Definition of Church Planting

I have been discerning and preparing new church initiatives, I got Aubrey Malphurs’ book, “The Nuts and Bolts of Church Planting: A Guide for Starting Any Kind of Church”. In this book, Aubrey Malphurs writes: “I define church planting as an exhausting but exciting venture of faith, the planned process of starting and growing local churches based on Jesus’s promise to build his church and in obedience to his Great Commission”.

Why do we need to plant a new church? We are going to plant and grow a church in obedience to his Great Commission. Since this is an exhausting venture, I need fellow pilgrims. Your prayers and partnership (in many different ways) are invited and appreciated. For the sake of His Kingdom Ministry, let’s follow His way together.

Gender, process or fact?

As a Christian and an Anglican priest (not only because of Christian identity and vocation, but also my passion), I love to reach out to the people in the community. One group of people I have never met personally are transgender. Lately, I start to read a book called “Gender: Your Guide – A GENDER-FRIENDLY PRIMER ON What to Know, What to Say, and What do Do in the New Gender Culture” by Lee Airton.

In this book, Lee Airton writes, “transgender people were assigned a sex and corresponding gender category at birth, but this assignment doesn’t reflect who we are”. In the book, Lee explains how gender works from the perspective of gender as an ongoing, lifelong process.

For me, I am in a lifelong journey/path to be true manhood. I am still learning and becoming a man I was designed by God to be. From this point of view, I experience & see gender as an ongoing, lifelong process.

The most precious valuable gift you can offer

In his book “a life of being have doing enough”, Wayne Muller wrote:

“Perhaps the greatest wealth you possess, the most precious valuable gift you can ever hope to offer any human being, is this one, simple, true things: You. Your Presence. Showing up. Being in the company of another, undistracted, unhurried, with an open heart, gentle hands, and a patient soul. Willing and able to listen, do something or do nothing, willing to be surprised by whatever emerges in the soil of sharing your present, loving company with another human being”.

How often have you offered this gift to others? How often have you received this gift from others? Do you value this the most precious valuable gift?

Church Marketing

I like the definition Richard Reising offers in his book “ChurchMarketing 101”,

“Church Marketing … is ‘the sum’ of all your church does to connect Christ with your membership and the outside world. It is ‘the sum’ of things that done (including all that defines your product, place, etc.) to engage someone to respond positively to the very thing your are promoting…it is your challenge to reach people where they are to create the atmosphere of love and joy that people hunger for. Your challenge is to relate to people wherever they might be in life and to relevantly connect them to Christ and His kingdom”.

As a rector, his definition is leading me to reflect on what I have been doing and leading and what I need to make response to this new (at least for me) definition of church marketing. May God guide our ministry.

They need emotional support.

While I was driving, I turned on the radio and I was shocked by the information the host shared – there’s about 6 – 8 people died daily because of illicit-drug overdoses in BC in the past first ten month 2021.

When I was still the rector of St Elizabeth’s Anglican Church in Mississauga three years ago, we welcomed the NA (Narcotics Anonymous) group in our church building. I was allowed to attend their meetings. One time I had conversation with a Canadian born Chinese young man. He told me he’s trying to live clean but it’s difficult with the emotional support of the family. He was kicked out by his parents because they could not accept his son with drug addiction. I could see his tears when he talked about his family. He loved and missed his family very much. I did not know what to say, I just gave him a hug. He cried and said “thank you” to me. Because he moved to another shelter, he had never come to the NA meeting in our church since that evening. I have been keeping him in prayers.

There are many people need others’ emotional support so that they can continue their journey of living clean. In fact, emotion support is one powerful way to prevent people to use drugs to escape from their personal problems and pains. In fact, we all need others’ emotional support.

The Gospel & Personal Evangelism

According to a recent survey conducted by Alpha Canada and the Flourishing Congregations Institute (The Priority and Practice of Evangelism – Canadian Church Leader Perspective in 2021), 65 percent of church leaders say that evangelism hasn’t been a priority for their congregations over the last several years. Fifty-five percent say their congregations do not equip Christians to share their faith.

According Thom S. Rainer, the top fifteen reasons our churches are less evangelistic today are:

  1. Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people.
  2. Many Christians and church members do not befriend and spend time with lost persons.
  3. Many Christians and church members are lazy and apathetic.
  4. We are more known for what we are against than what we are for.
  5. Our churches have an ineffective evangelistic strategy of “you come” rather than “we go.”
  6. Many church members think that evangelism is the role of the pastor and paid staff.
  7. Church membership today is more about getting my needs met rather than reaching the lost.
  8. Church members are in a retreat mode as culture becomes more worldly and unbiblical.
  9. Many church members don’t really believe that Christ is the only way of salvation.
  10. Our churches are no longer houses of prayer equipped to reach the lost.
  11. Churches have lost their focus on making disciples who will thus be equipped and motivated to reach the lost.
  12. Christians do not want to share the truth of the gospel for fear they will offend others. Political correctness is too commonplace even among Christians.
  13. Most churches have unregenerate members who have not received Christ themselves.
  14. Some churches have theological systems that do not encourage evangelism.
  15. Our churches have too many activities; they are too busy to do the things that really matter.

