Culturally, it’s become more and more uncomfortable for people who follow Jesus. Christianity is called exclusive. Christians are called intolerant. Christian ethics are considered outdated. And, so, before we open our mouths to share the good news about Jesus many people have already made up their minds. Some Christians respond by retreating. We take a defensive posture toward society and assume that we should just focus on protecting ourselves and consoling one another. When we do, our faith becomes a shell of what the New Testament describes. Remember that Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The true church is on the offensive, seeking to rescue those held in darkness, and nothing can prevail against it.
I’m embarrassed to say that I often need to remind myself that the heart of my faith is loving my neighbour. Today, it’s easier for people to be annoyed by their neighbours, threatened by their neighbours or not even know their neighbours. Part of loving our neighbours involves understanding them. On Saturday, I learned much from Dr. Amal Gendi on how to love the Muslim neighbours that are more and more a part of our community.
Last week, I gave an update on the Wonder Worship Conference and some of the lessons we should take away from the contemporary worship movement. But the learning doesn’t just go one way. There were many lessons I learned that might be more associated with our heritage in traditional worship. What became clear to me was that we need to listen to one another and be shaped by God’s Word as we seek to grow in expressions of corporate worship. Let me share what I learned.
On Saturday, I attended the Wonder Worship Conference along with seven members of our worship ministry. For me, it was an opportunity to reflect on what God is doing in this area of the church. This week, I’d like to look at some of the lessons people should learn from the contemporary worship movement. Next week, I’ll address some of the lessons I feel people should learn from what I’ll call the traditional worship stream. My hope is that as people on both sides of this discussion are able to listen to each other in light of Scripture, our preferences will give way to greater unity in how we approach this topic. So, let’s start with what you should learn from the contemporary worship movement even if you don’t like guitars and drums.
Last week, I took a course in church revitalization. As the name suggests, it was about restoring to life to churches that have lost their vitality. Over four days, four pastors shared lessons and insights they had learned in leading their churches through renewal. What was so refreshing was that none of them pointed to gimmicks or novel ideas. The course focused on the fundamentals but with clear strategies on how to grow in them. Whereas 20 years ago churches were talking about shorter sermons, skits, interpretive dance and avoiding words like sin or hell, today growing churches are focused on prayer, evangelism, discipleship and glorifying God. The conversation has changed – for the better! Let me share one of their stories.
At this week’s FEB Central Regional Conference, Mike Bullmore gave an exposition of the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119. His teaching did what all good teaching should do: move me to look closer at the Bible. The result was four questions to help get more out of Bible reading. Reading the Bible is not only one of the most important things a Christian can do to grow, it’s also for many one of the most difficult things to do. Psalm 119 provides some help.
Last week I attended a seminar about on grief and mourning put on by Glenn and Roslyn Crichton, founders of The Coping Centre. After sharing their own experience of loss and grieving, they talked about some of the myths surrounding grief that can become obstacles in a person’s recovery. Let me share some of those myths with you.
Do you ever struggle to make sense of your circumstances? Many times, I’ve looked at what’s happening in my life and asked, “What on earth are you doing God?” Some things begin to make sense in retrospect as I look back on what’s happened. Other circumstances still have question marks next to them. There are many things that I’m looking forward to God explaining in heaven, one day. In the meantime, others can help us navigate the murkier days. Last month, I listened to a preacher named Sandy Wilson at a conference in Huntsville. He shared the story of Elisabeth’s Elliott’s first year of missionary service.
Last week I attended a workshop led by James Kelly. With a commerce degree in entrepreneurship along with a Masters of Divinity and a passion for technology, James brings a unique perspective to the possibilities for church in the 21st century. After serving with his wife as short-term missionaries in South Sudan for three months, James helped launch Radiant City Church in Waterloo and is the founder of Faith Tech, which exists to bridge the gap between faith and technology. Let me share some of the things I learned.
Our life groups at Grace are a place where people can get to know others and be known by them. They’re small enough for discussion, prayer and encouragement. But our vision for the groups is to look for opportunities for neighbourhood-sized mission projects. Who can we serve in Jesus’ name? How can we reach out to people around us? How can we make Jesus known? They’re not easy questions to answer but they’re important ones to deal with if we’re going to be faithful to Jesus’ commission. Back in January, I contacted one of our missionaries, Darryl Dash, and asked if there were any ways that our life group might serve with them. That call led to our involvement in the Toronto Art Crawl in Liberty Village last Saturday. Let me share what I observed.