The Bees of Rainbow Falls

Our very own Preston Pouteaux’s new book The Bees of Rainbow Falls is now available. My copy will be arriving this week and I can’t wait!

Here is a review of the book from Dixie Vandersluys:

Centering around his knowledge of the life of bees, Preston Pouteaux’s new book The Bees of Rainbow Falls is an invitation to look at the world and our place in it with fresh eyes. This may seem like a leap: from the, seemingly, small life of the bee to this great big world of ours, but Preston weaves together a narrative that is at once educational, personal, challenging, and inspiring. And it all begins with the way we see.

From the introduction where Preston writes of the lush grass of his childhood and how his imagination was piqued to see beyond the blades to what lies beneath, from who he was to who he could be, from the beginning with God in the garden to what God is doing in the world through our neighbourhoods today, the reader is invited to experience and participate in a journey of imagination. “When God brought me into the garden apiary, he was doing what love has always done — God was opening the window of my imagination to catch the fresh cool wind of the world that God was creating before me” (15).

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Part one of the book looks at bees and how their lives and the practice of beekeeping has drawn Preston into a better understanding of neighbourhood (person and community). This is not a perspective unique to Preston. Throughout history the bee and its work has offered analogy and insight into who we are as people and how neighbourhoods and places can be reshaped and reimagined.

There is much in the bee that we can see in us. Preston unfolds this powerfully in his discussion of keystone species whose work is often unnoticed but is necessary and vital; in the love and delight that is found when our identity is rooted in God’s perspective; in allowing God’s work to be seen in the complicated intricacies of life — both hive and human; in recognizing God’s hope and promise (“the land of milk and honey”) all around us; how small, unseen actions can be transformational and redemptive; and finally, the practical risks that need to be taken to change an environment in hopes that it will thrive. The reader is left with questions to examine his or her own life: What about my life? Is it impactful and life-giving? Am I seeing all there is to be seen in my neighbourhood?

Not leaving these questions unanswered, the second part of the book explores the themes Preston has discovered in this bee-keeping neighbourhood journey, offering in-depth and practical discussions of: beauty (which reawakens our senses), awe (renewing imagination), security (looking at what real safety is), boring (examining the rhythms of life), taste of place (recognizing uniqueness), and curates (opportunities for care and creation). Some of these themes are obvious, while some of the concepts are unexpected. Yet, Preston’s examination allows each theme to be both universally applicable and uniquely personal, leaving the reader both challenged and encouraged and with the tools to dig into each theme in their own life.

Ultimately, The Bees of Rainbow Falls is much more than a book about some neighbourhood bees. The book offers the reader an opportunity to sit, learn, and reflect on the small, unseen aspects of life, along with an invitation to see how much more there is when we open our hearts and our minds to the intricate, amazing beauty unfolding in the people and neighbourhoods we encounter every day. The Bees of Rainbow Falls is a fresh and enlightening look at the impact of small things and offers the reader the tools for a more intentional, meaningful posture in the world: to make the invisible visible and reorient daily life to see and live the grace and goodness God is manifesting all around.

Fear of the Unknown

By Merv Budd

Recently the Heineken Beer company released an advertisement that sought to bring people together who would normally not associate. People who held not just opposite views but who held prejudices against them. What they found was that as people began to know those whom they had objectified as people, they began to be less harsh and less judgmental.

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While the world wide web may give the illusion that we are becoming closer to others as a species, the reality is that most of us really don’t associate with people who are not like us. In The Meaning of Sunday, Canadian sociologist, Joel Thiessen, revealed the results of a study in which he dealt with how people practise their faith or lack of faith in Canada–how is what they believe or disbelieve, lived out. In the book he divided the people who were interviewed into three main categories.

The first he calls “Active Affiliates” these are people who identify with a particular faith and actively practise that faith. Most of you would fit into this category. The second category he calls “Marginal Affiliates”. These would be people who identify themselves by a specific faith but do not really practise that faith on a regular basis. It does not have much influence on their day to day life. These would be people who may come to church at Christmas and Easter more out of tradition than any other reason. The last group are “Religious Nones”. These are those people who do not identify with a particular religion. They are the ones who on census surveys under the religious affiliation question check the box that says “none”. This is the fastest growing religious category in Canada.

