Monday, February 18, 2008
One of the primary goals that I have for both Northside Church and the Foursquare Church of Canada is to promote International multi-cultural growth and fruitfulness. The theme was central to our founder, Aimee Semple McPherson's vision, "Dedicated unto the cause of Interdenominational and World-wide Evangelism" and is still firmly etched into the foundation stones of Angeles Temple.
Sister Aimee was a leader in the integration and equalization of those who had been persecuted in the USA, Blacks, Mexican, Gypsies, Jews and any other excluded minorities were lifted up and honored by her in a day when most churches had become frighteningly exclusive.
Canada has done a good work of equalizing immigrants from the nations of the world, and making our nation a model of multi-culteralism. (We have not done well by equalizing all faiths. In a nation where the large majority are "Christian" in belief, we have elevated all religions to sit side-by-side and slightly above Christianity).
But when it comes to traditions, customs, celebrations, languages and cuisine, we've learned so much from other nations. The rainbow of cultures has made Canada a very attractive nation. We have some of the most multi-cultural cities in the world here. Toronto leads the planet in multi-ethnicity!
So it's time the church caught up. We, whom Jesus said should provide a "house of prayer for all nations" have been strangely exclusive for the past years.
At Northside Church, we celebrated our International Ministries on Saturday. We had representation from 32 nations at the banquet. 370 of us crowded into our colorfully decorated Coquitlam sanctuary to celebrate our many cultures and food. Several languages were used in the entertainment, testimonies from many ethnic believers, celebration of our missionary work and great food from different nations was devoured.
Pastor Sam & Lily Ong (and their large team) planned and executed a very fun and successful evening.
In our Canadian Church too, we've expanded multiculturally. Of all the many church births and adoptions currently in process at least 12 of them are largely other nationalities with ethnic pastors. And there are many more in our expanding womb.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
My dear friends Randy & Cheryl Barnetson visited us today - Cheryl Bear sang a nature Doxology at all three services. They have not only served as Unit Supervisors of our Canadian First Nations Unit, but Cheryl has also earned her Doctorate in California. She graduates in May of this year - Congratulations Cheryl!
I flew to Saskatoon on Sunday and landed in -30c weather. I'd never experienced such cold before and was shocked. But what I didn't know was that a blizzard with wind chill of -50c was on its way during my visit.
It was such a pleasure to sit down with the leadership of our Saskatoon Church (Courts of Praise) and help them discover God's plan for a pastor. I'll write in a while about the decision we made together.
After Saskatoon I flew to Winnipeg to tape 3 more programs for "It's a New Day" with my dear friend Willard Thiessen. The 3 programs on "Sitting with the King" will air in mid-March. I also visited with our newest Filipino pastors Marcelo and Irene Rufon. I'm very excited about what God's doing among our Filipino population.
Despite the freezing temperatures I had a very warm and happy visit to two of our prairie provinces.
When I returned from the frozen prairies, I was surprised that we'd had 18 inches of snow at our place. Susan had to shovel our driveway, (It always seems to storm when I'm away) so my complaints about the -50c degree weather were not really heard.
Today Susan and I were invited to speak at one of our sister Churches in the Tri-Cities. Grace Community Church, pastored by Doug Fortune, has had a strong influence in our city for about 60 years. We've had a tight relationship for all the 30 years we've pastored in the Tri-Cities.
In the weeks to come, I'll write more on the impending partnership between our two churches. The future is bright!
Today Susan and I joined the rest of our family at our eldest grandson's spelling bee contest. Schools across the city of Port Moody had their brightest and best Grade 4 spellers compete in a bee. Out of the 30 students, Alex came out champion. He now goes to the Tri-City Competition.
Congratulations, Alexander - you're the product of good genes. Nana Susan was (and still is) a champion speller!
