Each week Fellowship President, Steve Jones, encourages and challenges those within The Fellowship through his weekly emails.
We are pleased to be able to make these available online.
We trust you, too, will be encouraged and challenged by what Steve shares.
I would like to introduce you to Chris and Sara Middleton. They made a big decision recently, with the Lord’s leading, and our Fellowship International ministry affirmed this decision.
After serving at the Fellowship National Ministry Centre for over 8 years, they are on the move. Until recently, Chris’ role has been with Fellowship International, mobilizing new missionaries and helping our local churches in the area of short-term mission work. Before that, Chris and Sara served with Fellowship International as missionaries in Turkey.
Lord willing, they will be moving to Québec this summer to serve in our mission field next door. Québec is the largest under-reached people group in all the Americas. Only 0.8% of Francophone Canadians self-identify as evangelical Christian. The spiritual needs are immense. I commend the Middletons for obeying the Lord in this big decision, and joyfully recommend them to you and your church for support.
I’ll let Chris briefly explain their sense of calling to Québec and how they will be serving among our Fellowship Francophone churches:
"When Sara and I came home from Turkey in 2009 we weren't sure if God might ever lead us back out to serve cross-culturally. We knew that God had brought us home for a reason and we have enjoyed these years of training and mobilizing new missionaries for the harvest. Over the 8.5 years that we have been serving in the Fellowship International office we have wondered and prayed about the Lord's leading for the future.
“Over the last year we have felt a strong burden and desire to return to the mission field. As we prayed together with a small discernment team we really sensed the Lord's leading to Quebec. Sara and I are excited and a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of packing up our family of four and moving to Quebec to serve as catalyzers of disciple-making movements (DMMs) and field leaders for Fellowship International's newest field. We are looking forward to working in partnership with our Fellowship French Region to communicate the hope of Christ to a people group that is in great need and has little access to witnesses of the Gospel in their midst. We know that this transition will not be easy. We will need to work hard to become conversant in French, to dig in and begin to understand the Francophone Quebecois culture, and to discern how to share the good news of the Gospel in ways that will be heard and understood. We also know that we don't do this alone."
You can find further information about Chris and Sara by requesting a copy of their profile HERE. Make sure to share it with your church’s mission team!
The Middletons, like any other Fellowship International missionary, must form their personal partner support team. They already have an engaged team, however, they are in need of several other supporting churches and/or individual donors before they can leave for Québec. Would you prayerfully consider how you can support the Middletons? If interested, contact Chris HERE or the Fellowship International Associate Director, Luc Tétreault HERE.
Have a blessed week,
Author, John Kotter, probably the most respected voice in the world on organizational change, says that most change efforts fail. A major reason for this is that leaders under-communicate the vision by a factor of ten!
According to Kotter:
“Employee members will not make sacrifices, even if they are unhappy with the status quo, unless they believe that useful change is possible. Without credible communication, and a lot of it, the hearts and minds of the troops are never captured.” (Kotter, 1995)
Vision is critical to mission getting done.
Vision is a painting. I’m a water colour artist. Vision is a painting of a scene that produces passion or emotion in people. It is a preferred future that inspires, brings hope and, with God’s help, comes to being.
The Apostle John on Ownership
In John 10, we listen to Jesus tell the story of the hired-hands who cared for the sheep. When a pack of wolves came looking for a rack of lamb, guess who went running for the hills — the hired-hands. The owner knew the sheep by name and would risk his life for his lambs. Owners do whatever it takes to propel the mission and vision forward. Owners are willing to die for the mission they own.
Which begs the question – do I give assent to Jesus’ mission, applaud it, or do I own His mission?
One Day on “Bloody Sunday”
Six hundred people crossed a bridge in Louisiana marching to Montgomery, Alabama in March 1965 to tell the Governor that blacks should be able to vote. On the other side of the bridge stood hundreds of hateful, racist police officers with attack dogs, clubs, and tear gas. These people stopped, looked at the police, the teeth, the clubs, and they all did a “gut check”. Do I really own this vision, because it’s likely going to mean getting in harm’s way. Today we know this event as “Bloody Sunday”. A nation realized change was coming because some people were willing to die for a vision of a preferred future. The Civil Rights movement followed this blood bath.
Vision leaks amid weak leadership
Vision leaks. This is a fact. It’s inevitable in church and any organization. Most people get their ownership cue from their leader. They are willing to take a bullet as long as the leader is willing to take the first bullet. Most won’t settle for the “hired-hand” lowball vision that costs little. This vision is birthed by leaders asking people to own what they themselves are not willing to pay for. Most want to own something that costs dearly. Jesus is one example. Salvation cost Him glory. Imagine a divine being becoming a baby unable to neither feed Himself nor hold His own bladder. It cost Him His blood at Calvary. Our people wait for a leader with a vision that is costly. Are you a hired-hand or an owner?
