GOING BIG IN BANNERMAN
More and more, Bethel Church is being seen as a vital partner in our church’s community. We regularly work together with the Bannerman Community League to put on special events. I also meet monthly with local community leaders to discuss how we can add value to the neighborhood through our joint efforts. Now our church is about to make our biggest investment yet into the Bannerman community.
As you will recall we raised an amazing $284,702 through our recent ALL IN Campaign in support of the Fort Saskatchewan church plant and related causes. We specified that everything we raised above our $250,000 goal would be invested directly into the Bannerman Community. That means we have nearly $35,000 to invest, once all the pledges are honored. (There may even be more, if the funds designated for hiring a new pastor are not all spent.)
I recently approached the local Community League to get their input into how we should spend this money. In response they invited me to a planning meeting being held this week to identify their strategic priorities for the coming years.
This invitation is a big step in our partnership with the community, and it’s a huge honor. This goes well beyond doing a joint project together. The Community League wants Bethel to be in on the ground floor of their thinking and strategizing for the neighborhood we all care so much about!
I will share any information I receive with our newly appointed “Bless Bannerman Team.” This team will meet on February 11 with our community social worker to try to formulate a proposal about how to spend our dollars in Bannerman.
The Bless Bannerman Team consists of Carley Clarke, Ed Dubbeldam, Calvin Vander Leest, Sid VanderMeulen, and myself. As we prepare to make this big investment, I encourage you to give us any information you think might help us to bless our local community! --Pastor Tom
EXCITING THINGS ARE HAPPENING IN BETHEL’S MINISTRIES
Recently, Bethel’s ministry leaders met at the church to share supper together and talk. We try to meet like this at least once each year. Our meetings are a time for supporting one another, sharing updates, and giving feedback that can make our ministries even more effective.
This time around, we reaffirmed that we are all committed to fulfilling Bethel’s mission: “Becoming like Christ; Sharing Him with Others.” We talked about the importance of making ministry participants aware of everything Bethel has to offer. We want people who come to faith through our ministries to grow in Christ through full participation in Bethel’s life.
We heard some encouraging reports. Here are a few:
At an Oasis Bible study, a woman prayed her first prayer ever! She later took an Alpha course where she was deeply moved by God’s love.
The Taekwondo Ministry is bursting at the seams. Many of the participants in this ministry are hearing Bible stories for the first time in their lives!
The Women’s ministry reported that they received incredible support at their fall retreat. Not only did people step up (spontaneously) to offer help at the event, but they had two women volunteer for leadership roles. They now have a full complement on their leadership team.
Most of the leaders gave thanks that they have all the volunteers they need for their ministries. However these ministries could use another dedicated person or two to help: Bethel Kids, Cadets, Dove Taekwondo, and GEMS. (Please contact, Theme VanHeerden, Calvin Vanderleest, Glen Oosterhof, or Viola Dueck respectively, if you can help out.)
I am deeply encouraged by the investment of so many in our church as we seek to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. —Pastor Tom
WHAT I DISCOVERED READING MY BIBLE
This year we are taking a journey through the New Testament together as a church. Everyone has been encouraged to read five chapters of the Bible per week, journal what they discover in each chapter, and then share their reflections with one other person or with their small group. I’d like to share with you something that impacted me while I was doing this week’s reading.
The “wow” moment came from my reading of John 13. That chapter relates how Jesus identified Judas as His betrayer by handing him a piece of bread during His final supper with his disciples. John says darkly “As soon as Judas took the bread Satan entered into him.”
Even though I know this story well, its truth startled me all over again when I read it. I wondered, “How it is possible is that Judas could be at such a low place spiritually, that he could actually betray Christ?” Because we are familiar with the story, we can easily think that Judas’ badness was obvious to all—like he wore a name tag that said “the bad guy.” But this is not the case.
Consider: Judas had been chosen by Jesus to be among His select group of disciples! Judas had healed the sick! He had cast out demons! All the other believers saw him as a promising young leader. Jesus’ other apostles did not understand it when Jesus exposed Judas’ treachery. It went right over their heads because his betrayal of Jesus was simply outside the realm of possibility for them.
Judas had a perfect façade of spirituality, but inside his heart had become deeply corrupted. Certainly, it didn’t happen all at once. It must have come one choice at a time—one mental compromise here, one temptation indulged there—till greed and bitterness that settled into his heart, and he was capable of things that would shocked and dismay him.
This sobers me. How tempting it is to pursue outward spiritual activities while neglecting the inner fire. It is the “occupational hazard” of every Christian. And pastors! Too many pastors who once had powerful ministries have brought disgrace to God and the church because they failed to nurture an authentic relationship with God.
So, that is how God spoke to me this week. How is He speaking to you? I would love to know.
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE NEW YEAR
I am sure you have hopes and dreams for the New Year. I’d like to share with you my hopes and dreams for Bethel Church. They revolve around our church’s three core commitments: Communion, Community, and Calling.
Communion: I pray that we will walk more closely with Jesus than ever before. My prayer for each of us is that our lives will flow naturally (or maybe I should say “supernaturally”) from our fellowship with Jesus. I pray that, as families, we will have frequent, meaningful times of discussing God’s Word together and will readily share our faith stories with one another.
Community: I pray that we will love one another more deeply than ever before. I am so grateful for comments like this one made to me by a guest last week: “I like this church. It is like a family.” I am also grateful for the many acts of sacrificial kindness that I witness extended by Bethelites to other members of the community. I pray God will help us to make the sacrifices necessary to grow even deeper in love.
Calling: I pray that we will speak and live for Jesus more boldly than ever before. I genuinely sense we are on the verge of a breakthrough here. I believe Bethelites eagerly want to impact their friends and communities and our church’s neighborhood, with the love and Good News of Jesus. I pray that we will see many people, now living far from God, enfolded into the community this year.
I look forward to this hope-filled year of ministry with you! –Pastor Tom
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