Most Learned; Most Judgmental
The season is here where we remember the resurrection. In my view the best theologian on this subject, apart from Jesus during His earthly ministry, was Martha. At one point we have her telling Jesus about the resurrection (John 11:24). She is disappointed Jesus was late in responding to Lazarus’ sickness—too late, was her conclusion. Relying on what she knew, she was judgmental. In her mind Jesus should have been there sooner, hope was lost, a life was now gone!
Now there are great advantages of gaining knowledge. I am extremely thankful for the privilege of sitting under good teaching on many topics in my life, including an awesome amount of Biblical training through the years. I can add to that the preaching and teaching I’ve received. On one level I’m ready to argue theology until the cows come home, armed with resources to “give an answer to anyone.” Now, that stance can make me feel comfortable and smug because I know the answers. I also know now how churches “should” operate, how preaching “should” be done, and how others “should” behave. Unfortunately, if I let those “shoulds” get in the way, I can become hindered in further learning, argumentative, critical of others in their ministry, distant in relationships, too fast to speak and too slow to listen.
This winter I have audited a course on Islam at King’s University College with a teacher who is a moderate Shia Imam. I have mostly sat silent, learning about an area previously unfamiliar to me. It has involved middle Eastern history, the development of Islamic thought, and a sense of what is more normal for Muslim people. (Sure there are fanatics, but Christians have had many of their own over the years.) The class has not changed my theology at all, but I have been amazed how ignorant I have been. I was previously loaded up with stereotypes that would have kept me from speaking to Muslim people. Unexpectedly I’ve learned much about myself in the midst of this class. Now, I hope I can enter a better conversation with these people in my own neighbourhood. I think I could commend many pieces of their practices and beliefs without coming across as overly biased and judgmental. An actual, meaningful conversation can now take place. There is still lots I don’t know about Islam, but much of my irrational fear has disappeared.
Our own learning can keep us from truly listening to others. This might be from our own children, our spouse, our employers, or another pastor/teacher. Recent studies by Ambrose’s Joel Thiessen show that Christians are known by average Canadians as judgmental. People often close us out because of their stereotypes, but I’ve had my own through the years.
Can I change how the average Canadian sees me? Can I be known instead by my love, my grace, and my listening ears? I trust I can do this while showing an unwavering faith in the Resurrection of Jesus and His current work in me.
Your continually learning co-worker, Dennis
P.S.: Celebrate the Risen Jesus!
Rural Light Ministries
We are excited about rural churches! We love the Lord’s work that has happened at Brownfield, how we have partnered together to invite international people into our communities, prayed together, raised resources to feed the hungry, resourced the youth of a large region, sewed quilts, ate together and pursued Jesus together. Brownfield certainly has been blessed for a purpose we believe the Lord has big plans for Brownfield and rural churches.
However, some rural churches are struggling. There is a growing need for shared resources throughout rural and smaller churches. There is huge ministry potential but some churches are lacking resources to pay for all the costs necessary to run a “full service” church. Some rural churches need a new vision and possibly a different way of resourcing themselves
Rural Light Ministries has been developed to provide core competencies and services to rural churches around western Canada. The idea came out of previous ministry activities of the Rural Church Revitalization Initiative and Brownfield Baptist Church. It’s supported by CBWC, particularly by the Mountain Standard Regional Minister, Dennis Stone. In the simplest form, Brownfield Baptist Church is looking at what it has to offer and looking at ways to share our blessings as effectively as we can to build others up.
Ultimately, the goal is to help more people find Jesus around rural Western Canada.
As discussed, one of the primary needs of smaller churches is cost effective worship and preaching/Bible teaching. Therefore, we are asking Brownfield Baptist Church to consider partnering with other churches through Rural Light Ministries to broadcast our church service to be shared with other rural locations across Alberta. It is important to note that this material will not be shared broadly and publicly but only to specific partner locations and for member use. This is an important distinction.
This content and technology is already being used to serve our congregation. Archiving and sharing our services allows us to leverage this content to engaging people who are not in attendance.
Rural Light Ministries was born out of the Brownfield Baptist Church and precursor work done by the Rural Church Revitalization Initiative supported by the CBWC. From this beginning, Rural Light Ministries is working to become a network of people working together to build the kingdom of Christ in rural churches. Rural Light Ministries plans to engage highly skilled people to leverage their gifts and natural talents across our network to increase the capabilities, engagement and effectiveness of churches.
Rural Light Ministries is now partnering with Nanton Baptist Church and is in conversation with a few other CBWC churches.