In his book, “The Gospel & Personal Evangelism”, Mark Dever reminds us that “according to the Bible, all believers have received this commission”. The Commission he talks about is the Jesus Great Commission (Matthews 28:18-20).

Mark points out that “We can all contribute to evangelism simply by building up the local church – helping to organize or lead it. We may teach and equip. We may provide hospitality and encouragement. We may pray and serve and show mercy and give. But we also all have a responsibility to speak of God and the good news both insider and outside of the church…God calls all Christians to share the good news. Our churches need to make sure that we know the good news and to make sure that we can all express it clearly. And we should work to train each other in having the kind of Christian lives and clear understanding that will help us to share the gospel’.

I agree with him that “An account of a changed life is wonderful and inspiring thing, but it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ that explain what it’s all about and how it happened. And it’s the gospel that turns sharing a testimony into evangelism”.

I think Mark has given us a very concise and precise conclusion on evangelism, “a God-given commission and method, a God-centered message, and a God-centered motive (a desire to obedient, a love for the lost, and a love for God) We should all evangelize. Evangelism isn’t all those other things we considered; it is telling the good news about Jesus, and doing it with honesty, urgency and joy, using the Bible, living a life that backs it up, and praying, and doing it all for the glory of God…The Christian call to evangelism is not simply a call to persuade people to make decisions, but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion. We do not fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not subsequently converted; we fail only if we do not faithfully tell the gospel at all”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

I pray all Christians say “yes” to the call to tell people the good news of Jesus Christ,

The Anglican Vision

When I was considering to become an Anglican years ago, James E. Griffiss’ “The Anglican Vision” helped me to understand the origin of Anglicanism, Anglican belief and practice.

For someone like me coming from non-liturgical Christian background, his explanation on “the church as sacrament” dispelled my misunderstanding. He wrote, “In our prayer book sacraments are defined as ‘outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace’…The witness of the Bible, the doctrinal tradition of councils and creeds, the discipline of prayer, worship, and action, and our communion with one another and with God – all of these essential components of how the church is the sacrament of God’s presence. They are our heritage in the catholic faith mediated to us and brought to life in the particular historical condition o four church community. By the grace of God, we believe, the Word of Truth will be present with us in the process of our hearing and speaking.”

According to his description, are you and I the sacraments? As a priest, have I been with my “church” experiencing His presence among&in us? May God help us.

How do we have “crucial conversations”

In the book, “Crucial conversations: tools for talking when stakes are high”, the authors has offered us guidelines on the followings: 1) we need to focus on what we really want; 2) learn how to notice safety is at risk; 3) learn how to make it safe to talk about almost anything; 4) learn how to stay in dialogue when we are angry, scared or hurt; 5) we need to speak persuasively; 6) how to listen when others blow up and clam up and 9) we get to turn crucial conversation into action and result.

To have effective crucial conversations, with our goal in our mind, we need to take heart, take guts and take actions.

“Crucial Conversations: tools for talking when stakes are high”, the book you may need

Many people including Christians ourselves expect that we Christians should be nice persons. People also expect clergies must be nice persons. I believe that Christians including clergies have been gifted with the Holy Spirit, enabling them to bear fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It does not means we are not going to have any tough conversations.

The authors of this book rightly points out that “What makes each of these conversations crucial – and not simply challenging, frustrating, frightening, or annoying – is that the results could have a huge impact on the quality of your life… Despite the importance of crucial conversations, we often back away from them because we fear we’ll make matters worst. We’ve become masters at avoiding tough conversations”.

Are you a master at avoiding tough conversations?

The authors of this books also points out that “the key skills of effective leaders, teammates, parents, and loved ones is the capacity to skillfully address emotionally and politically risky issues”,

I have learned the hard way (actually with tears and sleepless nights) that we need to have crucial conversations whenever it is necessary. This book is one of the resources for our learning to have crucial conversations.