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
I am on the Board of Advisors for Pregnancy Concern in our Tri-City Area. Do you know there are 34 abortions for every 100 live births in BC? That's one of the highest rates in our very liberal nation. I was so impressed with the work that Musu Taylor-Lewis and her team are doing that I invited her to talk to our church this Spring about how we can be involved and help the 403 women who will choose to abort their baby this year in the Tri-Cities.
I wrote an article for our Tri-City Newspaper about my visit to the Union Gospel Mission:
February 10, 2008: Planting Trees
A couple of weeks ago I accepted an invitation to speak to a strong group of men who’d come off the streets, and agreed to be nurtured and taught by the Union Gospel Mission. The class of men ranged from early 20’s through to their 70’s but cumulatively had lived out the gamut of human experiences. They’d seen it all from the heights of exhilaration to the lowest depths of pain.
My assignment was to take an hour to widen their world by showing pictures and talking about my recent trip to Israel. I and a friend came armed with souvenirs, Jewish artifacts and a CD of pictures from the Holy Land. I told them about the history, geography, diverse cultures and significance of Israel.
In my conversations with the men, before the class began, I saw a keen sense of both, regret over their lost years but also hope for their future. As my session began, I knew that my assignment with them was more than just being a geography teacher—I was there to encourage and to stimulate the men. But I wasn’t sure how my travel log would serve to fulfill the mandate I felt.
After studying a map for a few minutes and quickly overviewing Israel’s 4000 years of history. I led the men on a pictorial tour of the Holy Land. We started in Jerusalem, went south to Masada and the Dead Sea, and then turned north to the fertility of the Galilean region.
As we were traversing the barren hills of Judea, an applicable insight dawned on me. As I shared it, I could see many of the men’s’ eyes begin to light up.
About 3500 years ago a General, named Joshua, led the children of Israel across the Jordan River to the most lush and fertile land in all of the Middle East. Pomegranates and grape clusters so big it took two men to carry them. Olives, figs, dates and every other fruit imaginable proliferated. After the Israelites settled in the land, kings from hundreds of miles around fought and killed to take ownership of the verdant garden land. That was then.
But over the years of conflict and poor environmental management that followed Israel’s defeat, trees were cut, land was cleared, crops were uncared for, and as a result weather patterns and ecology dramatically changed. What was once a Garden of Eden became a vast, dry wasteland. Rocks and sand were the only produce of Palestine.
Since Israel returned as a nation in 1948, there has been a restoration of many miles of the land. I showed the men the millions of trees that have been replanted in what had become a desert. Weather patterns are once again changing. The barren wasteland is becoming a garden. Even around the Dead Sea, there is hope and promise of a living future.
That’s the story I told to these men. They listened intently as I described what could once again transpire in a life that has been too often misspent and abused. It was happening in the souls of those very men—new trees; the possibility of delicious and nourishing fruit was being planted. It would take some diligence (they’d already been working on it for several weeks before I came). But their dreams and hopes for the future are within the realm of possibility.
Not only my class of men caught a glimpse of hope that day. I felt encouraged and stimulated by their enthusiastic response!
Susan and I were honored to visit and speak at our Bible Fellowship Foursquare Church in Surrey today. Pastors Steve and Becky Witmer (also Unit Supervisor of our North Country Unit & Executive Council member) lead one of the fastest growing congregations in our Foursquare family. We loved getting to know our friends "across the river" a little better.
It's hard for me to resist invitations like the one I had today to speak to the seniors at Southside Baptist Church. I talked about my book "Dying Well". The guests ranged from their 50's to their 90's, but it's never too early to think about our life purpose & finishing well.
I always am treated like an honored senior myself by Roy Yeo & his hearty group.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
1. In Old Testament times older men (and women) of a community were known as elders. They governed the family-centered communities and made all major decisions.
Moses would often call the elders together to keep them informed of news from God.
Exodus 4:29&39 Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the sons of Israel; and Aaron spoke all the words which the LORD had spoken to Moses He then performed the signs in the sight of the people. Or to give directions from God,
Exodus 12:21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb.