As I read the book I began to find that I was getting irritated. In particular, when it came to the Marginal Affiliates and the Religious Nones telling why they have not fully embraced faith. The reasons given showed that they misunderstood what they were rejecting. It irritated me that they seemed to flippantly write off faith for reasons that were so erroneous, based upon ignorance about what Christian faith taught.

But what really started to bug me, was the results of one of the questions that was asked of each group was with regard to who they are friends with. Generally, those who were Marginal Affiliates exclusively associated with other Marginal Affiliates and Religious Nones exclusively associated with other Religious Nones. And I began to ask myself how are these people’s misunderstandings about faith, how are their erroneous assumptions going to be challenged unless they know people from the Active Affiliate group.

By now that niggle had already gone to my gut, it was eating me up that people where so uniformed. But then I realised that when the Active Affiliates were questioned about their friends, they too generally exclusively associated with other Active Affiliates. And this got me thinking if each group only stays in their own little sub-culture they will never have their assumptions challenged, their misconceptions corrected and the stereo-types changed. And why wouldn’t anyone want to be friends with evangelicals? After all we’re so nice. Aren’t we?

The truth is there is an increasing fear of the unknown when it comes to evangelicals in North America. A Pew Research poll found that in the last three years the feelings of Americans toward various religions “warmed” in every case except evangelical Christians. Similarly, A San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research found that 53 percent of its sample of 1,200 college and university faculty members said they have “unfavorable” feelings toward evangelical Christians. Faculty have positive feelings toward Jews, Buddhists, Catholics, and Atheists. This is the only religious group about which a majority of non-Evangelical faculty have negative feelings (read the study here).

In the minds of those who observe us evangelicals are scary. In the Western world, the word “evangelical” has become an extreme right wing political group which is harsh, hypocritical and militant. How do we help to change this perception of evangelical Christians so that we are associated more with the person of Jesus?

A number of studies have shown that short, casual, in-person conversations with someone with an opposing viewpoint is one of the easiest paths to changing someone’s mind. It seems that the way of Jesus really is the means by which we display the character of Jesus. We need to go to them, to befriend them and alleviate their fears of us.

What’s Fear Got to Do with It?

By Merv Budd

What does fear have to do with the Missio Dei? This was the question I was asked when I pitched the idea of doing a series of blogs on fear. The truth is that fear is very influential in our engagement with God’s mission. What we fear, how we steward our fear, and our manner of processing fear all get played out, to some degree, in how we love God and our neighbour.

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Scott Bader-Saye’s book, Following Jesus in a culture of Fear, argues that we live in a culture that feeds fear. That there are people that profit from fear. And he urges those who want to be faithful to Jesus to resist because the mission of God requires courage. This need for courage was driven home practically when I heard about what is being considered in Canada with regard to Bill C-51.

According to the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Canadian government is looking at revisions to Bill C-51. In particular, they are thinking of removing clause 14 which makes it an offense to disturb religious worship meetings. At present, it is an offense to willfully disturb or interrupt a group of people who have assembled for religious worship. The changes to the bill to remove this clause would reduce protection for worshipers in places of worship. What would we do if our protections were gone?

Would fear stop us from gathering? Or would we value our gathering more? Would we decide not to do that which might upset others, to avoid ruffling feathers and taking risks or would we find ourselves caring less about who became upset and focused more upon discerning clearly what God has called us to do? In other words, would fear or courage win out?

Faith requires courage because faith is the assurance of things unseen. Bader-Saye makes this clear as he considers how courage is required to show hospitality to others, but fear will keep us from trying. Similarly, courage is required to practice generosity and trust that God will supply all our needs. Courage is needed to engage those formative spiritual disciplines that nurture us in ways that make our lives attractive; disciplines like Sabbath keeping. As Brueggemann reminds us, “…the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is an act of trust in the subversive, exodus causing God of the first commandment, an act of submission to the restful God of commandments one, tow, and three. Sabbath is a practical divestment so that neighbourly engagement, rather than production and consumption, defines our lives.” And don’t underestimate the importance of courage required to be vulnerable for the sake of authentic community.

Fear seeks to guide our hearts, it is the opposite of desires. Desires try to pull us towards that which promises empty satisfaction that will ultimately destroy us. Fear attempts to push us away from that which will build us up, strengthen our faith or promotes God’s glory. It is a tactic used by Satan to foil the missionary enterprise of the church from it’s very beginning.

