The Free Methodist Church in Canada | Winter 2009 – Volume 6 Issue 1
Reflecting the diversity of ministry expression within the Free Methodist family.
COVER What does it mean to be Jesus’ friend? by Bishop Keith Elford
PAGE 2 Editor’s Desk The will of God by Jared Siebert Year-end Financial Review
PAGE 3 People of Discernment by Kim Henderson
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE JESUS’ FRIEND?
Decision Making and Technology by Amy Caswell
Bishop Elie Buconyonri of the Burundi General Conference [left] pictured here with Bishop Keith Elford
Passages Stewardship Ministries: God’s help in making financial decisions by Joanne Bell
PAGE 7 Upcoming Events Regional Gatherings Ministers Conferences Ministry Opportunity Student Ministries: God’s Will...How do you know? by Kris Gowdy
PAGE 8 Spiritual Discernment and the Mission of God by Dan Sheffield
DID YOU KNOW?
The MOSAIC is produced using environmentally responsible processes. The paper is acid-free, contains 10% post-consumer waste material, and is treated with a non-chlorine whitening process. Vegetable-based inks were used throughout the publication and it is 100% recyclable.
Pastor Benjamin is a Gondu tribesman who has been working among his own people for the last 10 years or more. He is the shepherd of the church that he has planted. In recent months, both the pastors and believers of his area have been attacked and threatened with dire consequences if meetings are held in any place or any form.
and punishment being administered. On the other hand, Jesus is opening up to them (and to us) the deeper level of doing His will because we are His friends. So what did Jesus mean when He talked about friendship? Last year when I was in Burundi, Bishop Elie Buconyori invited me to speak to a youth rally [about 700 young people and young adults were jammed into the church where we met] and the theme that was assigned to me was “Fear God.” I talked to them about serving the Lord with all their hearts and the difference between the fear of a slave and the fear of a friend.
There is much fear and much uncertainty prevailing because of the persecution in the state of Orissa. Since all the leaders were served with warnings, each one was anxious as to who was next to be attacked. Last week at 4:00 a.m., Pastor Benjamin became the target. He was so severely beaten that people in the village thought that he would not survive. He was left alive at the pleading of the villagers but the attackers promised to return to complete the job if he did not stop conducting worship services. He was broken in his body and in spirit, but not in his commitment to his Lord.
As I think back over my spiritual journey, I realize that in more immature seasons, “appeasement” was a motivational base. In other words, “I am doing this for Him so that He is obligated to me” – as though we can bargain with God!
his beating, which happened this past November in India, was related to me by my friend Bishop John Gollapalli of India. It takes the discussion about being committed to knowing and doing God’s will to a whole different level, doesn’t it? What is required to go beyond “the superficial” to “the sacrificial”? Sooner or later in our cross-bearing that issue arises. Perhaps it will not be a brutal beating for our obedience, but there are times when our commitment to the Lord Jesus calls for something very deep. We do not know the setting of John 15 when Jesus said to his disciples:
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I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father. [ John 15:11-15, The Message] Clearly, Jesus is sorting out the different motivational bases out of which His disciples could commit to being involved with His agenda for the world. It is possible to serve the Lord slavishly, being motivated by the fear of blessings withheld or judgment V I S I T
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Bishop Buconyori, I told them, had become my very close friend. Their heads came up when I said, “And I am afraid of him!” The place was quiet as I paused to let that comment sink in, and then I went on to explain that I had two deep fears when it came to their bishop: I did not ever want to do anything that would embarrass him in front of others; and secondly, I did not ever want to do anything knowingly or unknowingly that would hurt him. This is the healthy fear of deep friendship. It’s what moves one from “the superficial” to “the sacrificial.” Let’s face it, there are a multitude of motivational bases from which we can do God’s will. Sometimes serving the Lord is absolutely “delightful.” In other seasons, we keep putting one foot in front of the other and “do the duty of cross-bearing” because we have said that we are committed to obedience to His will. As I think back over my spiritual journey, I realize that in more immature seasons, “appeasement” was a motivational base. In other words, “I am doing this for Him so that He is obligated to me” – as though we can bargain with God! My deepest embarrassment comes when I own the times that I have presumed on my gracious Friend and pouted when He didn’t deliver on those things to which I felt I was entitled because of my special relationship with Him. I think that St. Paul’s self-identification as a “slave of Christ,” properly understood, is one of the most continued on page 3
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Drawing circles – not dots I needed an answer – it was down to the wire and I was completely and utterly stuck. I had prayed about this decision [as all good Christians do] and had waited for God to direct me and . . . nothing. When I find myself in troubling situations, like this one, my default always seems to get counsel from others. I rarely internalize things – trying to figure it out on my own. So, it was in this frantic frame of mind that I sank into a chair across from one of my friends at the Ministry Centre. I learned something about “the will of God” that I have never forgotten. My friend listened patiently as I shared all the intricacies of the situation –explaining how I had not “heard from God.” Finally he asked me one very simple question, “What do you want to do?” I was stunned. What did that matter? Had he not been listening this whole time? I’m sure he noticed the baffled look on my face, because he continued as I was still unable