When I was young, my mother would awaken me and my other siblings on Easter mornings at the crack of dawn. We would walk together to the local park where we would mount a hill so we could get an unobstructed view of the sunrise. This yearly activity had no particular spiritual significance for me. I knew it was something special that we did on Easter, but I was never told that it related in any way to Jesus and His resurrection.
Much later in life I had a personal encounter with Jesus. Alone in my bedroom, I gave my life to Him and experienced, firsthand, His resurrection power. Then I started to pray for the salvation of my family members. One by one, my seven brothers and sisters and my mother came to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
This week I found myself thinking about those early morning trips to the park on Easter Sundays. I didn’t know then that by greeting the sun on Easter my family was mimicking the earliest disciples of Jesus who, at sunrise, discovered the Good News that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Now, in retrospect, I can find real meaning in those walks to the park. All of the family members who shared those walks, now share a love for the Saviour. We have discovered the real reason for Easter: the Son rose! In my mind’s eye, I see the sun cresting over the horizon, and I praise God for the life-giving power He continues to display in the world today.
That is what we are celebrating today—not an empty tradition but a risen Saviour. He is what makes Easter a day worth celebrating! May you experience His presence and love this weekend, and may you be filled with hope. One day all who trust in Him will share in the final resurrection and will live with Him forever!
A WEEK OF 24/7 PRAYER
Did you take part in last year’s 24/7 prayer week? If so, you will be excited to learn that we are planning the second annual week of nonstop prayer. It will run from Sunday June 2 to the following Sunday, June 9 (Pentecost).
Last year’s event startled and delighted many of us. The idea of dedicating a whole week to prayer, with at least one church member praying every hour during the day and night was new to many. It seemed like an impossibly large undertaking at first, but then people began to sign up to spend an hour (or two or three) in prayer. Soon the calendar filled up.
As it turned out, there were often multiple people in the building praying during the same hour. When the week was over it seemed that the time had been too short. Many people who did not normally spend a full hour in prayer, were surprised at how easily their time was filled.
Over the course of the year I have seen God answer our prayers in many, many ways. Since that very special week we have seen the groundwork laid for a new church plant. We have deepened our partnership with our church’s local community leaders as we have discussed with them how we can bless Bannerman with the excess funds from the church-plant drive. We have seen numerous people come to Christ this year. (Be looking for baptisms on the horizon). And these are just a few of the ways God has demonstrated his power among us.
These kinds of things happen when God’s people acknowledge God’s bigness and align themselves with His plans. I think we have only seen the beginning of what God has in store for us as we continue to depend on Him through prayer. So, mark your calendars, and plan to take part in this year’s week of 24/7 prayer!
LOVING OUR COMMUNITY
It all started as a hopeful idea. I envisioned a day in the spring on which neighbours would get out of their homes to help one another and invest in improving their community. I thought a day like that would add value to the Bannerman neighbourhood, and that it would be a great opportunity for Bethel to show that we are not just a building on the corner. We are people who care about our community.
I believed God birthed the idea in my heart, so I proposed it to Bannerman’s community leaders when they met at Bethel for our monthly Bannerman Partners meeting. Would they like the idea or find it impractical or even impossible? I didn’t know.
As it turned out, they loved the idea. Life was given to an event that has come to be called: Bannerman in Action. We set the date for May 11. Bethel Church and the local Community League are partnering together to hold “a day for Doin’ good in the Hood.”
Our planning team’s excitement peaked this week when we saw just how big the scope of this effort has become. Volunteers are stepping forward and numerous requests for assistance have come in. The day promises to be a fun: a day for individuals, as well as parents and their children, to invest in serving others. I believe this is an amazing opportunity for us as a church to show our love for Bannerman and to get to know our neighbours.
The day will start at 8:30 a.m. with a continental breakfast. Beginning at 9:00 a.m., volunteers will spend three hours building garden beds, painting door frames, washing windows, picking up litter, and doing a host of other relationship-building events. At noon, a barbeque lunch will be served for all the volunteers and any members of the local community who want to join in.
You can sign up for the event by filling out a card which will you find on the desk on the back of the sanctuary and depositing it in the box you find there. The sooner you sign up, the better. Since the scope of the event is proving to be large, organizers ask me to encourage our members to have their cards in by April so we can gauge the number of jobs against the number of volunteers.
I encourage you to sign up in the next two weeks. Let’s show the community we care!
WELCOMING THE STRANGER
A recent visitor to our church looked out at the buzzing Sunday morning coffee crowd, and said to me, “I like this church. It’s like a family.” Hospitality is an extremely important Biblical value; so, comments like these greatly encourage me.
