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,
On an Alpha a number of years ago, there was a young university student. I'll not mention his name, but he came as a skeptic, asking difficult but legitimate questions about the Christian faith. Many of his objections were too much for small group discussion so I suggested we carry on a discussion by e-mail after the course, which we did. He would pose questions and I would do my best to answer them. (|You may recall that I mentioned earlier that if our faith is the truth, then there will be a legitimate answer for every objection. If we can't think of it immediately, research (and prayer)should help us find it.)
In any case, our conversation carried on by email for a time, then we began to lose touch. I was transferred two hours west to Edson by my company, where I stayed for about 7 or 8 years, then returned to the Edmonton area. I was visiting with Amy (who is now an Associate for Youth with Alpha) a couple of years back when she asked, "Do you remember (name)?"
"Yes," I said, "We lost touch. What ever happened to him?"
"Oh, he's working with the youth at (another church in Edmonton!)"
It is extraordinary to me how distrustful people who are not Christians are of Christians, and what a false and negative picture they may have of us. We can't understand it — we're nice people! Why wouldn’t everybody want to be just like us? Why wouldn't everyone want to know God like we do? Why wouldn’t everyone want to come to our church? It’s such a wonderful place. What better place to be on a Sunday morning. But they don't seem to realise that at first. People are suspicious. 50 or 60 years ago a politician running for office would publicize the fact that he went to church. Often you would see, in his campaign literature, a picture of him and his family coming down the church steps after Sunday service. Today, he would probably have to hide the fact he is a Christian to increase his chances of election.
I remember on one of my Alphas, on the first evening, "Who is Jesus?," the small group discussion began with my asking, "What did anybody think of the talk?"
One guest launched into a tirade against the church. She insisted that we can't believe what the Bible says because the church has controlled it and edited it and we can't be sure it is telling the truth; it's not saying what the original writers said. She was actually quite angry. My response was basically what an Alpha small group host is supposed to say, "That's an interesting point of view." I did sneak one little thing in, matter-of-factly; "I've heard that before," but then I turned to the rest of the group and carried on, asking, "What does anyone else think?"
I didn't confront her; I didn't argue with her. I just let her have her say, then turned to the group for discussion. I must say that I snuck in the bit about 'hearing it before' subtly, for a reason. Rightly or wrongly, I hoped it might make her notice, "Oh, he's heard that argument before and it doesn't seem to bother him."
I did, however, at the end of the evening, mention in an off-hand way, "You know it's interesting that when they discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls, back in the 1940's, that had been buried for about 2000 years, they found a nearly complete manuscript of the book of Isaiah, and when it was translated it was almost exactly word for word what we have in our Bibles today, so I think we really can trust that it has been handed down to us accurately."That ended the evening, but that guest was completely different the following week; friendly and non-confrontational, and stayed for the rest of the course.
(to be continued... next: Communicating the Gospel involves the whole person)
Friday, 3 February 2017
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Col 4:5-6)Besides being a rather touching story, this illustrates that relationship evangelism takes time. Sabrina took Alpha 4 times. (Plug – don’t just run it once).
It's crucial to remember that we don't begin by putting people off. Don’t start with a lecture. Jesus should be the only stumbling block, not us. Do not begin by judging lifestyles – LGBT, cohabitation, etc. Everyone is welcome on an Alpha, and no one should be faced with a lecture when we first meet them.
I remember the year was 1953. I was walking home from school, along Barton Street in Winona Ontario. As I got closer to my house I saw something that absolutely thrilled me - a television aerial on the roof. We got a TV! Our first! I ran the rest of the way home and burst into the living room. There it was! a 26" black and white on four spindly legs. We got three channels; a bit fuzzy, but we loved it. We were ecstatic.
Nowadays, you can get a 60" HD flat screen to hang on your wall. (Probably for about the same money as that first black and white cost.) But what a difference! As much as I loved that first TV, I would never want to go back to it. At the time though, we didn't realize there was anything better. The Christian life is like the new flat screen while life before Christ was like the old black and white, and I can remember both. I thought it was great at the time but I sure wouldn't want to back to it now.Evangelization is just telling somebody, "Hey, there's something better." Alpha is allowing God to lead them to it.
(to be continued... Next: Bringing people to faith is a process)
Wednesday, 1 February 2017
(h/t Terry Stauffer for this analogy)
(Hebrews 1: 1a) In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son…
I see a couple of key words here, and I have underlined them above. The word, "but" is one of my favourite words in the Bible. Often it comes after the giving of bad new, then introduces good news. Here is connotes something new, something different. In the past, but now…
Jesus is the final revelation of God. Jesus said, 'I and the Father are one.' He said, 'If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father,' and he said, 'no one comes to the Father except by me.' Many people will say they believe in God. Other religions have various concepts of God. The native in the darkest corner of the jungle or forest may have some vague idea that there must be something higher, but the only way to truly know God most fully is through Jesus Christ."