In Romans 16:30 – 31 Paul writes, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there…”

Paul, is aware that going to Jerusalem might be dangerous. That foreboding only grows as he gets closer to the city. On his way he stops to encourage the church at Ephesus and as he is about to leave he says this, “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.” His sense of danger has grown, in fact he now identifies it as a warning that comes from the Holy Spirit.

As he draws closer, and is staying at Caesarea, we read this, “After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” If the nudging of the Spirit hadn’t been loud enough before now it is even clearer as God has a prophet come to tell Paul of the danger awaiting him in Jerusalem.

Paul’s concerns, we find out, were well justified. Why would he go when he knew there was danger? Wasn’t he afraid? Isn’t fear God’s gift to steer us towards self-preservation? It was such thinking that led Jesus to tell Peter, “Get behind me Satan!” When Peter said Jesus would not suffer and die. Self-sacrifice, not self-preservation is the way of discipleship.

Hardships, even warnings of persecution from God, does not mean that we should abandon the mission of God that He has called us to. Too often we come up against the prospect of hardship, or persecution or trouble and because of fear, we quit. Somehow, we have this mistaken notion that if we are doing God’s will, in God’s way that we will find everything falling into place. That it will be easy, opposition free. And we assume that fear is God’s voice steering us away.

What’s fear got to do with the mission of God? Lots! We want to explore a theology of fear in the next few blogs.

Neighbouring for Life

Have you checked out Neighbouring for Life yet? Rick Abma has been working with Karen Wilk, one of our National Team leaders, for several years now. He participated in one of the first Ethos hubs in the Edmonton area and was inspired to make the shift toward joining God in his neighbourhood and inspiring others to do the same.  Recently he published a little book which tells of that journey and includes many stories from along the way. As Forge seeks to evoke, equip and encourage Canadian churches toward a more incarnational missional presence in their neighbourhoods, Rick’s stories can inspire and challenge us.

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Raised on a dairy farm in British Columbia, the youngest of seven, Rick Abma pursued a college education that brought him into the world of broadcasting.  Following his radio career, he entered into full time ministry. After 20 years of ministry in the church, Rick ventured into a full time missionary position that focuses on bringing the “good news” to people right where they live. While understanding the power of loving neighbours in his own back yard, he began to engage in other neighbourhoods.  Today, he creates disciples in various other neighbourhoods and works with city leadership. He also roasts and markets, “Good Neighbour Coffee” (which prints true stories on the packaging), and hosts a radio show that features stories from his experiences.  In May, 2017, a few businessmen rallied around the vision and opened a new space called, Good Neighbour Coffeehouse in Lacombe, Alberta. This business provides space where neighbourhood leaders can learn from each other and features direct trade, organic coffee from the Honduran farmers that Rick and his family came to know while living there in 2008.

In addition to this, Rick offers free use of his “Neighbourhood Life” travelling trailer BBQ or the “Neighbourhood Life” espresso trike for neighbourhood initiatives.  People are generally in disbelief when they see these tools in action, not to mention the disbelief on how refreshing it was to gather with neighbours!  As a result, Rick recorded his journey which has now become the book, Neighbouring for Life.  The book is filled with stories that follow his transition from the institutional church into the mission of various neighbourhoods.

Paul Born, bestselling author of “Deepening Community,” “Community Conversations” and president of the Tamarack institute says, “Rick is a master story teller who knows more about being a neighbour than anyone I know.  This book is a must read for people whose faith compels them to care for others and build deeper relationships.  If you want to improve your quality of life, the simplest way is to get to know your neighbours.  Rick not only shows you how but his stories will inspire you to actually do it!”

Jim Diers, author of “Neighbor Power” and a well-traveled speaker/activist says, “Rick Abma doesn’t just talk and write about community; he lives it!  ‘Neighbouring for Life’ summarizes the valuable lessons he has learned from his experience as a neighbour.  Rick argues that community isn’t something we do in our spare time but rather it’s a way of life that can be realized through practice, not programs.  His book illustrates this with stories that are as rich and stimulating as the Good Neighbour coffee he roasts.”

Follow www.rickabma.com or www.goodneighbourcoffeee.ca for ongoing stories and insights.

A Journey toward Neighboring

By Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon (The Art of Neighboring, Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2012, 24-26. Used by permission).

