Do you remember that classic children’s book, called The Little Train that Could, about the little train that was determined to make it over a daunting hill? It kept saying “I think I can, I think I can,” as it chugged slowly but surely upward. For me, that is the perfect image for the Christian Reformed Church’s most recent Alberta church plant, called “Avenue Church,” located on 118th Ave, here in Edmonton. Let me tell you about this “little church that could,” and why it is important for you and me as members of Bethel Church.
“The Avenue,” as 118 Ave is affectionately called by those who live on it, was not always what you would call prime real estate. Once the home of pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, and bars of low reputation, The Avenue was transformed through the efforts of many devoted citizens into a place better known today for its festivals and arts culture. One of the forces contributing to the ongoing renewal of the neighborhood is Avenue Church. It is led by Aaron Au, a bi-vocational pastor who also plays in the Edmonton symphony, along with the dedicated support of his wife April.
Why is Avenue Church important to us at Bethel? It is important because it is our dream to plant a church one day, and Avenue Church is a living picture of our future. It is also important because, in God’s providence, Aaron asked me to be his ministry-mentor, and this has led to a growing partnership between Avenue Church and Bethel Church.
Aaron and his wife April, along with another Avenue Church member, recently came to one of our Wednesday morning prayer meetings, where we prayed for every facet of their church’s ministry as well as for their personal wellbeing. We have made further plans to pray on location for their ministry at some time in the future, perhaps walking the streets as we do so.
In the year ahead we hope to nurture this growing partnership with Avenue Church and expand it to include mosaicHouse Church, another “little church that could”—the one that gave birth to Avenue Church. The aim is to bless these churches with our encouragement and prayers, while receiving from them the realistic perspective that comes from life in the church-planting trenches.
Expect to see Pastor Aaron, and Pastor Ko of mosaicHouse, preaching at Bethel in the year ahead. (I will be going to their churches to preach, in return.) Pray that these churches will shine a bright light in Edmonton, and that God will direct us as we consider establishing yet another shining light in Edmonton in years to come
— Pastor Tom
Have you heard the great news about our WillowWood preschool? We took a step of faith, and we are now seeing kids coming in greater numbers than ever before.
Last year our WillowWood director Christie Thomas proposed that we add an afternoon class to the program. This involved a risk, partly because we were not completely sure the kids would come and partly because there was, potentially, a significant cost involved. If we did not attract ten more children to the program this year (jumping from 16 to 26 students) the resulting financial shortfall would have to be paid from the church budget.
In the end, the council decided that the possibility of being able to offer Bible instruction to more children than ever before was worth the risk. The congregation endorsed the plan when they gave approval to the budget, after considering the matter.
Now we are seeing God’s faithfulness in response to our faith step. We’ve surpassed the goal of 26 by one, for a total of 27 children so far. It is likely that a third of these children are from families without a faith commitment, or at least without a church home. We know that each of these little ones is precious to the Lord, and now they are getting daily instruction in his Word.
In the worship folder for this Sunday you will see the bios of the two women who give leadership to this ministry: Amanda Woudstra and Marci Mast. They are passionate for what they do.
Please keep this wonderful ministry, and these hardworking ministry leaders, in your prayers.
God is using Bethel Church members to make a difference in people’s lives. Listen to these words of thanks from someone who joined the Oasis Women’s Bible study last year. (She is responding to a text of encouragement received from one of her new friends at Oasis):
I am so blessed. In a few short weeks I have met the most amazing, strong, faithful women I have ever known. As with [your] last text this one also comes at perfect time. There is no way you could possibly know how much I value you. I have felt more love and unconditional compassion from my new friends at Oasis than in all present relationships. God drew me to this group at this particular time in my life and, as my time with you continues, I am in awe at the blessings and deep gratitude I feel. I have received more than I could ever explain or repay. [It is] exactly what I was in need of. Thank you….
This text (shared with the author’s permission) is just one example of how God is using Bethel members to make a difference in our world. I am confident it represents many more people who have not let us know.
Oasis started its new season this past Wednesday. Our other ministries have also either started their new year or will soon. (These include: Dove TaeKwondo, Youth and Young Adult ministries, ESL, Willow Wood, Gems, Cadets, the Healing Prayer Ministry, the Small Groups ministry, and more.)
Please pray that God will use us this year to touch hearts and to bring change to the world, one life at a time.
Do you ever think of time periods in your life in terms of the things you experienced during those times (or are about to experience). For example, you might say, “those were the baby years” or “this is the year of going for it with my education plan or weight loss plan, or this is the year of building up to that big trip.” Well I have a way of thinking about the year ahead. When I think about what’s coming up this year at Bethel, four words pop into my head: “The year of mission.”
The reason I think of this as the year of mission is that, along with all the normal exciting activities we will be doing this year (engaging in ministries, supporting one another, learning, and having fun together) we will also be quietly and prayerfully - but strategically - piecing together a ministry plan for the years ahead. This is what it will involve:
~ Lots of prayer.
~ Seeking input from ministry leaders, our young adults, staff, Council members, Bannerman community leaders, and others.
~ Gathering the bits and pieces of our current vision and goals.
~ Working with the Full Council to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit.
~ Pulling all of this together to create a detailed picture of our next steps in ministry.
When we think we have discerned how the Lord is working among us, we will engage the congregation in a conversation. We trust that this will all result in a vision of the future that we find exciting, and that resonates in our hearts as being led by God.
I warn you in advance, if this process is really guided by God, the end result will both excite and challenge us! Stay tuned and pray.
We have reached that annual time of transition. The summer is just about over. The kids are back in school or are about to be. Our summer vacationing (if we were able to get away at all) is done - or perhaps you will use this long weekend as a last opportunity to soak in the remaining summer rays. At the time, we are at making a new beginning as fall sets in, bringing its new yet familiar patterns.
“Time of new beginnings” certainly describes where we are at in our church calendar. We are set to go, go, go. And personally? I’m not looking nostalgically backward. I’ve got my eyes full forward. I’m totally invested in what’s ahead.
I am usually excited about a new church year, but I feel something special about the one ahead of us. I think God wants to do some big and exciting things. I am convinced He wants to lead us into ministry that is more transformative than ever, to touch and change lives like never before, and to take us as partners into some new, God-sized adventures.
I know it can sound like hype to say that I think this year is going to be better than before. But I would be lying if I told you I thought otherwise. I genuinely believe this to be true, and honestly, I hope I will be able to say the same thing about next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. After all, we serve a God who “is able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). If we are following His lead, expecting Him to work in power, and are being obedient when he calls us to trust Him - why shouldn’t we expect Him to glorify His name more and more in ways that are startling and amazing?
Did you receive the Life in Bethel Update this week? The one listing all the “firsts”? All of Bethel’s ministries will have their first meetings soon. The small group’s launch banquet will mark the first small group meeting of the new year. On Sunday September 13 we will take in the first message of the year-launching sermon series. The week after that, we connect for the church picnic to celebrate the start of another church year together.
On your marks, everyone. The race is starting. I hope you feel excited, as I do, about the new year ahead. Please pray and invest yourself in making it all that it can be.
– Pastor Tom
Come here for news on what is happening in Bethel Church from our Pastors.