THINKING AHEAD, Vol. 15, No. 1 - Fall 2011

In This Issue

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Nellie, Machozi, Sefi and Salama singing at Mosaic Intercultural Church. Services are in English but songs are shared in many languages during testimony time.

Mosaic Intercultural Church

More than half of the people who attend Mosaic Intercultural Church in the northeast corner of London, Ontario are under 20 years old. Many of them are the children of refugees who speak English as well as their native tongue, and possibly a third or fourth language depending on what countries their families lived in temporarily as they journeyed to Canada. Not completely Canadian, but not entirely identified with their home countries, these hybrid kids are a bridge between cultures.

David Cottrill, Director of Community Outreach at North Park Church in London, began reaching out to these young people and their families in 2004 through the church’s Life Resource Centre. At the centre, the church distributes food and clothing, teaches life skills classes for newcomers, and runs programs for children and youth.

David and those working with him noticed that while some of the parents of the youth attended churches centred around their native language and culture, the kids did not attend. They had no spiritual home. “We are focused on youth and young adults who were unconnected to a church; we felt a responsibility to give them a place to feel welcome,” says David.

In November 2010, a group from North Park launched Mosaic to give these youth a place to belong. “They are the core of our intercultural church,” says David. Some of the youth attend church without their parents, while others come with their whole families.

Mosaic is focused on meeting the spiritual needs of people within their northeast London neighbourhood. About three quarters of the 50 to 80 people who attend the church, which meets at Sir George Ross Secondary School, walk to church. Many of their lives intersect continuously as they interact during the week at various Life Resource Centre programs, at school, or at work. This is important to the group. They don’t want people to parachute in for the worship service. The service is an expression of the community.


Faila with Monette (in background). People from Burma, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, South and Central America, and Canada are part of this rich Christian community centred in a London, Ontario neighbourhood.

Before starting Mosaic, David and a few community members met for Bible study and a meal on Sunday afternoons. After five years, about 20 people were attending, and planting a church seemed like a good idea.

People from a variety of African nations, as well as some from South and Central America, belong to the church. In an effort to adapt to many members’ flexible view of time, the service has a “soft start.” It begins with an informal coffee time, then a few songs, and a facilitated small group time. People join the activities as they arrive. “The service starts when the church arrives,” says David. Around 11:30 AM more formal musical worship begins followed by a short, engaging teaching during which people ask and answer questions.

Though there is a separate room for very young children, kids, youth, and their families attend the service together. David, who does most of the teaching, is mindful of the variety of ages and language abilities as he prepares his sermons.

Multicultural elements are included in the service through the worship music as well as songs shared during testimony time at the end of the gathering. Since many French-speaking Africans and French Canadians belong to the church, French scripture readings and music are regularly included. The sermon is not translated because it would be difficult to choose which language to translate it into. Children or friends translate for those with rudimentary English skills.

Not just focused on their own needs, David says, “Our church community is known in the neighbourhood as a church that cares for people.” The congregation reaches out to their Muslim neighbours and has helped many Muslim families with their settlement process. Some Muslims attend worship services, come to the lunch and gym time after the service, or request prayer. “They understand it as a place that cares even if they are not Christian.” ■

How to Pray for Mosaic Intercultural Church

  • As the church grows, pray that the structures they implement won’t stymie their ability to know and love each other.
  • Ask God to raise up young ethnic leaders, especially men.
  • For breakthroughs with the Muslim families they are reaching out to. Some trust in Jesus but are afraid to declare it because of fear for their families in the community and in their home countries. “If a few of them publicly took a stand, it may really help some others,” says Pastor David.

Vision Ministries Kenya Launched

Gord Martin and his wife Heather recently attended the International Brethren Conference on Mission (IBCM), which occurs every four years and brings together church leaders from around the world for spiritual reflection, prayer, reporting, and sharing ideas. They have attended gatherings in Romania, Germany, and this past summer in France.

These gatherings have provided a tremendous opportunity to meet like-minded leaders who are passionate about building God’s kingdom. “There is a common bond with those who share the same root of church history, and at such events it’s quite easy to find ‘kindred spirits,’” says Gord.

Gord met one of these kindred spirits, Ishmael Ochieng, at the IBCM in Germany in 2007. They have been in conversation over the last three years. Ishmael is a Christian leader in Kenya who is passionate about church planting, outreach, and compassion ministries. With assistance from Vision Ministries Canada—including a website, promotional materials, and starter funds to rent an office —Vision Ministries Kenya was launched on September 3rd, 2011.

