Being a Christian in contemporary society can be hard. The Christian Faith is routinely derided, the credibility of the Bible is undermined, and the dangers presented by technology derail believers and make believing parents wonder how they can ever raise their children to be followers of Christ. That is why I was so encouraged by a seminar Pastor Cris and I attended virtually last week. It offered great resources to respond to the challenges we are facing today.
The seminar was the “Q Ideas Annual Summit”. It was both fearless, and faithful. Featuring mostly younger Christian leaders, the summit boldly addressed relevant topics like sexuality, abuse in the church, Progressive Christianity, racial tensions, and technology. It did so from the solidly Biblical perspective.
Here are some of the resources, we learned about at the summit that may be of help to you:
I remember the month after Christy and I first moved into our house on the Northeast side, near the Christian school. Specifically, I remember how rarely we saw neighbours early on. There were several factors that impacted this. One, it didn’t help that the pandemic had just began to hit home with many. Two, it was the tail end of Winter. Three, we didn’t know the community around us either. We were new. No other way to put it.
Over time we made the most of the friendly unplanned conversations. We’ve enjoyed overlapping with the casual rhythms of others which often takes on the form of bike rides, dog walks or highly responsive snow shoveling. We add our own patterns to the mix.
It convicts me daily that where we live matters, especially because God always goes before us, in regards to the people we befriend and the places we live. This is true for where you live around Edmonton. This is very much the case for where Bethel finds itself in the Bannerman Neighbourhood, embracing and partnering with a vision of cultivating a community that cares.
In a time of disruption and transition, we must keep our surroundings in mind and ask: “Lord, what are you doing?” “Lord, what would you have me do?”
I find myself reflecting about this as I get to know Bannerman and local leaders. Some of these leaders, who have been anchors for the neighbourhood, gave me a tour of the community league this week. We walked through the community garden. We talked about all the ways that everyone in this community has a lot to offer each other.
Whether you are thinking about how to partner with the community here in Bannerman or your own backyard—know where you are. Get to know the neighbours. Take steps to learn and embrace the lay of the land around you, because where you live matters.
I have found over the past few weeks that some of the most fruitful and meaningful moments have been the unplanned ones. At first glance this might sound counter-intuitive. I say this because my experiences over the past year have reminded me of how important intentionality is. Since you will not accidentally bump into friends at church or the store, for example, reaching out and arranging these times has been vital.
That said, with how unexpected this past year has been, many, if not all of us, are tired of it. “God, how about a little more expected?” “Can we have a little more predictable and a little more known?”
Perhaps these assurances will return. However, we should never mistake the comfort of having a plan for the illusion of being in control. We never can dictate what tomorrow or the next day will bring, but we can prepare ourselves to be present to the unexpected gifts these days will bring.
Here a few moments that come to mind for me:
On the other end of these experiences, I think of the moments I have called and met with people dealing loss, those feeling overwhelmed. Often, none of us enter these moments with a plan, but we know God wants us there, present. That’s what matters.
God uses these unexpected moments to remind us that he is alive in all of them – every one. How open are you to the unplanned and unexpected?
I said this in a sermon a few weeks ago. My prayer for us as a church is that we will be completely dedicated to the reality that God is, that we always are open to what God is doing, even when our plans seem of course. Perhaps we’re actually syncing up our times and appointments with God’s schedule.
What does he have going on in your life day? Meet Him there.
Bridge Church continues to reach out creatively despite the constraints of COVID-19. On Easter Sunday they had 500 people show up for their outdoor, drive-in service. Pastor Ryan and the church were featured on Global News TV. You can watch the segment at: https://globalnews.ca/news/7738392/easter-alberta-covid-19-restrictions/
This is their fourth COVID drive-in service to date.
The Bridge has also launched a new app called “Bridge Daily.” Everyone who has the app gets a five minute devotional and a guided prayer led by Pastor Ryan. Devotionals are available five days a week.
There are significant benefits that come to a parent church, when they plant a new church. Among them are inspiration and challenge, and Bridge is providing us with both.
Consider that Bridge Church launched under the most unusual and difficult of circumstances yet all indications are that they are growing nonetheless. Bridge has shown us that the pandemic cannot stop the Gospel, and that it need not stop us from proclaiming it. I am reminded of words the Apostle Paul wrote during a time of imprisonment. He said that he was in chains, “but God's word is not chained.” (2 Timothy 2:9)
How is Bridge Church’s example speaking to us? Let’s not let the pandemic stop us from sharing the Gospel. Let’s continue to pray for our personal parish (those people near us with whom with whom we hope to share the Gospel). Let’s be faithful to take the opportunities to share the Good News that the Lord opens up for us.
Something really beautiful happened at our Governing Elders meeting this past Monday—we experienced Easter joy together. Let me tell you about it.
To open our meeting Arnie Steenbergen, our chair, read the Easter story from Matthew 28:1-10. He didn’t follow his reading with a meditation, as is common practice when leading a devotional like this. Instead, he just said “Wow!” And then he added: “It just seemed right to read that!” His awe at the reality of the resurrection was evident.
Arnie’s statement of awe was followed by others of us sharing our impressions about the amazing news of Christ’s rising from the dead, as explained by Matthew. Then we spoke to God together in prayer, aware that the risen Saviour was in our midst.
It was a sweet and joyful time, however brief. It was a taste of the reality of the resurrection that believers are invited to regularly enjoy.
I am so grateful for our leaders. Month after month at these meetings, I witness their sincere love for Christ, and the deep humility out of which they lead the church. It would be easy for you to think of our office bearers as merely decision makers. It is important for you to know that they are also people of deep character who love Jesus.
As grateful as I am for our leaders, I am even more grateful for the Easter reality we celebrated together at our meeting. It is this reality that gives us reason to meet each month to discuss ministry. It is this reality that gives us reason to thrill at what God is doing in our church. It is this reality that gives us all reason to work hard, even when COVID-19 threatens to rob us of the usual rewards of our service in the church.
It is the reality of the resurrection makes it all worth it. That’s why our chairman said, “Wow!” Just, “Wow!”
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