At Mount Sinai, he had seventy elders with him. Moses did not record how the seventy were chosen. Later, his journal says that, “He gathered seventy men of the elders of the people. (Numbers 11:25) He stationed them around the Tabernacle and they prophesied.
2. Under the rule of the Israelite kings, elders still functioned, along with tribal heads, and patriarchal leaders, for spiritual leadership.
I Kings 8:1 Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers' households of the sons of Israel, to King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the city of David, which is Zion.
Each town had their own group of elders.
I Samuel 16:4 So Samuel did what the LORD said, and came to Bethlehem And the elders of the city came trembling to meet him and said, "Do you come in peace?”
Ezra 10:14 "Let our leaders represent the whole assembly and let all those in our cities who have married foreign wives come at appointed times, together with the elders and judges of each city, until the fierce anger of our God on account of this matter is turned away from us."
3. After Israel’s return from exile in Babylon, the elders made up a ruling group called the Sanhedrin. They were the governing council of Jews.
4. In Jesus’ time the elders were still respected as community leaders. They joined with the priests and scribes in opposition to Jesus’ ministry.
Matthew 27:12 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer.
5. After Jesus’ resurrection, in the churches elders were appointed from each congregation. Acts 14:23 When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. Paul the Apostle and his team seemed to do the appointing.
6. The Greek term presbuteros, from where we get the word presbytery, simply means an old man. It was also used of older women. Presbuterion was an assembly of older men. (Interestingly, the NAS Bible translators, who seem to have a bias against women elders, translated the feminine word as old women rather than women elders (I Timothy 5:2).) Church history tells us that anyone over forty years old was considered to be an elder, and was therefore given special recognition and respect.
7. The terms bishop (overseer – episcope) and elder were used interchangeably in the New Testament church. See Acts 20:17 with Acts 20:28, and also Titus 1:5 with Titus 1:7.
A high bar was set for spiritual leaders in both I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 by the Apostle Paul. Their duties involved spiritual oversight of the congregation and teaching of the Word.
8. God used the word elders to describe the spiritual heads of heaven. Twenty-four elders sit around the throne of God. They seem to be leaders of worship.
Revelation 5:8 When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Because the cultures of Moses’ and Jesus’ days were so different from our own, applying eldership in our North American culture is difficult. The picture of eldership in the New Testament is also vague. Perhaps the reason for the little explanation is two-fold:
Everyone, Christian and pagan alike, understood the respected place of elders in community life and so explanation would have been redundant.
Perhaps eldership was never intended by God to have a legalistic application. We should use elders within our own context and traditions as they can serve us best.
There are three main styles of government in churches today:
1. Most common is a democratic system. (The word democratic means rule of the people or mob-rule.) Because our Canadian and American governmental systems are designed as democracies, Christians have adapted political democracies to the Church. We call this a Congregational system of government.
They work like this: Any major issues must be agreed upon by a majority of members. To make governing easier, the congregation of members vote for men (usually men only qualify in Congregational churches) or women whom they feel qualify to represent them and their ideas.
The Board of Representatives carries the weight of rulership in the church. They (or a specially appointed search committee) hire a pastor, and the pastor-leaders work under the covering at the discretion of the Board.
The Board are elected for a term of office by the membership and are accountable to the membership.
2. Many churches operate by Eldership in leadership. These are called Presbyterian styled churches.
Although systems vary from church to church, typically the Elders, who are considered spiritual leaders, usually older men, are elected (or appointed) by the membership. Terms may be limited or perpetual. They operate somewhat like the Senate of our countries.
The lead pastor may be one of the board of elders. He will meet with them regularly, perhaps weekly, to discuss all the business and ministry of the church.
Often different elders will carry unique assignments e.g., finance, facilities, worship and music, youth, children, etc. The elders will make most decisions and are trusted by the congregation.
3. Other churches use an Episcopal model (Bishop-led) which runs top-down, rather than bottom-up. The Roman Catholic and Anglican churches use this system. Roman Catholics, for example fall under the leadership of the Pope, his Cardinals, Archbishops, bishops, priests, etc. Decisions are made at the top levels and the congregation does not have much say.