With four staff members, Vision Ministries Kenya focuses primarily on evangelism through church planting and leadership training. VMK facilitates connections among 75 like-minded Kenyan churches, including a new church plant in the slums of Nairobi.

While in France at IBCM, Gord also met Simeon Havyarimana a Christian leader in Burundi who directs an amazing organization called “Communauté des Eglises Emmanuel au Burundi” (CEEM) that fosters leadership development and church planting among Burundian congregations. CEEM is a thriving national organization that relationally connects about 120 churches. The group also operates a school for the blind, a clinic, and a Bible school. “They have national, regional, and local church leadership and it seems to be working. It is not administratively heavy. But they are providing the services the churches need and they are inspiring them,” says Gord.

As proof of the inspiration of these leaders, over 5,000 showed up to a recent conference hosted by the CEEM. Gord adds: “Anybody that can get 5,000 people together is talking to them in a way that they can hear.”

Simeon told Gord that they desperately need decent buildings in Burundi—they have very few adequate church facilities. VMC is hoping to take a team of Canadian pastors to teach in churches and at the Bible School as well as to scout out other ways the Canadian church could serve their brothers and sisters in Burundi.

In the usual way of the Master Networker, God used Gord to connect Simeon and Ishmael. Simeon invited Ishmael to be a guest at the national conference in Burundi and in turn was invited to be the guest speaker at the launch of Vision Ministries Kenya. (VMC helped with travel costs.)

Vision Ministries Canada also has connected significantly with churches in Poland, Australia, the UK, Spain, New Zealand and is in contact with a dozen others.

Visit kenya.vision-ministries.org to celebrate with Vision Ministries Kenya. Why not email Ishmael a note of encouragement? ■

 

Planting and leading churches is hard work.
It’s even harder when you don’t have many contacts or resources, as is the case for new immigrants. Many of these pastors and their leadership teams are passionate, effective, and called by God. By coming alongside them, we can multiply their Kingdom work among newcomers to Canada.

Yes! Your church could...
PARTNER WITH AN IMMIGRANT CHURCH

Here’s what it could look like. First, VMC would provide a list of churches or church plants that would benefit from a sponsoring church and would help you find a good fit.

What are they looking for? (Relationship will differ based on geographic proximity.)

  • Supportive friends
  • Prayer
  • Someone with whom to share and celebrate successes
  • Connections, people who know people
  • Help with English occasionally
  • They may want to join you in some of your special family, children’s or youth events. (They usually don’t have enough people to do these things on their own.)
  • They may want to have their youth group join with yours on a regular basis
  • They might benefit from small amounts of funding for special needs or it may be desirable to more fully sponsor the church/church plant.

How would we go about it?

There would be an initial dialogue between VMC staff and leader(s) of the potential sponsoring church to explore the possibilities. Together we would:

  • Identify a church that might be a suitable fit
  • Visit the church just to have a look (perhaps with a VMC staff person)
  • Discuss the possibility again

If there is a desire to move forward, VMC would set up a dialogue among the leaders of the two churches to discuss:

  • How might such a relationship be beneficial?
  • How could it start?
  • What expectations are reasonable?
  • How to proceed.
  • How to communicate the relationship to both churches.

The final step would be entering into a sponsoring agreement utilizing the VMC template.

It would be unnatural, but that’s good! Contact gord [at] vision-ministries.org or 519-725-1212, or toll-free: 1-877-509-5060

Church at The Falls Gains ‘Staff Member’ Through Video Teaching

For the first year and a half of the church plant’s existence, Pastor Brandon Duff did the majority of teaching at Church at The Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Then the leadership team decided to try an experiment. The congregation joined LifeChurch.tv for a one-month teaching series.

“We noticed a ton of positive response, a lot of life change, and people were coming to Christ,” says Duff. He sensed God was saying, “You could keep doing this [teaching] and you’re good at it. But you can accomplish so much more if you are willing to give up this aspect of the ministry.”

After a few more months, the leadership team announced to the congregation that the video teaching would be a permanent part of the service. A few people brought up concerns—mostly that they would miss Duff’s teaching. But for the most part, it has been a positive change. “In a sense we gained a staff member—it allowed us to have a teaching pastor on staff,” says Duff.

So what does he do all week if he’s not working on a sermon?