When I (Dave) was 26, I was hired as a teaching pastor at a large, young-adult church that was experiencing a lot of growth. In my previous life, I was a high school teacher.
Then almost overnight, I went from teaching thirty kids in a classroom to talking in front of a couple thousand people.

Needless to say, I was in way over my head. We were supposedly one of the “hot” churches in town. Translation: this is where a bunch of “hot” people go to meet each other. (Incidentally, I met my beautiful wife at this church.) There was a lot of buzz surrounding what we were doing and how we were doing it. Local pastors would visit our church in hopes of discovering what it was that was prompting the growth and attracting so many young people.

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Teaching in front of thousands of people felt like the opportunity of a lifetime. At least it did at first. And of course there were parts of my job that were exhilarating. On most nights, however, when I got into my car and drove home, I felt strangely empty. I knew what went into putting on those services. We spent the majority of our time putting on an event that, to be honest, just didn’t seem like it was producing the kind of life change we were hoping to see.

My point is not to criticize large churches, because there are many good ones out there that are doing great things. Nor am I saying that large-group teaching isn’t effective and that we should scrap it altogether. Instead I am saying that my experience as a large-church pastor caused me to re-evaluate my thinking about transformation and the best ways to invest my time and energy. While I served there, a healthy sense of discontent grew in me. And over time I realized that our weekly service was always going to have a limited impact in actually changing our community. I became convinced that no matter how much our church grew, a single congregation would never be able to truly transform our entire city.

My healthy discontent sent me on a journey to redefine how I thought about the church and its ability to have a lasting impact. I left my teaching pastor position and found myself at another thriving church, where I continued to wrestle with the same gnawing thoughts and questions. I soon found myself becoming obsessed with John 17, an entire chapter that recounts Jesus’s prayer just before he is arrested. First, Jesus prays for himself, then for his disciples. Then he concludes by praying for us.

What he prayed is powerful. He prayed that everyone who follows him would be one, that we would be brought to complete unity. Jesus has a burning desire for there to be unity among all believers. In fact, he tells us that there is something so sacred and beautiful about our oneness that it will draw people to God who aren’t in a relationship with him. This was the answer I was looking for to help facilitate lasting transformation in our city! And this is what prompted me to gather local pastors to listen to our mayor and to dream about what we could do together that we could never do alone.

After hearing our mayor’s comments about neighboring that day, I was forced to consider my own relationships with my literal neighbors. I came face-to-face with the fact that while I was doing a decent job caring for a lot of people in my church, I wasn’t doing a good job of even remembering my neighbors’ names. That conversation with our mayor launched my family on a journey of learning how to know and even love the people God has placed around us. As you will see throughout this book, this was a powerful turning point for my wife and me, and even for our kids.

I have come to believe that, as followers of Jesus, one of the worthiest endeavors we can undertake is to take the Great Commandment seriously and learn to be in relationship with our literal neighbors.

We all need to get back to the basics of what he commanded: love God and love others. Everything else is secondary.

A Way That Works
Jesus said the most important thing we can do is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are discovering that Jesus was actually really smart. You could even say that he was and is a genius. When Jesus was asked to reduce everything important into one command, he gave us a simple and powerful plan that, if acted on, would literally change the world.

This simple plan also offers us a different kind of life. It’s a way of living that makes sense and brings peace to people’s souls. Whenever we center our lives around the Great Commandment and take very literally the idea and practice of loving our neighbor, there’s great freedom, peace, and depth of relationship that come to our lives. By becoming good neighbors, we become who we’re supposed to be. As a result, our communities become the places that God intended them to be.

Relationships are progressive and don’t all happen overnight, but there are some simple steps you can take that will start you on an amazing journey. Make no mistake, neighboring is not always easy. Yet it is powerful and significant. And it is central to experiencing the full life that Jesus promises.

WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?

What if the solution to our society’s biggest issues has been right under our noses for the past two thousand years? When Jesus was asked to reduce everything in the Bible into one command he said:

Love God with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself. What if he meant that we should love our actual neighbors? You know, the people who live right next door.

The problem is that we have turned this simple idea into a nice saying. We put it on bumper stickers and T-shirts and go on with our lives without actually putting it into practice.

But the fact is, Jesus has given us a practical plan that we can actually put into practice, a plan that has the potential to change the world. The reality is, though, that the majority of Christians don’t even know the names of most of their neighbors.