Create a vision that is short and clear. Then communicate it like crazy. A leader’s responsibility is to articulate the organizations mission and vision. If a church member rambles on for a few minutes trying to state the vision, then your vision statement is too long. It must be an “elevator speech” that church members can give between floors in an elevator. Tell me your vision in 30 seconds or less. Ready? Go! If you can’t do it, work on the vision. If you can, start telling the vision in every way you can!
Have a blessed week,
Church Consultant George Bullard talks about the typical life-cycle of a church in North America. He said, “The average church that makes it seven years will have a life span of 80 years.” The actual closing of churches is more common than you might think. Our own Fellowship member churches have numbered around 500 for the past two decades. Many churches have been planted during that time, but many churches have also closed, and so our net gain is minimal. This is not ideal.
For another example, the Assemblies of God (USA), had 8,443 churches in 1965. Forty-five years later there were 12,371. But during those 45 years, they closed 8,153 existing churches and planted 12,049 resulting in a net gain of 3,928 churches. The closing of churches is very common.
George Bullard identifies ten stages in the life-cycle of a church
Needs a Mountain:
This church, as it nears “adulthood” or “maturity”, needs to climb a new mountain together. It needs some fresh vision or the church will decline over the next 3-5 years.
Needs an Intervention:
This church has lots of structure but less and less movement. Its traditions can/may choke out its life and reason (mission) for being. This church needs a Church Consultation, with an outside party to develop some prescriptions to help redirect it back on mission. If not, the church will die sooner than later.
SO WHAT IS MY POINT?!
I recognize these are sobering words. Some declare we’re called to “faithfulness” and that’s it. I certainly cannot disagree. However, this declaration only gets it half right. The Bible calls the church to “faithfulness and fruitfulness.” Lives that are won, discipled, transformed, and multiplied in others. Our church stats indicate we are experiencing only modest outcomes. What are we to do with that knowledge? I visit global fields where church planting movements stagger the imagination. But this is Canada. So we believe it cannot happen here?
We all love the church, the very bride of Christ. It is precious.
Certainly, we want to present Christ, His Bride as a healthy, vibrant expression of what He called us to be and do. Then let’s talk about it. Be honest about the “state of the union” of our churches and know that our Region and Fellowship National exist to help our local churches keep on mission.
Local Church Consultation
Our Fellowship Regions have a ministry whereby they come alongside of a Fellowship church and consult and coach. The “Church Consultation” takes place over a weekend with key leaders and members in your church. Several “prescriptions” are identified and steps are determined for the church over the next 1-3 years. This intervention has been used by the Lord to help dozens and dozens of our churches pursue missional health.
Our FEB Central and AÉBÉQ (Quebec) Regions are currently testing a new church health tool, “Congregational Vitality Pathway” (CVP), which I believe has great potential to help revitalize many of our churches. The CVP is not a program, but helps prepare a church for intentional strategic ministry planning; helping local churches to pursue the marks of a “healthy missional” church. “Health” is defined as pursuing Christ and “missional” is defined as pursuing Christ’s priorities in the world. I look forward to seeing the fruit of this church health tool.
Global – Mission Consultation
Fellowship National has a ministry that supports Fellowship churches who desire a consultation and coaching on their global mission initiatives. Similar to “Church Consultations”, a staff member(s) from our Fellowship International department comes alongside your mission and church leaders over a prescribed period of time to help re-envision “your” specific global mission plan.
Why not have an honest conversation about the health of your church and what steps you can take to improve the “mission environment” this coming year. These two consultations are available as tools to help support you in pursuing mission health.
Have a blessed week,
I once heard that vision constantly “leaks” out of churches. Our churches are full of people with real lives and they quickly forget why the church exists. We keep thinking it’s all for “me”.
Any vision that comes quickly or unanimously through committee consensus will be a vision that may be approved, but not necessarily owned. And if it ain’t owned, brother, it ain’t gonna happen.
Because vision is the first thing to “leak” in our church. A vision of church health needs to be constantly promoted in our churches.
I shared “Vision Vignettes” from time to time in the churches I pastored. They were brief challenges, stories and parables that succinctly crystalized the vision of our church. Answering, why do we exist?”
I thought I might share one of my vision vignettes as a tool for you to use, if you wish. Trust it is helpful.
VISION VIGNETTE: The Harbour
Imagine with me the church as a safe, picturesque harbour.
- Why do we visit these beautiful harbours that dot the coastline of our Atlantic and Pacific provinces?