Jesus said that as His followers we would be distinguished by the way we welcome others: “I was a stranger and you invited me in” (Matthew 25:35). The Book of Hebrews says: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (13:2).
How can we make sure that everyone who visits Bethel on a Sunday morning receives the welcome of Christ? Let me suggest a simple guide. It’s called the “Three Minute Rule”.
This rule states that for the first three minutes following a worship service I look around for guests or anyone I see standing on their own. I resist the temptation to fall into conversation with my familiar friend (which is so easy to do) till I’m sure everyone around me is receiving a warm welcome.
Observing this simple guideline will go a long way toward helping people feel at home. Imagine how appreciative you would be if you were in an unfamiliar church and someone did the same for you.
Perhaps the hardest people for us to engage are those most unlike us. We naturally tend to seek out people from our own culture and background. Our willingness to stretch ourselves to break through cultural and other barriers will make a big difference to people who might otherwise be neglected.
Let’s adopt it as our motto: “At Bethel, nobody stands alone.” Let’s resolve that, whether it is connect time or coffee time, if I see someone standing alone, I will make it a point to stand with them.
SEARCHING FOR A NEW PASTOR
How close are we to finding a new pastor? Here is the latest news.
Some people guessed that we were interested in Justin Carruthers as a possible pastor candidate. (After all, we had Justin preach at Bethel three times in the last three months.) In fact we were interested in Justin. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to announce our intentions publicly.
Justin, a Canadian citizen, had returned to Canada on study leave from Hanford CRC in California, because he was having trouble extending his US work visa. He was hopeful his paperwork would come through, and that he would be allowed to return to the US. Over time, it became clear that his visa would not be extended. Only then did he officially open himself to the possibility of a call. We interviewed him, but before we could go further in the process, he accepted a call to Gateway Christian Reformed Church in Abbotsford, BC.
So now what? Our Search Team has decided to take a proactive approach to recruiting. In the second week of April I will be traveling to Ontario and Grand Rapids. I will interview three people who have applied for the position. Two of these people are graduating students from Calvin Seminary. The third is a pastor with four years of experience. Two of these people have expressed that they are quite excited about the possibility of serving at Bethel Church.
We continue to wait on the Lord. Let’s pray expectantly. We are confident that God will provide the right person in His perfect time.
FINDING HOPE AMID TRAGEDY
This has been an emotional week for many here at Bethel, including me. Last Sunday we learned the tragic news that Kieran Otteson, a young adult from Bethel who was attending Kings University , took his own life. It is always difficult to hear that a young person has passed away. It is especially difficult to hear that that a young person ended his life because he could no longer find reason to go on living.
Obviously Kieran’s immediate and extended family have felt the loss deeply. Kieran also had a girlfriend, and a wide circle of friends within and beyond Bethel Church who have experienced shock and grief. I think, on some level, all of us who have heard the news have been affected.
Is there any encouragement we can take from this sad story? I see some rays of God’s grace shining in the darkness:
God’s promises in Christ have been a source of strength for the family as well as many others who are grieving. As hard as it may be to believe at a time like this, God is good and can still be trusted.
The family has been surrounded by loving Christian community including their own extended family, the Bethel family, the King’s University College community, and the North East Christian School community. In this time of crisis, the love of Christ has flowed.
The family is being forthright about the cause of Kieran’s death because they want others who are suffering to find help. They understand that there is no shame in being depressed and it is dangerous for someone to feel they have to hide their struggles. Because of their fortitude, Kieran’s death may cause others reach out and find renewed hope.
This experience reminds me again just how much we need each other. We all thrive when we receive encouragement; so, let’s all play our part in communicating the love of Christ to one another. Your handshake or words of greeting, your words of encouragement during the week or at church on a Sunday, the genuine interest you take in others—these are all small but important ways we can communicate to one another: “You matter to God, and you matter to me.” --Pastor Tom
SELECTING NEW LEADERS
The Council has just completed the process of selecting candidates to serve in the offices of elder and deacon. This is always an important time in the life of our Church.
The New Testament puts a high value on the selection of elders and deacons. The Apostle Paul made sure that each church he established had such capable leaders: The Book of Acts says, “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for [the disciples] in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. (Acts 14:28).
Jesus told Peter that if he loved Him, he should “feed his sheep.” Similarly, Paul reminded the Ephesian elders of the responsibility and seriousness of their task when he said: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28).
The Bible says that those considered for office should be mature in their faith—people who are examples of a Christ-filled life. Paul lays down careful guidelines for identifying potential elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3:1- 13; Tutus 1:5-9).
For these reasons Bethel’s Council takes great care in selecting candidates.