We know that getting to know your neighbors can sometimes be intimidating. If you’re like us, when you watch the news you can’t help but feel overwhelmed. There are endless stories of child abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, teen pregnancy, out-of-control debt, and a laundry list of other issues. Not only does it make you want to turn the channel and escape, but it also makes you wary of strangers, even the ones that live on your block.

We know this isn’t the way it is supposed to be. This isn’t what Jesus envisioned for us and for our world. We know we can do more. And we know that we can’t just sit around waiting for someone else to do it. But it’s hard to know where to start. Right?

Start by looking around your own neighborhood. What problems do you see? The yard across the street is full of knee-high weeds. You know the husband just got laid off from work. Should you call code enforcement? Maybe the local government will be the one to help. Next door there are teenagers, and the smell of pot seeps out the windows on a nightly basis. You wonder if you should call the police. That will take care of the problem.

Won’t it?

There’s a family a couple of doors down with several children. It’s clear that none of them speak English very well, and you wonder if the kids are even in school. Should you contact someone in the school district? Surely they are equipped to handle this sort of problem. Aren’t they?

These problems aren’t hypothetical; they likely exist just outside your front door. We can always hope that somebody else will handle them. But what if we could be part of the solution? And what if the solution is more attainable than we think? What if it all starts with getting to know the invisible neighbors that surround us?

Have you ever wondered about the invisible family that lives in your neighborhood? You’ve never actually met them but you know they exist because you’ve glimpsed signs of life around their house. There’s the dad. You know him by the sedan he drives. When his garage door opens at 7:30 each morning, he’s already inside his car. The motor starts. He backs out of the driveway and takes off down the street. Each evening he zooms straight into the garage again. The garage door opens and then shuts, and he’s inside the house without a trace. Then there’s the mom. All you’ve glimpsed of her recently is her minivan. She zips their kids around to a mass of activities, probably going to soccer, karate, violin lessons, and playdates. You know about these activities mostly because of the different uniforms that the kids are wearing as they pile into the car. The stick-figure decal on the window is also helpful, a kind of suburban map legend on the rear window that tells the neighbors how many kids the family has and what they like to do. Their kids always seem to hang out in the backseat. You can’t really see much of them because the windows are tinted. But you can see the glow of the dual DVD players as the van passes, so you know they’re in there.

And what about the three middle-aged adults who live in the house on the corner? What’s their relationship, and why do they share the same house? And who lives across the street? There never seem to be any grown-ups around—only teenagers coming and going at all hours and playing their music really loudly. And why do the folks catty-corner leave their garbage cans by the curb for days? Do they travel a lot?

It’s so easy to draw negative conclusions about the neighbors we’ve only glimpsed. An unkempt yard, a slew of tattoos, a weird haircut, or loud music. It can all cause us to make assumptions about the people who live around us. But it’s these very assumptions that keep us from befriending them.

What if things could be different, though? What if we took the time to get to know the people next to us and discovered that they aren’t so menacing after all? Perhaps we’d find that the people on our block are normal people just like us. They go to work, hang out with their kids, and put their pants on one leg at a time. At the end of the day, they long for a place to belong, a place to be accepted and cared for. They want to do something significant with their lives, something that really matters.

What good things might happen if you truly got to know the people in your neighborhood and they got to know you?

Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon, The Art of Neighboring

Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2012. Used by permission.

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Neighbourhood Matters

By Karen Wilk

Commuter Church. As associations of commuters, North Americans churches have functioned and sought to achieve their purposes in “spaces”. Commuter congregations occupy a generic space once or twice a week under the assumption that what we do there will attract and bear witness, disciple and grow those who attend and those whom we want to attend. As a result, the church is not a stake holder in the neighbourhood and while perhaps able to be a service provider and “do outreach” there, she is not an incarnational presence. Consequently, for church members who “volunteer” in this space, there is no sense of personal ownership or commitment. As “outside Christian volunteers,” we can choose when to engage, and can opt in and out of caring at all because we feel no particular responsibility for the people or the place. In contrast, as one Neighbourhood Life (NL) member noted, “being a neighbour makes it more real and integrated, like church is supposed to be – an extension into all of life – and neighbours can reveal how God works, how the world works and [thus] the context in which we live.”

