Over the last two years the CBWC Church Health and Planting groups in the regions and at the denominational groupings have focused on Church Health. (Before I continue, let me point out that a new initiative in the area of church planting is about to be announced in July.) Back to Church Health. There is a consistent and extensive history of grappling with church health in the CBWC. In the last two years this has been framed around church resourcing with a particular emphasis on church coaching and encouragement. Ken Thiessen, with the able collaboration of Ken Nettleton and Howard Lawrence, has facilitated this initiative. Ken Thiessen has showed inspired leadership and giftedness in enabling this initiative to get off the ground and I thank him on all our behalf. I have put these questions to him.
- What is the missional church?
Any response to this question short of an exhaustive volume (many of which have already been written) is fraught with danger, but I will make an attempt. We are familiar with the Great Commission where Jesus said, “go into all the world and make disciples.” Craig Van Gelder and Rick Rouse in their book, A Field Guide for the Missional Congregation: Embarking on a Journey of Transformation say this, “If we took this command of Jesus seriously, we would understand that the front door of every church and indeed of every Christian up onto a mission field. The missional church is not about maintenance or survival as an institution, but rather about participating more fully in God’s mission. It is not focused so much on the number of members, but rather on how well people are living out their faith in daily discipleship. Its ministry is not so much centered on the work of the pastor, but rather on empowering the laity (non-clergy) for their ministry in daily life.” That begins to provide a framework for understanding the missional church.
- How does that fit into the diversity of the CBWC?
Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about the missional church is that it is a particular model, or approach to doing ministry. That couldn’t be further from the truth! What it looks like for our CBWC churches to participate more fully in God’s mission and enter the mission field outside the walls of their church building will be unique. It will look quite different in rural Saskatchewan as compared to downtown Calgary, Edmonton or Vancouver. It will look different in Northern Manitoba than it will in small town Central Alberta or the Peace Country. What God is already doing and yet wants to do in the communities where our CBWC churches are situated is very unique and our diversity, in my opinion, is perfectly suited to the missional conversation. We have not, do not now, and will not have a “cookie cutter” approach to ministry, so the missional church conversation is in many ways a “hand in glove” fit for who we are as Canadian Baptists of Western Canada.
- How is the Church Health and Missional piece connected with Church Consulting?
As we have engaged numerous churches in our roles as denominational staff, we have become increasingly aware of the need to address church health. Given geographic and time limitations, we realized that we would need creative ways of resourcing our churches. We needed to develop a process whereby we could train and equip others who would be geographically distributed, possess a breadth of ministry experience and demonstrate the capacity to consult our local churches.
- What is the Church Consulting Piece?
The process began with invitations extended to approximately 35 individuals whom we felt had the capacity for consulting. Craig Van Gelder facilitated a discernment process which involved a variety of hands-on exercises designed to help identify 15-20 who might receive more intensive consultant training. A group of 18 individuals were then invited to join this second phase of the consultant training. They have met together for 2 – 2day training events with the third planned for late July.
- Who is leading this?
This initiative has come out of the Church Health and Planting Missional Network but I have been giving direct oversight and leadership to it, and Craig Van Gelder has been the resource person who has facilitated the training process for our consultant cadre.
- How can we access these resources?
These resources can be accessed by contacting your respective Regional Minister. We work collaboratively, taking into account the specific local church context, and skills and ministry experience of our various consultants, seeking a match that will be most beneficial for the church and maximize the consultant’s gifts and abilities.