to respond. “Lisa, you see the will of God for your life as a very specific point.” To emphasize his meaning he took a piece of paper and pen and made one dot on the page. “But, what if you have a choice? Perhaps God has not said anything on this matter because it’s entirely up to you. What if this is more representative of the will of God?” He then took the same piece of paper and drew a big circle, writing on the inside of the circle, “The will of God.” He continued, “Stay inside the circle and you will be fine.” It took me a long time to process all that he had said, and by that I mean several days! I slowly began to work it through and a few things came to mind. The first was something that I knew about God – He gives us the ability to choose. For example, we choose whether we will follow Him or not – no one is coerced into serving. The second thing that occurred to me was that God wanted to partner with me – not have me act as a mindless robot. Jesus came to restore our relationship with God. Perhaps part of that process was trusting that God was enabling me to make decisions? And thirdly, I finally realized that God’s ability to communicate [with me] was far greater than my ability to mess things up. If my heart was pure in seeking to honour and please Him, then He would make it clear to me if I was headed the wrong way. Someone once told me that it’s easier to steer a ship that is already moving – and I believe that is true. But He’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously — take God seriously. Micah 6:8, The Message
Lisa Howden Managing Editor
t is a very common thing to wonder about knowing God’s will. After all it’s foundational to our relationship with Him. God created us. He is the author and perfector of living life well. We on the other hand can often want things that are no good for us. We can often find ourselves in the predicament of desiring everything that is bad for us and not being interested in what is good for us. Our lives depend on learning to listen and follow God’s way precisely because it is not our way. The bible over and over lets us know that people who obey God have a good relationship with God. They enjoy blessed life. Those that choose another path experience the opposite. Listening to and obeying God are fundamentals. That being said we need to start asking is God’s will an obvious thing or a hidden thing? Is it difficult or easy to understand? Is His voice and our voice indistinguishable in the internal life of the mind and spirit? I will not for one minute contend that these questions are easy to do away with. I have struggled and continue to struggle with listening to God. God’s ways can often seem mysterious. But to mangle a Kierkegaard quote (that often gets attributed to Mark Twain for some reason) “It’s not the parts of God’s will that I don’t understand that frighten me, it’s the parts I do understand that keep me awake at night.” There are a good number of aspects of God’s will, and how he wants us to live, that He has made as plain as the nose on your face. Yes there will be times of mystery. Times of waiting and asking. Times to ask friends. To seek guidance. To wonder what God wants from us. But I thought I would share a short list of things that God has made as plain as day. 1. Acting Justly. The Christian life is one where justice is to be at the centre. Ill gotten gain, unjust treatment of others, and self-centred living all serve to increase human suffering. The temptation to cut corners or take advantage of someone can be a frequent occurrence. A simple rule of life is: if you have questions about a specific action, for example, “Is it permissible to…?” Your reservations about this course of action are an early warning sign that you are being tempted to not act justly 2. Living Generously: There was an economic crisis in this country long before the events of this last fall. Personal spending has been out of control. The average Canadian lives beyond their means. Our society is marked by rampant materialism. Our lack of generosity in the face of unprecedented wealth is first and foremost a spiritual crisis. Materialism militates against the kind of generous living God wills for us. It is God’s will that our lives are marked by sound stewardship and sacrificial giving. John Wesley used to advise “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” 3. Living Well: It is God’s will that we be connoisseurs of all of the best things in life (most of which are free). We are to relish and celebrate life’s abundance. Lack of generosity can often be tied directly to failed recognition of the abundance in life. 4. Living for Others: Jesus was sent out into the world to send us out into the world. We do not have to wonder if it’s God’s will that we share all the good that he’s given us with others. Contrary to popular practice participation in the great commission is not optional. Knowing the mind of God is no easy thing. However, since he has made so many things obvious to us it isn’t entirely impossible either. When asking the question “What does God want me to do?” – it would serve you well to consider and practice the obvious things first, the rest will often have a habit of falling into place. Rev. Jared Siebert is the Director of Growth Ministries for The Free Methodist Church in Canada
New and improved FMCIC website!
Year-end Financial Review
www.fmc-canada.org We hope that this will be a better functioning site for everyone. So go ahead and take a look around . . .
Giving Streams – Overall Giving Streams to December 2008 are above 2007 levels by over $106,000 as summarized below: Global Missions Church Development Leadership Development Quebec Ministries
above 2007 levels by $41,000 (and above 2008 goal by $55,000) above 2007 levels by $74,000 (and above 2008 goal by $53,000) below 2007 levels by about $1,200 (and below 2008 goal by $900) below 2007 levels by $8,000 (but above 2008 goal by $5,800)
Core Giving – The 12 months ending December 2008 came in at $1,142,000 which is over $31,000 above the 2008 goal and $42,000 above 2007 levels of $1,100,000. We are praising the Lord for the solid ways in which an increasing number of local churches responded to the CORE covenant in a disciplined healthy way in 2008. The surplus is helping to offset the large reduction in investment income that the 2008 budget required.