Commuter church participation in a neighbourhood also fosters a certain response in the neighbourhood who is receiving the “volunteers and services”. The neighbours recognize that the church has its own agenda, and that it may, or may not, understand or have the best interests of the neighbourhood in mind. A number of NL/NEW participants told stories of such experiences, particularly of how difficult it was for them, “as the neighbourhood” to try to help the commuter congregation “get” what they were doing. For example, one NL couple awkwardly found themselves in the middle of a dispute between some neighbours and the commuter congregation who was planning to build a new facility in their neighbourhood. Indeed, a commuter congregation can engender negative responses from the residents as one church recently experienced. Their “community survey” revealed that residents were very frustrated with the parking habits of Sunday morning attendees.

Space Versus Place. The occupation of space as opposed to place however has deeper implications for the church than teaching commuter attendees where to park on Sunday mornings. It forces us to wrestle again with what it means to be the church. Can we fulfill our mandate as God’s people simply by doing good deeds somewhere/anywhere and going home? Might a church that operates in a space, a building which is not the “habitus” of its people, be missing something critical not only to its witness but to its identity and formation as the people of God? What did Jesus mean when He prayed for the church to be one? As the culture is rediscovering the importance of place; of “going local”, perhaps the Spirit is also nudging the church to re-examine what it means for her to be “the personal presence of Jesus by the Spirit in the world.”[1] “A disembodied church,” it has been quipped, “doesn’t have a leg to stand on!”

Contrarily, the good news in the Scriptures portrays a God who goes on mission in person and in place. The wonder of the Incarnation is the presence of the loving God in our ordinary, everyday lives. To this, the church is now made, empowered and called to bear witness in her very being – ”as an incarnational presence. If this be so, the postcommuter shift in our culture is an invitation from the Spirit for the church to think again about the implications of her formation in detached spaces around a myriad of affinities from doctrine to musical preference. Meanwhile, fresh expressions of church, such as Neighbourhood Life are seeking to do experiments as the Body of Christ in person and in place. In this new (old) paradigm, church is less about a space, a service and an organization and more about being a community of Jesus followers doing life together in a neighbourhood such that they alert others to His kingdom come near. “When we began to recognize the significance of neighbourhood, of place,” one NL Community participant–who is an elder in his commuter congregation– explained, “that’s when our congregation decided to be a community of communities and commit to this [neighbourhood life] but we were really the only ones who actually did it; measured and paid the cost.” Perhaps Michael W. Smith’s struggle to find his “place in this world” is actually the struggle of an ethereal church now stirred by the wind of the Spirit to reimagine what it means to be the people of God by finding her “place in this world.”[2]

Join Karen Wilk in Ontario Saturday May 27th!

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[1]. Craig Van Gelder, “Incarnating the Gospel in Culture” (DM 7613 Lectures, Northern Seminary, Chicago, IL, June 18-22, 2012). Emphasis mine.

[2]. Michael W, Smith, Go West Young Man, Album, 1990.

What if… by Karen Wilk

What if… every Christian in every neighbourhood in North America (and around the world?!) actually loved their neighbours, those with whom they live in proximity—

as Jesus loves?

What if…every Christian in every neighbourhood in North America (and around the world) sought Kingdom Shalom in word and deed for the community in which they lived?

What if…every Christian in every neighbourhood in North America (and around the world) joined together with every other Christian in their neighbourhood, and together manifested the tangible Presence of God in that place as the real flesh and blood Body of Jesus?

What if…as they were formed and transformed into the people of God in that place, others also participated and, together, they discovered more of who God is and what the Spirit is up to?

And what if…that formation became the determining factor for who they were and what they did?

And What if…as God did his work in, through and with them,

they became more like Jesus and less like consumers;

more like friends and less like service providers;

more like disciples and less like patrons;

more like radical followers and less like fans;

more like salt, light and a city on a hill

and less like an institution, a program and an event;

more like a community with a mission

and less like an organization with a strategic plan;

And WHAT IF…

God has moved into the neighbourhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. 

 —Revelation 21:3, The Message

 

 

Interested in learning how to neighbour better? Join Karen Wilk in Burlington May 27th.

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Forge: A Movement of Missional Training

by Cam Roxburgh

Forge originated 20 years ago in Australia, through the work of Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost. These innovators have contributed as much to the outworking of missional training as anyone over these past two decades. Much of the Forge movement is because of their hard work.

