Thursday, 23 February 2017
Because anything to do with youth becomes ancient after three years, we are working on another one. Both these videos look the same here, but in fact are two different videos. Watch them both.
Here is the first behind-the-scenes look at the new production.
Please pray for all involved in this new production as well as all those who will be reached by it, that God would anoint this resource to yield much fruit and bring many into His kingdom.
I will keep you up to date as further materials become available.
Tuesday, 21 February 2017
I have a TomTom GPS that I take with me, and when I dial in my destination, it tells me what time I should arrive there (by driving at the posted speed limits no doubt.). I like to see how much more quickly I can make it, so as I drive only enough above the limit not to lose my eternal salvation, I watch the ETA go backward minute by minute. On a trip to Calgary I can make it go back by about 15 or 20 minutes over the 3-hour trip.
In any case, my first stop on Wednesday was at the Bowridge campus of RockPointe Church. This is not their main campus, but what was formerly the Danish Canadian Club. It has a beautiful view from the back of the church building over the spreading Bow River valley. I was there to pick up Alpha's big red question mark which I had previously left with Youth Pastor Brent Sellers for a conference he held a while ago. While there he filled me in on how Alpha is running in a number of junior high and high schools in the area, all with his help, but ultimately at the initiation of students at those schools. I am so encouraged by what I see happening with Alpha in schools. It really reveals and develops leadership qualities in students who have hearts to see their friends learn about Jesus.
From RockPointe it was off to SCCEFC. They have to use initials because, apparently, "South Calgary Chinese Evangelical Free Church" is too long to fit on their sign and probably their letterhead. Pastor UK (Kenny) Wong of their Cantonese congregation and his wife act as coaches for Chinese churches in the Calgary area. Meeting with Pastor Kenny and the Youth Pastor, Adriel Lui was very encouraging. Adriel has been in touch with the above mentioned Brent Sellers regarding running Alpha in schools. In all, SCCEFC are running or planning to run about a half dozen Alphas, including one for women, one for students and courses in Mandarin, Cantonese and English.
Supper was at my brother and his wife's new condo. They just moved in the last month from our ancestral territory in Southern Ontario and are now Calgarians, along with their three adult kids who had already moved here over the years.
Breakfast Thursday morning was with Ron Wain of Knexions Church, (formerly Midpark Christian Assembly.) I will spare you the details of how my alarm didn't go off and how my TomTom mislead me, to say I did arrive at the agreed-upon restaurant just slightly before my guest. Another fruitful and encouraging discussion. Knexions is rebuilding their numbers using Alpha in home groups and promoting an invitational culture among their members.
Next stop was Foothills Alliance to see Jerry Orthner. Always a blessing. Jerry is so committed to Alpha and Foothills always does such a good job. My records show five Alpha's currently running at or through Foothills, including Marriage courses and one at the University of Calgary.
Finally, before the long ride home, was a meeting at Centre Street Church, one of Canada's largest, with a weekend attendance, I've heard, of about 9000 people. Alpha Coordinator Reneyah is one of the most organized coordinators I've ever met, even adapting Alpha's own invitational materials to their own local context, and keeping progress records and survey results for each of her guests.
Paired with my trip the week before to Red Deer, I've had a very encouraging and rewarding couple of weeks. I know I'm writing this a bit after the fact, and right now, as I write, I'm waiting for the arrival of John Kreklo, Alpha's National Alpha for Prisons Director who is visiting prisons and associated ministries in the Edmonton area, and staying overnight in our home, along with his pastor from BC.
Later tonight, we are going to attend the introductory session of Alpha in the West Edmonton Mall Chapel, presented by West Edmonton Christian Assembly (WECA). I'll be participating in this course as a table helper, so I look forward to taking a little lower profile for a change. Myrna, Course Administrator, tells me they have close to 70 guests registered so far, for a facility that might comfortably hold 40, so I look forward to seeing how God decides everything will work out.
Monday, 13 February 2017
It is a job given to us by our founder, our head, Jesus Christ. He said:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18a-20)Jesus did not say, "Attract disciples from other churches." He said, "Make disciples..." so how are we doing?
I was reminded today of a church in a city in my province. It is a fairly large church. It is a church that has run Alpha in the past, but not at present. As I say, they have run Alpha but when I spoke to the pastor, I heard that they have trouble getting their people to invite, so now they are running a program purely for their own congregants.
I was talking to another pastor, who knew of this church, and said of them, "They tend to grow when other churches close." That statement was like a flash of light to me. It was a "Wow" moment. It was an insight that I realized is a problem I have seen in other places.
Church organizations do not exist primarily to receive believers from other places. Yes, it's nice to welcome people who may be new to the area, or Christians escaping from churches in denominations that have left the path of truth. But that is not our prime purpose. Our purpose is to make disciples. It is to guide those who have not surrendered their lives to Christ into a relationship with him and help them grow in that relationship.