e all make hundreds of decisions every day – when we’re going to get out of bed, what we’re going to wear, what route we’ll take to the office – and most of the time those decisions are easy to make and don’t demand much thought on our part. There are also those times in our lives when we’re faced with choices that require us to make a decision that will have much more impact on the direction of our lives. Much more energy and thought needs to go into the making of those decisions and for Christ-followers, this is where discernment is an integral part of the process. We do want to know that our decisions resonate with God’s will for our lives and that requires us to be people of discernment. A number of years ago I was wrestling with some choices, struggling to make a decision and in essence, getting nowhere. I shared this with my network and discovered that I was not alone. It was during this time of discussion that Bob Lay recommended a book that he had read, put into practice himself, and found to be helpful. I accepted that recommendation, put it into effect in my own life and agreed with Bob. The book is “Listening to God in Times of Choice: The Art of Discerning God’s Will” by Gordon T. Smith. While I don’t fully agree with every point Smith makes, the general principles and ‘how-to’s’ are helpful. Smith describes discernment as the ability to distinguish the voice of God from the noise of the world and the lies of the evil one. When we do this, we’re able to make decisions based on God’s best for us, given our current situations. There are no shortcuts in this process, though. Smith states that discernment is learned by doing and that one’s capacity to discern increases with practice. So often we’re tempted to go to another person (someone with skin on) for our answers rather than God. It’s easier. Yet that won’t help us learn to know our Father’s voice.
As leaders, we need to model what a discerning person sounds like and acts like. To be a discerning church or people, we must first be discerning individuals.
We can be people who practice discernment – that is, we treat it like a resource guide on the shelf that we pull down for reference when we’re faced with making a critical decision- or we can be discerning people. Smith presents some qualities and components that he believes are present in mature, discerning people, that I’ll briefly share here: a.
Prayer and Spiritual Receptivity: Discerning people foster a deep relationship with God through listening prayer – that is, prayer that is both speaking to God and pausing to pay attention to the still small voice of God, who speaks through the inner witness of the Spirit. These people have done something about their inner longing for God and have developed a lifestyle of spiritual response.
b. Emotional Self-Understanding: Discerning people recognize and understand
their own emotional states. They get in touch with their emotions, being honest with themselves and God, so that they are not blinded nor controlled by their emotions. c.
Humility and Self-Knowledge: Discerning people know that humility is the only posture from which we can hear God, because we are easily self-deceived. They have an honest assessment of their strengths, talents and abilities as well as their limitations. This self-knowledge also includes self-acceptance.
d. Self-Knowledge and Culture: Another element of self-knowledge that discerning people possess is learning to recognize how they have been shaped by their culture. We are shaped by societal values, expectations and norms. e.
Conscious of the Strategies of the Evil One: Discerning people, who know the voice of the Spirit, are also alert to other voices and are aware of how the father of lies tends to work in their minds.
Structures of Accountability: Effective discerners live within structures of accountability and authority, in Christian community. While we are all ultimately responsible for the decisions that we ourselves make, we do not need to be alone in the process of coming to that decision.
g. Routine and Order: Discerning people seek and find an order in their daily lives, where there is a rhythm of prayer, service, work and rest. They can find the peace necessary for discernment. I’ve thought about these components again and how they essentially describe people who are growing in maturity and wisdom. The points serve as a check-list for some self-reflection – do I have a rhythm of order in my life? Am I working on my own emotional health? How well am I doing at ‘listening prayer’? They are good questions for all of us to ponder and then, should there be need for growth, get to work on. If we allow God to prioritize for us, I believe we’ll discover the order unfolds one step at a time. As leaders, we need to model what a discerning person sounds like and acts like. To be a discerning church or people, we must first be discerning individuals. In terms of leadership development, some instruction along with effective modeling is needed. Smith offers good suggestions and he’s one of many that do. For those of us who serve in roles where we have the opportunity to speak into people’s lives, we need to take full advantage of what is available so that we truly are discerning people. I realize that this can cover just about everyone but I’m thinking of those who serve as pastors, who serve on official boards, pastor’s cabinets and personnel committees as well as those who help guide those tracking for credentialed ministry through the process. This includes those on the Ministerial, Education, Guidance and Placement committees as well as those who serve on local discernment teams for the churches involved with the leadership development plan. If we long to be in the centre of God’s will, we need to be a people of discernment. I know what some of the growth areas in my spiritual growth are for this year. How about you? Rev. Kim Henderson is the Director of Personnel for The Free Methodist Church in Canada
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE JESUS’ FRIEND? | CONTINUED FROM COVER powerful images of the deeper work of grace and obedience that draws us from “the superficial” to “the sacrificial.” As a former slave of sin [including Pharisaic self-righteousness], Paul realized that he had been purchased at a great price by Jesus’ self-giving on the cross. Because of His sacrifice, the Lord Jesus owned him and Paul knew it. It was his duty to serve him as a slave because Jesus had bought the rights to his life.
owner o gives a slave his freedom. The owner walked the slave to the edge of the property and a said that he was no longer his slave and he was free to go. If the slave decided that he h loved the master and would rather stay to serve him than take his freedom in the world, his ear was pierced with an awl. He was no longer a slave because he had been w purchased but because this was his heart’s choice. He returned to his previous tasks, p no n matter how awful they were, with a new freedom to serve and to do them as the master’s friend. He did not work because he was afraid of the master’s whip, but m because he wanted to do everything he could to represent his master-friend well and b not n knowingly or unknowingly offend him.
But there is more to the picture and this gets us to the friendship that makes possible the sacrifice of love that we see in the lives of people like St. Paul and Pastor Benjamin. In the Old Testament, there is a ceremony [see Exodus 21:2-6] where an
So, what do you think? What does it mean to be a “friend of Jesus” where you’re living?
