VALUE: Cross-Cultural Servanthood

Our staff are reading an interesting book called Cross-Cultural Servanthood by Duane Elmer. Faith Fellowship heralds three values: Faith, multi-generational and multi-national community, plus servanthood. This book blends the last two values for us.

The way this value looks for us includes the following definition:

Servanthood – This means that, in our ministries and individual lives: we will grow toward

  • Putting the best interests of others ahead of our own
  • Utilizing our gifts, resources and abilities to the benefit of building up the body and the individuals in it
  • Choosing humility, graciousness, gentleness and compassion as our first response to others inside and outside our immediate fellowship

This is far harder than it sounds when reading words on paper. Everything within us seems to fight against acting like Jesus in Philippians 2 where it says he emptied himself and became a bond-servant.

Elmer’s point in his book (p. 17) is that in a cross-cultural situation it is natural for North Americans to act from a point of superiority even without realizing it. He says that our superiority “appears in disguises that pretend to be virtues – virtues such as

  • I need to correct their error (meaning I have superior knowledge, a corner on truth)
  • My education has equipped me to know what is best for you (so let me do most of the talking while you do most of the listening and changing).
  • I am here to help you (so do as I say).
  • I can be your spiritual mentor (so I am your role model).
  • Let me disciple you, equip you, train you (often perceived as “let me make you into a clone of myself).

The author summarizes that “superiority cloaked in the desire to serve is still superiority. It’s not our words that count but the perceptions of the local people who watch our lives and sense our attitudes.”

There is no question then but that servanthood begins from a deep sense of humility as to who I am and a deep sense of respect and honor as to who God has made you to be. Your culture, faith, experience, background, personality and understanding of God as filtered through the Scriptures all are facets of life that I pay attention to.

Our perception of servanthood is filtered through our cultural lens. What we think of as service is easily interpreted as superiority or ignorance by another. This is never so obvious as in the different ways we greet each other and show respect.

Our perception of servanthood is also filtered through our generational lens. We were all raised with what we were told was the “right” way to show respect to others – to those older, to men, to women, to relatives, to strangers, to those in authority, etc.

Being mixed in the soup of multi-culturalism and multi-generationalism can easily leave one feeling like there may no longer be any right way to do much of anything. Servanthood is a value we are still learning. What have you learned about servanthood in your context, culture and circumstances? Bless you as you put Biblical servanthood into practice.

 

Vision

It seems obvious doesn’t it? When you are driving at night you put on your headlights? Why? So you can see where you’re going.

Mission is about knowing where you are going and vision is about seeing where you are going.

At Faith, our mission and vision statements are like the headlights on our car. We say we are making disciples of Christ from all nations. Engaging with Jesus, we bring truth, grace and love to all those around us. We say this because Jesus, in Matthew 28:18-20 told us “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.” (NIV)

This short passage provides our headlights.

We see that there is only one authority who gives us direction. All authority belongs to the risen and living one, to Jesus.

We see that his direction is clear. As we are going about our everyday life we are to make disciples of all nations. This isn’t a task we accomplish individually but it’s a task we participate in with others from the church. We can’t make disciples of everyone, but we should be making disciples of someone without prejudice as to what nation they come from.

The words “baptize them” literally mean “to immerse them” in water and so when someone confirms that by grace God has brought them into a right relationship with God through the forgiveness of sins won by the shed blood of Christ on the cross; that they desire to follow Jesus as revealed in the Scripture; that they desire to join with his people in a community of faith, hope and love – then we celebrate their new life in an immersion during one of our services where all can witness God’s goodness.

We also see that a disciple is a lifelong learner who must be taught to obey everything Jesus commands. In humility, we recognize that we are all life-long learners in a relationship where we are teaching and growing at the same time. We recognize that our life as part of a faith community now impacts others and we are careful to protect the values and truths Jesus teaches us.

We see that Jesus promises to always be with us. This gives us great confidence and hope in our gatherings, in our small groups, in our mentoring. We don’t walk alone.

We see finally that this age will end and therefore our time for making disciples is limited. We ask God for divine appointments and for significant conversations with those he brings into our social circle and then we alertly watch, pray and share.

One day, we will stand with countless others from every tribe and tongue and nation around the throne of Jesus to celebrate his victory over death and sin. Until then, we want a taste of heaven by making disciples of Christ from all nations who God brings our way.

Who has God placed in your social circle so that you can learn with? What steps in relationship building are you taking so that trust is being established? When is the last time you shared your own testimony of God’s grace in your life?

