This week we celebrate Valentine’s Day! I thought I would send you all a ”love letter” ...my epistle to the churches of the Fellowship Baptists in Canada. This is an abbreviated version of my President’s address at our recent FNC 2023. Please take the time to read it (about 15 minutes) and pass it on to other Fellowship Baptist friends. Happy Valentine’s Day!
“Here We Stand”
Wednesday, November 8, 2023
President Steven Jones address
Last evening we spent some time investigating the early values of our Association of Churches.
- The early DNA that has shaped and molded our association, partnership, and collaboration together these past seven decades.
- I identified four values and sought to associate them to David Bebbington’s Quadrilateral which was an attempt to define what evangelicalism actually is.
- Our DNA as evangelical Fellowship Baptists is:
- We are people of the Book
- We value independence
- We are committed to planting churches in Canada
- We send missionaries to plant churches globally
- You can read all about these inherent values in a book, our book, the second edition of “A Glorious Fellowship of Churches” which you received FREE as a delegate at this FNC2023.
- Over 500 pages of our storied history from 1953-2023.
Our theme for FNC2023 has been: “Here We Stand”.
- Let me ask once again; what do you think of when you hear this short statement: “Here We Stand”?
- A rallying call to fill in the gap? A last stand before being slaughtered? A bold claim to be an immovable force?
- “Here We Stand” is a cryptic message declared many years ago, but it is a reminder to stand our ground, a call to action, and a declaration to remain vigilant even in the face of fire!
- “Here We Stand!” is a reminder of a time past – what we stood for and what we continue to stand for as an Association of Churches.
- But it is also a cryptic prophetic call to remain vigilant, to muster our courage, remain resilient, and maintain our course as we enter uncharted territory into the next decade.
- Once again let’s look at our common values, BUT view them in an ever-evolving fresh and new culture as churches.
- A culture we need to consider developing as Fellowship Baptists.
- This is my prophetic call, the sharing of my pastoral concerns for your prayerful consideration:
My First Call to Action:
- Fellowship Baptists are People of PRAYER and the Book.
- Biblicism is not enough.
- Our churches are orthodox, but too many are powerless.
- The Church in North America suffers from prayerlessness.
- “The United Prayer Track of the AD 2000 Prayer Movement” was created, envisioned, resourced, led, and financed by evangelical leaders in the United States.
- In October 1993 they called on intercessors worldwide to pray for the 10/40 Window. They hoped for a million intercessors and 22.5 million signed up to pray for a month.
- Two years later in October 1995 they called on intercessors to pray and 37.7 million signed up.
- Two years later in October 1997 and again in October 1999, the call went out and over 50 million intercessors joined together to pray for the 10/40 Window.
- Although the Prayer Movement was created and resourced by leaders in the States – these leaders noted the vast majority of committed intercessors were from nations around the world – very few from the States, North America.
- Move 25 years forward and if today is a typical day: 30,000 people came to Christ in China, 20,000 came to Christ in sub-Saharan Africa, and 10,000 came to Christ in South America.
- How many came to Christ today in Canada?
- The Church in Western democracies have seen plunging declines these past 25 years Why? One word: PRAYER.
- Prayer is the engine – the fuel that will empower a movement of God among our churches and across our nation.
- As leaders we must be teaching God’s Word, but equally important is a renewed emphasis to teach, equip, train, coach, and model what it means to be a praying disciple.
- Last year I called you to join with your Québec brothers and sisters to pause at 10:02am each day and pray for workers to come to Québec to serve.
- Evoking the message of Luke 10:2: “... the workers are few. Ask the Lord... to send out workers into the harvest...”
- Please consider expanding this call to prayer to include your city, your Region, too, and our country.
- At 10:02am each morning we stop and pray – calling on the Spirit of God to fill our churches with empowered disciples who are transforming our churches, cities, and country.
- One last appeal for pastors:
- Pastor, please consider bringing back the ol’ Pastoral Prayer in your morning worship service. We’re good at emphasizing private prayer and small group prayer, but corporate prayer is far less emphasized these days.
- It’s not that no praying happens in our worship services, but they’re generally short, often ”feel good” prayers between praise packages – let’s be honest, prayer doesn’t get equal time with our preaching and praise singing.
- What about those bold, robust, declaring into the spirit realms kind of prayers?
- 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NIV) states: ”... the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds... arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God...”