Decision Making and Technology by Amy Caswell
’m sure you have heard Christians around you say things like “I am seeking God’s will about my career move” or “I’m not sure what to do next, I don’t know if I am in the centre of God’s will”. Maybe you have even said these types of things yourself. I know I have experienced the frustration of seeking to do the right thing in a given situation and just not knowing with confidence what is the best way forward. It is part of becoming more Christ-like to consider what God desires in the decisions of daily life, but some of the ways we think about God’s will for our lives can paralyze us when it comes to making decisions. First, let’s make sure we are talking about the same thing. There are multiple ways we use the phrase God’s will. It can mean the moral ideals for life - being outside God’s will in this sense involves known sin in our lives. God’s will can also be used to indicate salvation or election - God’s will for the world is salvation of sinners. But most commonly when we talk about God’s will we are talking about a particular plan for the life of an individual. Some have argued that God’s will in the last sense does not even exist, or at least isn’t proven to exist Biblically. Garry Friesen argues this point in Decision Making & the Will Of God: A Biblical Alternative To The Traditional View. Faced with the frustration that so many people are either spending excessive energy discerning God’s will or being paralyzed so they cannot make a decision Friesen set out to refute the idea that there is a perfect path in life for each individual, as if daily choices are aiming to always hit a bulls eye on a target. Instead, Friesen offers, following the moral will of God as established in scripture and exercising our free will to choose is enough to lead us in the right direction. The moral teaching of the Bible can be summarized as Jesus expressed it as love of God and love of neighbour. Focusing on God’s moral will as the boundary and exercising our free will is a very important corrective to those who are paralyzed by choice. Theologically, we in the Free Methodist Church have an advantage in overcoming decision making paralysis. Our Arminian view of free will that emphasizes the ability of human beings to choose, while not denying God’s sovereign power in the world, releases Christians from getting too caught up in finding the one exact plan for life. In my own life there has been a process of learning more and more of the teaching from scripture which has helped me to know more of God’s will for my life. Lately, as I have been reading the book of Isaiah I see more clearly the vision of how God wants us to care for the poor and hungry among us. Listen to what God says to his people through the prophet: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. [Isaiah 58:6b-10, NLT]
The vision set before God’s people here to is to feed and clothe the poor - and I get overwhelmed by that, how am I going to do that? But then God speaks to me in my attempt at self-sufficiency from Isaiah 55:1- 2: “Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink— even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk— it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food.”
relationally doesn’t mean “ Thinking denying an absolute Truth in life. But it does recognize that people are human and life is messy.
When I heard these words read in a worship service recently I was struck by how God doesn’t always ask us to minister to someone because we have what we need. Often he asks us to do something because we don’t have what that person needs - God has what that person needs. What I have to offer is just spending money on food that does me no good. And most of all, that person I am being asked to minster to needs the presence of God, mediated through me in that particular moment. Learning more of what God has intended for his people helps me to make good decisions, but essentially this learning process is not an academic process, but a relational development as I encounter God himself. But there are things that get in the way of remembering that decision making and discerning God’s will is based on developing relationship with God. One of those barriers is how mechanical decision making sometimes becomes. For example, it has become assumed that there is a right way to live that fits everybody, a default position. And that this right way is in contrast to a wrong way, an assumption of binary choices. And more subtly there is an assumption that we
1 Garry Friesen, Decision Making & The Will of God : A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1980).
With a binary view of the world all these things would need to
“ be dealt with right away, but by God’s grace, he brings these things into view as he enables us to learn to choose well. ” continue to make progress, knowing better and better about how to make the right decisions. These three things, and I’m sure there are many more, are ways that I have seen a technological mindset creeping into areas of our lives beyond using computers and other technology as tools. Technical language has slipped into our conversations and technical metaphors are now present in how we describe the experiences of our daily life and our spiritual life. For example, I find myself now using the language of “default position” in normal conversation - “my default position is as an introvert”. But the language of default position is technical language. It’s the factory settings on a machine, the way that would work for most people for most situations. It is impersonal, a default position is not chosen in response to relational knowledge of another person. When this kind of thinking invades into how we think about God and His treatment of us we distort His character. God is a person. And He has the ability to know each of us intimately. He speaks to us with deep knowledge of our abilities, situation, and feelings. When we seek God’s will we need to be seeking the personal God, not a machine with a default position. One way I have seen default position contrasted to relational discernment is in how I have seen different churches approach the choice of programs to run. In many churches there is a default position: we need to have ministry for each age group, we need to have music in the service, and we need to have a pastor to give the sermon. In contrast to this, the church I’ve been attending while at school in Vancouver has hit some significant struggles and one was problems with the lease of the land the church sits on from the provincial government. The lease cost was going to increase by ten times and this provoked the core of the church to get on our knees and start to pray about what God wanted to do in the particular place, at this particular time with this particular group of believers. And then we all listened - relationally waiting for God’s guidance. After seeing how the decision making process happened in that situation I will never be able to accept the default position for