Is this mission and vision of discipleship clear for you?

Can Different Generations Really Come Together as One?

It’s no secret that while building up a church family with multi-generations is the dream of most congregations that this is more challenging than it seems. Different generations have different soul language with the music they respond to; they have different heart language in what they feel committed to with their time and resources; they have different body language in terms of how they build relationship and share their lives.

Sociologists might label the four key generations as Builders, Boomers, Gen Xers and Millenials. Each has been shaped by different backgrounds, different times, different perceptions of their culture and different experiences of faith. Perceptions , actions and reactions to what is happening will vary. How do you build unity in the middle of so much chronological diversity?

Loving your different generation neighbor often involves first building a relationship – taking an interest to show you care by listening, asking insightful questions, praying for and supporting in practical ways. Our seniors would love to have someone sit with them over tea and ask them to share their experiences. There needs to be verbal expressions of respect for their experience and wisdom. They can make great mentors.

Liz Selzer, in her book 3D Mentoring (p. 122) says “People need to see each other as competent, authentic, able to create meaningful connections, accountable, and dependable. “ They need to find their voices in three ways: by building a learning culture where everyone’s strengths are celebrated and appreciated; give opportunities for all to participate in a way where it is safe to take risks and fail; establish a forum where everyone’s voice gets heard and encourage everyone’s contribution.

This kind of culture happens one on one as we intentionally sit with each other and listen to each other. There is a God story in the life I am facing and preparing myself to hear it and appreciate it changes my whole attitude toward what God has done and what He is still doing.

Which generation can you expand your heart toward? How will you do that?

What do disciple-makers look like?

The reality of vanishing disciples means that we need disciple-makers who know how to make disciple-makers. How do we know that we’ve got a disciple-maker? Their regular commitment to reading and applying the word of God, their involvement in a small group for accountability and encouragement, and their consistent participation in the life of their local church might be foundational things to think about. What else might we look for? See if this resonates with your understanding and let us know.

 

Disappearing disciples?

When you think of disappearing disciples your mind might fixate on what happened in the garden of Gethsemane when the close followers of Jesus hustled away as Jesus was arrested and taken to trial. In our country of Canada, with new progressive liberalism steamrolling traditional Christian values through legislation and funding directives it almost appears that our leaders assume that current disciples are ready to fade into the night as well.

Perhaps it is time to re-emphasize why Jesus called us to make disciples of Christ from all nations. I met with a denominational leader today who told me that most churches don’t have a strong focus or plan for discipleship. Jesus’ directive to go make disciples has fallen on deaf ears.

One of the reasons I hear as to why we don’t make disciples is that we don’t have enough disciple makers. A disciple maker is one who invests their life into another who is younger in faith and experience.  Those who are disciple often grow into leaders who can disciple others. John Maxwell claims that “Leaders develop daily, not in a day.”

Liz Selzer, in her book 3G Mentoring, explains what it takes to develop an effective mentoring relationship. She says “an effective mentor is a good listener, authentic, trustworthy, wise ( has something to offer), understands the power of a good question over a good piece of information, is skilled in giving feedback, committed, insightful, inspiring, has a tolerance for mistakes, shows flexibility and patience, is discerning, is able to set boundaries, has a learning attitude, and has learned from his or her own successes and failures.”

Okay, before you write yourself off as no longer available, a disciple is a learner who is willing to grow and who is willing to help others grow.

This is not the time to disappear along with the others who have written themselves off. Our culture is not the environment in which followers of Jesus are going to naturally birth and thrive. It takes intentionality from those who have already understood who Jesus is, what he has done, and what he has called us to do.

We are promised the Holy Spirit to be with us in the middle of our significant conversations and we have the Word of God to inform our hearts and minds. Now is the time to prepare and share.

Peter pushes us to try discipling those who haven’t even accepted Jesus yet. He says (I Peter 3:15-16) “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks ou to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

Set apart Christ as Lord in your own heart and you’ll have one less disciple disappearing into the landscape around us. Who have you got in your social circle who you might start a significant conversation with as you try to make disciples for Jesus?

 

Have You Really Left Home?

This is an incredibly challenging time and place to find a new home – especially if you’re young. Spaces and dollars are few for many of you. It takes a reorientation of your expectations to find your roots and to dig them down so that you hold on and grow where you are.

This day is often focused on encouraging people to stretch themselves and their dollars to reach out and demonstrate your affection for others in your world. Dinners, cards, flowers and calls are intentionally shared. Those in marriages are encouraged to push their expressions of intimacy even deeper. It is sometimes easy to give something other than yourself to accomplish your duty.