- Pastor, disciple your people on how and what to be praying for by standing each Sunday and praying boldly and humbly before them.
- Not weak, emaciated, effeminate prayers about Aunt Martha’s bunions getting better, but praying against the darkness in your city.
- We need to possibly consider getting a little ”imprecatory” in our praying.
- Pastor, your weekly Pastoral Prayer is discipling, training, and coaching your people in how they should be praying against evil strongholds and lies in your city.
- Praying against woke ideology in our schools, businesses that promote destructive behaviour; praying against the idols prevalent in believers’ lives, against the lies masquerading as truth and fueling the mental health epidemic among our young adults.
- Our people need to see their pastor praying – involved in serious, ongoing, warfare praying.
- I struggle to envision any hope-filled future for our churches and our country IF we don’t get more serious about prayer as churches!
- Fellowship Baptist are people of PRAYER and the Book.
A Second Call to Action:
- Fellowship Baptists value Interdependence and Collaboration
- I mentioned we have valued independence and self-governance for the past 70 years.
- I’m not suggesting tonight that we jettison the whole ”autonomy of the local church” thing. That is an important part of our history and it will remain so because it is Biblical.
- Each of our churches have a God-given responsibility to govern themselves while staying on mission.
- But my pastoral concern is that this value has been, at times, to the detriment of our mission effectiveness.
- Our independence was supposed to make us individually responsible as churches to get the mission done the way God was directing us as a church – but too often it has caused us to be impervious to the calls of support and help from others when our mission effectiveness has stalled or all but disappeared.
- There is a propensity for independence to morph into a subtle case of spiritual pride and arrogance.
- Just as strong a call to autonomy in the Bible is a narrative directing us to interdependence and collaboration.
- This past decade I’ve witnessed great improvement in this area as our Regions have made strident efforts to draw our churches closer together to pursue together church health, church planting, and church leadership development.
- We are Stronger Together.
- So, what might our future look like?
- For two years our Regional Directors, myself, and a growing number of Regional and National staff have been dialoguing on what interdependence might look like among our Association of autonomous Fellowship Baptist churches.
- We have by no means landed, but our leaders are envisioning a more collaborative, more partnership-oriented, and more interdependent spirit among our churches.
- The premise is that as a movement, we believe in the church. The local church is the answer, the delivery tool to bring glory to God and transformation to our communities.
- Let’s leverage the Church to more effectively accomplish its mission.
- Churches supporting churches in a brand-new way to help foster church health, plant more churches and develop boat-loads of new leaders.
- A service model more akin to an Amazon platform rather than a Walmart box-store.
- The Regional office would act as a ”platform” to network and partner churches together and allow them to help and support one another in shared areas of strength and weakness.
- Regional staff don’t necessarily supply the expertise, but instead they develop networks while curating the best resources available to help our local churches become all that God wants them to be.
- This is a vastly different culture: Church boards would need to allow their pastoral staff to tithe some of their time to help sister churches become more effective.
- Pastors would need to commit to partnering with other sister Fellowship churches to help them in their areas of weakness.
- I’m hoping our re-commitment to interdependence will fuel greater mission effectiveness in the years to come.
A Third Call to Action:
- Fellowship Baptists have a plan to plant Churches (in Canada).
- I mentioned we valued commitment to church planting.
- Our commitment has resulted in hundreds of churches being planted across Canada over seven decades.
- Studies continue to support the reality that one of the best ways to win people to Christ is to plant churches.
- We are committed to church planting because we’re committed to winning spiritually lost people to Christ.
- But having a commitment and having a plan are two very different things.
- I may be committed to the idea of losing 25 pounds, but if I don't agree to a specific plan, it’s probably never going to happen.
- My prophetic call to our pastors and churches is to develop a plan.
- Every Fellowship Baptist church have a plan to be involved in the planting of a church either directly or indirectly.
- “Directly” in the sense that your church is planting a daughter church.
- “Indirectly” in that your church is supporting the planting of a new church through your Association or your Region.
- In my first President’s address in November 2011, you may recall I declared, "The coffee break is over!" – We needed to become a “church planting machine”.
- With the support of our Regions, our churches have planted 127 churches since 2010.
- So many wonderful stories of churches who caught the bug and experienced the joy, struggles, victories, and disappointments of church planting.
- However, this commitment is not universally true in all of our Fellowship churches.
- My call to action is to move from a commitment to church planting, to every Fellowship church having a plan for church planting.
