Thursday, January 24, 2013

Touching Base! Part 196

Hush! Hush!

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

This past Sunday was part 3 of our Hot Topics series for 2013. We have one more Sunday to go, when we will welcome Dr. Andy Bannister speaking on the issue of faith and science. After that, we are jumping into 1 Corinthians, looking at the first four chapters. A series entitled Botox Church. I would encourage you to read and re-read the first four chapters in preparation for this series. In part 3 of our current series we looked at the issue of failure and specifically how Christ responded to the failure of the disciples when they all denied him.

Key texts: John 20: 18,19,20; 21:1-14; Luke 24:13-35

Big Idea: Our response to people experiencing failure can make the difference between overcoming or being overcome.

Before you jump into the main text answer the following questions:

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where failure was handled poorly?

Sometimes in the church we crucify those that fall. Once the news hit the street that you did...... you are a marked woman or man for life! Labeled, categorized, and shelved. The person who has fallen ends up avoiding that group, that church or that relationship because it seems like all they want to do is dagger you to death.

Other times we sweep it under the rug and say or do nothing, and let the person just carry on with a light slap on the wrist. We certainly have seen that scenario many times in the media. Spiritual leaders allowed to carry on in leadership as though nothing has happened, yet guilty of moral failure.

What is it about our makeup that can cause us to come down too hard or too soft?

Look at the text- John 20:19,20.
Note who is not there. See v.24. You might want to read the second group encounter (20:24-31) for context.
What was the dominant emotion in John 20:19,20?
What other words would you use to describe this scene?

How do you account for the fact that the writer does not mention that the disciples were afraid of Jesus? Note the fear they had of the Jews, but when Jesus appears it says that they were overjoyed.

Explanation: When I read this, I wondered why they might not be afraid of Jesus. You see the last time they saw Jesus as a group was when they denied him and left him to hang out to dry. They were all like a cat on a hot tin roof - gone! Now, Jesus appears… the one they betrayed, the one they walked away from stands before them. Is this their day of reckoning?

Ever miserably failed someone and then had to face them again? What was that like? What made the difference between being fearful to face that person vs. having humble confidence to go face to face?
My observations of this text and what happened previously, would suggest to me that they knew Jesus was not coming at them with a hammer to beat them to a pulp but with grace to help them overcome. Read John 20:18 and note that Mary Magdalene encountered Jesus before the group of disciples did. Read Luke 24 and note that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and Peter (1 Cor 15:5) all saw Jesus before our scene in John 20:19,20. My hunch is that they knew Jesus wasn’t coming at them with a get-even kind of attitude but with grace, love and a heart to see them restored. Mary, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and Peter would have known and likely communicated that fact before they (the larger group) had encountered Jesus!

Jesus the head of the Church models a posture that enabled the disciples not to be overcome by their failure but to overcome their failure. We see this so dramatically demonstrated in the life of Peter. His failure, denial of Christ gets “special” mention in Scripture. But so does his restoration. Note in John 21 the BBQ Jesus prepares for the disciples. This is a powerful scene of healing, restoration and hope. Table fellowship indicated intimate relations among those who shared it. You ate with your friends, not with those you despised! Jesus is modeling for Peter (and the rest of the disciples) his desire for them to overcome, not to be overcome by their failure. Then we see Jesus reinstating Peter in front of the other disciples in John 21:15-19.

Jesus models several great principles of restoration in these narratives. Discuss and pray about these.
Jesus moves towards those that have failed. He gets in their space. He did this with Peter one-on-one, he did this with the larger group as well. Restoration and healing of those who have fallen, often is most powerfully experienced through loving relationship, not another 12-step program of recovery (even thought that certainly has its place).

Jesus spoke the language of love that made sense. He barbecued some fish and prepared some fresh bread. In that culture that was the language of love, of acceptance and friendship. As we seek to heal those in our midst we need to understand what language of love is most appropriate. We are all guilty of saying stupid, insensitive things to people going through tough times. What best communicates? Maybe words should be our final option.

He reinstates them. We see this in 20:22,23 and in John 21:15-19. In other words, people who fail can have hope that they can be used by God again. Peter rose up from the ashes of failure to become a key leader in the New Testament Church. The other disciples also rose up and fulfilled key roles.

As a church, let’s follow Christ’s lead in helping people overcome their failure, not be overcome by it!

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Touching Base! Part 195


Guest speaker, Kent Bandy

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

This Touching Base may help some who are currently involved in Freemasonry or want to learn more about this organization. Understand that it is Bethel’s desire that we live Biblically-measured lives, that we examine our hearts in light of God’s truth and live in a way that is consistent with God’s Word. The following are some questions and resources to reflect on this morning’s teaching.

