Thursday, April 7, 2016

Touching Base, Part 301

TB 301
Adjusting the Sails
10 Apr 16

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

I would love to have your input from this Sunday’s message. As a church we are in a season where we are more than ever Committed to the Vision, but we are Adjusting the Methods. If you did not hear this message I would encourage you to listen to it on the website -- you will get a better understanding of context.

As the strong winds of cultural change blow around us, all the leaders at Bethel are reviewing our methods: using the input of dozens (about 105 people), the labour of our working group, and the leadership of our Elders’ team, we are in a season of adjusting the “sails” so as to stay the course (that is, our vision: “Responding to the Heart of God; Transforming the heart of the City, the Nation and the world”.)

To help process what you heard on Sunday, I would encourage you to use this Touching Base to discuss the ideas presented, provide input to me if you wish (, and then prayerfully engage as we move ahead.

As a church we are making great strides in many areas, but we are also wrestling with how to be more affective in our calling. The following are the four areas we are currently discussing, praying about, and in which we are looking to be more effective.

1. Discipleship

Definition: Someone who follows another person or another way of life, like an apprentice who submits himself to the teachings of that leader.

What are the winds of change in culture?
• The gap between what the church believes and what culture believes is wider than ever- this is the context of North America.
Talk about the gap that is growing between what the church believes and what the culture believes.
What are the particular issues where those gaps are very apparent?
How does this challenge the mandate of Jesus to make disciples?

• Attendance is less frequent for a growing number of attendees.
Statistics now demonstrate that increasing numbers of people are not as committed to the local church. One report says that people/Christians now attend church 25 Sundays of the year.
What is this indicative of?
How can this make being a discipleship community challenging?

2. Corporate Worship

Definition: Bethel Church will provide worship that is honouring to God as we seek to encounter and glorify Him as the gathered church. The church has always gathered because the church is inherently communal.

This is pivotal as we seek to establish our identity in the city and the corporate nature of our mission.
As a community, we are committed to being part of this transformation (by the Spirit) that is needed in the city, nation and world. All of our initiatives and ministry focuses demand a missional community that is engaged, contributing and investing. And as we do so, we offer up worship!

What are the winds of change in culture?
• Consumerism. Consumer Christianity asks, “What can I get from God?” It asks, “What’s in it for me?” That leads us to evaluate our church, our faith, our experience (and each other) according to our preferences and whims.

On Sunday I contrasted the images of a cruise ship (consumerism) versus a symphony (engagement). The church that is healthy works like a symphony. Talk about the contrast between these two images. How can our corporate identity and vision initiatives be hindered when people view the church like a cruise ship?

We are deeply grateful for the dozens and dozens of people that understand that the church is more like a symphony! However, as we move ahead and walk out our vision further, we are going to need to challenge more and more people to “get off the boat and into the symphony”.

3. Stewardship

Definition: Bethel Church, as a community of faith, will encourage its people to give of their time, talents and treasure to God’s service.

While stewardship is an umbrella term that refers to all of our resources, let me highlight the financial piece.

What are the winds of change in culture?
• The “steward” versus the “owner” - “It’s His!” versus “It’s mine!”

• Canada’s household debt levels keep breaking records.

Now add to that the fact that, as a pastor, I don’t like asking for money, PLUS the other winds of change already listed above and what do we have? The perfect storm. While we are grateful for the many who sacrificially give, what is hurting us is the many who do not. Very often in the local church, 20% of the congregation donate 80% of its income. These are capsizing numbers!

4. Outreach

Definition: Outreach is an outward focus, where Bethel comes alongside individuals and organizations to work collaboratively in bringing the Whole Gospel to our city, nation and world.

Individually, we are finding that increasing numbers (like me) find it challenging to communicate faith to a non-believing world. Many do not have meaningful relationships with people who do not follow Christ. We are, in many cases, very insular.

Corporately, we have several healthy, growing working relationships with organizations that extend our reach corporately as, together, we reach out and love the city, nation and world.

What is one wind of change in our culture that is challenging this area greatly?
• Declining trust in authority
“…people today, particularly unchurched people, start out with suspicion as their primary approach to the church and its leaders. More than ever, trust is earned slowly and lost instantly.” (Carey Nieuwhof, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow)

Have you found personal outreach more difficult?
Talk about the relationships you have with people who don’t follow Jesus?
How could you be better equipped?
How do you deal with the trust issue?

HOW DO WE WANT YOU TO RESPOND? Here are some suggestions:

A. Process these key statements

Here are some statements that I am working through that will apply to you.

• I must be (we must be) humble and malleable.
Living with a posture of humility allows us to speak into each other’s lives as we stay committed to the vision but adjust the methods. No leader is above the voice of counsel that comes from the body.
“When you choose to be a leader you choose to grow in public.” I am growing, we are growing.

• I must be (we must be) prayerfully curious.
If our humility just leads us to listen to each other then we will capsize. For me, “prayerfully curious” is where we lock arms together, hearing each other and prayerfully engaging with the voice of the Spirit. It is where we are willing to think outside the box if that is where God leads us.

B. Ask these key questions (oh yeah… and answer them!)
• What does my part look like in this season at Bethel?
• What does “stepping up” look like while at the same time guarding my family, rest, study, relationships, and healthy margins?
• What does sacrificial giving look like? Time, Talent and Treasure.
• What does a renewed prayer focus look like?
• What does “speaking up” look like, that is redemptive and empowering?

C. Be Prayerfully Engaged - Join us on May 1 (Sunday afternoon) as we join together corporately to pray into these issues. More details to follow.

Mark Kotchapaw

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