- Start by talking to your Regional Church Planting Director – Mike Mawhorter (Fellowship Pacific), Mark Breitkreuz (Fellowship Prairies), Bechara Karkafi (FEB Central), Steve Cloutier (AEBEQ), and Brad Somers (Fellowship Atlantic) would love to talk to you.
- You may not be in a position to daughter a church at this point in your church’s history, but all of us can support church planting indirectly.
- Consider a partnership whereby your church supports and finances a church planting project in your Region, in Québec, or among some Arabic-speaking peoples.
- Start by making a church planting line item in your church’s missions budget in 2024.
Our Last call to action:
- Fellowship Baptists are partnering to plant DMC (Disciple-Making Churches) globally.
- I mentioned we have been sending missionaries to plant churches globally for decades.
- And while our Fellowship International department remains committed to serving our local churches in sending their cross-cultural workers to establish churches ....
- In the past few years our Fellowship International department has shifted the emphasis on establishing ”Disciple-Making Churches” or DMCs.
- The nuance being: our cross-cultural missionaries are primarily seeking to make disciples within ”Catalyzing Movements” and training and coaching the national disciples to establish their local churches and indigenous movements.
- Our missionaries have received training in the ”Ten Essential Elements” principles which are the genius behind this disciple-making, church-planting model.
- Every Fellowship International missionary engaged in this new approach has a coach to help them remain on target – along with an online community platform called, “Engaged Spaces” which allows our mission personnel to encourage, challenge, and pray for one another.
- The results have already been encouraging:
- In 2022 we targeted the establishing of:
- 50 Discovery Bible Studies and only 11 were established.
- 50 baptisms were targeted and 97 baptisms were conducted.
- No church plants were targeted and three were planted by nationals.
- 50 national leaders would receive training and 155 were trained in seven events.
- One year later, in 2023, we targeted:
- 100 new Discovery Bible Studies and 547 DBS were established.
- 100 baptisms were targeted and 399 were conducted.
- three church plants were targeted and 16 were planted by nationals.
- 100 national leaders were to receive training in Essential Elements principles and 429 were trained in 21 specific training events.
- In 2022 we targeted the establishing of:
- Note the exponential growth over just one year – we are praying for more of the same – please join us in prayer.
- Any Fellowship church could use these principles if they believe they might be helpful.
- Please continue to pray for our Fellowship International ministry as they transition from solely sending missionaries to plant churches, to being committed to partnering with nationals who are discipled and prepared to establish Disciple-Making Churches in the 22 countries our missionaries serve.
- In Dr Hal MacBain’s inaugural address on October 21, 1953, at our first Fellowship Convention at Cooke Presbyterian Church in Toronto, he made an aspirational declaration that the Fellowship become ... “a swift moving stream, blessing and refreshing all who may come in contact with it."
- After Dr MacBain’s beloved wife, Maime, passed away, I attended her funeral and Dr MacBain reminded me she had prayed for me every day for 15 years.
- He said, "She prayed for you every day. I know, I was there." Mrs. MacBain had made this promise to me after hearing me preach a sermon (I was 23 years old) at an event, at my Seminary, Central Baptist Seminary, 15 years previously.
- I was so humbled by her prayer commitment for my family and me.
- A few weeks after her funeral, I received a note in the mail from Dr MacBain stating that he had decided to pick up from where Maime had left. He wrote, “I would be most happy... to pray for you and your family every day... I will be starting today.”
- I keep Dr MacBain’s note on the cork board in my office as a constant reminder that I’m not in this alone.
- ”We are the Fellowship.” “Nous sommes le Fellowship.”
- We are a family, bound by the “bond of peace”, a great Affirmation of Faith, and a forward leaning mission document called, “We are the Fellowship”.
- And so, I claim once again, 70 years on, that we remain “a swift moving stream, blessing and refreshing all who may come in contact with [us].”
- May Fellowship Baptists remain a movement of churches, who, in the spirit of Jesus, help quench the thirst and hunger of the millions of spiritual orphans in our Dominion, His Dominion, from sea to sea to sea.
- To the glory of God and our great good! Amen
That was my FNC 2023 Call to Action (abbreviated) to the delegates and churches of our movement. Our 2024 theme verse is I John 3:18 (NIV):
“... let us not love with words or speech but with actions in truth.”
This year is our "Year of Action” (2024) — what action is the Spirit of God calling you and/or your church family to pursue in 2024? May God gain great glory!