating new opportunities for community, discipleship and mission.
Come here for news on what is happening in Bethel Church from our Pastors.