  • How do we evaluate if an organization is in harmony with Christ and the message of the Gospel?
  • Is social contribution enough to merit the church’s endorsement?
  • In light of our track record of responses, how should we, as the church, respond?
  • How does loving our neighbor play out in a God-honoring way?
  • What’s the Lord saying to you personally through this conversation about Freemasonry?

Kent Bandy

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact



Harris, Jack. Freemasonry, The Invisible Cult. ISBN 978-0-88363-669-0

Gordon, Ian. The Craft and the Cross. ISBN 0-9528865-0-2

Online: (all websites were accessible as of 17 Jan 13)

Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library

Help for the church:


Ellel Ministries International - Freemasonry: a Christian response.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Touching Base! Part 194

Church Roadkill

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

BIG IDEA: The Church Is God’s Ideal

This morning we began our 5th year of Hot Topics. By “hot” we mean issues that lie just beneath the surface and which no one wants to talk about, or issues that no one is addressing because the church has blindly embraced the heresy or the cultural norm and speaking up could be seen as controversial.

This morning’s topic referred to people who have had a negative encounter with the church and now essentially say, “I love Jesus but I hate the church!” These days “spirituality” is hot; organized religion is not. Community is hip, but the church is lame.

Q. Let’s start off with a “fill-in-the-blank” exercise. See if either you or someone you know could fill in the blanks with terms that are negative.

“The institutional church is so…” / “When I go to church I feel completely…” / “The leadership is totally…” /
“The people are…” / “The services are…” / “The music is…” / “The whole congregation is…” / “The whole thing makes me …”

If this doesn’t express where you are at, do you know anyone who could wax eloquent with the blanks?

Our aim is mostly to help believers who are sour, turned off, and disengaged. This is not necessarily a message to new believers or non-believers but for believers, and also to help equip Christ followers as you help others overcome personal pain in this area.



We see the church acting hatefully or neglecting the world at her doorstep and even we believers cringe! Others of us have probably been hurt by the church, through action or inaction, and it feels worse to be hurt by a “brother or sister”, doesn’t it? We expect more from our church community. Others have experienced church as a weapon used to discipline them as children – they may even have grown up thinking that their parents loved the church more than them. Finally, others of us have felt taken advantage of for our skills and talents. We are used up and burned out.

And yet, Paul’s letter to the Galatians describes the purpose of our freedom in Christ: NOT to satisfy our own sinful nature but to serve one another in love. It’s so interesting that Paul seems to suggest that the opposite of our sinful nature is serving one another in love. We often forget this freedom we have in Christ, and when it happens, we tend to look for identity in other places or in other people, and to look for faults in ourselves and in other believers, as a reflection of our own areas of brokenness. When that happens we are unable to serve others in our family of believers.

Q. Can you relate to any of the above? Have you ever been in such a church?


Movies, television and literature have all had their effect. Some examples given were of a James Bond movie that shows a chapel as a broken-down relic, TV shows that make Christians seem namby-pamby or worse still, attack any kind of values, and literature (for adults and children!) that attack God and the institutional church as “evil”.

Then, it’s even harder to help your friends understand the joy and comfort that can be found in church community when we live in an age where science HAS BECOME God. As was said in “Cosmos”, a popular 1980s documentary series, “[t]he Universe is all there is, all there has ever been and all there will ever be.” There is no God, and no need for God, because science can explain everything. In turn, this has made us very materialistic in our thinking: since all we are, is a cosmic accident, then eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die. Spiritual stuff? It’s all irrelevant nonsense. So who cares what the church has to say?

Add to all that the sad fact some churches HAVE become irrelevant by becoming tied to methods, not vision; by being afraid to “rock the boat” and risk losing a congregation; by daring to stand up for truth in a world which denies that there is any truth at all, and it’s easy to see why people check out.

Q. What examples of this have you noticed in your own excursions through various media? Has relevance ever been a problem in any church you’ve attended?