So, how are we doing? How is your church at welcoming not-yet-believers who may come through our doors? Are we making them feel welcome? Are they making friends among us? Even more important, most important in my opinion, are we the kind of church that an unchurched, non-Christian coming through our doors for the first time, want to come back to. Are they leaving their first service with us thinking, "I want to come back here."?
And if not, are we willing to change, not our message or doctrine, but our style - the way we present it, for their sake.
Thursday, 9 February 2017
We proclaim Christ, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)
As I said previously, it’s a process… Becoming mature in Christ takes a lifetime. Be patient. Who of us solved all our issues the moment we came to faith? None of us. Sanctification, becoming more Christ-like, is a life-long process. The time has passed when we as Christians could enforce our way of living on those who don’t share our faith. We shouldn’t be surprised if people who have no Christian background don’t see the point in living the way we do, or the way we think they should. We introduce them to Jesus – let Jesus change the heart.
“To this end I labour, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:29)We labour, but it is His energy, powerfully working in us. Christ’s great commission is both a joy and a challenge. It can be hard work. We can sometimes think it a burden, but it can be a joyous burden. We can’t do any of this on our own…but by God’s grace, He invites us to partner with Him.
I want to close with two things Jesus said:
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:19)
That’s a command. Go! Make disciples! Jesus did not say to go and make converts, but conversion obviously has to come before discipleship. Alpha is a fantastic and proven way to guide people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It’s also somewhat helpful as a discipleship tool as well, but for the most part, discipleship is a continuing process that will take place within the context of the local church and again, is part of an ongoing relationship.
“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)That’s not a command but a statement of fact. Jesus is not telling us to be his witnesses; he’s saying we will be. We will be his witnesses. The question is will we be good witnesses or bad.
Thanks & Blessings,
Tuesday, 7 February 2017
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5)
I once belonged to a weekday evening Bible study. There were a number of men who met regularly. One evening a visitor dropped in. He was new to town and just happened to see there was a Bible study going on so he came. He was a young man with a large tattoo on his arm. One of our regulars looked at him and said, "You know what the Bible says about tattoos, don't you?
We never saw him again.
Carey Nieuwhof says that if we’ve never thought through what it might be like for someone with little to no church background, with a different moral code operating in their life, hearing truths that are thousands of years old for the first time, and trying to figure out their life through a very different lens, it will be exceptionally difficult for us to connect with them. And if we can’t speak to the unchurched, we will speak to an ever-shrinking audience, because one day only unchurched people will be left.
We in Alpha like to look at people in the light of 4 Biblical themes:
“…that is what some of you were. But you were washed; you were sanctified; you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”We were washed, sanctified, justified – there’s every reason to believe that God can do the same with others as well. Let’s leave that part to Him.
(to be continued... next: conclusion)
Monday, 6 February 2017
Communicating the Gospel involves the whole person.
First, let me say I appreciate your questions and I appreciate that you have them. Unlike some, I would not encourage anyone who has serious questions and doubts about specific areas of Christianity to just “Set them aside and proceed on faith.” An honest person cannot ignore legitimate concerns and say to themselves, “Well, I have serious concerns but I’m going to subscribe anyway.” I’m not saying that all questions have to be answered, because they never will be, (and new questions/areas of interest, study or investigation will arise for the rest of our lives) but what is necessary is that legitimate objections be reconciled.
From there... how to respond. I realize that you and I are coming from different directions, so to speak, because I am thinking from a position of certainty that God is real and that Jesus was who the Bible says he was, so my answers may, in fact will, be coloured to some extent by that position. IOW, I see myself as looking back and interpreting things from a position of certainty. You are looking forward and inquiring from a position of skepticism.
Sunday, 5 February 2017
I have at least three appointments tomorrow between 8:30 and noon, and hope to line up at least one more before I head home. The first is a breakfast meeting with the long-time Alpha coordinator from Crossroads church, a church that has been running Alpha for many years. Next is a meeting with Senior Pastor Paul Vallee of Living Stones church.
Living Stones is an interesting and encouraging story. They began with a group of 12 people meeting in a hotel. From there they grew to the point where they purchased Red Deer's drive-in theatre. They kept the concession/projection booth as their youth centre and built their own brand new church on the site. Living Stones' youth pastor Amy has run Alpha's Youth Film Series a number of times, but now the church is running our Alpha Film Series for their first "adult" Alpha in several years.
At noon, I'm meeting the Alpha Coordinator from Alliance Community Church, Sylvan Lake, another fellowship I count as one of my key Alpha churches in their area. They too have run Alpha for a number of years. We're meeting in a Tim Horton's in Red Deer, which is a 22 minute drive from Sylvan Lake, as the crow flies, or at least as the Google maps.
The one other appointment I hope to make is with Deer Park Alliance. I was unable to connect with them last week to set up an appointment, but I will try again before I leave town. I may even just drop in to see if anyone is there.
That's all I can say for now, except to say,