Significant Church Report Intro

significant church report

Greetings Friends!

When I was invited in 2019 by Ron Johnson to join evangelical leaders to discuss what a study on small churches could look like, I jumped at the opportunity. I was excited when Rick Hiemstra and Lindsay Callahan from Evangelical Fellowship of Canada committed to leading this study. It has been a privilege for the EFCC to financially support the study and to have the chance to serve on the steering committee as we determined the questions, the participants and scope of the study.

I am so happy this is called “Significant Churches.” Too often we can assume that only big things are significant. Yet we know that our God loves to use us “no account” people to confound the wisdom and strength of this world (I Corinthians 1:18-31). There is no place for boasting in God’s Kingdom and His gospel works powerfully in our weakness. I commend this report to you. If you are a “small church” pastor I trust you are encouraged as you see the foibles and realities of your ministry represented here. If you are a large church pastor, I trust you will appreciate and remember to encourage your colleagues who minister in small churches.

Too often we can assume that only big things are significant.

The report will reaffirm what you may already know, but also surprise you at times. I was saddened to hear that many in small churches feel that their denomination doesn’t value them. I wasn’t surprised to read that seminaries don’t always train us for the realities we will face in small churches – things like “unwritten church covenants”, and the realities of shepherding beyond the pulpit and in very mundane ways. I was also sad to read how women pastors feel snubbed and unwelcomed by their male colleagues.

The EFCC has many smaller churches that are vibrant, loving communities of faith that are engaged in mission locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. These small churches are sometimes rural, sometimes urban, sometimes suburban. They are always significant. I’m sorry we don’t say it enough but “we love you, we are cheering for you, and we value you and your ministry!”  You are a critical part of our EFCC family! We invested in this study on your behalf – please be encouraged as you read it!

Serving with you,

Bill Taylor
EFCC Executive Director

May They All be One (John 17:21)

called to be one

Let them all pass all their dirty remarks (one love)
There is one question I’d really love to ask (one heart)
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner
Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own?

Let’s get together to fight this Holy Armageddon (one love)
So when the Man comes there will be no, no doom (one song)
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
There ain’t no hiding place from the Father of Creation 

One love (what about the one heart?), One heart (what about the?)
Let’s get together and feel all right
I’m pleading to mankind (one love), Oh Lord! (one heart)
Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
Let’s get together and feel all right

One Love/People Get Ready – Bob Marley/Curtis Mayfield

For many years, the secular poets and prophets have hinted, sometimes not subtly, at the call to unity. Although they were calling our broader world together, it is the church’s calling as well.

As a youngster, I remember the first time I recited the Apostle’s Creed. It was surprising. Recital of creeds is not commonplace among evangelicals. Maybe that’s why it made an impression. I also remember stumbling over “the holy catholic church” line. I knew I wasn’t a Roman Catholic, so what was that about? I was also brought up very conservative (shocking to some of you I am sure), so I had heard all the warnings against those terrible “ecumenicals”. They were well on their way down the slippery slope, and we didn’t want to go sliding into hell with them. Clearly, I hadn’t been taught about small “c” catholic.

Jesus’ prayer for the unity of his followers in John 17 should rock us to our core. I’m realistic enough to know why we have different tribes. I also deeply value my EFCC tribe. Yet, we should probably read Jesus’ prayer and wonder if somehow, we have missed something. Scripture piles on with a passage like the front end of Ephesians 4 where Paul reminds us to be patient and make allowances, and to make every effort to keep yourselves together in the unity of the Spirit. Or a passage like 1 John 4 where John reminds us that if we say we love God but not our brother or sister we are liars.

Wow. That hurts! At least it does if we hold those passages up as mirrors in which to view ourselves.

Has our need to be right hurt our ability to be together?

I’m not against being right, but since we all see through the glass dimly, I suspect we have an elevated view of how much we have right. After all, good Bible believing Christians can hold almost diametrically opposed views, having formed those views through the study of the word, and claim they are right. So, which view is right? And is being right really the most important thing? Or is love for one another more important?

We think uniformity brings unity. After all, “Cloneliness is next to godliness, right?” (It’s a great day whenever you get to quote Steve Taylor). But the fact that Jesus had to pray for unity, meant there would be difference. Uniformity would mean Jesus prayed unnecessary words. Our diversity is remarkably beautiful if we can appreciate it. Yet it makes unity a challenge.

I suspect our fractured world needs to see a beautiful mosaic of diverse unity more now than ever before. Could it be our greatest apologetic? Jesus seemed to think so: “Everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

What if, in our desire to be right, we got this one thing down – we grow into a radically loving diverse community of faith? Isn’t that who we are called to be? I know that is messy. I know that requires supernatural love. I know that adhering to a list of dos and don’ts that makes us all look alike is simpler.

But Jesus wasn’t calling us into simple. He called us into a new life, lived out through the power of the Holy Spirit.

As people in the EFCC, I think we have a unique opportunity to model what this looks like for other believers. Our ethos is built around this motto, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials charity, in all things Jesus Christ.” If we lived this motto well, we would embody Jesus’ unity prayer. May we truly do so.

Neil Bassingthwaighte
ServeCanada Director & Interim Prayer Catalyst

The Methodology of Mission – Making Disciples

the methodology of mission

Our Lord Jesus tells His disciples what the specific task of mission is to be:

19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to follow all that I commanded you, and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

This is the focal point of the Great Commission. The highest priority of Jesus’ mission is evangelism. Jesus tells what specific outcome evangelism is to have – making disciples. What that means and how it is to be done is clarified by Jesus.

An examination of Matthew 28:19-20 shows that this Scripture text consists of four verbs. It consists of an imperative tied to three accompanying participles. The central imperative or command is not the first verb to “go” but “make disciples.” The centerpiece of Jesus’ command is the making of disciples.

How is disciple-making to be done?

Jesus tells His disciples that making other disciples is a three-step process: first, by going to those who had no exposure to the gospel; second, by calling them into a relationship with Jesus that culminates in baptism; and third, by teaching them to observe Jesus’ commands.

All three activities – going, baptizing, and teaching – are necessary components of transformational or real-life discipleship. When done correctly, lives are genuinely changed. This is the ultimate objective of disciple-making – the transformation of lives.

However, the greatest omission of the Great Commission worldwide is the lack of changed lives. All too often, decisions and proselytes are made instead of disciples.

When this happens, churches are filled with bodies that exhibit little evidence of changed beliefs and behaviors. This results in spiritually apathetic “believers” who deteriorate into nominal Christians. And nominal Christians, although wearing the tag “Christian,” are not Christ-followers at all. They are superficial followers of Christ in need of conversion experience.

It is incumbent on every disciple of Christ to reproduce themselves and to engage in the process of making disciples that have the transformation of lives as the final goal. Only then are people genuinely disciples of Christ. Only then is the intended outcome of the Great Commission achieved among all nations.

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director