- Defining terms

  • “Kingdom” - It is best defined as the rule of God. The kingdom of God is present wherever God is reigning. It was best seen when Jesus was here in person, when He walked the face of the earth. Doesn’t something rise up within you and hunger and thirst for God’s Kingdom when you read of the life of Christ? Goodness, order, hope and truth colliding with the mess of earthly empires, broken systems, and injustices. AND it can be present now, even imperfectly, both wherever the Lord Jesus Christ is acknowledged as Lord (because we become carriers of the DNA of this Kingdom) and wherever God is working.
  • Church - (gr. “ekklesia”, pr. Ek-la-SEE-a), which means ‘those who are called out’, not necessarily called out of the world, but called out of society for some particular function or purpose; they are ‘called together’. It can even refer to any group of people that gather together for any kind of purpose - an “ekklesia” of people who collect stamps, an “ekklesia” of people getting together to study or run together - a group of people.

So what do you think this “ekklesia” of people who are committed to the rule and reign of God does? They are about the business of the kingdom, looking to Jesus who lived out the ethos of this Kingdom with absolute perfection, a group of people who are passionate about God’s kingdom purposes!

Note that the New Testament letters are most often addressed to churches (“ekklesia”), where Christ followers were gathered (see Rom. 16, Cor. and Gal.): in houses, courtyards, Solomon’s Portico, lecture halls, and even in caves.

But note what Paul never says to them: he never said “oh, and by the way also say hi to Bob, Mary, Rebecca, John, Sammy and Kirk, who I know are really into Jesus but hate the church.” That is simply not Kingdom talk.

To say that you were a Christ follower but were not part of a church would have been akin to saying “I am a hockey player”, but when asked what team (“ekklesia” of players) you’re with, you say you don’t actually play on a team (“Well, I played once, but they were all hypocrites.”) Churchless Christians are as counter to the biblical pattern and as “non-sensical” as a “teamless hockey player”.

So the kingdom is the work, rule and reign of God. The church is the coming together of people who love the Kingdom and the King and are working it out in meaningful community. It is God’s ideal, His design.

What should the healthy functioning body of Christ look like? This is an important question because the Church has not always been healthy.

- Acts 2 … What God the Holy Spirit made the Church to be!

The end of the second chapter of book of Acts gives us a beautiful illustration of what the church, the bride of Christ, is to be. It was a four-fold place, summed up in verse 42: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

This church was simply:
  • A place of continual doctrinal purity and learning (“the apostles’ teaching”)
  • A place of fellowship (gr. “koinonia”, pr. coy-no-NEE-a). We are not meant to be alone, and the Early Church understood this right away.
  • A place of breaking of bread (both through communion, as per Jesus’ commandment, and through meals and time together (v.46))
  • A place of prayer (that’s one of the reasons we’d love you to come out and “Move” with us during the Lenten season!)

The other thing to note is that all of this took place at first, in part, in the temple in Jerusalem (v.46). Secret meetings in houses only came with persecution (NOTE: but they DID keep meeting! See Heb. 10:25).

And then it spilled out from the temple into peoples’ homes and daily lives: they had “all things together”, possessions and property being readily shared as needed, in a spirit of joy (because Christ was the focus, not themselves!) such that they could praise God and have “favour with all people” (this would have included non-Christians).

Do you see what the Holy Spirit did here in this early community? “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common…” As well, Paul preached on it over and over again in his letters to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 10:17), the Galatians (5:13) the Philippians (1:27), and the Ephesians (4:1-5).

One word: UNITY. These believers were together, and they were as one. And because of it, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

In sum: Christ died for them, God called them, the Holy Spirit transformed them and everyone else just wanted to be with them and be one of them. No seeker-sensitive programs necessary here!

These 4 simple principles turned the entire Roman Empire upside down within a couple of hundred years!

- Christ, the Cornerstone

We are a building (1 Cor. 3:10-11) with a foundation in Christ. We are carefully joined together in him. It’s not too hard to imagine what happens to a building with a poor foundation. In Eph. 2:20-21 we see that together we are His house, built on the apostles and prophets with Jesus as the cornerstone, a pretty important construction piece since all the other stones are set in reference to it. The truer your foundation, the better the building will be. See also Eph. 4:14-16.

Read 1 Cor. 12: 12-13. What was done to us? We were baptized. By Who? The Holy Spirit. Into what? Into one body; Whose? Christ’s. What does this imply? Responsibility - we are part of something that has incredible diversity.

This is one of the reasons why we celebrate diversity in the body – Bethel is not a university church, a young couples’ church or an old person’s church – we are a city church, meaning we embrace all the diversity that that word implies.

So with such beautiful diversity there may still be conflict. However Ephesians spells out to us that the cornerstone has broken the hostility that exists between us (Eph. 2:14-16) and we can be members of one family (Eph. 2:19-22), and we are to make allowances for one another’s faults (Eph. 4:3).