If you are approached to serve as an elder or deacon, please take time to pray and consider it. Your office bearers have thought and prayed about it and believe you could be a blessing to Bethel Church. Don’t let feelings of inadequacy, or a reluctance to take on extra responsibility, cause you too quickly to say “no” to such an invitation.
On Sunday, March 24, word will go out to those who have been selected. They will be given time to discern whether God is indeed calling them to remain on nomination. A final list of nominees will be presented to the congregation for approval on May 12. Then, on May 26, our new office bearers will be chosen “by lot” from this list.
Let’s all pray that God will lead us to the people He is calling to serve our church as elders and deacons at this time. Please also remember to pray for those who are currently serving in these roles. –Pastor Tom
What’s in a Name?
We have changed the name of the team that gives primary, overall leadership to our church. Up until now we have been called by the humdrum name, “Managing Elders,” and, admittedly, our new name —“Governing Elders”—comes no closer to winning an Academy Award. So, why are we making the change?
As innocuous as the change seems, it actually represents a significant shift in what we want to say about ourselves. That is because there is a big difference between managing and governing.
In the context of the church, our staff and ministry leaders manage things. That is, they give hands on leadership to our ministries, overseeing and coordinating them. It was never the intention that the “Managing Elders” would do this, so the name does not fit our purpose.
Governors, on the other hand, have a much broader role to play, and governing is what the “Managing Elders” were actually always intended to do. Governors in the church have four main functions:
To make sure that the church is being faithful to the Word of God and the call of Jesus Christ.
To insure that the church is pursuing a Biblical vision discerned in obedience to the Holy Spirit, and that all the church’s ministries are aligned with that vision.
To anticipate societal or other developments that will affect the vitality of our church and plan for them.
To make sure that the church is fiscally responsible and does all its financial dealings with integrity.
By making this name change, the Governing Elders are saying that we trust the ministry leaders to play their role. We will let them do what they are called to do without micromanaging them, and we will not get bogged down in our meetings with details these ministry leaders are fully capable of handling.
In essence, by changing our name, we are saying that we are committed to seeing the church to function as the body God made it to be! -Pastor Tom
A Day for Doin’ Good in the ‘Hood
We continue to build on the amazing partnership we have with our local community league. About sixteen Bethel volunteers worked hand in hand with the community league this past Monday to serve a Family Day breakfast to about 200 Bannerman residents. This is just the latest in a series of quality events we have been able to do together to add value to our church’s neighbourhood.
Now we are going to attempt something bigger than we have ever taken on together before. On May 11, Bethel Church and the Bannerman Community League will be jointly sponsoring an event called “Bannerman-in-Action.” We describe it as “A Day for Doin’ Good in the ‘Hood.”
The day is about neighbours caring about neighbours. Bannerman residents are being invited to sign up to receive help from a neighbour or, conversely, to offer help to a neighbour. In addition, volunteers will be engaged in projects that benefit the whole community—like enhancing the local community garden or cleaning up the river valley.
My hope is that at least 100 Bethelites will show up on that Saturday to send this big message to Bannerman: “Bethel Church cares about its community.”
The event should be a lot of fun. On the day of the event, volunteers will gather at the community league building for a continental breakfast and instructions. They will spend the morning doing light repairs or landscaping or giving technical help to neighbours in need. Then they will return to enjoy a barbeque lunch together.
I will tell you more about the event as the day nears. In the meantime, could you mark the day on your calendars? Let’s make a big impact in Bannerman!
WE’RE BUILDING A BRIDGE
This Sunday marks an historic moment. Almost exactly 40 years after Bethel’s pioneers founded this church, we are commissioning nine families to launch Bridge Church in Fort Saskatchewan. Prayer for these families, with laying on of hands, will take place at the end of the 9:00 a.m. service.
Already these Bridge families are involved in significant ministry in the Fort. They meet regularly in their house churches, they have established some essential teams—a Children’s Team, a Worship Team, and a First Impressions/Next Steps Team—and they are preparing to run three Alpha groups starting March 3, with many new and not-yet Christians already signed up.
Over the next several months, leading up to their public launch in September, we will get a taste of the Bridge’s emerging life. Praise bands made up of Bridge members will lead us in worship from time to time to bless us and to prepare themselves for their future. Those families departing for Bridge Church will continue to worship with us, but they will be more sporadic in their attendance as September approaches, and as they commit more and more time to their new ministry.
Your prayers are needed at this critical time in the new church’s life. The Bridge is a beachhead for mission, and the Evil One will resist this group at every point. Let’s pray for the future of this fledgling church even as we celebrate this milestone for both of our churches! --Pastor Tom
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