Being Changed by Christ
Rev. Tim Kerber
Over the past couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to participate in a course put on by the Transitional Leadership Network. The course is basic training for those interested in transitional ministry; helping churches to assess their spiritual health and inviting them to address any areas of need prior to the process of inviting a new pastor to permanently join them.
My class was made up of pastors and denominational leaders from all over Western Canada, along with a few classmates from south of the border. I found the course to be insightful, and I appreciated learning new tools that I can add to my toolbox as I walk alongside churches in the settlement process.
But perhaps the greatest takeaway from the course for me was not the useful and pragmatic tools that I was given, but a renewed sense of hopefulness for the church, and the reminder for me to live in faith. HOPE – The church belongs to Jesus, nothing can overcome it, and we can trust Him with it. FAITH – My role is to live into my calling, to use my gifts, to be a good steward, and to invite others to discover life in Jesus, too.
So often in the day-to-day work many of us do in the church, whether as pastors or lay people, we are working on the pragmatic tasks of the church. Who can we ask to lead the care ministry, cut the lawn, or work in the nursery? Is there anyone who has the technical savvy to oversee our livestream, or run our media on Sunday mornings? We need to update our bylaws and ensure our child safety policy is up to date…. And while these things all have their place, and do in fact matter, sometimes, the tail wags the dog.
We forget, or perhaps more accurately, I forget that the most important thing for me as a leader in the church of Jesus Christ, is to be His follower; to be daily looking to Him, listening for His voice, and recognizing my need for Him to change me.
There is no more powerful testimony to the truth of the Gospel, than that we are first being changed by Him. In the church where I was privileged to serve for almost 30 years, our mission statement for many years included the phrase: “Being changed by Christ, to change the world.” The order matters.
In Luke chapter 6, we find the story of Jesus choosing His disciples. In verse 12 of that chapter, it says: One day soon afterward, Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and He prayed to God all night. Jesus began this significant task, by spending time in communion with His Father. When I look at the motley crew He chose after praying all night, I can only believe that Jesus was deeply in tune with the will of God. Human wisdom would have led to some vastly different choices.
And so, my question for us all today is: how are we being changed by Christ? What is God doing in your life right now? What area of your life do you know needs addressing? Most of our sins happen in our hearts and minds, and no one around us sees it. We have idols, not made with wood and stone, but secrets, compulsions, deals we have made with ourselves, stories we tell ourselves, that keep us from living in freedom.
In our churches, we share testimonies about how we came to know Jesus. Rarely are these uninspirational stories. But if you were asked to share your testimony today, what would you share about the shaping work God has done in your life over the last year, the last few years? Could you talk
about how your life is continuing to be shaped through the power of God, as you live in relationship with Him? How are you changing in the present, so that you might have an impact on the world?
As a father to young adults, one of my continuous prayers is that my kids will see change in me. That they will look back on our life together and remember how dad used to have a much quicker temper. That they will recall how dad’s critical spirit doesn’t show its ugly head nearly as often anymore. That they will recognize how I love others in a way that doesn’t seem rational. My prayer is that they will see the work Jesus is doing in me, and that this testimony will inspire them to want to know Jesus more.
If we want to see revival and change in our churches, I believe that it will need to begin with us.
One of the great blessings of serving as the regional minister has been that I recognize daily my deep need for Jesus. It drives me to prayer, and to reliance upon God. I want to be changed, so that I can join with you in experiencing the powerful life changing work of God in our churches.
What a great place to be.
Living in the Smoke
The Evacuation of Yellowknife in the Summer of 2023
Randy Loewen and his wife, Kim, and their three teenage children have been pastoring at Calvary Community Church in Yellowknife for 7 years. This church of 80 attendees was among the 20,000 residents of the capital city of the Northwest Territories that were called to evacuate their homes in the summer of 2023.
This year the summer seemed to start early with unusually warm temperatures earlier and lasting longer than previous years. The summer started with three forest fires around Yellowknife that had the potential to close in on the city. The air was full of smoke all summer, which was challenging for everyone’s wellbeing, especially physically. Those who had respiratory issues were greatly challenged.
As the summer started, one of the Indigenous communities nearby was evacuated and then for 3 weeks the only road in and out of Yellowknife was periodically closed. Randy and his family left Yellowknife on August 6th for a preplanned family vacation with their RV. The city of Yellowknife was given an evacuation order on August 16th. The fire was coming dangerously close to the city.
As people were evacuated the city, members of Calvary Community Church were spread out across Alberta and one flight out was even sent to Winnipeg. Those who flew out did not know where they were going until the plane was ready to take off and the pilot made an announcement with the destination. The church family was able to stay connected through a closed Facebook group. They could check in with each other and be encouraged. Randy worked on contacting anyone who was not on Facebook to make sure they were okay and had the help they needed.
During the evacuation, many of the pastors, churches, and staff of the CBWC reached out and were a great encouragement to Randy and the church.
On September 6th, Yellowknife residents were finally cleared to go home. Randy and his family returned on September 8th after having originally planned to be home from their vacation on August 26th. Randy described the drive back to Yellowknife as sobering as they drove past the destruction on the side of the highway. There were kilometers of burnt forest leading up to the bridge that crosses the Mackenzie River. Everything was a complete wasteland. The fires had come within 15km of the city of Yellowknife.
Getting back into town was a mix of excitement and feeling of “What is going to happen now?” It was quieter than usual and there was a sense of relief that everything was still there.
However, that relief was tempered by the sobering drive back to the city where they had seen all the destruction.
As people started to come back home, opportunities to serve became known. Kim, Randy’s wife, is great at connecting with people through social media. She made sure that everyone had what they needed. Kim connected with a single mom working at the school next to the church and found out that while the teachers and staff were preparing at the school for classes to start there was no childcare available to them. Daycare and day homes were not yet open, so Kim and her kids opened the doors of the church and invited any staff from the school who needed childcare until classes started. Fourteen kids came and spent those days at the church. After this offer of service, Kim has continued these new friendships with school staff and has had opportunities to share her faith and pray with them.
There have also been other opportunities in the community for connection. On the first weekend back, Randy and Kim had a date night at a local restaurant and were able to share stories and encouragement with the waitress who served them. People have been open to talking about their stories of this experience. It has become clear that the mental and emotional toll of this experience weighed heavy on many people.
Coming out of this experience, Yellowknife also seems to have a stronger sense of community. Some relationships have been mended. The story has been told of rival construction companies coming together to build fire breaks to stop the spread of the fires.
There are also some people in the city who have mixed emotions and are making decisions about whether to stay in the city or move. Some of the homeless population that was in Yellowknife are still lost in Edmonton and Calgary and efforts are being made to find them and bring them back.
This whole experience has also come with some searching questions. What is our place as the church? The community and government supports in place are helping people with the practical realities of the evacuation and coming back. Where does the church fit in the midst of that? We are there to fill the spiritual needs of people. We need to be intentional in stepping into the place of spiritual support. Going forward, it will be figuring out how to stay connected with the community.
The lesson learned through all of this is that every situation is in God’s hands. We need to trust that he is in control.
Making Connections LIVE—Calgary & Edmonton
On October 11th and 12th, Crescent Heights Baptist, Calgary, AB, and Strathcona Baptist, Edmonton, AB, hosted Making Connections LIVE. It was a great time to connect and share in discussions!
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