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.

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.

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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.

The Next Stage: Forge Canada 2.0

By Cam Roxburgh

Welcome! Okay, it is a little odd to welcome you to something you have already been a part of, but we at Forge Canada believe that we are into the next stage of what God is doing in Canada around His mission. He is moving His people beyond evoking a conversation, to equipping them for practice.

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Stage 1 – Evoking
Twenty years ago, a group of theologians and practitioners gathered to write the book Missional Church. The Gospel and our Culture Network (GOCN) took the work of Lesslie Newbigin and used it to reflect on what was happening to the church in our context. “Missional” began to get traction, and many jumped on the bandwagon. The good news was that many wrestled with the cultural dislocation of the Church, but the bad was that “missional” was defined in many different ways. Old practices and patterns of thinking—formed in Christendom—were hard to break, and many simply have continued in an old paradigm under the new name of “missional.”

Many have become aware of the missional conversation. Denominations have tried to help their churches envision a different future. Schools have attempted to train leaders for that future. Church Planting groups have wrestled with shifting from “planting worship services,” to seeding kingdom communities in neighbourhoods across the land.

Some believers have grappled with this second-order change and begun to turn a corner, while others have given up because the way forward was difficult. It seems as if very few have not at least come into contact with the idea of becoming missional. It has become an adjective, placed in front of any program to emphasize a desire for evangelism. Many have missed what Newbigin and the GOCN were trying to express.

Forge Canada uses a definition of missional that has its roots in Newbigins’ writing (he perhaps co-opted it from Rahner and Barth). The Missional Church is “a renewed theological vision of the church on mission, serving as a sign, servant and foretaste of the kingdom of God.” It is first about God and His mission. It recognizes that God is already at work in the world and we need to discern where He is at work in order to join Him. It emphasizes that we as a people are sent as missionaries into the very neighbourhoods where He has placed us to participate in that work.

Stage 2 – Equipping
The conversation evoked over the past decades must give way to equipping. This is the stage we now found ourselves in. It seems as if not only has the church experienced a cultural dislocation in culture, but also Christendom is more deeply entrenched in us than we perhaps thought. So many continue to try and seek a way forward by recapturing the privilege and power that the church knew when it was found at the centre of our culture. But we live in a secular context now (Taylor and then Smith) and we need to learn to live as a Faithful Presence (Hunter and then Fitch).

I continue to hear the call from denominational leaders that what we need is assessment tools and models of what it means to be missional. But this kind of approach is only indicative of how deeply we are entrenched in Christendom. Instead, we believe there are three things needed to begin equipping communities of God’s people in missional life:
A process of discernment: where is God at work? How does He want us to be involved?
The development of missiological competencies to engage the culture in its secularities.
The telling of stories that create imagination in us to join God on mission in our neighbourhoods.

We need an equipping to learn what it means to be a sign, servant and foretaste of the reality of the kingdom in our midst. We need a commitment to being faithful to the why (missional theology), and a passion to pursue the  (missional ecclesiology) in our context. It is not about models, but about being a faithful presence as God’s people to the reality of the presence of our king.

At Forge Canada, we are seeking to equip the church in Canada through a number of avenues. Ethos continues to help churches move into an understanding of ministry in a post-Christian culture. This 2-year journey has been a help to many churches across the country. Life in the Neighbourhood is another tool that has produced fruit. This experience, led by Dr. Karen Wilk, aims to help local neighbourhood leaders launch groups in their context. Living Faithfully is a new stream developed by Jonathan Wilson, Jonathan Bird and myself, with a view to helping people in our churches to live as local missionaries. And finally, we will be introducing a tool to help churches be restructured around Mission Groups in order to reach their context. We believe that the church in Canada needs to recapture the essence of what it means to live as disciples among people in their neighbourhood.

Why I don’t wish you a Happy New Year

By Merv Budd

I’ve heard it my whole life every 365 days: “Happy New Year.” For many it summarizes the goal and purpose of life—happiness. “Happiness is the truth,” croons Pharrell Williams. And caught up in the catchy tune and rhythmic beat we bob our heads in agreement. But is happiness the true purpose of life?

Fireworks

If it is then it stands to reason that pain is bad; there is nothing good which can come from it. Philosophically we have been hoodwinked into embracing hedonism.

Hedonism is the belief that a person’s chief reason for living is to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. But many of life’s most valuable lessons are learned through hardships and loss, pain and suffering, trials and discipline. In other words, the deepest type of character development happens in the deepest valleys of pain. In pleasure we feel in control, in pain we feel out of control and it is in those times that we are forced to exercise faith the most.