decisions about church ministry again. Besides default positions technological thinking also slips into our lives through binary thinking. Computers work on a binary code - there are only two choices “yes” or “not yes” (1 or 0). Computers have become very complex since my high school computer programing classes where we told the computer how to make choices, but it is still all a sophisticated network of binary choices that the computer makes. In real life where relationships with real, complicated people are involved in the daily choices and the big choices of life, binary thinking can be inadequate, or even destructive. Thinking relationally doesn’t mean denying an absolute Truth in life. But it does recognize that people are human and life is messy. I am a student right now at Regent College and among my friends there are many passionate people who are concerned about many important issues like social justice for abused and neglected people, caring well for the poor all around the world, protecting creation as God’s good gift through our behaviour, such as ethical food choices and rejection of consumerism. When I first arrived at Regent I was overwhelmed at the thought of how to change how I was living now that I was aware of all these “right” things I should be doing. If buying clothing produced in just and ethical ways was important for my friends, it must also be necessary and good for me. What finally gave
me release from the guilt trip that would result from many of my conversations was the realization that God’s help is the only way I can do these good things. Actually, God’s help is the only way that I can do anything good. So, if God’s help is necessary for success, then I also need to trust God to help me to figure out what the right issues are for me to focus on at any given time. Slowly I know more about where my food and clothing come from. Slowly I have learned to carry a canvas re-useable shopping bag to reduce plastic consumption. And this growth can be generalized to other areas of my life that were marked by binary thinking. Spiritual growth happens slowly, and with God’s help. Slowly I have become more aware of the sinful ways that pride and selfsufficiency undermine my relationship with God and with other people. With a binary view of the world all these things would need to be dealt with right away, but by God’s grace, he brings these things into view as he enables us to learn to choose well. The third way I see technological thinking creeping into life and decision making is through an assumption of continual progress. Technology is constantly changing and upgrading - getting better. I won’t deny that the new laptop I bought this year is significantly better in lots of ways than the one it replaced. And I am very grateful for this. But we need to be careful about how this kind of thinking is transfered to how we think about people. I have been frustrated on many occasion when “the same old sin” comes up in my life again and again. I tend to see this as a sign that God hasn’t been working in my life, that I have learned nothing about making good decisions. Progress thinking is when we expect others, and ourselves, to continually be building on what came before. Instead, God deals with each of us in a particular time and a particular place. He knows all the details of our life, so seeking a good decision - seeking God’s will, involves being in relationship with God so that we can hear his voice. One way that I have marked the progress in my spiritual life is by taking the time to read back through my journal. Recently, as I read through it I was struck by how little progress I made . Some of the same compulsions, distortions and fears marked my spiritual life years ago that also mark it a few months ago. I even saw patterns of how the issues in my life were addressed by God, and then I slipped back into the same pattern of fear with a new manifestation. If progress is all that I am looking for then reading my journal would be proof that I have been a dismal failure over the last few years. But I also saw marks of the presence of God in my life - in both the successful moments of moving away from fear, and in the times when I was so gripped by fear that all I could do was cry out to God. So, I am making progress, but not because I am adding tools and skills to my repertoire of decision making knowledge, but because I am learning more and more to lean on Jesus and trust Him in the good and the bad. Both in technological thinking, or in getting caught up in finding the one perfect will for our life we can miss out on the relational aspect of making decisions in the presence of God. I know I haven’t offered any particulars - pursue this job, marry this person, spend time this way - but I hope I have been helpful in re-orienting how we think about decision making. My hope is that as each of us approaches the decisions that are the choice between two good things we will seek after knowing God, instead of knowing the “right” answer. Amy Caswell is a student at Regent College in Vancouver, BC. She is also a member of The Free Methodist Church in Canada’s Study Commission on Doctrine [SCOD].
APPOINTMENTS Sheldon Carlson, Interim Pastor at Lakeside Community Church, Salmon Arm, BC, effective January 5, 2009.
Kathy Doornekamp, Assistant Pastor at Westport (ON) FMC, effective November 1, 2008. Judy Finley, Assistant Pastor (Counseling & Membership Care) at Smiths Falls (ON) FMC, effective February 25, 2009
in making financial decisions
Cathleen Getchell, Ministry Assistant at Polson Park FMC, Kingston, ON, effective February 10, 2009 Richard Hamilton, Lead Pastor at Polson Park Free Methodist Church, Kingston, ON, effective July 1, 2009. Cameron Montgomery, Interim Pastor at Ecclesiax, Ottawa, effective February 17, 2009 Brandon Shillington, Senior Pastor at Frankford Community Church, Frankford, ON, effective March 1, 2009 Keitha Slack, Pastor at Saskatoon FMC, effective July 1, 2009 Cristy William, Assistant Pastor (Young Adults Ministry) at Smiths Falls (ON) FMC, effective February 25, 2009. APPROVED AS MINISTERIAL CANDIDATES Judith Finley (Smiths Falls FMC, Smiths Falls, ON) Cathleen Getchell (Polson Park FMC, Kingston, ON)
few months ago I was facilitating a seminar on financial stewardship and we were talking about seeking God’s direction regarding how we manage our money. One of the participants asked the following question, “So does this mean that whenever I go to spend any money, I need to pray first and find out if God is okay with it? I mean, on my way to work as I get close to Tim Hortons, am I going to be praying, ‘Lord is it your will that I get a Timmy’s this morning?’” Even if the questioner was exaggerating the situation a bit, this issue of trying to figure out how God wants us to manage our money is an important one for anyone desiring to be a faithful steward. While I still have times when I struggle with this question, I’d like to share with you some of the things that my husband, Les and I are learning in this area.
