I am so excited about our annual week of 24-7 prayer scheduled for May 16-23, the seven days leading up to Pentecost Sunday. As far as I am concerned, there is no more influential week in our church calendar. I am convinced that the amazing things that have happened through Bethel Church in the last years relate directly to that week of prayer and to the other prayers we offer up regularly in our small groups and on our own.
The theme for this year gives me a thrill: “Seek My Face.” When the phrase “seek His face” or “seek My face” appears in Scripture, it is an invitation to come into the presence of God. It is God asking us to spend intimate time with us. He wants us to know Him better—to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8)--to experience that His “love is better than Life” (Psalm 63:3). He does not ask us to seek His hand (what He gives) but His face--God Himself.
Perhaps my heart yearns for this event especially because I will be leaving Bethel a week after it takes place. So it is a chance to be united in heart with you before I depart. COVID-19 will rob us of many of the normal opportunities to connect and say “farewell”; however, nothing can stop us from being united in Spirit through prayer.
The 24-7 Prayer planning team of Cathy Ferchau, Ashley Patton, and Hilary Warnock, are sorting out details of that special week now. The pandemic will affect how we can observe the event. Last year we prayed only in our homes. Perhaps this year it will be a hybrid event—partly in the church building and partly in our homes. The team is still figuring that out.
I hope you will plan to participate this year. Whether you are just starting out in prayer or are an experienced veteran, the upcoming week of prayer will be an opportunity to be enriched, to grow, to unite with your church, and to partner with God in doing great things on earth.
I announced on Sunday that I have accepted a call to Maranatha Church of Belleville, Ontario. What does that mean both for Bethel and for the Bairds in the next months? The Governing Elders met to talk about its implications for Bethel, and I would like to tell you personally what it means for Janet and me.
The aim of the Governing Elders’ meeting was to lay the basic groundwork for a smooth transition into the future. We started by discussing A Dream for Bethel, which describes our collective vision for our church. Reviewing the document was invigorating for all of us, because we believe it paints an exciting and accurate picture of what God wants us to become. We agreed to spend two weeks praying about how God would have us structure our staff to take us through this transition and beyond.
These steps are vital. They are the building blocks that need to be in place before Bethel can call a new pastor. That these things are ready, or nearly ready to go means that there should be little delay in starting a calling process. God is good!
What does the calling process mean for Janet and me personally? For me, it means I have to pass a lot of batons. I will seek to create seamless continuity in my church, community, and classical roles. I will especially do all I can to equip Cris and the staff to carry on without interruption when I leave.
For Janet and me, leaving Bethel is filled with both emotions and activity. We are caught between the excitement of going to a new community and call on the one hand, and saying “goodbye” to a church we love on the other—it’s a roller coaster ride of emotions. At the same time, we have to pack, sell our current house, and buy a new house over the internet in a new city—so, it’s a whirlwind of activity as well.
There are two things I hope we will all keep in mind. First, we are not gone yet. Janet and I have two and a half months to go. I will be fully invested in Bethel until I finish my pastoral work on May 31. Janet and I intend to enjoy our time and relationships each day we are here! Second, Jesus is in charge. Our leaving is his plan for Bethel as much as it is his plan for Janet and me. I know he has good things in store for Bethel Church. Let’s all trust him, and wait patiently for his plan to unfold.
In an attempt to get away from the screen, I resolved to do little more walking over the past few months. After the cold-snap in January, I began inviting several people from Bethel to walks. Often, I ask others what their favorite walking trails are. It gives me the chance to see more of the city, but also join with someone else in their interests – to see what they see. I was overjoyed one day when I saw two eagles perched in trees, not even 40 meters apart from each other!
While it’s harder to arrange and plan (sometimes), I’ve loved it. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Many people from our church find themselves getting out and walking. In one way, it’s an acknowledgement that this is good for our mental health. We need to get out. But also, we realize the importance of personal connection and friendship – an experience we all have missed dearly over this past year. Being outside gives many of us this chance right now. The Bible talks a great deal about walking.
We are people of the way. While there have been times this past year when it has been difficult to see this, we are on this journey together. Perhaps we should find more intentional ways to walk at the same times and along the same paths – following the guidance of the Spirit towards the life of rescue and rest we have been promised in Jesus.
Take advantage of the early teases of Spring (while they last). Ask a friend or neighbor, and walk. Reach out to me, if you want to go on a walk some time. We’ve had some discussion at church about arranging some “smaller” group walks with those from church. Look out for details over the next few weeks.
On the way with you.
By now you have heard that I received a call from Maranatha Church of Belleville, Ontario. What that means, practically speaking, is that the people of Maranatha Church want me to be their pastor, and they have given me two or three weeks to think about it. How did this come about? And where do we go from here?
It all started several weeks ago when Maranatha’s Search Committee emailed me to ask if I would be willing to discuss a possible call. Their communication took me by surprise. I had not been seeking a call, and when a pastor is within three years of retirement, as I am, he is not expecting to get one. But Maranatha assured me that they had done their homework. They thought I was the right fit for their church.
I have a history with this church. My church in St. Thomas, Fellowship Church, followed the lead of Maranatha Church in hosting the Dunamis conferences. Maranatha and Fellowship experienced significant renewal as a result. Maranatha continued to be a model for me for many years, and their pastor became a mentor to me.
Since that time, however, Maranatha Church has faced many challenges. The people of Maranatha have a beautiful spirit and vision, but the path has not been an easy one for them. They have been seeking a pastor for four years. What they would want me to do is help them rebuild their ministry, and then pass the baton.
So, I have to consider whether I will say “yes.” On the one hand, I think my gifts fit their needs. Our kids and grandkids would live about three hours away, and accepting this call would mean seeing more of them (a good thing). I would have to postpone retirement for a few years, but I think I could actually enjoy that.
On the other hand, I love Bethel Church. I have found my years at Bethel to be among the most rewarding of my ministry. Janet and I would leave with broken hearts.
So, where do we go from here? We pray. On Tuesday evening I spent time with our Governing Elders discerning this call with them. I have spoken with Pastor Cris, as well as a few advisors and a few trusted friends. Now we need to put this call in the Lord’s hands and trust him. As we all pray, I am sure God will make his will known for Bethel and for Janet and me.
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