Duff knows that video teaching is not for every congregation. Some pastors would struggle to relinquish the teaching part of their ministry. But it has freed Brandon up to develop his leaders, to care for people in the church, and to build more relationships in the community. “I have time to be missional,” he says. He also has more time to handle the administrative aspects of ministry, which is more in line with his gifting.

Church at The Falls sees video teacher Craig Groeschel as one of their pastors. In turn, Brandon says that Groeschel treats the congregations that connect with LifeChurch via video as part of his congregation. According to Duff, Groeschel “is not some rock star preacher,” mass-producing his messages for profit. In fact, there is no cost to belong to the LifeChurch network—the messages as well as other teaching materials, including Sunday School resources—are free.

Whatever others might think, Church at The Falls has found a ministry mix that allows them to serve God and reach their community. Over the last four and a half years the church has grown from a core group of 15 to a congregation of about 150. New people are coming to Jesus and Christ-followers are growing deeper in their faith.

To read more about Church at The Falls and their desire to be missional and attractional, read the September 2011 edition of the Thinking Ahead E-Update. You can receive the monthly updates, as well as the electronic version of the printed newsletter, by signing up on our website (bottom left corner of page). ■

VMC Network News

National Church Planting Congress “re:Call”

Winnipeg, Manitoba | November 15-17, 2011

This bi-annual event has always been important to us. Whenever 500+ people gather to discuss church planting, it’s a good thing! It will provide both inspiration and “know how.” We are planning to be there with a delegation of 15-20 people. Register at www.thecongress.ca.

re:Call workshops taught by leaders in the VMC Network

  • Best Practices for First Generation Immigrant Church Planters (Gord Martin with Ming Peng Gong of Toronto China Bible Church)
  • Planting Churches Using Alpha (Shaila Visser, Granville Chapel)
  • City Church: Stories of Intercultural Church Planting (Tim Nielsen and Indy Cungcin, City Church)

TIMES ARE CHANGING!

New Ways to Connect with Vision Ministries

VMC will now be producing three printed issues of Thinking Ahead (instead of four) to be mailed out in March, May, and October. This will reduce costs for printing and mailing. But don’t worry, we plan to stay in touch!

Thinking Ahead Email Update

Monthly we will be sending out the Thinking Ahead “E-Update.” It will feature a profile about a church or leader connected to VMC and inform you about upcoming events. If you aren't already subscribed, sign up now to receive the email update (as well as the electronic version of the printed newsletter).

More Voices on our Weekly Blog

We are also expanding the VMC blog to include more voices. Hear from insightful leaders in the VMC network who are working to expand God’s kingdom. Mike Stone (ForestView), Mark Anderson (Marineview Chapel), Jay Lehman (Auburn Bible Chapel), David Ralph (Lakeside Church), and of course Gord and Jay (and others), will share lessons learned, stories from the frontline, ministry tips, and resources. Read the blog weekly at www.vision-ministries.org/news/ or subscribe to the RSS feed and get it delivered to your In box.

Note: To stop receiving the printed edition of the newsletter, send us an email (info [at] vision-ministries.org) with “TA Enews” in the subject line, and we’ll send you the email version instead. Include your full name and mailing address in the body of the email so that we remove the correct contact. You may also call us at 1-877-509-5060 or 519-725-1212.

“Make Odd Friends” and Other Wisdomish Things

Way back, I see the date was May 9, 1996, I had to write a “Who am I and why am I here?” piece for a course I was taking. I kept the piece because (imagine me looking as humble as I can), it blew the prof away!

Finding that paper today brought back pleasant memories. Having since been an instructor of that course myself, I realize that this first assignment convinced my prof (as some have convinced me) that he had a brilliant student entering his class – a good presupposition for him to have when marking some of the weaker material that followed. (Take note, kids. Knock ‘em dead on opening night. It gives you the freedom to take a breather on performance/assignment #3!)

One of the reasons I probably didn’t deserve the mark I got was that I had stolen all of my best material (I gave credit). I call this stuff “borrowed wisdom” – and it makes up the bulk of the smidge of wisdomish things I’ve learned.

A few examples of slogans that I included in my paper:

“People matter most.”

St. Bernard’s four cardinal Christian virtues: humility, humility, humility and…(wait for it) humility.

“Make odd friends.”

“Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

You may have noticed that many of the things that I thought characterized me at that point had to do with my positive orientation to having and growing relationships.