- Why does Peggy’s Cove get a million visitors each year?
I suppose it’s because of what we expect to find.
We visit quaint harbours because:
- We’re going to meet friendly fishermen who’ll take us out fishing in their charter boats.
- We’re so impressed by their amazing tales of being on the seas.
- Our kids need to learn about our past and the heritage of the early days of Canadian history.
- We hope to stare into the beautiful blue sky and sea and feel a bit of wonder.
- And we hope to drop a few bucks into the souvenir shops and bring something home from our visit.
These, quite frankly, are similar things to which we are looking for in our church;
- We hope to meet people who are smiling and friendly and we’ll possibly go out to lunch together.
- We’re hoping to hear the great Bible stories and principles of Scripture told in “tales and yarns” that are interesting.
- We want our kids to learn of our faith within ministries especially designed for them.
- We hope to sense God’s presence and feel some wonder and awe… at least once in a while.
- And we expect to be asked to drop a few dollars in the offering plate on a regular basis.
The church and a coastal harbour.
They are a lot alike.
- But, what’s the danger of the two being so similar?
- When storms hit those quaint little harbours, these coves are churned up, and vicious waves tear up the coastline and anything else in the harbour.
- The most dangerous place for a boat during a storm is to be anchored in the harbour.
- There is a great likelihood that the boat will be damaged or completely destroyed.
- During the storm the boat needs to lift anchor and launch out to sea.
- The harbour is the last place it wants to be.
The church, as a boat in the harbour, is a wonderful, picturesque analogy.
- It’s a place to weigh anchor, get supplies, get resurfaced or plug up any holes in its hull, patch up the sails, fill up the tank, repaint or stain the chipped cracked surfaces.
- But, a boat that sits in the harbour for the whole of its life is a very sad sight.
- The harbour, in fact, robs it of its purpose for being created and built.
- No boat was ever designed to sit in a harbour, but, to go out into the open sea.
- And the next gale-force storm will prove just how dangerous it is for a boat to sit in the harbour. It may be destroyed.
We come to church because it is a safe harbour.
- We get resupplied, refurbished, resurfaced and replenished emotionally, relationally and spiritually.
- But we don’t go to a harbour to stay put.
- We visit the harbour to get resources and be prepared to go out to sea.
- Our mission is OUT there; not IN here!
- In fact if all we do is stay in harbour, our harbour may become our undoing.
- If all our Christian experience is just going to church and not actually involved in the mission out there, then dry rot will set in and the next inevitable storm will cause you to cave in spiritually.
- We were made, created and designed by God to sail the high seas.
- To be involved in the mission to spread the Good News.
- We were not designed to sit comfortably in a safe harbour, chatting on deck with our friends who are also sitting comfortably on deck in the harbour.
- Safe harbours look pretty with their beautiful boats, all docked in a row, but look beyond the boats and out-buildings and you’ll see a lot of rot.
- Seek the high seas and you’ll feel you are doing what you were created for.
God bless you as you continue to present a vision of health among our “Fellowship” here in Canada and around our world. May we all put a smile on Jesus’ face. May you experience much encouragement and fruit as you shepherd God’s flock.
Have a blessed week,
The Holy week begins culminating on Easter Sunday, “He is Risen!”, “He has risen indeed!”
A few years ago I heard Dr. Don Carson speak about the peculiar ironies surrounding the work Christ accomplished on the cross. I scribbled a few notes and sought to caption them in the following outline.
Let’s prepare ourselves for Easter by peeking at three “ironies” surrounding the cross and the impact they have on our lives:
1. The man who is mocked as a King is the King!
They stripped Jesus, put a cloak on his blood-stained body, a stick in his hand to imitate a scepter with a crown of thorns. What a mockery. But for the first three centuries of the early church, they spoke of Christ as reigning from the cross. At face value that seems an oxymoron, but it is the truth.
2. The man who is utterly powerless is all powerful.
Jesus becomes too weak to even carry his own cross-beam. But Jesus tells us, unless you pick up your cross, you’ll not know the Kingdom of Heaven. Our cross is a symbol of our self-denial and death to self. Our empowerment to live the Christian life only occurs when we die to self. We find power in death.
3. The man who cannot save Himself can save you.
Mary and Joseph named the baby Jesus; a Greek word. But the Hebrew equivalent is the name Joshua which literally means: Yahweh saves! God sent His Son to save sinners. But if He saves Himself, He cannot save others. This is another irony. One that kept Jesus nailed to the cross. Jesus cried out the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1), so that you and I would never have to cry it aloud.
Don’t let Easter pass you by this year without letting these wonderful ironies truly impact you once again.
Have a blessed week; from a fellow cross-bearer,