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.
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.
What do you think about when you think about Easter? Many Canadians have traditions. Your traditions may involve eggs, chocolate and family get-togethers. Or your traditions may involve a more spiritual bent towards church and a reflection on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Regardless, I fear that millions of Canadians who attend church for Good Friday and Easter this weekend, won’t act Christian – even at church! Let me explain.
The church has often been accused of being all about families and not about singles. I think the criticism is well taken. “Focus on the Family” is not only the name of an organization but it could also be used to describe many churches. I remember a Japanese pastor seeking my advice as to whether a single man he was mentoring could be considered for the ministry even though he wasn’t married. I responded with a strong “Yes,” but instead of just pointing to Jesus and the apostle Paul as justification, I pointed to the growing number of single adults in our society and the unique challenges they face. In the early 2000’s, adult single people outnumbered married people for the first time in Canada. And the temptations are greater than ever. That’s why I was glad to see the article by Tyler Velin entitled “Don’t Waste Your Singleness.” While the title sounds a little preachy, the principles he highlights are important.
One of Satan’s most successful strategies through the years has been to focus his energies not so much on making Christians deny the faith, but in convincing them that their faith is largely irrelevant. He loves for people to compartmentalize their faith so that Jesus is still Lord, while limiting His ‘area of expertise’ to some narrow fields of religion and morality. Whenever I have seen people come alive in their faith, it’s as they’ve seen how Jesus impacts all of their life: from family to finances to career and entertainment. When Alfonso began to live for God and see his skills as an auto mechanic as a gift from God, it revolutionized how he approached life.
On Sunday I talked about Luther’s role in setting off the reformation. But people like Luther, Wesley and Calvin get mentioned so often you could get the impression that the spread of Christianity is just the story of European evangelistic exploits. That certainly isn’t the case. Today, Christianity is thriving in Africa while it is struggling to survive in many parts of Europe. And now there are more missionaries being sent out from South Korea, Brazil and Nigeria than any country in Europe. For Black History Month this year I’ve been reading a book called Clouds of Witnesses that chronicles the contributions of African and Asian Christians to the church. Because Grace Baptist has been so blessed by the testimony and ministry of Zimbabweans over the years, I was intrigued to learn about Bernard Mizeki, one of the first missionaries to bring the Gospel to that nation.