APPROVED AS COMMISSIONED MINISTER Pierre Andre Jean-Charles (Rosemont FMC, Montreal, QC) COMMISSIONING SERVICE Pierre Andre Jean-Charles at Rosemont FMC, Montreal, QC - on Sunday, March 15, at 3:00 pm
CHANGE OF STATUS Dale Vinkle, released for service beyond the denomination - The Salvation Army Harbour Light Centre, Kingston, ON, effective February 10, 2009. Georges Legault, released for service beyond the denomination – Director of the Montréal District, Canadian Bible Society, effective January 29, 2009. Randy MacDonald, released for service beyond the denomination – Regional Director, Focus on the Family, effective January 1, 2009. PASTORS IN TRANSITION Linda Dixon Harold Fox Larry Hart Dale Hawley John Kurish Steve Lougheed Samson Mehari Jim Peetoom CHURCHES IN TRANSITION Charlemont FMC, Wallaceburg, ON Ecclesiax, Ottawa, ON Kingston West FMC, Kingston, ON Lakeside Community Church, Salmon Arm, BC Mainstreet Community Church, Kelowna, BC Pineview FMC, Cloyne, ON Rice Road Community Church, Welland, ON The Freeway, Oshawa, ON Valleyview Community Church, Blezard Valley, ON Westdale Park FMC, Napanee, ON Whitby FMC, Whitby, ON Weekly Bishop’s Notes The Bishop’s Notes are generally sent out on Mondays. If you are an ordained minister or a ministerial candidate you automatically receive these notes through the pastor’s listserv. If you are a lay person, and you wish to receive the Bishop’s Notes, please visit our website www.fmc-canada.org and look under the “Who We Are” banner - see “Bishop’s Notes” for rss feed. Ministry Opportunities For an up-to-date list of job postings, please visit our website www.fmc-canada.org and look under the “Who We Are” banner - see “Ministry Opportunities.”
Once we’ve answered the how much to give and how much to save questions, it’s pretty easy to figure out how much to spend: income – giving- saving = spending. Now we need to come back to the question of “on what?”
Often our choices are blatantly good “thing” evil “thing”. Most often we have to make choices between two good things. The question then becomes, “What is the wisest choice for me and for my family?”
NETWORK LEADER & MENTOR CHANGES Tom Gurnick (replaces Gary Landers) effective December 1, 2008
But long-term or retirement savings is more difficult. That is where a financial advisor can be a great resource. Through looking at our goals for the future and our current financial position, an advisor can help determine how much we need to be saving today.
While praying for direction before every purchase may not be such a bad idea, I would be kidding myself if I thought that I would actually do this. So what is the alternative? We’ve found that a budget, [yes I said I budget but you can call it a spending not between a plan if you like] provides the best answer to this problem. and a blatantly
Dyan Mouland (First FMC, Moose Jaw, SK) Cristy Williams (Smiths Falls FMC, Smiths Falls, ON)
out how to deal with whatever emergencies come our way.
The first is that scripture provides us with a lot of answers to many of our questions. And when we put these answers together, we see that God has in fact created a wonderful framework for how He wants us to manage the resources He has entrusted to us. Through scripture we learn: • God owns it all – 100% of everything we have, and we are to manage it for His purposes not ours • God wants us to work and earn a fair wage • God wants us to spend some of what we earn on our family to meet our needs and to enjoy what He has given us • God wants us to be generous and to give back to Him • God wants us to save for the future • God wants us to avoid debt and when we are in debt, to eliminate it as quickly as possible These principles go a long way to helping us understand how to manage money the way God wants us to. We need to generate an income. Out of that income we need to give, save, and spend. For many of us, the spending part causes the greatest problem. How much should we spend and on what? For Les and I, the answer to the “how much” question only comes after we answer the questions of first, how much to give, and second, how much to save. We have chosen to develop an annual gift plan. At the end of each year, we pray and ask God to challenge us and enable us to give beyond what we gave the previous year. When you ask God to direct in this way, he does. And when you commit to give as God directs, it can be challenging and mean sacrifice, but God does make a way. For us, answering the question of how much to save has been a little trickier. Knowing what we need to save for emergencies is a bit easier – we put aside between three and six months worth of income in an emergency fund. This gives us some breathing room – enough time to figure
All of us have more opportunities for spending than we have money. We need to decide what are the best choices for our spending. Often our choices are not between a blatantly good “thing” and a blatantly evil “thing”. Most often we have to make choices between two good things. The question then becomes, “What is the wisest choice for me and for my family?” I’ve seen many parents, struggling financially, choose to enroll their children in: piano lessons, soccer, hockey, dance, camp, and the list goes on… While all of these are great options for their kids, if the family does not have sufficient money in the budget (remember there are associated costs such as uniform, equipment, gas), then is it really the wisest choice? A budget allows us to categorize our spending. There are things that we must include in the budget: housing, food, transportation, clothing, etc. Les and I have always started budgeting by looking at these “must have” items and figuring out how much we will need to spend there. Then we move on to the more discretionary items such as recreation, entertainment, gifts, etc. Once we have a draft budget, we spend some time praying and asking God if He is pleased with our decisions or if there are changes we need to make. We seek God’s blessing before we finalize our budget. On more than one occasion God has challenged us to rethink our priorities. Going back to the initial question of “Do I have to pray before I go through the Tim Horton’s drive thru?” My answer is: if I have developed a budget that I believe God is pleased with and I have money set aside for this kind of expenditure, and I haven’t overspent it this month, then yes I can stop and get a coffee and enjoy it guilt free. Does that make sense to you? Through our Generous Steward ministry we have many workshops, seminars and other resources that can provide you with tools to help you make financial decisions consistent with God’s will. Check us out at www.generoussteward.org.