We canʼt be this body or structure on our own. Living in isolation, without our family of believers, is not what God intended. Paul urges believers to live in UNITY, allowing our roots to grow deeply into Christ, our lives to be built on his foundation (Col 2:6-7). We are to work together with one mind and purpose, selfless, humble and putting others first (Phil. 2).


There certainly are Christ followers who are roadkill. They could easily fill in the blanks with valid reasons - hurt, hypocrisy, media, and relevance. Yet Christ’s ideal is still the Church – the expression of the Kingdom of God on earth - there actually is an ideal we strive towards and a Cornerstone we build on. So what should we do?

• Repent:
  • Individually – Repent, not for being roadkill, but for turning it into your new identity. Certainly we are not saying that what was done is inconsequential or unimportant, but to allow that situation to shape us is wrong and grieves the very God who lives in us by His Holy Spirit. And it hurts the Body - either because we pull away or because we leak out toxic, jaded attitudes and comments (Heb. 12:5). Deal with it, and let us help you deal with it.
  • Leaders – need, at times, to repent of what has been allowed to go on - harming the bride
  • Christ followers – we may need to repent of an unforgiving heart
• Realize: The early joy of Acts 2 can and must be the church’s again: Do we want to turn “the City, the Nation and the World” upside down? Then let’s remove ourselves from the equation and instead insert humble submission to Christ and Him alone and live out a desire for each of us to be more and more like Him every day, in joy, love and unity. Let’s ask ourselves, “what more can we do here at Bethel to help us be an “Acts 2” church?”

Recalibrate: what would Kingston and the world see in the body of believers if we lived in the freedom that Christ offers us and if we saw the beauty he sees when he looks at his Bride…? What if we lived in the freedom to put off satisfying ourselves and choosing instead to serve one another in love?
God has put huge potential in all of us. If we are unified, rooted in Christ, with a common purpose, valuing and celebrating our diversity, what could happen?

Mark Kotchapaw –
Carmen Gauvin-O’Donnell –
Meredith MacKenzie –

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact


Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community. 1954: Harper and Row Publishers, Inc. 128 pp. ISBN 978-0060608521. Pastor Bonhoeffer's experience of Christian community in an underground seminary during the Nazi years reads like one of Paul's letters. It gives practical advice on how life together in Christ can be sustained in families and groups.

DeYoung, Kevin with Ted Kluck. Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion. 2009: Moody Publishing, 224 pp. ISBN 978-0802458377. A great book written in response to the spate of “Get-out-of-the-Institutional-Church” books written a few years ago.

DeYoung, Kevin, Editor. Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day. 2011: Crossway Books, 256 pp. ISBN 978-1433521690. This book introduces young, new, and under-discipled Christians to the most essential and basic issues of faith in general and of evangelicalism in particular.

Kimball, Dan. They Like Jesus But Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations. 2007: Zondervan Carr Books, 208 pp. ISBN 978-0310245902. An interesting look at reasons offered by both believers and non-believers alike for disliking the Church and how to deal with the issue.

Ortberg, John. Who is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus. 2012: Zondervan Books, 208 pp. ISBN 978-0310275954. Ortberg reveals how Jesus has impacted civilization and individual human hearts.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Touching Base! Part 193

From Here to There

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

This past Sunday I talked about where we are at as a church. It’s important that people who come to Bethel don’t just “come and go”, but come and grow, and come and know what is going on, what we are all about, how we’re doing and the opportunities we’re facing. Simply attending, being oblivious to who we are and how we are engaging with the vision is simply a violation of what it means to be part of the body of Christ. We want informed people, committed to the vision, contributing to the dialogue and engaging in the work of the local church. So here are four statements that may help you understand how we are doing, four statements that will help you explain to a complete stranger what Bethel is all about.

Married to the Vision, Dating the Methodology
Get this one wrong and you can quickly destroy a church or an organization. Far too many churches have married the methodology and thus died a slow death into irrelevancy.

Our vision statement is, “Responding to the Heart of God; Transforming the Heart of the City, the Nation, and the World.” It’s rooted in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20. The vision answers the question, “where are we going?” and it’s not negotiable. How each individual church expresses it will be unique, and demographics as well as resources will impact the uniqueness of each gathered church, but the overall vision is the same.

However, methods will come and go, i.e. the tools that help a church carry out that vision. On Sunday I talked about how some methods could be compared to a train or a boat, a race car or an airplane. All four represent different means of transportation, getting from point a to point b. Likewise in the church, different ways of fulfilling, attaining the vision will come and go. For a season, a church may determine that the race car is the best way of pursuing the vision. But as seasons change, the race car might be traded in for a speed boat or a train. Methods come and go.

