LOOKING BACK ON THE YEAR
The year’s end is a wonderful time to look back over past year to see what God has done for us. The Bible encourages us to take this kind of retrospective look regularly in order to give thanks for the many ways God has demonstrated His faithfulness. Not only does this give God the glory He deserves, but it also nurtures our faith. Gratitude gives birth to joy. When I look back over the church year I feel profoundly grateful. Some things that stand out for me are:
We experienced the Pure at Heart events aimed at alerting families to the dangers of pornography and setting people free from porn addiction. Hundreds of people attended the events aimed at couples, parents, men, and women.
We spent seven solid days and nights in prayer as a church, with Bethelites taking turns spending time in one of several prayer rooms. Relatedly, people seem to be growing in their prayer lives as evidenced by how our prayer ministries are flourishing.
Six people joined the church through evangelism, and we believe this is the start of a pattern. We are praying and trusting God to draw people to Bethel who are now living far from Him.
The churches of our region endorsed a plan to plant a church in partnership with us. Pastor Ryan along with nine Bethel families accepted the challenge to step out to launch Bridge Church. Bethel gave a whopping $281,000 to support the new work, secure Bethel’s future through the transition, and bless the Bannerman neighborhood.
What has God done for you this year? Look back and give thanks. It will make you happy.
THE CHRISTMAS BUZZ AT BETHEL
A lot of community-oriented Christmas activities are going on at Bethel, and I am excited by what I am experiencing.
This week our staff observed an annual tradition. We delivered chocolates to our church’s neighbors and thanked them for allowing us to park our cars in front of their houses all year long.
We had some encouraging conversations. As I handed a bag of chocolates to one person, she said, in a joyful, singsong way, “Oh, from the church!” Someone else said that she is Roman Catholic but comes to Bethel about four times per year and always enjoys her visits. Someone else said she came to our community Christmas dinner this year. These are all positive signs that Bethel Church is making its way into the hearts of our neighbors.
At our recent community Christmas dinner we served a record number of people. I sat with several community leaders who are my friends through the Bannerman Partners’ group that meets at Bethel each month. I was deeply impressed by three things this year: 1) How many local (Bannerman) residents came to the dinner, 2) Just how diverse our guests were in terms of ethnicity and socio-economic background, 3) How freely and tactfully Bethelites talked about faith and/or invited guests to church.
The next big community-oriented activity on the calendar is our Christmas Eve service. We anticipate that many who are searching for God will be there. Janet and I have invited our neighbors to come, and I just invited another person today. (I’m quite sure she’ll come!) I am praying that God will make the Gospel come alive to all who attend! --Pastor Tom
Change can be unbelievably exciting. Change can be incredibly difficult. This tension of releasing the old and embracing the new has been a journey for my family and also for Bethel over the last year.
In just the last few months, Jessica, the kids and I have moved to Fort Saskatchewan. We have settled in to a new community and are building many new relationships. Over the last few months, incrementally my work time has been moving away from Bethel and to the Bridge. On December 1st, Jessica gave birth to a new baby, Isaac Jack. Everything in our lives is new right now.
Leaving Bethel is bittersweet. I have experienced many lasts recently. This Tuesday will be my last staff meeting after ten and a half years of them. This is my last Pastor’s Corner. Soon I will preach my last sermon as an employee of Bethel. There will be tears and hugs. Joy mixed with sadness. Every week I take a few more of my books from Bethel to my home office in Fort Saskatchewan. While the future is filled with promise and Kingdom opportunity, I cannot help but be sentimental and reflective right now.
For Bethel, the Fort church plant represents exciting change but also sadness as well. It is exciting because you are being obedient to God’s call to Mission in the world. However, building the Kingdom of God takes real sacrifice, prayer and hard work. You will say goodbye to families you have loved for many years. Finances have been sacrificed to send these families off well. A new pastor will be called soon. New volunteers will fill the empty places of those who have left. It may not be always be easy, but I can promise you that we will all be blessed.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 19 that those who leave family, houses or fields for the sake of Jesus’ mission will gain these things back 100-fold and gain eternal life. We can take comfort in these words. Why do we do these kinds of things? Simply put, the whole world needs to know that God loves them and sent His Son Jesus. It is what Christmas is about, and a message worth living for, sacrificing for, and dying for to spread.
This is not goodbye yet, we will save that for February.
Grace and Peace,
At the end of December, Pastor Ryan will finish his work at Bethel. He will spend January studying and preparing for church planting, and then he will embark on his new role as pastor of the emerging Bridge Church. That means that as 2019 unfolds we at Bethel will be opening a new chapter in our life as a church. What should we expect?
There are some things we cannot know about the coming year—like who will fill Ryan’s shoes after he leaves and when that person will arrive at Bethel. But some things we can know. For example:
Our Youth Director Melanie Wright will be taking on leadership of the young adults’ ministry starting January 1. She will be adding 10 hours to her current 30-hour work week to bring her up to fulltime. She will turn over her young adult responsibility to the new pastor once he or she arrives.
Wendy Werkman will be assuming responsibility for Bethel’s small groups till we get a new pastor. She will not be adding hours to her work week; rather, she will rearrange her work responsibilities to make time for small group’s ministry.
We are exploring ways to get preaching and pastoral assistance. Our current plan is to invite preachers to fill the pulpit occasionally. We will also consider hiring someone part time who can both preach and carry out some pastoral responsibilities. We look forward to Pastor Ryan’s preaching at Bethel on occasion, as well (before the Bridge Church starts its own Sunday worship services in September). There are also some significant events coming up in the New Year.
On Sunday February 3, the Sunday following Pastor Ryan’s sabbatical, we will officially bid “farewell” to Ryan, Jessica, and family. On February 9, we will celebrate our church’s 40th anniversary with a potluck supper followed by an evening of activities. Then, the following Sunday (February 17) we will lay hands on the Bridge launch team members and officially commission them for their missional work.
We are in an exciting time as a church. All of these plans reflect that God is doing a significant work among us. We can move into the future expectantly, knowing we are in His hands.—Pastor Tom
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