THE SHAPE OF THE FUTURE
November is going to give us a chance to taste the future. This is because of an assignment given to The Bridge Church members.
The members of The Bridge launch team have been asked to unplug from Bethel for the month of November in order to visit other churches. Their goal is to experience what it is like to be a first-time visitor on a Sunday morning. They are to learn, first hand, what makes them feel welcome, and what makes them feel left out. And to make it a completely authentic experience, they are not to go with friends or other Bridge families.
This exercise is going to give The Bridge members a taste of the future in an obvious way. They will learn what their guests will be experiencing when they visit The Bridge for the first time. They will also know the kind of warm welcome they want to extend to them.
It will give Bethel a taste of the future, as well. For one thing, we will experience what it will be like to not have the nine families who departing for The Bridge in our midst from week to week. But positively, and more importantly, this group’s intentionality will inspire us to be more welcoming in the future.
This last item shows us the biggest way this exercise is giving us a taste of things to come. We are starting to experience one of the great benefits of planting a church. The fresh, experimental way this new church is pursuing ministry is helping us to learn and grow. I am confident that there are many, many more things we will learn in years to come. –Pastor Tom
WILLOWWOOD IS ROCKIN’ MINISTRY
We don’t hear much about Bethel’s WillowWood preschool program. Because it is oriented toward people who do not attend Bethel Church, the ministry tends to run quietly in the background. Nevertheless, WillowWood is having a big impact, and I’m eager to tell you about it. Here are just a few highlights:
There is a full morning class consisting of 20 children ages three and four.
Many of these little ones are not from Christian homes and are learning about God for the first time.
Kim Dalmeijer, our WillowWood teacher, says: “At WillowWood we pray when we do circle time. We pray before we eat, and we pray to end our time together. In this way, we encourage a healthy routine of prayer and thanksgiving. This practice supports our aim to introduce children to the concept that God, our creator, made them.”
One WillowWood parent visited Bethel Church, and now attends regularly. She participated in last year’s Alpha Course.
Other parents have either visited Bethel or enquired about the church.
One family had been planning to move to the south side of Edmonton. They put off their move for a full year so their child could attend WillowWood.
The WillowWood staff are always seeking to connect parents with each other and with the church. Thelmè explains: “Some mornings we serve coffee and cookies for the parents. We also have a Facebook group where parents connect and share funny things about their kids—or make requests for help with drop off or pick up. We are also planning to create a space where parents can sit, chat and connect while their kids are in the preschool.”
There are just a few more openings in WillowWood. Bethel parents are welcome and encouraged to enroll their children.
Please pray for Our WillowWood teacher Kim Dalmaijer and assistant Lindsay Van Boom as they seek to guide the children in their relationship to God. Pray that God will move in the hearts of the children—and their parents—drawing them to Himself.
- Pastor Tom
Prayer And Work
When I think about my life with God over the last few years, I am discovering that I tend to move between emphasizing two realities. I pray and I work. I work and I pray.
“Ora Et Labora” is a Latin phrase that means “Prayer and Work.” This was the motto for several monastic communities throughout Church history. St. Benedict viewed prayer and work as partners that cooperate together to build God’s Kingdom here on earth. These communities of Christ followers emphasized both the need for a vibrant relationship with God, and also the need to roll-up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.
Today work and human effort get a lot of attention in our culture. When we talk about growing the church we may focus on building leadership systems that will work the most efficiently. We might talk about combining the best programs, the best preaching, and the best worship teams as a recipe for a vibrant church. Yet without the power of the Spirit all of our human efforts fall flat. We cannot save ourselves. Only the shed blood of Jesus makes us right with God. We cannot build the church ourselves. We need the Spirit of God to lead and empower us. Work alone will not do the trick.
On the other hand, it is possible to emphasize praying for the church and forget the work of the church. Prayer is a catalyst that naturally leads us to invest physically. Pray for any person and you will want to serve them. Pray for a church and you will want to get busy in it! Prayer is essential for any church and for building the Kingdom, but if we become overly contemplative we may miss the mission. Healthy prayer patterns lead us to work.
I am so thankful to be part of a church like Bethel, which is true to its name and has become a place of encounter and meeting with God. In addition to being a vibrant community of prayer, we are also obeying God and doing great work for His Kingdom. May we corporately and personally hold these two practices of prayer and work in balance with one another. To be the Glory!
WHY I’M “ALL IN”
As you are aware, the offering for the ALL IN Campaign will be taken next week, Sunday, October 21. I want to tell you why I am all in with ALL IN.
Planting a church is a missional sacrifice. We are stretching ourselves for God in a cause that is very close to His heart. When we give ourselves to God in this way, in accordance with His Will, there is always blessing and growth that comes from it.
Here are some of the specific things I am looking forward to:
The joy members of The Bridge Church will have when they see God using their sacrificial efforts to bring many to a saving knowledge of Christ.