It sounds a little disingenuous to me (or maybe just egocentric), but I really do love lots of people. It happens fast, most often without obvious reason. I just want to be in relationship. I suspect I’m a quintessential extrovert; I get energy from being around other folks.

Of course this also helps get things done. Relational leadership (Alexander Strauch calls it “leading with love”), can actually help you accomplish your church’s goals. When VMC is hunting for “classic” church planters, we’re always happy to find someone who scores high on the “I”/Influence dimension of the DISC personal profile system. These people people can get things going.

And of course it’s not hard to make a biblical case for relationship being pretty well “the whole thing.” It’s right there in the reality of the Trinity. It’s elevated by Jesus when he says that “all the law and the prophets hang on” loving God and loving other people.

So, if that’s true, if that’s really true, why at this moment do I feel like I’d be satisfied to never have to deal with another church person (Margie and the kids excepted), ever again? Well, no surprise, it’s because people are self-centred and difficult. They think more about themselves than about me. Per the old adage: “Ministry would be great, if not for the people.”

I can still hear my dad (gone from this world for 22 years now), helping my wife (and me) understand that “your best friend will disappoint you.” But Dad wasn’t discouraging us. He wanted us to see that even though lives should be characterized by hope (sounds like Jack Layton might have known that), that doesn’t mean we should live with expectation. Old Dad saw hope as an act of faith—which is only really safe when it is placed in God (against all hope, Abraham in hope, had faith). Dad saw expectation as a more self-centred assumption that other people should always be working to make my life better.

In practical terms that means: Don’t try to be an extrovert, but do be more like Jesus and his early followers who cultivated relationships like crazy (read Romans 16 again—or the last bit of most of Paul’s letters). Though people can cause all kinds of pain, you can’t do church without them—you can’t really live without them. And in the end, they are actually the source of much of the joy in life.

On the other hand, relationships are a key place to learn wisdom: only iron sharpens iron. We shouldn’t expect people to add to our ease in life. Our hope is in our relationship with God, and in all the other relationships, I’m praying today with an old Spanish saint—for myself and for some of you—may the Lord actually deny you ease, and give you glory. ■

Be Unnatural, OK?

Most of us naturally gravitate toward people that are like us. We like people who think and behave the way we do. It’s always been that way.

But is what is natural necessarily good? In August, I participated in a church planting forum in Nashville where it was publicly acknowledged that the church is the one remaining institution in the U.S. that is mostly racially segregated. There are black churches, white churches, and Hispanic churches. Is that good?

In Canada, we also have a whole new generation of churches popping up as immigration changes our country. The congregations are Spanish, Chinese, Burmese, Portuguese, East African, West African, Arabic, Farsi-speaking and on and on. Are we connecting with them? Should there really be all these different kinds of churches? Or should they just blend in with “us”? How easy do you think that blending would be—for you?

People who are coming to our nation suppose that Canada is a Christian country. We may know that it’s not, but many of them are looking for contact with real Christians. It’s of great importance that new churches be formed for first-generation immigrants. People are open to the Gospel at times of great change. Those that are already believers need to be supported at this time of upheaval so that they and their families are not lost from the church during this process. They need to be able to worship in their own language and to be discipled by people who understand their culture. As well, these culturally homogenous church plants have huge concern for reaching back to the people in their home countries who are not yet Christians. But they need support from those of us who have been here longer. Notice that I say “longer”—none of us can claim to have been here forever. Our ancestors were also immigrants.

And don’t kid yourself; those of us born in Canada have lots to learn from these recent arrivals! This morning my friend Ming Peng told me that recently he was in China to speak at numerous camps and churches. One of the camps was for university students. They had two requirements for all who wanted to attend the camp. First, they had to have read the Bible from cover to cover twice. Secondly, they had to memorize one book of the Bible. The most popular books to memorize—Ephesians, Colossians and I John.

God has always had a special care for migrating people. Consider Abraham, Moses, the Ethiopian eunuch that Philip ministered to, and the nation of Israel wandering in the wilderness, and later as refugees in exile they were scattered around the world. Recall God’s instructions about relating to foreigners, including Levitcus 19:34: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

God is at work everywhere but He is doing something special with migrating peoples. Could we join him in what He is doing and be a bit unnatural? ■


Copyright © 2011 Vision Ministries Canada Inc. Articles may be copied for limited circulation without permission. Please include the author's name in addition to this line: “Reprinted from Thinking Ahead. 1-877-509-5060/www.vision-ministries.org.”

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