LONELINESS IN THE CHURCH
I’m reading a book by Wesley Hill called Spiritual Friendship. It is part of my quest to learn how we can be a deeply loving church where all are included, and no one feels lonely.
Do you ever feel lonely? In a church community no one should feel this way, but we sometimes do. It is even possible for people to be very busy in the church—perhaps even leaders in the church—and yet lack deep friendships.
This isn’t how it is supposed to be. It’s not how it was in the early church, and it’s not how it should be today. But how do we break through the relationship barrier to become a community in which men and women, young and old, “red, yellow, black and white” all feel at home? How can the church live Christ’s vision of loving community in a society that pushes us toward isolation? We need to find the way.
We all need the kind of fellowship I am talking about. People without a strong support system will feel the need even more acutely. Wesley Hill, who wrote the book I mentioned, Spiritual Friendship, is a celibate gay Christian. He represents a demographic that desperately needs meaningful Christian fellowship but often can’t find it. Single men and women also face challenges when it comes to experiencing deep community.
Pastor Cris, our new second pastor, shares my passion for deep community. When he arrives we will be talking together about this topic and we will be speaking with our leaders about it, as well. As we prayerfully work together, I am confident that we can become the kind of community Christ wants us to be. –Pastor Tom
ON THE FOREFRONT OF CREATION CARE
I attended the first Climate Hope session hosted at Bethel Church this past Sunday. I didn’t know what to expect, but I came away challenged and encouraged and grateful that Bethel is on the forefront of urging concern for the creation.
The presenters for the evening, Dr. Kristopher Ooms and Dr. Gerda Kits, are both professors at The Kings University here in Edmonton. They laid out the scientific case for climate change and described our Christian responsibility in regard to it. Then they gave opportunity for attendees to ask questions. Many people were in attendance and the discussion was lively.
Occasions like this one make me grateful for the various gifts in the body of Christ. That is because, as Christians, we are called to impact our world on many different levels. We have been called to fulfill the Great Commission (so Bethel has set a goal, along with Bridge Church, of seeing three hundred people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in the next five years). However, we are also called to be leaders when it comes to compassionate ministry and doing justice.
While we all have responsibilities in all of these areas, we can’t all invest ourselves equally in each area. That is why I am thankful that God gives particular gifts and passions to people for the different areas of our calling. We can get all the work done only as we each step out to give leadership in our own area of gifting.
Ideally, our concern for sharing the Good News and our concern for love and justice should work together seamlessly. This seminar shows how that can happen. At least two people I know of, who are detached from church, came to the seminar because they appreciated the leadership this event’s organizers are giving in an area that is so much on the minds Canadians.
To learn about upcoming events in this speaker series, visit facebook.com/780climatehope/ or talk to one of the Climate Hope Team’s organizers who attend Bethel Church: Linda Hofstede, Paul Horsman & Susan Horsman, Jennifer Porritt, Brendan & Alex Middel, and Richard Vriend. –Pastor Tom
CONNECTING WITH OUR CARE-GIVERS
I hung out with Bethel’s Shepherding Elders for the second half of their meeting this past Wednesday. I thought you might like to know what a great job I think they are doing.
As their name suggests, our Shepherding Elders are elected elders who are in charge of “shepherding” us. They focus especially on people who are not in small groups but are available to all of us when the need is there. They create policies that relate to the spiritual and physical health of all Bethel members. They also oversee baptism requests, membership transfers, and the Lord’s Supper.
At the meeting, I was deeply impressed by the group’s intentionality. I saw this on display as the various elders (and Pastor Martin who has been hired to do pastoral care in the absence of a second pastor) reported on visits they had made to members of the congregation. They described the support that was being given, while being careful to keep confidences. Suggestions were made about how to provide better care to those who need it.
The second thing that impressed me was the group’s wisdom. I had shared the good news about upcoming weddings at Bethel and sought input about questions related to them. I had also proposed a pastoral way for responding to people who drift away from the church. During both discussions the elders gave feedback that was both loving and sensitive.
As we met, there was a joyful spirit in the room. I left feeling that we are in good hands with these godly men and women who serve us! –Pastor Tom
A MEETING OF MINISTRY MINDS
We held our annual ministry leaders’ “summit” this past Wednesday. As always, it was exciting to hear the reports of what God is doing in each ministry area. Here are some highlights:
Ministry leaders are seeing many people who are new to Bethel joining their ministries.
At least one person came to faith in Christ through Alpha, and several others were renewed their faith. Several of the fall Alpha attendees will be joining a Bible study group together to continue their faith journey.
The Oasis women’s ministry, has welcomed several new and not-yet Christians this year.
The Healing Prayer Ministry continues to grow, with more people asking for healing prayer appointments month after month. Even people from the local community have requested prayer appointments.
Viola Dueck has a dream for the GEMS Girls’ Club. As a way of strengthening the ministry and discipling more girls, she plans to invite girl’s grades 9-12 to become junior counsellors in the program.
Families who are introduced to Bethel through one ministry, often will join, or send their children to, another ministry. Some people have even started coming to church.
The Willow Wood Preschool added two new students in recent weeks.
The Dove Taekwondo Ministry cannot keep up with the demand for the program.
They have a waiting list of around 20 people. This is a lot to be thankful for. God is changing lives through Bethel’s ministries! --Pastor Tom
CAN WE TALK ABOUT THAT?
We have a new sermon series to start our new year called Can We Talk about That? It will consist of nine messages about topics we sometimes prefer to avoid.
It is vitally important for a church to go to these uncomfortable places, at times. It will negatively affect our health as a congregation if we avoid hard topics, and only talk about safe ones. Superficial conversation leads to superficial relationships.
The idea for this series came to me when I was meeting with a group of Bethel young adults to learn about their perceptions of our church. One thing in particular stood out to me from that meeting. The group said they found the church to be strangely silent about issues that were of burning importance to them. Many of these issues were prominent in the news and on social media, and yet they were not being talked about in the church.
These young adults were asking “why can’t we talk about these things?”—and that is an important question. As Christians, and members of the same church family, we should be able to talk about all kinds of things and find light from God’s Word on them. This sermon series is an attempt to do just that.
In the next weeks we will be looking at topics that include: doubt, sexuality, same sex attraction, living justly, care for the environment, and mental health. Some of these topics are delicate because they are deeply personal while others are delicate because they can be controversial. I am hoping the messages will start many healthy conversations.
All of the topics in this series are vitally important to God. So let’s talk about them!–Pastor Tom
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