Donald Harvey has written a book called “Love Decisions” focusing on a dad’s talk with his daughter about the potential for love and her preparation for it. The first question he brings up is “Have you really left home?”

His biblical focus is on Genesis 2:24 where we are told that a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife so they become one flesh. A person who is ready for lasting relationship both detaches and then attaches. Some who have been already married haven’t really effectively detached from their birth families and they find themselves constantly torn between two loyalties.

The issue isn’t only about moving your body out of a shared space with your birth family. It is about making the primary motivation for your mental and emotional decisions based on a foundation other than your parents. Of course, family will always be important and have some degree of influence on many of our decisions but it is the degree of that decision making which shows whether you have left home or not.

Preserving a healthy family relationship, while developing other positive relationships, is an important part of developing some level of independence. You don’t have to rebel or move far away to establish this readiness.

Here’s what Harvey (p. 18) tells us. “When you have truly left home, you will demonstrate independence versus dependence – you will act versus react. And your decisions will have more to say about you than about other people. The bottom line will always be, “This is what I think is the best thing for me to do,” and you will act accordingly. If, instead, your behavior is a reaction to others, then maybe (you guessed it) you still haven’t left and there’s still some work to do before you’re ready to make any real lovedecisions.

“Leaving home is not as simple as it sounds. It isn’t just a by-product of age. Nor is it always indicated by a change in address. It’s a process – one that requires many steps and encounters many interferences. Still, it is not only an accomplishable goal but one that must be attained before you are ready to make any significant lovedecisons. Assess yourself and your relationships. Have you made the break from home and dependence to self-sufficiency and independence? Are you somewhere “in process”? Or are you still clearly tied to your parents?

Developing a faith that is your own is an essential part of this readiness for intimacy. If your heart has learned to love God and to be loved by him then it is tuned to understand how love works in the human realm.

Blessed Bubble-Wrapped Believers

I still can’t find the verse. You know, the one that says believers will be bubble-wrapped and protected
from having a hard time in this world.
I did find what Jesus said in his sermon on the mount: “Blessed are you when people insult you,
persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because
great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before
you.”
Francis Chan reminds us in a short video clip that we don’ t have to worry about what we need to say
when we’re called before those who oppose us because, as Jesus told us in Luke 12:11-12, the Holy
Spirit inside us will tell us at that time what we are to say.
Today, I received an email from one of our university students who had a pro-choice professor
expressing his views on gender fluidity and sexuality. He supported the Prime Minister’s cut of summer
grants to churches who will not support abortion or transgenderism. He mocked Trinity Western’s
contract encouraging students to stay sexually pure. This student spoke up in class and was amazed that
the professor listened. She said “This is my firsthand experience that God can and does proclaim His
truth through timid spokespeople when the time is right! Still, it’s so easy to just keep quiet… please
pray for faith, courage and love to testify to those around me, and also that I can act out my faith.”
If you know how to pray there are people who need you. If you are in the front lines facing the insults
and the bubble-wrap free zone then you need prayer warriors around you. The strength of our faith
comes not only in our quiet times alone but in our vibrant interdependence as members of one body –
one family – one church.
I’ll finish today with Peter’s encouragement to believers facing challenges in his day. “Who is going to
harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do
not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be
prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But
do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously
against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it God’s will, to
suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
I guess we’ll save the bubble-wrap for Christmas presents.

