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.
In February, I attended the Work as Worship conference organized by RightNow Media. It was a one-day event with a dizzying line-up of world-renowned speakers. I’ve also been reading in this area in preparation for a new series I’m starting in June entitled, “Let God Transform your Career.” I’d like to share some of the things I learned from the conference, but I’d also like to ask for your help. Would you take a minute to answer five short questions to help me make the upcoming series as meaningful as possible? Click here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Y88QLW5
Let me share with you some of the lessons I learned from the speakers.
On Sunday, we were away in Brampton serving at Bramalea Baptist’s missions conference. I preached and Jennifer sang in their morning services and Jennifer sang again in the evening at their short-term mission fundraising event. The reason for our involvement was their Japan focus. Specifically, they’re sending two teams to Japan to serve in two cities with which I have a deep connection. The first, Toyama, was the place where I was baptized and served initially teaching English as a new believer and recent university graduate. The second, Tsukuba, was where Jennifer and I served to plant a church. It’s exciting to see God continuing to raise up people to support the work of the gospel in these two cities.
There were three take-aways for me from the day of ministry.
Last week, I attended the regional conference of The Fellowship. Sam Allberry, of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, spoke in four sessions on, “Jesus, Sexuality and The Good News of the Gospel.” About the same time that he began to investigate Jesus and the Bible, Sam began to realize that he was attracted to men. He ended up trusting Jesus and developed deeply held biblical convictions that led him to a life of celibacy. Now an Oxford-trained pastor and author of “Is God Anti-Gay?” he is often invited to speak at conferences and universities on issues related to Christian sexuality. Regularly speaking in front of people from the LGBT community, Sam has learned to not only articulate Scripture, but to do so with love, compassion and sensitivity. Let me share some of what I learned.
This week, I’m at the national convention of The Fellowship and in between reports and business sessions, Dr. John Neufeld has been speaking about the Reformation. In Tuesday morning’s talk, he touched on the influence of a man named Origen on Bible reading and interpretation in the Christian church. That talk sparked my interest to learn more. Origen had a rare determination in his faith and he had an incredible intellect. Despite that, he made some terrible blunders that are repeated by many in our day. Let me share three things we can learn from his mistakes.