The joy we will have when we hear of those lives being changed. The personal growth that will occur when people step up to fill newly opened volunteer positions and watch as God uses them in ways they never imagined.
For how we are all going to learn by experiences that we cannot out give God—that God’s blessings flow when we follow His lead into big steps of faith.
The blessing we will be able to pour into our local community if the offering (and I am confidently praying that it will) exceeds the $250,000 goal. (Three fourths of the above-goal gifts will be used in the Bannerman Community.)
Please pray that God will pour out his grace on October 21, and pray about the part you can play in this wonderful moving of his Spirit. –Pastor Tom
SEARCHING FOR A NEW PASTOR
You may be wondering how our search for a second pastor to replace Pastor Ryan is going. Let me bring you up to date.
Our Search Team, consisting of Jacquie Butlin, Caleb Koning, Marci Mast, Randall Huisman, and myself, has been working diligently for the past five months. Since the start of this year we have met about once every two weeks.
We are leaving no stone un-turned. We have placed ads to which we have received numerous responses. We continually scour the denomination’s database of pastors to find prospective candidates. We have sought out referrals, and we have invited some individuals to apply. (If YOU know of anyone you think would serve our church well, let our team know about it.)
While it is too early to be able to report anything specific, we remain quietly confident in the process. We serve an amazing God, and we know that in His time he will bring the right person on our path.
The watchwords for us now are patience and prayer. Patience because finding the right candidate is seldom a quick process— it’s important to trust God’s timing and not make a rash decision. Prayer, because God delights to use our prayers to accomplish His ends!
We are in the process of discovering God’s future together. It is exciting to be on this adventure with you. –Pastor Tom
Update from The Bridge Church Plant in Fort Saskatchewan
It has been a while since we provided an update about Bethel’s Church Plant in Fort Saskatchewan. I am happy to report that the Spirit of God is moving and we have made progress as The Bridge Church.
Personally, my time is now split between Bethel ministries and The Bridge Church 50/50. Jessica, the kids and I moved to Fort Saskatchewan on Saturday September 22. Our house in Edmonton sold successfully and everything is moved over to our new home. Lydia has started Kindergarten in the Fort. We are beginning to connect with new neighbors and settle in nicely on our block. I had the privilege of meeting with the Mayor of Fort Saskatchewan, joining the ministerial in Fort Saskatchewan, and joining a local community organization.
Our large House Church that has been built up since February has multiplied into two “Mega-sized” House Churches. They are designed in such a way that we can multiply into 4 groups in the New Year. There is a buzz in Fort Saskatchewan about the new church plant and we are starting to see more and more people take interest in what God is doing.
The launch team is meeting twice a month for training, prayer and visioning together. This has included a visit from Mosaic House’s Pastor Victor Ko, discussions about committing of our time/talent/treasure, building a prayer strategy, and creating a covenant for ministry life together. In the coming months we will look at spiritual gifts, evangelism and the systems we will need to put in place for the church. The Sunday service launch for the church is 11 months away now but will come quickly!
More and more I am discovering how important prayer and fasting are going to be to see breakthrough in Fort Saskatchewan. Without God’s Spirit, nothing of lasting value will be accomplished through us. Bethel, I am asking each and every one of you to commit to praying daily for The Bridge Church. Please ask God for protection and blessing for my family and all the families of the launch team. Please ask God to draw the hearts of people to come to know Him in Fort Saskatchewan. Pray for boldness in our team to share faith in Christ and for God to send the right people at the right time. Pray for resources and abundance to meet all the needs we will have as a baby church.
Thank you for your love, your support, and your prayers. -Pastor Ryan
BETHEL’S MINISTRIES LAUNCH!
Most of Bethel’s annual ministries have gotten began again in the last weeks. Here is some initial good news:
Dove Taekwondo is bursting at the seams. 63 children are enrolled. The Little Doves class, for the youngest children, has 20 in a class ideally suited for 15. Inquiries are still coming in from prospective participants.
The GEMS Girls’ club had 37 girls on their first night (Wednesday). They expected 26-28 to show up. God is entrusting us with more precious lives than we could have imagined, and the GEMS need about three more counselors. Viola Dueck, the GEMS head counselor says, “I know God has great things in store for us this year.” If you want to be part of this beautiful, burgeoning ministry please contact Viola.
45-50 kids showed up for the first Alpha Youth session—once again more than anyone had anticipated. Our Youth Director Melanie Wright says that several Bethel youth brought friends to the meeting. Small group discussions were lively. This great beginning promises good things for the youth program this year.
Our Oasis Women’s Bible study has met twice now. Many new Bethel members who joined Oasis last year returned, and many women from other churches also came. One new member was an Alpha participant from last year who is exploring the Christian Faith. Director Laurie Veenstra says that she is trusting God for His leading and blessing this year!
Several “not-yet” or new Christians have signed up for ALPHA, as well as a few Bethelites who just want a refresher.
Our ministry for children has launched with a new name, “Bethel Kids,” and a new format. This has come through the inspiration and effort of our Children’s Director Thelmè Van Heerden.
The Women’s Ministry is planning a retreat, called “Spiritual Boot camp” and we are anticipating a revitalized Men’s Ministry this church season.
ESL will have a newer, smaller more personal look—a creative adaptation of the ministry in light of a decline in the need for ESL services.
Food Bank has begun to alleviate the needs of those less financially privileged, once again.
Our Cadet’s boys’ club will get its start this week.
Several of our ministries never took a break for the summer, and they are still going strong. These include our Healing Prayer Ministry, our Intercessory Prayer Ministry, and our Monday and Wednesday morning prayer groups.
All of these signs of life are encouraging. I am deeply appreciative of the many, many volunteers who serve in these ministries. Our prayer is that God will bless these ministries and use them to help us ‘become like Christ and share Him with others”. –Pastor Tom
LET’S READ THE NEW TESTAMENT TOGETHER
This year we are issuing a special invitation and challenge to the congregation. Together we would like to read through the New Testament over the course of one year. A brochure explaining the process and laying out a Bible reading schedule has been placed in your mail slot.
The plan is straight forward: read five chapters of the Bible over the course of each week. For each chapter answer these three questions:
Adore: What did I learn about God that I should praise Him for?
Admit: What did I learn about myself that I should repent of?
Ask: What does this passage lead me to ask God for in regard to an action to take, an attitude to change, or a faith step to venture out on?
Then, spend some time in prayer and journal your experience. That’s it!
Why are we making this special effort? Because there is tremendous blessing in reading the Bible prayerfully, and we always find encouragement when we do something together.
God’s promises about meditating on His Word seem almost too good to be true. Through doing so, the Bible says, we gain happiness (Psalm 1:1-2), hope (Romans 15:4), insight (Psalm 119:130) and personal transformation (John 17:17). In short, God’s Word enables us to flourish (Psalm 1:3).
I hope you will join in on this journey of reading the Bible. Read over the brochure in your mail slot, and start this week. I would love to hear about the insights you gain over the course of the year.
IT’S ALL ABOUT GROWTH
Today (Sunday) we start a new church year with all its familiar patterns. From now on we will be meeting in two Sunday services, instead of one, and our various programs will find their customary places in our weekly calendar.
But there are some new things that will be joining the familiar things. We have a new logo, a new set of Core Commitments, and a new Growth Track.
Our new logo features three leaves coming from a single stem. Created by one of our own Bethel members, the logo captures the idea of growth and symbolizes the three areas for growth described by our Core Commitments. The Logo is now on our back wall, our stationery, and our written materials.
Our Core Commitments are: Communion (Walking with Christ), Community (Loving one another), and Calling (Impacting the world). These commitments are ways of expressing the “within,” “among,” and “outside” dimensions of a full-orbed Christian faith.
Our Growth Track is described in a brochure being distributed in the Sunday morning worship folder and on Bethel’s website (www.discoverbethel.com/grow). The Growth Track is a way for us to stay “on track” as followers of Christ. Three courses will be offered to new members--one for each Core Commitment--and all of our ministries will be categorized according to the Core Commitment they help to nurture. The Growth Track gives us a clear understanding of how we can challenge ourselves in all dimensions of the Christian life, so that we can become fully developed followers of Jesus.
Did you notice a pattern in what you have just read? All these things center on growth. As a church we want to be growth-focused, as the Bible says we should be. As a matter of fact, GROW is the title of the new series of messages that starts today.
Growth is what God wants for you and for me. It is God’s wonderful invitation and gift; so, this year, let us embrace the Apostle Paul’s words: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13). –Pastor Tom
Summer has arrived!
As I am writing this Pastor’s Corner it is 30 degrees outside, the sky is blue, and a slight breeze is coming through the window. My office is just wonderful right now. Last night was different. My house was so hot that I bought fan the size of a jet engine. Needless to say, we are a big fan of the fan.
Puns aside, this “Pastor’s Corner” entry is the last one for the year. Pastor Tom and I will continue to write these in the fall.
What’s happening around Bethel this summer? We are again ramping up programming for youth and children. Our summer interns Abbey and Carley will need all of our support and prayers to serve our community. What are the activities that are happening?
I would encourage you to prayerfully consider how you can support these ministries. Whether that is through prayer, helping at Kid’s camp, or providing a meal for youth during sports camps, everyone can get pitch-in somehow.
I want to wish everyone a very blessed and happy summer. May it be a time of refreshing and renewal. May it be a time of communion with God and your family. - Pastor Ryan
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