At the same time, in Canada, I began what was then called the Missional Training Network. Both of these efforts grew until in 2006, when Alan and I developed Forge International through our work and friendship (see the next blog for a more complete history of Forge). Now a decade later, Forge is in numerous countries and includes many other leaders. Here are some introductions to our team in Canada and around the globe.

Forge Canada

Many missional leaders have shaped Forge Canada. These include Gary Nelson, Alan Roxburgh, Don Goertz, Jonathan Wilson and many others.

Anthony Brown
Anthony has been with Forge Canada from the beginning. His teaching, preaching and writing have influenced our country. Anthony pastors a local church, and has done amazing work in transitioning a church towards a missional future. He speaks regularly at pastors conferences and has taught at Regent College in Vancouver for over a decades. You can connect with Anthony at anthbrown@hotmail.com.

Merv Budd
Merv has been part of the Forge Canada team for the past two years. After serving as the National Director of Equipping Evangelists, Merv transitioned to serving as the Ontario Director of Forge Canada. Merv is also a local pastor and is known for his gift of evangelism. You can connect with Merv at merv.budd@forgecanada.ca.

Preston Pouteaux
Preston has been with Forge Canada for over eight years. Preston lives in Chestermere – just outside of Calgary – and is also a local pastor. Preston teaches, writes and speaks at conferences for Forge. His next book, The Bees of Rainbow Falls, will be released this spring. You can connect with Preston at preston@forgecanada.ca.

Karen Wilk
Karen has been a crucial part of Forge Canada for ten years. Her work in teaching about life in the neighbourhood has been influential in many communities. She is a gifted writer (Don’t invite them to Church), teacher and speaker. She is speaking at the Regent College Pastors Conference in May as a keynote speaker. She is a key part of the neighbouring movement in Edmonton. You can connect with Karen at wilkonline@shaw.ca.

Cam Roxburgh
It has been my privilege to lead such a fine team as Forge Canada in its many forms for eighteen years. I love serving the local church as a pastor, and serving the bride in Canada through helping to coordinate all the training that we do as a team with Forge. I am always happy to connect with those who desire to see the Canadian church live as a faithful presence. I also have the privilege of serving on the Forge International Team and am excited about seeing this movement advance into new countries. Feel free to email me at cam.roxburgh@forgecanada.ca.

Others
Forge Canada is also encouraged to be served by Sara-May Cardy, Luke Miller, Rainer Kunz, Howard Lawrence, and has been helped in the past by Jamie Arpin-Ricci.

Forge International Team

Kim Hammond
Kim leads Forge International. Having come through one of the original cohorts in Australia, Kim has become an author and teacher, a  local pastor and gifted communicator. He is the author of Sentness, and his second book is soon to be released. You can connect with Kim at kimdhammond@gmail.com.

Mark Michaels
Mark holds our team together as International Secretary. He has been crucial in starting the Forge movement in Europe and now helps initiate and administrate what we are doing in many countries. There is no one who works as hard as Mark to help Forge move forward. You can connect with Mark at mmichael67@gmail.com.

Hugh Halter
Many know Hugh through his writing. The Tangible Kingdom, Flesh, And, and several others have become well-read books. Hugh has been leading Forge America for two years and watching it grow in leaps and bounds. Check out Forge America for all of the Hubs that are starting up all over the country for training of local leaders. You can connect with Hugh at hughhalter@gmail.com.

Alan McWilliams
Alan is the leader of Forge Scotland and a crucial part of the Forge International Team. Also a local pastor, Alan both teaches and puts into practice a deeply missional theology. He has been a key to Forge Europe getting off the ground, and now oversees country leaders in an increasing number of European countries. Connect with Alan at alan@whiteinchchurch.org.

Trevor Hutton
Trevor leads Forge England. Having almost finished his Ph.D, Trevor is an important part of the team as we seek to be a missional movement that reflects God in everything we do. Trevor has seen explosive growth in England with a number of training centres starting within the last two years. Connect with Trevor at trevorhutton@momentum-uk.org.

Brad Brisco
Brad has been a part of the Forge Movement for a long time. He has worked with Lance Ford on several missional books (Missional Essentials is the best workbook on the market from my perspective). Brad has recently taken a key role with NAMB, serving as an initiator of missional plants. You can connect with Brad at brad.brisco@gmail.com.