President (Archbishop, Pope)
Bishops (Cardinals, Supervisors)
4. In Foursquare churches, we use what we call a modified Episcopal style of government. In a diagram it would look like this:
National Board (voted in by the membership)
President (chosen by the National Board)
Council or Board
Pastors are chosen by the Unit Supervisors. Church councils are chosen however the individual church decides, by election or by selection. The Council serves at the pleasure of the pastor as counselors to him or her. They serve in a limited term (4 – 6 years) and help make decisions on finance, facilities and business. They are not a ruling board, but should nevertheless be highly respected.
Note well that each of the four systems I’ve mentioned can work well or poorly. The reason is that each system is composed of flawed people. Each would consider their system a theocracy (God-ruled). God rules through the congregation, a Board, Eldership, or pastor. Each has positives and strengths but also has weaknesses.
In our church (Northside Church) we select council members of various ages (20’s to 60’s), occupations, both men and women. They have a two-year term and may serve three terms. As Lead Pastor, I submit to their counsel, just as I, as a husband, submit to my wife’s counsel. Nevertheless, I carry the final voice in our congregation and therefore set the vision and direction of our church.
Elders in our church are also submissive and supportive of the pastoral office. In our church I call anyone, over forty, who has a good reputation and is a maturing believer, an elder. We have perhaps two hundred elders whom I can call together to give counsel on future plans and vision. We may meet three or four times a year and they are the first to be informed about any major change. They do not vote, but all have freedom to express their thoughts and ideas. We would pray together for God’s mind on new direction.
Associate Pastors, in our congregation, are chosen by the Lead Pastor or Executive Pastor. They are then hired by the Church Council, their salary is set by the Church Council and they can be dismissed only by the Church Council. Dismissal for any pastor could come because of immorality, heresy or inability to perform their duties.
In addition to the larger eldership of Northside Church, each pastor is expected to choose four to six elders who know him or her personally, and who can watch over their spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health and well-being. The relationship between elders and pastors must be open, frank, loving and godly.
The term Pastor is also unclear in our New Testaments. We use the term to describe the spiritual leaders of a congregation, but perhaps that is not accurate. Pastors (used interchangeably with elders and bishops) in the Bible seem to be caretakers of small home churches. They likely all had other jobs.
Pastors in Ephesians 4:11 are gifted caregivers, like shepherds are of sheep, of a group of people. Our home group leaders and counselors serve more as pastors than some of the men and women we call Pastors.
My point is that the Bible model of Church structure is unclear. It was a home-church structure in a family-centered society. We live in a much different world today, and must find a system that works for us. We should be very careful not to be judgmental of other systems.
Acts 17:24-28 "The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.'
Ultimately, we would all agree that Church should be a Theocracy (God-ruled).
Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He is our Shepherd (pastor), the Guardian of our souls.
I Peter 2:25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (Jesus)
We, (pastors, bishops, elders, leaders) serve at his pleasure and bidding to do his will. Our call and our gifting from God will determine what his will is.
1. A box of chocolates, clumsily rearranged in an attempt to hide the fact
you ate all the caramel ones.
2. Lingerie that you think will look almost as good on her as on the
Victoria's Secret model.
3. Any clothing item with the words "push-up" or "slim-down" on the label.
4. Any food item with the words "diet", "light", or "high fiber" on the
5. Any video starring Sylvester Stallone, Jim Carrey, or Angelina Jolie.
6. Flowers from a hospital's gift shop--or worse, a mortuary's.
7. Poetry, no matter how heartfelt, that starts out "There was once a girl
8. Anything you ever gave another woman, including your mother.
9. Any household appliance, power tool or other item from the harder side
10. A gift certificate.
12. Anything you could have bought at the gas station mini-mart on the way
over, even if you didn't.
13. An apologetic look and the words "That was today?"