MEETING CRIS AND CHRISTY HARPER Cris and Christy Harper, our pastor candidate and his wife, are scheduled to arrive in Edmonton on Friday, December 6. They will stay until the following Wednesday morning, December 11. Here is what we have planned for their stay so that our congregation can get to know them, and they can get to know us.
Late Friday evening Janet and I, will pick them up at the airport and bring them to our home. They will wake up to a low-key Saturday. Tom and Cris will talk about what it would look like to work together. We have invited the Harpers to enjoy Saturday evening out on their own, something that is, no doubt, a rarity for these parents of two children.
On Sunday morning we will all get to meet Cris and Christy. They will be introduced to the congregation, and Cris will bring the message at both services. Following the second service everyone is invited to enjoy a light luncheon in the lower level where we can all meet and chat with the Harpers.
On Monday, Cris and Christy will meet for lunch with a local Christian Reformed pastor couple who, like them, are from the States. Since this couple recently moved to Canada they will be able to share valuable information about the immigration process. Later that day, the Harpers will meet with council members and their spouses for a pizza supper and afterwards have a more formal talk with representatives from the Elders and Deacons.
Tuesday will be the Harper’s final full day here. Cris will meet the staff for lunch. That evening they will have a wrap-up supper with the Search Team. (One final item on the agenda will be a meeting with a group of young adults. We are not sure, yet, where this will fit in the schedule.)
I hope you are as excited as I am about meeting the Harpers in person. Let’s extend our warmest welcome to them. Take the opportunity to introduce yourself and ask any questions you may have. We will vote on the motion to call Cris as our Second pastor on Sunday, December 15. Should we vote “yes” Cris and Christy will have three weeks to decide if they will accept our call. —Pastor Tom
Many of you completed the “Growing Young” survey that was sent out in September. Through it, you shared your perceptions of the experience of Young Adults in our church. The results are now in. Let me tell you what we learned.
We found out that our church is doing some things very well. Survey participants believe that our church scores high in two areas important to young adults: We are faithfully telling Jesus’s message, and we are a positive contributor to our church’s neighbourhood.
On the other hand we have some growing to do. Both older and younger adults believe that: 1. we are not turning over the keys of leadership to the next generation very well, 2. we don’t know the world of young adults as well as we should, and 3. we are not hands-on enough when it comes to helping young adults connect to all of Bethel’s ministries.
This survey is good news because it tells us where we need to apply ourselves to fully engage the interests and energies of our young adults. The Growing Young Team plans to meet later this month to create an action plan to lead us forward.
Already things are happening. At our recent Leadership Retreat, we made all our church’s leaders aware of the survey results. We asked each ministry leader to consider how they can be intentional about inviting young adults into their ministry. Also, we are in the process of forming an Intergeneration Team whose aim is to create greater connections across all age groups.
Our long range goal is that our young adults will love Bethel Church, know they are valued, and feel completely connected. Some already do, and they are part of the team that is trying to make this true for all young adults at Bethel. All of us can help by reaching beyond our generation to welcome into our hearts people of all ages.
ALONE WITH GOD
As I write this, I am sequestered in the cabin of one of our church’s members. I’ve come here to pray and plan my next months of sermons.
Retreat times like these have come to be very important for me. In the book of Acts, Peter explains to the church that, as an apostle, he must not allow himself to get sidetracked from “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:3-4). While I am not an apostle like Peter, I am still charged with these dual responsibilities.
In my time here I have prayed about my sermons. I have prayed for God’s protection and blessing on our church, for our staff and leaders, and for specific issues our church is facing. I have prayed that God will allow our church, along with Bridge Church, to see 300 people come to faith in Him. I have prayed for people in our church dealing with difficult circumstances. While I have not been able to completely unplug from electronic communications with the office, I have still had significantly more time for prayer than my normal week allows.
Someone compared our lives to a jar of silty water taken from a stream bottom. When we spend time in solitude, the silt has a chance to settle so that the water can become clear. We all need times free from distraction where we can draw near to God and focus again on what really matters in life.
I hope you can find time alone to pray. If you have a family, I hope you can find time together to pray. As the poem by Tennyson says, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” --Pastor Tom
LET’S ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER
I had a profound experience of church this week. The “service” didn’t take place on Sunday. It didn’t even take place in our church building. It happened on Monday evening in the home of one of our members.
I was in this home at the invitation of a small group. One of the group’s members is housebound, and the group wanted me to join them to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in this man’s home where they typically meet.
The man in question is Merra Mentie. A man with an accomplished work life, he is now incapacitated by Lyme disease at age 52. The sickness has ravaged his body leaving him confined to a wheel chair with limited mobility and speech.
We started the evening with Bible Study. The study was based on the series By Faith, Seeing the Unseen. We were talking about keeping faith when God’s ways seem slow. In light of this family’s affliction, the study took on a deeper meaning.
So did the Lord’s Supper. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we think about the Lord’s death for us, our unity in him, and the hope of a New Heaven and Earth which his death makes possible. This group made all of these things come vividly alive for me.
Their love for their hurting member was evident. And when Merra and his wife Sara shared, they didn’t focus on their hardships but on the faithfulness of God. All of this bore testimony to the reality of God’s promises expressed the Lord’s Supper.
We need to continue to encourage one another until all of God’s promises come true. Let’s be the church to one another on Sundays and on every other day of the week.
A SURPRISING DEVELOPMENT
About three hours before our most recent Pastor Search Team meeting we received an application for our Second Pastor position. We had received many applications up to that point, but it was this late arrival that captured our interest.
When our team met, we thought we were going to discuss suspending the search process temporarily. The Governing Elders told us they wanted to conduct a study of our church’s staffing alignment, which would require the delay. However, the GE also told us to remain open and receptive to candidates in case God had any surprises in store.
The Search Team felt that our latest applicant just might be that surprise. We sensed from his resume that he would be a good fit for our position. After interviewing him and checking out his references, we felt even more strongly that this was the case. We recommended to our Governing Elders that we invite him to candidate for a call to Bethel, and they agreed.
The applicant’s name is Cris Harper. He graduated from Beeson Divinity School last spring, and completed the EPMC program through Calvin Seminary (which is necessary to qualify for ministry in the Christian Reformed Church). After a year in a chaplaincy program, Cris made himself available for a call—just shortly before our Search Committee met in September.
Cris is married to Christy, who also has an M.Div. degree. They have two children, Ruth (two years old) and Gabe (eight months old). Cris loves pastoral care work, has led small group programs, and could be comfortable leading a team aimed at improving our social media presence should he come to Bethel. He enjoys and is eager to develop in the area of preaching.
We look forward to hosting Cris and Christy December 6-9. Cris will preach on Sunday, December 8, and meet with various groups over that weekend. The Sunday following their visit we will vote on whether to call Cris. Assuming we vote “yes,” it will be up to Cris to decide whether to answer us with his own “yes”.
Look for information in the weeks to come. –Pastor Tom
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