Ryan and Laura Hairston
Perhaps no one has given up more for the Forge Movement as Ryan and Laura Hairston have. They are on the International team as well as the America team, and serve through training Hub leaders in various cities across North America. There efforts have proven instrumental to the development of Forge. You can connect with them at ryan@forgeamerica.com.

Forge is also blessed with other country leaders such as Mattias and Stephanie Neve who lead Forge in Sweden.

Forge International Board

Forge is wonderfully blessed with founders and a board of directors of the highest order. Alan Hirsch (Forgotten Ways), Deb Hirsch (Redeeming Sex), and Michael Frost (Exiles), were all part of the founding team and now serve faithfully on the board. All three are initiators and have been influential in the missional movement, Forge and beyond. Forge International has also been shaped of late by the efforts of Martin and Lynda Robinson from England. They also head up a missional organization in England called Formission.

Forge Canada: The Short Story

By Cam Roxburgh

Who are we and what are we about?

It was 1999. I had been a planter/pastor for almost 7 years and had learned so much… mostly about what I did not know, and how the world was changing.

I started to build a core team for Southside Community Church in 1992. We made a number of decisions that were ahead of their time, almost by accident. We moved into the neighbourhood. We structured ourselves around life together in Mission Groups. We began to reflect on how we presented the Gospel… and God blessed us. We planted a second congregation in 1997 and were on the verge of the third and fourth by 2000. But the further we went, the more we realized that the church in Canada was becoming marginalized.

RobMsBaptismwetNov00

Baptizing new believers in 2000.

As I came into contact with some emerging church leaders, I felt conflicted. Much of what they were teaching brought a new energy, I sensed a drift in theology that concerned me.  During this time, the Gospel and our Culture Network began to write on and teach a more “Missional” perspective. My uncle, Alan Roxburgh, began to teach a number of interns at our church—young leaders who were convinced there was a different path forward: one that didn’t necessitate making compromises in our theology or forcing the church back into the centre of society. His teaching brought life as he cast a vision of church in neighbourhood that we all resonated with. He put language and theory to what we were discovering in practice: theological reflection, neighbourhood impact, intentional leadership.

Between 1999 and 2007, this internship training existed as The Missional Training Network. We began to work with leaders in cities across the country to train the next generation for missional leadership. Focusing on neighbourhoods as mission fields, we helped people to make decisions to join our missionary God at work in their context. By 2007, my friendship with Alan Hirsch of Forge Australia had grown. He had also moved to the States and we began Forge International, with The Missional Training Network becoming Forge Canada. During these last ten years as part of the Forge movement, we are delighted at how God has used us.

We have spent time evoking the missional conversation through writing The Missional Voice and hosting A Day With… training events with leaders such as Craig van Gelder, Alan Hirsch, Michael Frost, Hugh Halter and Brad Brisco. We have had a multitude of webinars and weekends that served local churches, denominations and cities. We have worked with several Baptist groups, Mennonites, Christian Reformed, and the Church of God as denominations and many others through more localized involvement.

We have also sought to equip churches to move from a Christendom model of ministry, to a more missional approach that helps us to live faithfully at the margins. We equip neighbourhood leaders to develop neighbourhood-based communities of people who seek to join God on mission in that place.

All of which brings us to today, and the direction we are heading in the future.

The Forge Canada vision will continue to be “To equip planters, leaders, denominations to establish multiplying missional Christian communities in neighbourhoods across Canada.” Our strategy will be to accomplish this work “through evoking conversation, equipping churches and neighbourhood leaders, to establish new missional communities.”

Our task will not be to plant new communities of Christians as much as to help others to do that in this present context. We believe other groups such as New Leaf Network are doing a wonderful job here in Canada at keeping our post-Christian context in front of us and we want to be a support to them.

We will continue to seek to be faithful to our understanding of God as missionary. Our foundation has always been that we understand God through the lens of the Missio Dei. He has always been a God who seeks relationship with the world through the sending of His Word. He is present and active in the world in a number of ways: first through the work of Jesus, and second through His people empowered by the Spirit of God. Our task—as people who are made in His image, as individuals and as a community, which is His body—is to discern where God is at work in the world and then to participate in the good news that the Kingdom of God is present. It is to this end that we want to equip local communities of faith to join God at work in their neighbourhoods.

We will continue to be a part of the missional movement in Canada, and indeed to work with Forge International to partner with what God is doing around the globe. We invite you to join this growing movement in Canada with us.