What happens when churches or organizations institutionalize a method?
What can happen to the vision?
What are some of the unhealthy reasons we hang on too long to methods and tools that have become outdated?

Mark Batterson has said....
  • Somewhere along doing ministry we lose our (pray filled) imagination.
  • We stop doing ministry out of imagination and begin doing it out of memory (methods that we have always embraced)
  • We stop creating the future and begin repeating the past.

“Unhealthy method” conversations often start like...
“This is the way we’ve always done it...”
“What might so-and-so think if we stop doing, or start doing or don’t use... anymore…?”
“So-and-so donated such-and-such and if we stop doing this or using this, so and so will be very upset that we don’t do or use such-and-such anymore…”

The example I used on Sunday of a change for Bethel in this area has to do with our yearly missions fundraising banquet entitled Bethel Bear Your Brother’s Burden Banquet. Got any examples of methods that once worked but are no longer as effective? Corporate examples might be interesting to consider at this point as well.

Falling Forward Moves Us Onward
Think about family and work. Did any of you grow up in a family where failure meant humiliation, embarrassment and ridicule? How about work? Ever worked in an environment where failure was villainized? What did that do to the morale of the office? How did that impact the employees’ willingness to step out and take risks?

Discuss the following quote. What does this say about failure?

“The reason I’m doing the best work of my life right now is because
I have fifty years of mistakes telling me what to do.”

What kind of culture do you think Jesus nurtured with His disciples? Read Matthew 18:10-14. Do you think that Jesus, when He finds the lost sheep, beats it or nurtures it? Then note the next passage v15-17. Note that the heart of the Good Shepherd is for restoration, healing, falling forward! The heart of God is for us to learn from mistakes and move onward, upward and forward. Know any other texts that illustrate this? This lines up with our value of Solidarity - being FOR people, being WITH people.

At Bethel we are committed to being a learning environment. Organizationally we are committed to keeping in step with the voice of the Spirit, stepping out and trying new things, all for the sake of the vision God has given us. As we step out we will stumble and fall, but we believe that the failure will make us wiser than if we had never tried.

On Sunday I used our third service and partnerships as two examples of stepping out, learning and falling forward. In both of these examples we are learning, growing, stumbling and advancing.

What has been your most profitable failure to date in life? How key was having a healthy organization, team or group of friends around you?

Facts are our Friends.
Not everyone believes this. One reason we ignore the facts is because facing the facts can mean having to do a lot of work. Think of the life and words of Jesus. Jesus stated the facts time and time again and called people to align their lives with the facts. When He confronted the Samaritan women at the well, the fact of her marital mess was something Jesus did not shy away from. Remember when Jesus listed the woes of the Pharisees? If they faced up with the woes, there would be a lot of work to do! How about in Matthew 7 where Jesus talks about judging? The fact of the plank in our own eye was calling the listener to deal with the tough stuff in his/her own heart first. Work to be done!

As a board of elders the key fact that we are working on at Bethel these days is discipleship. In our vision statement it says that we are to be a people responding to the heart of God. This is to be the posture of a disciple - listening, malleable, growing, changing, under authority, obeying. As a board we feel that we must do better in this area of helping people move from exploring Christ to being Christ-centered. Our business is not to help people stay where they are but challenge them to move on to where they need to be. This fact about our church, the fact that we need to do better, has shaped our board’s agenda and focus for the last several months and will shape and be a priority on our meeting agendas for the foreseeable future. We are reading, discussing, praying and moving towards working on outcomes, action steps and implementation. Work to be done!

What fact is shaping your life these days?

Prayerfully Engaged.
“The danger is that the longer a movement exists, the easier it can be to rely on past success or well-developed structures and to be less dependent on the radical intervention of a supernatural God.“

Hudson Taylor said “We are a supernatural people, born again by a supernatural birth, kept by a supernatural power, sustained on a supernatural food, taught by a supernatural Teacher from a supernatural Book, and led by a supernatural Captain in right paths to assured victories.”

Prayer is a posture of the heart (corporate and individual) that reminds us that what we do is dependent on what God does in and through us.

On Sunday we introduced Move, a prayer initiative that will start on February 10th and take us right up to Easter. We want to invite you to participate in this prayer focus as we seek God to work among us and through us as we bless city, nation and world.

Take some time to pray about what has been discussed. Feel free to come and talk to me about any of the points mentioned. As we often say, dialogue helps bring clarity.

Mark Kotchapaw

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact