Leadership is a Calling

leadership is a calling

The Bible discusses the means for the church to accomplish its God-given tasks. The Bible describes these means as spiritual gifts, one of which is the gift of leadership. The spiritual gift of leadership appears in Romans 12:8 and 1 Corinthians 12:28. Leadership is an essential part of the success of churches and mission organizations.

Leadership in church or organizational development is essential. Leadership is so important that everything rises and falls with leadership in organizations. The more skillful and effective the leadership, the better the organization runs and the more the potential for growth increases. David showed us how he developed as a leader. In Psalm 78:72 David “shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” Biblical leadership involves character and competence.

What does it look like for someone who has a gift of spiritual leadership? People with spiritual gift of leadership recognize that their position is by appointment of the Lord and is under His direction.

They understand that they are not absolute rulers but are themselves subject or accountable to the One who is over them all, the Lord Jesus who is the head of the church. Recognizing that the gifted Christian leader is subject to Christ, he can be prevented from succumbing to pride or a sense of entitlement. Like the apostle Paul, truly gifted Christian leader recognizes that he is but a slave of Christ and a servant of those he leads. A gifted Christian leader also recognizes that God has called him to his position and has not called himself (1 Corinthians 1:1). His call is by the will of God.

One of the gifted leaders in the early church is James, the half brother of our Lord. He led the church in Jerusalem. He referred to himself as a “servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). As a gifted leader, James exhibited the ability to sway others to think rightly, biblically, and godly in all matters.

At the Jerusalem Council, James dealt with the controversial issue of how to relate to Gentiles coming to faith in Jesus the Messiah. “And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, ‘Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His Name’” (Acts 15:13-14). With that opening statement, James led the delegates to think clearly and biblically, enabling them to come to a right decision on this issue (Acts 15:22-29).

As shepherds of God’s people, gifted leaders lead with diligence and possess the ability to discern true spiritual needs from “felt” needs. They lead others to maturity in the faith. The Christian leader leads others to grow in their ability to discern for themselves that which comes from God versus that which is cultural or temporary. Following Paul’s example, the church leader’s words are not “wise and persuasive” from the viewpoint of human wisdom but are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, leading and encouraging others to rest their faith on that very power (1Corinthians 2:4-6). The goal of the gifted leader is to guard and guide those he leads “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

The spiritual gift of leadership is given by God to men and women who will help the church to grow and thrive. God has given the gift of leadership not to exalt men but to glorify Himself when believers use His gifts to do His will.

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond 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

Called to Be Where?
An Issue Underlying Much of our Conflict

called to be where

Sometimes, firm believers quarrel with each other. Sometimes, faithful attenders migrate to other churches. And we wonder – why do God’s people, who are called to unity, divide?

The Scriptures are full of beautiful metaphors which illustrate our collective identity as God’s people – to name a few, we’re called a family, a body, and a temple. And these images also clarify how we relate to God, as believers – we are children of One Father, servants of Christ, and a dwelling place for the Spirit (see Gal 3:26, 1 Co 12:27, Eph 2:22, plus more).

Certainly, it is essential for us to know who we are and how we relate to God – and knowing these Biblical images can build good common ground between believers. But there is a whole other issue that can trip us up and divide well-meaning believers. It’s an issue that requires another set of Biblical metaphors to clarify it: How are Christians called to relate to their surrounding culture?

Why can we be focused on worship, fellowship, and discipleship one minute, and get sidetracked by politics the next minute? Why do peripheral issues hijack our conversations? Why can sincere Christians disagree so sharply about where to send their kids to school, how to vote, or what the church’s local and global missions should look like?

I’ve become convinced that our differences really boil down to the way we answer two questions: 

  1. Is our stance toward culture optimistic or pessimistic?
  2. Is our posture toward culture active or passive?

An optimistic stance typically results in a person engaging with the culture around them, while a pessimistic stance results in their withdrawal or separation. Those with an active posture would likely seek to change their culture, while those with a passive posture look for a way to coexist.

Now, one might ask for a definition of culture, but I’ll leave that to other authors. [1]And we could talk about the Kingdom of God – what does Jesus mean when He says the kingdom is like wheat mixed with weeds? (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).

But for now, if we focus on asking these two questions, our results will produce a chart that I’ve found helpful for understanding others:

Passive (Coexist)Active (Change)
Negative (Withdrawn)SubcultureCounter-culture
Positive (Engaged)CooperationTransformation

Perhaps a chart like this can illustrate why some parents homeschool, and others become public school teachers. Or why Christians divide politically today, as the Jews did in Jesus’s day. Or why different Christians have founded monasteries, started wars, built hospitals, and translated the Bible. I’m tempted to fill in the chart with examples, [2]but I’ll respectfully leave that to the reader, and hope that it leads to some helpful conversations.

As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “there is a time for everything.” Throughout the Biblical narrative, Christian history and our daily lives, there is a time for God’s people to take refuge, and a time for prophetic confrontation. There is a time for building bridges, and a time to blaze missional trails. All of these cultural responses reflect Christian values in different times and ways.

Yet, I will admit that I do hold one quadrant to be ideal. In light of our call to be Christ’s Ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:14-21), to be “in this world but not of it,” (John 17:15-18) and to “live good lives among the pagans,” (1 Peter 2:11-12), I prayerfully hope for opportunities to be actively engaged with the culture around me. And, to end with one final metaphor, from Jesus:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14,16 ESV)

tim stewartTim Stewart
Pastor | Parkdale Evangelical Free Church

[1] I’ve personally enjoyed thoughts from Stackhouse, Making the Best of It, Fitch, Faithful Presence, and Crouch, Culture Making on this topic. [2] Which I do at

Called to be a House of…?

called to be a house of

Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Barnabas, Simeon (called “the black man”), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas), and Saul. One day as these men were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” So, after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way. So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit…(Acts 13;1-5a)

I love this Acts 13 passage. It speaks to me about complementary callings we have as Jesus’ community of followers. First, allow me to place it in context. Ike has reminded us in his blogs about our calling to mission. In Acts 1:8 Luke records Jesus’ call to the disciples to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and to the “uttermost parts of the earth.” This is a call to being a global church, a diverse house.

We are called to leave the comfort of the familiar and follow the Holy Spirit outward from our Jerusalem outward to the entire world.

This is always difficult for us. It takes a persecution after the death of Stephen to scatter the disciples out of Jerusalem – and they then share the good news in Judea and Samaria. It takes the Holy Spirit giving Peter a crazy dream (Acts 10-11) to move Peter to share the good news with Gentiles in Caesarea. By the time we read Acts 13 we see that Antioch is now an obviously multicultural church (check out the different names of the teachers and prophets!) and is a frontier city in Syria for the spreading of the gospel into Asia. In Acts 16 we see the Holy Spirit closing doors on Paul in Asia and giving him a dream inviting him to come to Macedonia to share good news in Europe (and the edges of the then known world).

So first, we are called to be a global church that is led by and steps out in obedience to the Holy Spirit. Second, we are called to be a House of Prayer/House of Worship. Notice what the prophets and teachers are doing – they are worshipping, fasting, and praying. They lay hands on Saul and Barnabas in obedience to what the Spirit commands. Saul and Barnabas humbly, obediently (and I think confidently!) submit to the calling to go out and share the gospel in Asia. Why? Because the church is so attuned to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in worship, fasting and prayer that there is no doubt in anyone’s mind what the Spirit is asking of them. These leaders are not asking the Lord to ensure their comfort or success. They are clearly asking their God what He wants them to be doing. And He answers! And they submit and obey! I suspect the Spirit spoke in a still small voice, but they were such a worshipping and praying community that they received the message loud and clear!

I was once at a dedication service where the mayor of the town brought greetings. He was not a believer, but in his greeting, he noted that when he was a kid, they used to call the church a “house of worship” or a “house of prayer.” That has stuck with me ever since. What if we were not known for what we are against, but what we are for? What if we were known as a house of worship and prayer – a diverse, global group of followers of Jesus who seek and submit to His Holy Spirit? May we be a house of worship and prayer who experience an Asbury University type of revival and follow the Holy Spirit out of our comfort zone to a diverse people who Jesus desires to join His family!

Bill Taylor
EFCC Executive Director

Obeying the Call of Jesus to Make Disciples of All Nations

obeying the call of Jesus

In October 2017, Barna released a study[1] asking a thousand church-going evangelical[2] believers, “Have you ever heard of the Great Commission?” The study’s results were shocking: 51% said they had never heard of it. And alarmingly, another 25% said they thought they had heard of it but did not know what it meant. Only 17% of the people could say they had heard of it and knew what it was about.

The command of Jesus in Matthew 28: 18-20 is to make disciples. This is normally called the Great Commission. It is interesting that if you study the life of Christ, you will discover that each of the four gospels, plus the book of Acts, has that commission recorded in unique ways. In John 20:21, Jesus said, “just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Here we have His model of the mission. If you look at Mark 15:16, Jesus commanded His disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Here we have the magnitude of that commission. In Luke 24:47, Jesus again commanded His disciples that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Here we have the message of the mission. And then, if we go to Acts 1:8, Jesus said – “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth,” here we have the means of the Great Commission.

But in Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus is showing us the method of the Great Commission, the most precise approach of Jesus and how He made disciples.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The central command in this text is to Make Disciples. If you ask pastors and Church leaders what the command in Matthew 28 is, almost half will say that the imperative is to go to evangelize and count decisions for Christ. But in Greek, the command is not to go but to make disciples who make disciples.

But how should we make disciples? The three participles are to go, literally, as you go – as you go to work, as you go to school, etc., it’s an everyday commission for every believer of Christ in every moment of their life. And then He said to baptize. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Baptism is an external expression of a new internal belief system. Go is to win the lost; baptize is to root and establish these believers in their newfound faith like Jesus did with His early disciples. In baptism, new believers identify with the work of Christ and the mission of Christ. And lastly, teach them to obey all that Jesus has commanded them.

In the life of Christ, there are 405 commands. 260 plus of them is disciple-making commands.

Teaching them to obey means equipping them in every area of their life to walk as Jesus walked.

So, the commission is clear: to make disciples. How? By going, baptizing and teaching to obey. Jesus commanded the Church, then and now, to make disciples. The Church is God’s instrument in fulfilling the task of discipling the nations. There’s no plan B.

While the churches in Asia, Africa and Latin America are rapidly multiplying, the Church in Canada is in decline. The latest survey by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada[3] indicates that in 1996 Canada was 12 percent evangelical Christian. In 2015, Canada was 9 percent evangelical Christian. Today, the number of evangelicals in Canada dropped even further to 6 percent.

Worldwide, missiologists and mission researchers estimate that one-third of the world’s population, which represents 2.6 billion, are still unreached because the Church in the reached areas is not sending missionaries to them. The significant imbalance of missions is that most missionaries go to and are sent to reached areas of the world – regions where the Church already exists, and the name of Jesus is known. On the flip side, there are very few missionaries working among the remaining unreached people groups who have yet to hear the name of Jesus.

Are you making disciples who make disciples as Christ commanded? Are our churches and denominations making disciples in Canada and beyond? Jesus is calling the Church to obey what He commanded us to do – to make disciples who make disciples. May we be obedient to His call to disciple all the nations of the earth, beginning in our Jerusalem.

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

[1] Barna, Translating the Great Commission Survey 2018 [2] Evangelicals are believers in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and take the Bible seriously, not a political and religious identity. [3] Faith Today,

A Worshipping People

a worshipping people

“Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven! Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness! Let everything that breathes sing praise to the Lord!” (Psalm 150)

Genesis 1 can be read as a description of God dedicating all of creation as his temple. Is God trying to tell us that he designed all of creation to bring about his worship? It would appear so. The writers of the Psalms pick this up often. John’s throne room vision in Revelation agrees:

And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever.” (Rev. 5:13)

Humans were created to be worshippers. But we have strayed so far:

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshipping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshipped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Romans 1:20-22)

Do we still have idols? We do! Lots of them! Tim Keller says an idol is a “good thing we turn into an ultimate thing”. In other words, “anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God”. I believe Keller is right. Those idols are everywhere. Sometimes we even acknowledge idol worship like Hozier did in the 2013 Grammy nominated hit, “Take Me To Church” (not a Christian song):

My lover’s got humor, She’s the giggle at a funeral, Knows everybody’s disapproval,

I should’ve worshiped her sooner, If the Heavens ever did speak, She’s the last true mouthpiece
Every Sunday’s getting more bleak, A fresh poison each week, “We were born sick”, you heard them say  My church offers no absolutes, She tells me, “Worship in the bedroom”
The only Heaven I’ll be sent to is when I’m alone with you…
Take me to church, I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death, Good God, let me give you my life.

We’ve been talking about the calling of the church this blog season. 1 Peter reminds us that we, the church, are a called-out people who are to display the goodness of God (2:9). Later in his letter, Peter says:

You must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Peter is clearly calling us, the church, to renounce our idols and worship the one true God who brings a hope the idols of the land cannot. Simple, right? Is it though?

I suspect our desires and imaginations have become shrunken and hollow due to our lack of attention, and the appeal of the gods of the land. It takes time to reorient ourselves as worshippers. How can we spur one another on in worship? How can we help each other see God’s truth, goodness, and beauty in stark contrast to the idols? Togetherness is key here. Alone we easily can become inattentive and unaware of God and may replace him with a weak temporary substitute. What if we, with a group of our peers, read one of those big bold revelations of God in Scripture each day? Could that subvert the lure of the idols? Here are a few that always refocus my attention:

  • The last few chapters of Job (38-39) – where God asks all his questions
  • Psalm 8, Psalm 19, Psalm 139
  • Isaiah 6, Isaiah 40
  • Ezekiel 1
  • John 1:1-18
  • 1 Corinthians 15
  • Revelation 1, Revelation 4-5, Revelation 21-22

Let’s help each other see a big, bold, wonderful, True, Good, and Beautiful God together!

“Oh Lord, you’re beautiful, Your face is all I seek! And when your eyes are on this child, Your grace abounds to me.” – Keith Green

Neil Bassingthwaighte
ServeCanada Director & Interim Prayer Catalyst

The Call of the Church Today – “On-site” or “Online”?

onsite or online

The last three years have seen most churches push into digital and online ministry sooner than they would have expected. As you well know, for a time it was the only option really available to us for some of our ministries. At the time, some suggested that the crisis only hastened the inevitable move from physical to digital ministry. But, I would suggest – and I expect most of you would agree – that a church cannot really fulfill the full calling of God without a physical presence and ministry. Bill talked last week about the community of faith, and I want to push deeper into that by suggesting the need for churches to intentionally create cultures of warm and welcoming presence in our churches as a key part of that community of faith. While there is much that can be done and accomplished digitally, for the vast majority of our communities their fullest expression requires incarnation – a physical presence and experience.

We are now in a time when most churches are evaluating how best to move forward into this new chapter of ministry. Leaders are wrestling with what ministries to re-activate. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have been saying that we need to assess our ministries through the filters of vision and mission. Tradition, historical practises and programs, and especially “loud voices” should not be the sole driving factor in how we do ministry. We are in a new chapter with new opportunities as well as new challenges and limitations – all to be assessed and engaged from a perspective of vision.

In addition to prioritizing ministries that best fit vision, leaders have to steward limited resources (financial, people, facilities, etc), even as they sort out who is actually a part of their church family. Into this discussion we add the question of the place for online ministry with its opportunities, expectations, and limitations.

Let me suggest that church leaders address this last question by first spending time reflecting on the essential role of the personal, physically gathered, ministry of the church. A part of the strength and calling of the church is found in the personal interaction, engagement, and shared experience for the family of God. Additionally, a safe, engaging, personal community is something many people are missing, and looking for. More than ever, the full experience of the Church family has something the world needs.

I am not suggesting that you do not leverage online ministries. Online ministries provide us some great opportunities. While we should use “online” for it does best, we must also embrace “in person activities” for what they do best. Online can deliver information and content really well. It can help people get a picture of your church to inform their decision on whether or not to visit. It can even offer a measure of the relational component of the church – but not all of it.

People are unlikely to feel the warmth of your fellowship online.

So, friends, do not miss the opportunities afforded by online and digital technology. Keep pushing and asking what it can help you with. But be sure to intentionally consider what it does not do as well as “in person” engagement, and give appropriate attention, resources, and priority to those activities – especially the building of community through relationship. Work hard to make your church a warm welcoming environment. Start by modelling that as leaders. It can be hard work; it is easier to just focus on those we are already comfortable with. But our calling is so much bigger than that.

All churches, whether large or small, need to intentionally work hard to make people feel welcome. Most of the churches I talk to are seeing new people come – what a great opportunity that is. Let us not miss the calling to be warm welcoming communities, it is an essential part of our calling. Bill’s word to us is appropriate, and it is up to us to make that community of faith welcoming to all people. We must not miss this unique moment of opportunity. For that, you will need a strong “on-site” culture of warmth and welcome, for which “on-line” is a partner, but never a substitute.

Terry Kaufman
EFCC Leadership Catalyst

To be a Community of Faith

a community of faith


“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)

“All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.” (Acts 4:32-35)

Above are two classic passages that describe the culture of the early church. It is dangerous to assume that this is the model for what the church should look like, in all locations and cultures, and in all times. However, I think it is fair to say that the core values represented in these passages are overwhelmingly reiterated in the rest of the New Testament. So, while the local church may be organized differently over time (and in differing cultures), these core values are key components to the biblical calling of the church.

I would like to argue that the overarching thing the church is called to is to be a community of faith. Neil argued this a few blog posts back. Ike highlighted in the last blog that we are a community on mission. And three blog posts back Terry reminded us that the church is called to feed the sheep – and sheep do not do well wandering around as individuals. They only survive in a flock: a community, cared for by a shepherd. There are numerous New Testament metaphors for this community. We are God’s holy temple (I Corinthians 3), Jesus’ body (I Corinthians 12), a holy nation, royal priesthood (I Peter 2) and so much more. All the metaphors point towards a community of faith. The passages in Acts reflect a generous, loving community of mutual submission – where my “stuff” belongs to God – and His community of faith.

We are called to live out the “one-anothers” in this community. We are not individuals saved for heaven. We are saved for community and a redemptive mission.

The church is not just called to be any type of community. It is Jesus’ community of faith. The early church met for the apostles’ teaching about Jesus the Messiah. They shared meals and their lives with each other. They “gloried”, especially in their (new) equal status as they celebrated the Lord’s Supper as a family meal. They prayed – seeking the Lord to move redemptively among them and those they loved and met. I love that the apostles “testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus!” This is that mission component Ike was talking about. Yes, we are people of the cross – but we are even more, people of the empty tomb. So often I hear us talk about the cross and how Jesus saved me, a sinful individual. And then? Complete silence on the resurrection. This sin management gospel is half right – but fully wrong! It is perfectly fitted for our individualistic, “Jesus and me, and now I have my ticket to heaven” culture. Yet in I Corinthians 15 Paul reminds us that we are people of the cross and the resurrection. Without the resurrection we are still dead in our sins. The resurrection raises us to new life in the here and now. The resurrection places us into the community of faith (by His Holy Spirit)! As His people we have the privilege in joining the apostles in testifying to the reality of the resurrection in word and by living in resurrection community.

May we answer His calling to be His generous, loving, community of faith!

Bill Taylor
EFCC Executive Director

Called to be On Mission with God

called to be on mission w God

What is the Biblical calling of the Church? Depending on their giftings and agenda, this question has different answers to diverse Christians and leaders. But throughout history, the calling of the Church has been defined and shaped too often by its cultural context.

To answer this question biblically, we need to look at the biblical story. As we examine the Scripture closely, the biblical calling of the Church is to be on mission with God. Being on mission with God is the very essence and identity of the Church as it takes up its role in God’s story in the context of its culture and participates in God’s mission to the world.

In the biblical story, beginning in the Old Testament, there is an expectation that God’s people be involved in His mission to the world. The account begins with Abraham’s call (v. 3 – And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed) in Genesis 12 and continues in Exodus 19:3-6, showing that God calls his people to live in holiness and be a blessing to all nations and creation.

And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “This is what you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” (Exodus 19:3-6)

God also made it clear that the calling of the nation of Israel, God’s people in the Old Testament, is to be a light of the nations. Isaiah 49:6 says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the protected ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

While Israel’s history shows God working in their context to enable them to be on mission with Him, each stage in Israel’s story produced failure. By the time of Jesus, the Jews basically hated the Gentiles, seeking separation from them rather than being a light to them.

In the New Testament, from the Gospel accounts, Jesus’ ministry was a call to Israel to renew its role to bring salvation to the nations. Yet they still failed Him. The death and resurrection of Jesus are the means by which the community of believers, which becomes the Church, is empowered to be on mission with God and live a distinctive life that leads to not just individual salvation but to the creation of transformed communities of disciples in all places.

The Church in Acts is the continuation of the ministry of Jesus through the Holy Spirit as a witness of God’s work in Jesus to the whole world. The calling of the Church to be on mission with God is found in Luke 24, Matthew 28, Acts 1:8 and other “Great Commission” passages. In the Epistles, the writings of the Apostle Paul reflect the missional nature of the calling of God’s people. As the people of God in the New Testament, Paul linked the Church to the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit as God’s way to share the message of salvation through Jesus.

The Church is to live holy lives to attract and be missionary people to carry the message to others.

Peter reiterated the calling of the people of God in 1 Peter 2:9, But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (cf. Exodus 19:5-6)

The biblical calling of the Church is to participate in the mission of God. This is our identity and the very essence of the Church. Let’s reclaim and obey our biblical calling for the glory of God.

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

To Bee or not to Bee

to bee or not to bee

My wife and I are commonly known as “the Bees.” This moniker is not due to our honey-sweet disposition, or any stinging rhetoric we may employ. Rather it is a simplified rendering of an incredibly long last name. We are rarely called “the Bassingthwaightes,” for obvious reasons. However, being known as “the Bees” has led to our house being filled with bumble bee ornaments, tea towels, wall hangings, etc. Anyone walking into our home gets the connection – we are “the Bees”.

In this season of this blog, we are talking about the calling of the church. In this post I want to briefly remind us of our identity. To live out our calling we must know who we are, or maybe more aptly, whose we are. In 1 Peter 2 we read these words:

“…you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” (vv:9-10 NLT)

While much could be said about these verses, suffice it to say, they are a much-needed reminder that we are God’s people, designed to demonstrate his goodness. That is our identity. We are not first and foremost Canadians. We are not defined primarily by our jobs. Our earthly family of origin, as important as it is, doesn’t prescribe who we are as children of God. As people who have died to self and now live out the life of Jesus, while earthly realities remain; they are redefined within the framework of new creation.

We are God’s people. United together as one. A new family. Showing mercy to one another. Living out God’s good design for human life and flourishing. We are living images of Christ.

You will notice I have used similar language to Peter. I’m describing a reality that isn’t fully realized yet. When God rolls up saying “Bring out your dead,” my old self could say, “I’m not dead yet.” I need help.

Most of us, as good North American individualists think this is an individual problem with an individual solution – God’s Spirit at work in my (singular) life. This is necessary! But it also misses Peter’s point. Just like “The Bees” aren’t an individual, Peter is talking about our identity together – with one another. What if we took Peter’s cue and deepened the mercy sharing? Isn’t that practicing the “one anothers” of the New Testament? What if our “bumble bee paraphernalia” on display was mercy so over the top, that no one could miss the connection? Isn’t that who we are to be?

Neil Bassingthwaighte
ServeCanada Director & Interim Prayer Catalyst

The Biblical Calling of the Church Today – One Picture!

one picture

In all of the most important ways, the calling of the church today is unchanged from her calling over the centuries. Peter was given a concise summary of that calling by Jesus when He said “…feed my sheep” (John 21:17). Of course, the Bible unpacks that calling much further as it talks about the work of the church. A more detailed description of that calling includes the call to provide strength, inspiration, and equipping to accomplish the great commission, to do works of service, and grow in Christlikeness (see Eph 4). Of course, “feeding his sheep” is only one metaphor of the work of the church, but it is an important one – rich in lessons. I had cause to think about this recently after I heard a friend speak into this issue, leading to a few considerations I want to share with you. So, in the form of questions, here goes:

  1. Is the church today feeding the sheep appropriately? This question has several implications:
    1. Are we feeding the people of the church the right stuff? By this I mean are we feeding “real food” or “junk food?”  Too many churches offer light, fluffy, sweet diet, or overly processed, pressed down, and refined offerings.  Are we offering what is tasty, or what is nourishing?
    2. Secondly, are we offering a well-rounded diet, or just too much of “one selection”? My wife makes sure that I get fibre, carbs, proteins, greens, and more, in my diet – all hopefully in appropriate amounts of each.  Are our churches feeding people appropriate amounts of encouragement, hope, peace, challenge, exhortation, calls to purity, righteousness, conviction, etc.?
  2. Additionally, I wonder if we are underfeeding, or overfeeding, the people of our churches? And connected to that, are we challenging our people to “get out and move.”  Physically, we need to eat the right amount and exercise too!  I have seen too many Christians whose faith and spirituality looks more overweight, lazy, complacent, and inactive than active and involved.  One of my doctors told me that sugar is a fuel, and our bodies can only do two things with it – burn it or store it.  And while we need to store a little, the majority of our “fuel” should be burned.  Are we helping our churches burn (use) what we are feeding them?
  3. Who chooses what we feed our churches? Are we offering what is most appealing to people, or what they need?  True shepherds feed sheep what they need, not just what they want.
  4. Are we creating environments of hunger for good spiritual nourishment? Or, more accurately, what are we doing to create just such environments? Are we nurturing hunger for good spiritual nourishment.
  5. Finally, I ask, are we teaching people to nourish and feed themselves as well? Are we equipping them to properly handle the Word of God to provide healthy spiritual growth, challenge, and encouragement?  A measure of healthy independence is important in feeding our flock.

This biblical calling for the church to feed HIS sheep is as important today as ever.

In fact, our challenge in doing so may be greater than ever because there are many pedlars out there offering people diets that replace the healthy diet the church has been entrusted with.  And, unfortunately, there are too many churches who compromise their own spiritual kitchens and do not spend the time or effort (or courage) to provide the healthy robust diet of God’s Word and its call on our lives, but rather opt for some fast food equivalent.

“Feed my sheep.”  What will our great Shepherd say about the job we are doing as churches in feeding His sheep?  We are accountable to him for doing that well.  And today, more than ever, we need to caste a vision that creates a hunger in people for that robust diet, even as we provide them with as much of it as we can.

Terry Kaufman
EFCC Leadership Catalyst

The Biblical Calling of the Church Today

biblical calling of the church today

Happy New Year friends! I trust you had a great Christmas break. At the start of a new year, we launch a new blog theme: the biblical calling of the church today. Since I am first to address the new theme, I am going to cheat – I am going to emphasize what the church is not called to. I will let my esteemed colleagues take the first shot at the positive side of this question.

I was reading Matthew 10 and was struck anew at Jesus’ call to the disciples. He sends them out to “go and announce…that the Kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!” That’s quite a call! It is a call to generous sharing – of God and all He has given us by His Spirit to this world. This sounds very romantic. However, Jesus reveals that His people will not always be accepted by this world. They will be rejected, flogged, stand trial, and betrayed by brothers and parents. In effect Jesus says, “I am the master of this household and they called me the prince of demons…the members of my household will be called by even worse names!” (10:25).

The call on the church includes a call on each of us to not be afraid of those who want to kill our body but cannot touch our soul (Matthew 10:28).

It is a call to acknowledge Jesus before this world (10:33). It is a call to take up our cross and follow Jesus, even when that costs us friends and family (10:35-39). Jesus makes it clear that He is not calling His people to popularity, political power, or even good old fashioned “family values.” This is a good reminder to a North American church that feels it is losing its good standing and influence. Many Canadian Christians long for the “good old days when the church was viewed positively – a beneficial institution that created good citizens. In that old world we enjoyed popularity, privilege, political power and moral hegemony. It is too easy for us to assume that our good standing in the old world is the plan of God. Many who believe this want the church to work politically to reclaim that power and privilege or to save “the family.” But the call of God has always been to pick our cross and follow Him. Jesus seems to call us to something bigger than the nuclear family. He calls His church to be a family of faith that welcomes prophets and offers a cold cup of water to the least of His followers.

We all understand how much the culture in Canada has changed. I will be sending you an extended book review on Bruce Clemenger’s book “The New Orthodoxy” very soon. He outlines how the political and moral landscape in Canada has shifted over the 30 years he has worked in Ottawa with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. What we are not called to is fear. And the church is also not called to forcibly try to recapture the popularity, privilege, political power and moral control that we once had. Our call of announcing the Kingdom is not as difficult yet as it was for the early church. But it may get more difficult for us than it has been. May we avoid reacting in fear and looking to political saviors to restore the old good standing in society that was so comfortable for us.

Bill Taylor
EFCC Executive Director