REFLECTING ON OUR WEEK OF 24/7 PRAYER
We dedicated this past week to prayer. For 168 hours—seven days and nights—at least one person has been in the church building praying. Often, there were two or three or even more people praying at the same time. What did we accomplish? Looking back on this week, I think many important things happened. Here are just a few:
We Made God Happy: The apostle Paul says, “Live in order to please God” (1 Thessalonians 4:10). I think we pleased God this week. All parents love it when their kids spend time talking with them. God loves it too. Martin Luther said, “Prayer is climbing up into the heart of God.”
We Changed the Future: The request, “Your Kingdom come your will be done,” implies that both God and we play a role in bringing about God’s preferred future. It is a partnership in which God is the directing partner. I have no doubt that God will do “more than all we can ask or imagine,” through the prayers we have prayed. I’m keeping my eyes open for what he has in store for us.
We Changed: You can’t pray from the heart and not be changed in the process. In prayer, we open ourselves up to God, and that opens us up to new possibilities. Over the course of time, prayer will bring about incremental changes in the person who prays, as well as in the community that prays. This week we welcomed God to make us more like the people he wants us to be.
We Deepened our Unity: Psalm 133 says: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell in unity! …For there the Lord commands the blessing, life forevermore.” Through our shared time of prayer, we humbled ourselves, together, before God. People, so unified, welcome God’s blessing.
This is just tiniest tip of the iceberg of what, I believe, God has done through this week. We serve a wonderful, wonder-performing God. It is impossible to enumerate all of the gifts he gives to the people who earnestly seek him.—Pastor Tom
LIFE IN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD
How is it going in your neighbourhood? In the last couple of Pastor’s Corners I’ve written about the important work we are doing together in our church’s neighbourhood. Today I am wondering about your neighbourhood. What is God doing in your “hood”? God has uniquely placed each of us where we live so that we can shine the light of Jesus there.
I have been praying for my own neighbourhood for years. Each Thursday morning I kneel at a desk that overlooks our cul-de-sac. I bring before the Lord each individual and family using the B.L.E.S.S. prayer, which reminds me to pray for the Body, Labour, Emotions, Social relationships, and Spiritual needs of my neighbours.
Over the years I have seen meaningful changes taking place. It is now common for Janet and me, when we are out walking, to stop to chat with people we have come to know. Other neighbours are getting to know one another better, as well.
Some of our neighbours have become good friends of ours, and some of those friendships have resulted in spiritual conversations. We cherish these opportunities to talk about Jesus. One neighbour couple asked if they could visit our church this summer. They don’t normally attend church, but they know we do. They want to learn more about the faith that is so meaningful to us.
Our second annual block party is scheduled for late June. We hope it will be bigger and better than last year. It has been easier to plan this year’s event because friends I met at last year’s block party are helping me to plan it.
In the Lord’s Prayer we ask: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That prayer is our mandate for our neighbourhoods. We want “down here” (on our block or in our apartment building or condominium) to be a little more like “up there”. --Pastor Tom
WHY “DOING GOOD IN THE ‘HOOD” IS SO VITAL
By participating in Bannerman in Action, on May 11, Bethel improved our church’s community and helped out a lot of people. However, I believe Bethel‘s efforts accomplished much, much more. Let me explain.
First, in a small way, we helped to change the atmosphere in Bannerman toward one of mutual caring. In the Lord’s Prayer we pray “Thy Kingdom come” which, as one person puts it, is asking God to make “down here” more like “up there.” Now, Bannerman is just a little bit more like “up there”.
Second, we sent a powerful message to the community leaders who had been planning this event for months. We demonstrated, in perhaps the biggest way to date, that we care about our community. One community leader recently described Bethel as a caring church that “by its very presence is making our community better.”
Third, we helped to pave the way for credible witness. Through efforts like this we “adorn the Gospel” (Titus 2:10). I have seen strong evidence that we are making an impact. Our actions have opened the door for personal Gospel conversations and led people to visit our church.
Let’s continue to shine the light of Christ in the Bannerman community and in our own community wherever we may reside! —Pastor Tom
WE DID A LOT OF GOOD IN THE ‘HOOD
About 86 volunteers showed up for “Bannerman in Action” on Saturday, May 11. We had a great time serving our church’s community and neighbours. Bethel did some real “good in the ‘hood”. Here are just some of the highlights from that day:
We left the river valley a lot cleaner, removed graffiti from buildings, and freed the community field of shattered glass.
Volunteers cleaned the fridge of a single mom. Then they went above and beyond the call of duty by washing dishes, cleaning the kitchen and washing walls. When the volunteers left, the woman said she was going to carry on washing walls. Obviously the team’s visit was both encouraging and motivating for her!
A Community League member said, “The community gardens have never looked better. People just figured out the task, grabbed the tools and worked their magic.” Another exclaimed, “I can’t believe all the work that got done today! Normally, just one other person and I work for weeks to get that garden ready.”
A woman with ovarian cancer expressed to a volunteer that she needs to have her lawn mowed during the summer. She is going to be linked with neighbours who can help.
Adults and children worked together: the adults were able to delight in the joy and enthusiasm of the children, while the kids learned that they play a significant role in the church and community.
Several people said that they were just learning about the event, thought it was a great idea, and would like to participate next year.
A big “thank you” to everyone who participated this year. (Save your T-shirt, everyone, you will need it next spring! –Pastor Tom
YOUR CHANCE TO MEET OUR PROSPECTIVE PASTOR
I told you last week that we have selected Jake Porter of Hamilton Michigan as our pastor candidate. You may be wondering when you will get a chance to meet this person who may very possibly become our second pastor.
We have invited Jake and his wife Kris to come to Bethel on the weekend of Sunday, May 26. Jake will preach at both Sunday services. There will be time for you to connect with him over coffee or tea after both the 9 and 11 a.m. service.
While they are here, Jake and Kris will be invited to eat a meal with the Search Team, enjoy a barbeque with all of Bethel’s office bearers, talk with the staff, and meet with representatives from the Governing Elders, Shepherding Elders, and Deacons. There will also be opportunity for them to explore Edmonton.
The Search Team has provided you with information about his life, faith, education, and ministry experience. On Sunday June 2, you will be asked to vote on whether you believe God is leading us to call Jake as our new second pastor.
Should we vote to call Jake, he will then have a decision to make. He will have up to three weeks to give us a final decision.
As we consider who should serve as our new second pastor, it is vital that we approach this process with prayerful discernment. A document containing a copy of Jake’s resume and a summary of his ministerial profile has been placed in each mail slot so you can get to know Jake better.
Let’s pray that God will give both our congregation, and Jake, the wisdom to know if He wants him to be our next second pastor.—Pastor Tom
WE HAVE A SECOND PASTOR CANDIDATE
After narrowing the field down to two people, Bethel’s Search Team spent last Sunday afternoon interviewing both candidates for the second pastor position. We then selected a candidate who was subsequently endorsed by the Governing Elders. I am happy to be able to introduce you to our prospective second pastor: Jake Porter.
Jake is a graduate of Western Theological Seminary. He is currently the pastor of Hamilton Christian Reformed Church where he has served for six years (two years as their youth pastor and four years as their lead pastor). He is married to Kris. They home school their two children Dean (aged 8) and Ben (aged 5).
Though his father became a pastor when Jake was a child, he never thought that he would follow in dad’s footsteps. He was surprised, during his college years to sense the Lord was calling Him into ministry.
Jake has a very broad faith background. He grew up in a revivalist tradition, but served as an associate pastor in a charismatic church for several years before attending a Reformed seminary. He feels that this breadth of experience has helped him to be a better pastor.
Preaching and teaching are Jake’s primary passion, but he is clearly a people person, as well. (One of his great joys is to have a group of people over and cook them a meal.) He is passionate about outreach.
Jake’s years of experience as a pastor give him a strong foundation for ministry. That experience, along with his strong people-skills, have led our Search Team to believe he will make a good second pastor for Bethel Church.
Jake and his wife will be coming to Edmonton over the weekend of May 26. He will preach for us on that Sunday. In the next weeks the Search Team will provide you with more detailed information about Jake so you can get to know him better.
INVESTING IN THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
Our church has made a commitment to invest tens of thousands of dollars in our local community. How do we plan to spend that money?
The Governing Elders appointed a “Bless Bannerman” Team to figure that out. In turn, that team held two in-depth meetings with various representatives of our local community to explore options.
In the course of those meetings, the Bannerman Afterschool Program emerged as the leading candidate for support. The Bannerman Community League cooperated with Bannerman residents and other community partners to create this program. They value it deeply. It gives kids who would otherwise be unsupervised after school a constructive outlet, and it has proven to be an important asset for the school.
Our team felt that we should apply the money where our community wanted it most; so, we proposed to the Governing Elders that Bethel Church match the Community League’s support for this program of $5,000 per year for five years. The Governing Elders endorsed that proposal.
However Bethel’s Bless Bannerman Team had even bigger dreams and the Community League agreed to partner with us in them. Together we are pursuing grants that will allow us to hire someone full time to serve our community. Our goal is that this person will serve Bannerman’s most under-resourced members, linking them to government resources as well as programs already being offered by the various community partners (like Bethel’s “Make Tax Time Pay”, Bethel’s summer sports offerings, the E4C’s Mom and Tot’s group, the Community League’s annual activities, and many more).
Amazingly, within a week of our conceiving the idea, two different local nonprofit organizations responded. They said (independently of each other) that they liked the idea so much they would seriously consider giving a half time staff person for the project. If our efforts are successful, it is possible that the remaining “Bless Bannerman” funds from Bethel will be used to fund efforts initiated by the this community worker.
The amazing story continues. One of the half-time staff who will likely be assigned to this project turns out to be a Christian. He joined us this week at our Wednesday morning prayer meeting!
All of these plans assume, of course, that pledges from the All-In campaign will be honoured—and we are fully confident that Bethel will do so. (Donors have till August 31 to get pledges in.) We will have a full discussion of our plans for the Bless Bannerman funds at our upcoming congregational meeting on June 6.
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!
Come here for news on what is happening in Bethel Church from our Pastors.