Joanne Bell is the Stewardship Ministries Director for The Free Methodist Church in Canada
God’s Will ...
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Who’s invited? Ministers (ordained, commissioned) | Delegates | Board chairs Ministerial Candidates | Retired Ministers Purposes To introduce local church leaders to one another so that they can build relationships and potentially give assistance to one another To vision-cast to lay leaders and pastors between General Conferences To increase missional momentum, and counter-act feelings of isolation To facilitate the formation of partnerships through which local churches in a region might respond to the possibility of planting a church in Canada or sending out a cross-cultural worker to a ministry beyond Canada or helping one another (e.g. work teams to help one another with construction projects) in other ways. Locations [Consult the website for more detailed information] Quebec @ Rosemont on March 14 Central Ontario @ Wesley Chapel on March 28 Saskatchewan@ Arlington Beach Camp on April 4 South/Southwest Ontario @ Brantford on April 18 Eastern Ontario @ Smiths Falls on May 2 Northern Ontario @ Sault Ste Marie on May 9 Northwestern Ontario/Winnipeg @ Dryden on May 30 Alberta @ Ellice on June 6 British Columbia @ Merritt, Nicola Valley Evangelical Free Church on June 13
Pastors Conference FCJ Christian Life Centre , Calgary September 29 to October 1, 2009 Location: 219 - 19th Avenue S.W. Calgary, Alberta, T2S 0C8 Wesley Acres October 20 to 22, 2009 Wesley Acres PO Box 330 Bloomfield, ON K0K 1G0
JOB OPPORTUNITY The Free Methodist Church in Canada requires a Director of International Childcare Ministries (ICCM) The Opportunity ICCM is a child sponsorship program operating in 14 countries of the world. Through education, meals, and medical care, children in need are given an opportunity for a better life. The Canadian Director of ICCM will provide overall leadership of a budget approaching $1 million per year, monthly sponsorships of approximately 2,500 children in the ICCM program and has primary responsibility for the ICCM program administration, promotion and marketing of the ICCM program in Canada through connecting with Free Methodist Churches across Canada and individual donors. You will liase with the ICCM International Director in Indianapolis and with National Coordinators where ICCM Canada provides financial support. Your Background You are known to have ability in analytical problem solving, organization and planning, and goal setting. You have prior experience on providing excellence in customer service, public speaking, and a basic understanding of accounting processes. Your ability to handle multiple competing priorities and an attention to detail has been demonstrated as well as an ability to handle inter-cultural settings. Preferred Education and Job-Related Experience Requirements Ideally, you will have a degree in business administration/marketing and/or international program development and have 5+ years of experience managing an international child sponsorship program in a denominational or some other similar not-for-profit setting. The Next Step To be considered, you should be available to begin work on or about May 1, 2009 and provide your resumé by March 16, 2009 to: Marcia Goldstein, Office Manager The Free Methodist Church in Canada | email@example.com
ar-off, veiled, distant, unattainable – these are words that often seem associated with discerning God’s will for our lives and making decisions. We seem a bit conflicted, this group who call themselves Christian. We say Jesus is our best friend and he is the one who sticks closer than a brother. My best friends and brother speak to me pretty regularly, clearly and I can’t really miss out on what they have to say yet I can miss out on what Jesus says. Does that mean that I associate with a mute and capricious companion? No! So here are a few things I’ve gleaned as I have made some major life decisions and sought God’s will for my life. God speaks to people. Victor Shepherd reminded me in “Theology of the Human Person” that it is God’s address that defines God’s image in us. We are different than all of God’s creation because He talks to us. I have often wondered what was so special about Abram. Why did God call him out of Haran? Why did God talk to Abram? After all wasn’t he just some heathen nomad? After pondering that for a few years I realized that there probably was nothing special about Abram. God had a message and a plan for him. Abram listened, heard and responded. How much of God’s will do we miss just because we aren’t listening and even if we do hear something are we willing to respond? I am in full time ministry now but I believe God had been calling me since I was in my late teens. I know that I heard that call but I rationalized it away and chose to do something completely different. Recently someone told me they knew God was calling them to do something. My question is how do they know? From personal testimony I know they are not praying or regularly reading their Bible. If we’ve got our fingers in our ears all we hear is our own thoughts. Please don’t take God’s name in vain when labelling His will with your preference. Even in the silence we need to engage God. A few years ago a very good friend of mine entered into a silent phase. We were separated by geography so we connected mostly through email. When I knew he was going to be closer over the Christmas holidays I tried to arrange to get together with him. My inquiries resulted in silence. I had suspicions about the reason for the response I was getting. So after a time I reengaged him through email. Turns out my suspicions were correct. His silence was a message to me conveying what he needed – space. I was smothering him. The onus was on me to find out, talk to him about it and see what he had to say. Conversation is a two way street.