Part of Something Bigger

One of the passions of youth – when they surface from their phones or tablets – is that they want to put
their energy into something world changing, meaningful, significant, bigger than they are. Actually, most
of us are familiar with that feeling.
Missionsfest 2018 was another reminder how we are part of something bigger. Hundreds of
organizations set up booths to share what God is doing in his world to remind us of who he is.
Workshops, films and keynote speakers stimulated the faithful to stretch a little further in sharing the
God who transforms and reconciles his creation. It was good to see some of you there volunteering or
exploring all that your eyes and ears could take in.
Jesus is the Lord of the Nations and he is meeting people in every country on this planet as he fulfills his
promise to have men and women from every tribe and tongue and nation gathering around his throne
one day.
On the Saturday morning of Missionsfest representatives of the agencies and churches of the Fellowship
Pacific (100 churches of which we are part of – 500 across Canada) gathered over breakfast and break
out sessions to increase understanding of how greater synergy could be developed between groups. We
are part of something bigger and more amazing every year.
The Fellowship is designed to leverage the collective strengths of its churches and agencies to make a
God honoring impact and to make disciple-makers who make disciple-makers. Baptist Housing (Owner
of Shannon Oaks and Clarendon Court) – an arm of the Fellowship’s ministry to seniors – helped host the
event.
Here are some brief highlights of what your brothers and sisters in Christ are involved in.
W.I.N.G.S (Women in Need Gaining Strength) – opened its third home, started work on a townhome
complex for single moms recovering from trauma, and expanded its ministry of counseling to men who
are attempting to overcome abusive and negative patterns in their marriages. Any men or women from
Faith are now welcomed to access the program at a reasonable cost. Sometimes our personal challenges
are part of something bigger than we are and we need to reach out for help.
CAMP QWANOES – this camp of ours (for 25 years) situated on Vancouver Island took in more kids than
ever this year. They trained 150 youth in their counselor training program. Any youth aged 15-18 can get
special life changing training from highly challenging and competent trainers. The camp is hoping to
build a new dining room which will seat up to 850 youth. For any family at Faith – or a friend of a family
at Faith – there are special scholarships available for those who can’t afford the camp costs. This is an
opportunity to invite some of the unreached community kids to attend for somethings they might hear
no where else.
DID YOU REALLY THINK THAT ALL THE ‘BIGGER THAN US GOD THINGS’ HAPPEN INSIDE OUR FOUR
WALLS?
(more wow ministries tomorrow)

Would Anyone Notice Us If We Left?

Have you ever had that secret fear that if you stepped away from everyone you knew that no one would really miss you? No one at work, school, family or church.

Who in our neighbourhood would notice if our church stopped meeting? Do people notice us because of what we provide for them or because of who we are?

Two years ago, the New Hope Community Services Society (Refugee Houses) which we started moved their main center to Surrey; this week, the Foodbank let us know they were transferring their FoodHub Depot from our facility to the South Van Neighourhood House. These two ministries of ours were key outreach points in helping us to establish our current reputation as a vital community partner and community builder. What happens now?

What if we redevelop our facility and disappear visibly from the community for two years? Would we be missed? Would we be anticipated when we came back?

Our mission is to make disciples of Christ from all nations. Our practice is to love God and to love our neighbour. Depending on programs and events which we create doesn’t make disciple makers who make disciple makers.

Perhaps it’s time to get back to basics – small home groups, practicing friendship, mentoring plus sharing our faith with our neighbours through hospitality and community service.

A year ago, we were asked, along with other flourishing churches, how we engaged with our neighbourhood. The initial results were published in the January / February edition of Faith Today by Joel Thiessen. He writes: “Without exception, the congregations we identified as flourishing appear to have done their homework on the community where they are situated. They say they know who lives in their community. They know facts about family status, stage of life, socioeconomic status, ethnicity and more. From this information churches identify what possible needs, points of convergence and opportunities exist. Churches garnered this information by speaking with local community association and organization leaders, reading city demographic reports and interacting with neighbours in various social settings around the church property.”

It seems clear that neighbours would notice us if we noticed them first. They would engage with us if we first engaged with them. Perhaps it is time to try something new in our neck of the woods. Anyone out there willing to risk new ideas on reaching our neighbours?

What if You’re Not Alone

Have you ever been certain that you were alone until you heard that noise in the darkness? Was it a
creak from the house, a footstep in the hallway, a mouse in the wall?
Sometimes we live our life as if we’re alone. We go through dark struggles and feel alone; we engage
and break relationships as if it is only us; we drive our cars and walk the streets as if we are alone; we
eat, we watch and we pray as if we are on our own. We even sit in church singing and listening as if no
one else can sense the motives of our hearts, the thoughts of our mind, or the distractions of our
memories and hopes.
But what if we remembered that God has invaded time and space – not just two thousand years ago
when Jesus walked in Galilee – but now, wherever we are. Not just invaded our time and space but
infiltrated our mind and heart.
David, the psalmist, says in Psalm 139:1-5 NIV, “You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You
know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my
lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word in on my tongue you, LORD, know it
completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.”
Many of us, like former atheist C.S. Lewis, don’t want God to “interfere” with our lives.
The book of John records testimonies like that of ‘doubting Thomas’ for a reason. In John 20:30-31 we
read “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this
book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by
believing you may have life in his name.”
Every transformed life in our world is a creak in the dark for souls that feel alone. The question to face
now is, am I the creak that others can’t miss, or am I the one needing to stop and realize that right in the
middle of what I’m facing right now, I am not alone?