And some people will avoid those opportunities at all cost. They do not value the lessons that hardship teach. Very often these people will do the same for their children. One of the most difficult parenting skills is the skill of butting out, the brutal gut-wrenching choice to not rescue your children from hardships. To allow them to struggle and in that way allow them and their faith to mature.

Greatness is born from pain. Great athletes, great artists, great musicians are forged and shaped by the hardships that they self-impose in order to grow. A pain-free pursuit stunts our growth as people. Without pain we shrink as a species.

But in a country where happiness is our true pursuit, we create laws which allow us to take our lives when we feel that we will be too unhappy to carry on. We approve “recreational drugs” so we can take mental holidays and escape the painful realities of living our lives. We create ever more sophisticated gadgets and technologies that we harness to pursue our own, private, virtual happiness: porn use spiked after Christmas, when people opened their 3D goggles.

At what cost is our pursuit of happiness? Might our pursuit of happiness actually be the rancid fruit of decay, the beginning of the crumbling foundation of what made the luxury of pursuing happiness possible in the first place?

And so I do not wish you a happy New Year. I wish for you a year full of contented joy, secure in the knowledge that God remains sovereign, has His eye upon you and walks with you even through dark valleys where He oversees your development, maturity and nurture.

Reflections on Advent: He Came Among

By Cam Roxburgh

The Christmas spirit came early for me this year. Often, it is not until Christmas Eve, when in the mad dash of life in the church, I can finally take a breath. But this year was different. Perhaps it is a slower pace, or maybe the power of the Hillsong Worship Song, “What a Beautiful Name.” Or maybe it is the amount of snow we have received already in Vancouver. That never hurts.

Every Christmas I listen to Charlie Brown’s reading of Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus. Much of our time is in Luke or Matthew around this time of the year, but I have been once again in John’s account of the wonder of Advent. I have been reminded of the importance of pushing past the sentiments of the season alone. Doesn’t anyone know what Christmas is all about anymore, Charlie Brown? The questions remain the same: who is Jesus? Why did He come?

Charlie Brown Public Domain

A great Christmas tradition is to go to hear either Handel’s Messiah or Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Books have introductions or prologues, but orchestras play overtures. Overtures give a glimpse into the themes for the entire piece. Many commentators suggest that John 1:1-18 is an overture and not simply an introduction to John’s account of the coming, the life, and the work of Jesus.

Beginnings are important. Mark begins with ministry. Luke begins with the birth and the events surrounding it. Matthew begins with the story of God with His people, the Jews. But John begins at the beginning. Jesus is present at creation.

In those days, “the word” (logos) referred to the way in which people understand the world to be ordered, or how it functioned. “The word” was about how the world and everything in it made sense. Today, some might say the word is karma, or yin and yang. In those days, the Jews were clear in their understanding that “the word” was God in action. John begins his account by stating that God was in action now—in the person of Jesus Christ, the Word.

Who Jesus Is
As we listen for the grand themes of the gospel in John 1:1-18, we must first hear John’s declaration of who Jesus is. When John begins with “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God,” he is making a clear statement. Jesus is fully divine. He is the creator. He is the one who makes sense of the world. Jesus is God in action. When we try and answer the question of “who is Jesus?” it is not sufficient to say that He was a good man. John is clearly driving home the reality that Jesus is divine. Fully divine. The creator of all things who was there at the beginning. God in action. It is in His divinity that He is able to create and recreate each of us.

But John will not allow the readers to think of Jesus as only divine. He was fully human as well. In verse 14, we get this wonderful picture from Eugene Peterson about God coming among us, and moving into our neighbourhood. Jesus is God in action—fully divine. But as God in action, He became one of us, and came to be near us, right in our neighbourhoods. John is clear that the word became flesh.  Jesus was fully human as well as fully God. Advent certainly reflects His coming, but it begins with His absence, and then the expectation of His coming and the impact that He will have. It is in His humanity that He is able to teach us the way to live.

Who We Are
One more thing has caught my attention this Advent. John states at the end of this overture that “We have beheld His glory.” I use to think that this referred to the divinity of Jesus alone. But it refers as much to His humanity. John is making the incredible statement that if Jesus is God in action, and that He moved into our neighbourhoods, and if we have come into the presence of the glory of Jesus, then we reflect that glory to others around us today.

We too must move into the neighbourhood as He did. It is not possible to see Jesus, and to not begin to allow the life He lived to influence everything about the way we live. It is not enough to acknowledge his coming, but instead we must participate in that coming. That shapes everything about us.