Often we get to have a choice. While in Bible College I heard a speaker talk about our “Divine Destiny”. A tool he used and I continue to use when having these discussion with teens is this: imagine a Venn diagram with three intersecting circles. One circle is labeled “What gives God the greatest glory?” Another is labeled “What gives you the greatest joy?” The third is labeled “What most advances the Kingdom?” When these three circles are at their greatest point of overlapping you can be quite assured you are in the will of God. I have found places where these circles overlap to a great degree, at Echo Lake Camp and my present position at Trulls Road. I challenge each one to search out these three circles and see where that great overlap happens in your life. Here are some practical steps to help you with discerning God’s will and making choices: ask people who know you well to assess your gifts, strengths and abilities; find out your S.H.A.P.E.; take your church’s ministry class; try out new experiences and opportunities; do your Myers Briggs or other personality and gifts inventories; pray; read the Bible; spend time in solitude and reflection to listen and respond. Rev. Kris Gowdy is the Student Ministries Pastor at Trulls Road Free Methodist Church in Courtice, ON
Student Ministries Upcoming Events h
April 3 & 4 - 30 Hour Famine @ Trulls Road FMC
May 2 - Beachfest @ Whitby FMC
May 30 - High Voltage @ Verona FMC
June 5 - Battle of the Bands @ Barrie FMC For more information about FMDOG [Free Methodist Disciples of God] Student Ministries please visit our website www.fmc-canada.org and select Student Ministries.
Spiritual Discernment and the Mission of God “The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts – sometimes the gift will lead you to your ministry, and sometimes God will gift you for a ministry he has led you to.” That statement was shared with a small group of young, developing missionaries by veteran missionary Patrick Johnstone, the author of the comprehensive world Christian information and prayer handbook, Operation World. Almost 30 years later this understanding of how God leads and directs is still part of the way I think about discerning ministry and calling. God has gifted us with grace-gifts (both from birth, and re-birth) – and these gifts are a good indicator of the normal exercise of our kingdom service. There are times, however, when we will find ourselves in ministry situations where we know God has led us, but our known gifts don’t seem to match – and yet the Holy Spirit gifts us for that time and place.
[left] Cambodia: Sok Em, an ordained minister with The Free Methodist Church in Canada, and Savy, his wife have been serving with Mission to Unreached Peoples developing leaders.
[left] Free Methodist Church in Canada Housing project in Sri Lanka: meeting in a utility shed, a small congregation starts to form. [right] Bishop Keith Elford annoints leaders in Sri Lanka. The FMCIC has oversight over the Sri Lanka Mission District.
It is this same “both/and” perspective that we find in the Apostle Paul’s ministry guidance system. In Acts 16:6-8, Paul’s God-given internal direction system was leading him to travel to “the province of Asia” in western Turkey, but he was kept from going there by the Holy Spirit. So Paul continued north and tried to go into Bithynia, “but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” So Paul, Timothy and Silas arrived in the port city of Troas. It is in this location that the voice of Luke picks up the story (vs11). Without this Spirit direction it is possible that the writer of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles may not have met Paul, or the fruitful work in Macedonia and Greece may not have developed. Paul was very sensitive to the inner direction of the Holy Spirit – he changed his plans to fit God’s. But Paul’s God-given internal direction system eventually took him to his first intended location, Asia Minor, and one of its largest and most influential urban centres – the city of Ephesus (18:19, 19:1). Paul had his longest, and perhaps most significant, ministry assignment in this city (19:8-10). [below] Niamey, Niger: full-time missionary David Wright [and Jennifer Wright, not shown] have been ministering for three and half years in Niamey.
Sometimes I am asked “why are we doing ministry in Sri Lanka and Niger, and not some other places?” My normal answer is: “because that is where the Holy Spirit has directed our pastors, churches and missionaries to initiate ministry.” We take a “both/ and” approach. Like Paul, the FMCiC, through our General Conference process, has taken a strategic perspective – “where are the most unreached places; surely this is where God wants the Jesus-story to be taken?” With the help of good information we identified 100 such locations [the Gateway Cities], and then asked our churches to listen to the Holy Spirit’s direction in their congregations as to the specific places the Lord might lead our Connexion. It is this process of listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, listening to our Godgiven reason, and listening to the giftings and passions of our congregations, that has led us to new ministries in places like Sri Lanka, India, Niger, Thailand, and Cambodia. But alongside these ministries in “unreached” locations, God continues to direct our congregations to join in “reached” locations like Kenya, Congo, Ghana, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and a variety of countries in Central and South America, to develop Christian leaders, share resources, and mend broken lives and communities. Rice Road FMC in Welland, Ontario has been going through this process over the past several years as they have sought to discern their role in sending a ministry team (Chris & Terri Payk) to Taipei, Taiwan. Taipei is one of these unreached Gateway Cities, but the FMC already has a number of established churches there. Chris and Terri have spent several summers in Taipei, and other church leaders have visited, as they have sought to discern what resources, gifts and graces Rice Road might contribute to the ministry there. The result of this discernment process is Chris and Terri and their two small children being sent for a 3 year assignment to work on staff with a Free Methodist church in Taipei, under the leadership of a Taiwanese pastor. This is an unusual arrangement that has emerged through a combination of strategic thinking, particular giftings and listening for the Spirit’s guidance. I believe that God is continuing to give direction to our churches, in a variety of ways, that will lead to new possibilities, as well as the strengthening of existing opportunities. Rev. Dan Sheffield is the Director of Global and Intercultural Ministries for The Free Methodist Church in Canada