Jim Fisher’s “The Thoughtful Leader: A Model of Integrative Leadership”

Jim Fisher is a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. In this book, Jim Fisher teaches leaders to simultaneously, consistently, and coherently manage, direct and engage their followers. He provides a model of integrative leadership and explain each components and their relationship clearly: Managing (plan, organize, control), Directing(vision, alignment and motivation) and Engaging (values, clarity and involvement). I suggest to have the photocopied Figures 3.1,3.6,8.1 and 9.1 on hand while you are reading the book. These tables/matrix/diagram will help you to understand the model Jim Fisher has offered in this book. As a rector, I believe the model and the principles Jim Fisher has offered in this book is applicable to parish leadership. I also believe this model is able to help me (and those are willing to learn from the business leaders and experts) to be a more effective priest/rector.

Henri Nouwen’s “With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life”

In this timeless book, Fr. Nouwen again insightfully guides me (I hope it helps you too) on a journey to discover the rich and the depth of the Eucharist through the story of the disciples on their way to Emmaus. When I partake the Eucharist, I come in my brokenness before God, heard the Word and the profession of faith, and recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

What has impacted me the most is his reminding us of the end of communion, “Communion is not the end. Mission is …We recognized him, but that recognition is not just for us to savor or to keep as a secret…It is not just the Eucharist, but the Eucharistic life that makes the difference…”

Even though they faced difficulties, challenges and persecutions, the first disciples carried on the mission and lived out their eucharistic lives faithfully. Their witnesses have been inspiring me (I hope you too) to live out the missional life in the midst of pandemic.

Joan Chittister’s “The Liturgical Year: the spiraling adventure of the spiritual life”.

I love to read Sister Joan’s books. This book is one of books in The Ancient Practices Series (I love them all) by Thomas Nelson. This is one of the books helped me to discover and enjoy the rich and the meaning of The Liturgical Year when I came to Anglican from another Christian tradition 8 years ago.

In the beginning of the book, Sister Joan wrote, “every year is a distinct growth point in life… Each year brings something unique to us and calls for something different from us…The way we define our years determine what we think our lives are meant to be about and how we will live because of it…”

Then she wrote and explained “The liturgical year is the year that sets out to attune the life Christian to the life of Jesus, the Christ. It proposes, year after year, to immerse us over and over again into the sense and substance of the Christian life until eventually, we become what we say we are – followers of Jesus all the way to the heart of God. The liturgical year is an adventure in human growth, an exercise in spiritual ripening.”

Her writing has inspired me the most is this, “Like the rings on a tree, the cycles of Christian feasts are meant to mark the levels of our spiritual growth from one stage to another in the process of human growth”.

I have been thinking, as a priest, have I helped my parishioners to experience and cherish the rich and the profound meaning of the liturgical year? How can I have more and mover people journey with me in the spiraling adventure of the spiritual life?

Thom Rainer’s “The Post Quarantine Church”

Although we are not sure if and how the Covid19 Pandemic is going to be over, Thom’s discussions in his book are good reminders for leaders as the churches gradually return to in-person gatherings.

Thom rightly points out that he new normal of the post-quarantine church does not look like the old normal of the pre-pandemic church. In order to grasp the new opportunities the new normal is bringing us, Thom advises us to 1) gather differently; 2) reach the digital world; 3) reconnect with the community near our churches; 4) take prayer to a new and powerful level; 5) rethink our facilities for emerging opportunities and 6) make lasting changes that will make a difference.

In fact, these are the areas the churches have been ignored for years and the new normal is waking us up to make responses to the rapid changing of the world.

Anna Olson’s “reclaiming resurrection in the dying church: freedom beyond survival”

I was attracted by the title of the book when I was looking for helps to minister a very small and declining church. I was touched and inspired by what Anna Olson wrote at the beginning of the book , “Giving up on success frees us. We are free to measure the fruits of our ministry not by the marks of longevity, affluence, and popularity but rather by the mark set by Jesus: love of God and neighbor. If our churches cease striving to be full and flush, we can strive to be places where we and our neighbors practice welcoming and being welcomed, forgiving and being forgiven, loving and being loved. We can live fully in whatever tine we have left, claiming our place in the sacred story of death and resurrection. Relinquishing our claim on survival, we can walk toward death in faith and hope, offering all that we have left to a God fully capable of doing a new thing in our neighborhoods and our communities. In short, we can be who we were always meant to be.”

I believe we will be truly “successful” if we can be a community for our neighbor to experience and practice welcoming and being welcomed, forgiving and being forgiven, loving and being loved. Amen.

They don’t come to church, not yet

Recently I had a fruitful conversation with a fellow priest in the east end of the country (while I am in the west end of the country). He asked me about my “new” church and community. I wrote to him that people in the immediate area don’t come to church (I am talking about the old normal). His response wakes me up, “Not yet…” Yes, there are still many people “not yet” coming to church, we need to invite them to come; people who are not yet coming to church may come to church one day. I pray, “yes, Lord, please help me to experience your presence when I am going to invite people from the community to St Chad to worship you. May you be honored and glorified. Amen!”