Heartland Regional Newsletter July 2020

The Potential of Professional Development

By Mark Doerksen

Professional Development seems to one of those job perks that is nice to consider, but probably under-utilized. Typically, the CBWC will send a sample job description template to new pastors, and one of the categories in the sample is that of Professional Development. The category is described as follows in that sample:

Professional development is essential to the well-being of the individual, the denomination, and the congregational life of the church. It includes annual study leave which will benefit both the individual and the church goals. Professional Development is then mapped out according to yearly expectations, as well as expectations for sabbatical. While a sabbatical was very refreshing for me and allowed our family to go to Kenya to see some of the projects that Canadian Baptist Ministries are involved in, I write currently about my most recent Professional Development experience.

I have just completed a significant goal in my professional development, and I include it here as a reminder or impetus for you to consider personally, or to have a conversation with your pastor about her or his goals for professional development. In 2010, I was pastoring Willowlake Baptist Church, and decided it was time to test the waters a bit for a Doctor of Ministry degree. In January of 2011, I enrolled to audit a D. Min. course at Carey Theological College entitled, “Preaching as Theatre” with guest lecturer Jana Childers. She was outstanding, and I decided that I could in fact proceed at the D. Min. level. I then enrolled in the program at Carey.

Of course, life moves in mysterious ways, and I had no idea that I would come to accept the role of Heartland Regional Minister in August of 2014. I took some time off from studies, but eventually got back to it. My studies have afforded me tremendous privilege and customization of learning. I have taken courses from the local faculty at Carey, and have also had the privilege of learning from visiting lecturers, such as missiologist Darrell Guder. I have had the chance to go to Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone with Canadian Foodgrains Bank for a guided studies course, supervised by Gordon King. I’ve been able to engage with Canadian Baptists of Western Canada churches as I wrote a final project, with William Brackney as a guide. It’s been a long experience, but a deeply meaningful one that has helped shaped me into who I am today.

These opportunities for further study and growth require much, and I, for one, am grateful for the congregation at Willowlake Baptist Church who allowed me to embark on this professional development trajectory. I am grateful to Carey Theological College for their patience with me, and for the funding I was able to receive through the CBWC Foundation. I’m glad that the CBWC believes in Professional Development and furthering education, and for things like a yearly study week allotted to staff. I’m especially mindful of my generous wife, Mary, who agreed to set aside funds for me to attain this goal. I may be the one completing the degree, but I know full well that there were a lot of moving parts that made this possible, and I know I could not have completed this without the contributions of many.

I hope my bearing witness has encouraged you to proceed with your own professional development, or to be renewed in being intentional about caring for your church pastor in this way. As mentioned above, Professional Development is essential to the well-being of the individual, the denomination, and the congregational life of the church. I believe this to be true, and I hope you do, too.

Once a Pastor, Always a Pastor

A reflection on a 29-year pastoral journey  |  By Pastor Peter Elias

The year 2020 means that, for me, the number of years as a Pastor has reached 29 years. However, not all of these 29 years would be considered full-time ministry. There were a couple of breaks taken throughout this time. But God has a way of keeping someone in service; once a pastor always a pastor. There was always something going on that kept the ‘pastor senses’ working.

I look back on this now and I wonder, how did any of this come about? As a young man, if anyone had suggested that I would become a pastor and a preacher, I would have thought they must have lost all sense of reasonable thinking. One of the scariest things for me to consider doing was public speaking—no matter the size of the gathering. Yet, somewhere in the early 1990s I found myself agreeing to fill the pulpit while our small church looked for a new pastor.

 This agreement grew into six years of serving as the pastor in that church. After six years, I felt I was becoming rather weary and needed to make some changes, knowing full well that I would be returning to the pulpit. It was only a matter of time and rest. During this break I continued to fill the pulpit from time to time and, just short of four years later, I returned to school as a mature student. It was while in school that I started to teach an adult Sunday school class at the church where my family and I attended. It was here that I was introduced to the CBWC which was the BUWC (Baptist Union of Western Canada) at the time.

As it turned out, the pastor at the time retired and I was hired on a part-time basis, which became full-time quite quickly. The people were great, and the better I got to know them the more wonderful they became. However, due to some family issues, we needed to leave after only three years. It was not easy to leave, but this is how we ended up in Northern Manitoba for the next eight years. It seemed that after these eight years I once again reached a point that I found myself in need of a break. The difference this time was that I felt, and thought, that I was indeed finished. It was not an easy decision but I thought that I was used up as a pastor. I went to work as a Resident Manager at a high-rise building in Winnipeg. Again, God has a way of keeping the ‘pastor senses’ working. It is amazing how many of the skills learned as a pastor came into play while working with the tenants in my

position at this occupation. And though I enjoyed this position, it seemed it was not where God wanted me. I reluctantly started to think more seriously about returning to pulpit ministry.

As certain as I was that my pastor days were done, there were those who claimed that they knew that I was not as finished as I thought I was. I half-heartedly started to put out feelers as to which churches were looking for a pastor because I knew that, just like before, I would give all of myself once again to wherever I was. It seems that God has led me to Strathclair Baptist Church and with no amount of regret on my part. I do have to admit that it did take a bit to get “back into gear” so to speak. However, the people are what the ministry is all about, and God has a way of placing one where one needs to be.

The Baptist Church in Strathclair Manitoba is exactly where I am supposed to be.

-Peter Elias, Pastor of Strathclair Baptist Church.

A Summer Reading Suggestion

By Mark Doerksen

Many pastors within the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada churches will be familiar with Stanley Grenz’ books and theology. I have often referred to his short book entitled, The Baptist Congregation, and have attempted to get a copy into the hands of CBWC ministers within the Heartland Region. It is especially helpful in articulating the Baptist convictions that form an acrostic for the word BAPTIST: Believer’s baptism, Autonomy of the local congregation within the associational framework, Primacy of Scripture, True believers only in the church, Individual competency and believer priesthood, Separation of church and State, and Two ordinances.

I have, however, recently come across William H. Brackney’s book entitled, A Capsule History of Baptist Principles. This book was published on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of Baptists in 2009. Brackney has global influence as a Baptist historian, and is well-suited to write this book because of his familiarity with so many different types of Baptist groups. Brackney writes of themes similar to Grenz, only he addresses each topic in a brief chapter.  Topics include The Lordship of Christ, The Authority of Scripture, The Importance of Religious Experience, The Associational Principle, and others.

One of the main highlights of Brackney’s book is the historical scope that he brings to each topic. As you read this book, and each theological emphasis, you also learn more about the historical context of the development of each emphasis. Some important emphases in this book include his chapter on The Importance of Religious Experience, The Associational Principle, and the Principles of Human Rights. Though the insights are not particularly from a Canadian perspective, they are global, and that helps one gain a wider appreciation for Baptists around the globe.

I think this book is worth the read. Its content is important, offered in short doses from a wide perspective historically, but it also gives the differentiating Baptist perspective in the midst of other faith traditions. It also introduces its readers to some important Baptist theologians, as well as introducing historical events, such as the abolition of slavery and how Baptists have played a significant role in such events. If the scope of the book is of interest to you, you’ll appreciate that its topics are published in such a way that reading a chapter at a time is entirely doable, but you’ll want to return to it soon thereafter.

This regional newsletter is published quarterly within the CBWC’s monthly newsletter, Making Connections. Have a story idea? Want to tell us how great we’re doing? Or how terribly? Email our senior writer, Jenna Hanger: jhanger@cbwc.ca