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Restore Our Core

June 11, 2015 Leave a comment

There’s so much talk in exercise circles about our CORE. It’s that set of oft-neglected midriff muscles that are responsible for holding our innards together, stabilizing our bodies, and making sure that shovelling snow once doesn’t signal an entire winter of low back pain and ice packs.Cleaning Selkirk back lane

Cities have cores too. And like our bodies, a city’s core can become neglected, creating an unhealthy doughnut hole in the city’s centre, and generating a vast array of chronic social ills. You don’t have to be a city planner to know that when our core suffers, the whole city suffers.

Winnipeg is a city like that. Over the years, our core area has suffered neglect, and has ultimately become a kind of wilderness that one drives through from one suburb to the other, making sure the windows are rolled up and the doors are locked. We all know that something must be done to get our core back in shape, but whose responsibility is it? It’s about here that the fingers start pointing.

Happily, there are Christian ministries and community service organizations that skip the finger-pointing part and just do something about it. They have been working steadily and thanklessly in Winnipeg’s core for years and, understandably, they could use some encouragement.Cutting the lawn

Well, some encouragement came on May 29th and 30th with “Restore Our Core”. Interestingly enough, “Restore Our Core” was the brainchild of none other than our city’s police chief Devon Clunis. Chief Clunis, who himself grew up in Winnipeg’s core area, envisioned a grassroots restorative gesture involving a city street in the Core – Selkirk Avenue – and hundreds of volunteers from the Winnipeg Police Service, city Churches and ministries, and service organizations, cooperating to accomplish one mission: beautify Selkirk Avenue from stem to stern, that is, from Main to Arlington.

Actually, it was a crazy idea. First, it had never been done before. Second, it had never been done before on that scale. Third, it had never been done before with police officers, Church congregations, inner city ministries and other service organizations working together. The logistical challenges alone were enough to deep six the project.Nicole

But we did it. I was there, and it was a good thing, because I may not have believed it if I had only heard about it second hand. A hearty group of volunteers from WECC and a host of other Churches were there to represent the Church in Winnipeg. On the Friday, we worked hard to clean the back lane on our designated block of Selkirk Avenue, and on the Saturday, another team from our Church prepared and painted a whole building! Other teams from other Churches, mixed with police officers and others, worked in similar fashion, and by Saturday afternoon, Selkirk Avenue looked pretty shiny. People from the neighbourhood came out of their homes and businesses to thank and encourage us, and some cleaning teams even got a chance to pray with people. All in all, our Core experienced a touch of restoration, and those in it for the long haul were blessed and encouraged by the helping hand.On the ladder

Of course, Restore Our Core was only a start. But we’ve got to start somewhere. And having Churches led by pastors with work boots and brooms lockng arms with police officers, led by a chief with jeans and a shovel, isn’t a bad place to begin. Hopefully this effort will generate many other new and healthy connections with our core.

The next day, my own core was a little sore, but it was more than compensated for by the way Selkirk Avenue sparkled on Sunday, along with the knowledge that we all got together did something crazy to help make it that way.

God loves Winnipeg, and it was a privilege to bring that message in a unique way to our city’s core.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob

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Were you there?

June 18, 2013 Leave a comment

I was there.

“There” is a One Heart Planning Committee meeting, months before the actual event. One Heart is the name of a city-wide Church service that we have annually in Winnipeg, where a surprising number of local Churches put aside their “localness” to flex their muscles as the Body of Christ in the city – One Lord, One Church, One Harvest. It’s a great time, and for the last number of years the One Heart service has been held at the MTS Centre, where we have seen upwards of 14,000 followers of Jesus get together for one great big Church service.

I was there when the bad news came.

In the latter part of 2012, we were trying our best to nail down a date in January with the MTS Centre for the 2013 One Heart service. But the NHL lockout was making it difficult to confirm anything, as the arena needed to be available for hockey games the moment the players and management could agree on something. So time was dragging on, and we were in lockout limbo, not knowing what to do. After seeing yet another date fall through, we sat around the One Heart planning committee table, nonplussed.

I was there when the stunning news came.

Right in the midst of our angst, a call came. It was from the Winnipeg Blue Bomber Football Club. The brand new Investors’ Group Field stadium was (finally) almost ready for use, and they were wondering if the city Churches wanted to have their OneHeartCityChurch service there on May 26th, for free. I don’t know what the football equivalent is for something coming out of left field, but it was that! Apparently, the Bombers organization wanted to have a test run of the facility before they had a “real” event there, and they were wondering if the city Churches would help them out in this endeavour. We all agreed around the table that this was an overwhelming, even crazy idea that none of us would have cooked up ourselves, so we concluded that this must be the Lord, and we decided to do it.

I was there when the challenges came.

The first challenge was one that was somewhat familiar. At the MTS Centre, “free” use of the facility meant a cost of $40,000 to us. At the Investors’ Group Field, everything was bigger, even “free”. Try $80,000. The truth is, the magnitude of the event – from the budget to the sound needs to the parking to the stage to the ushers (500) – was off the charts for us. We had no grid for this. It felt many times that we had no courage for this either. But it was happening no matter what, so we plunged in and kept swimming. And meeting. And eating KFC (we met on Tuesdays). And wondering how this could ever come together. To top it off, all this was happening in a context of questions about whether the facility itself would be ready by May 26th, as contractors worked madly to finish the job. Bells and whistles didn’t concern us so much as toilets. We prayed a lot.

I was there on May 26th.

I was there when the doors opened, allowing a record16,000 worshipers of Jesus to be the first ones to enjoy the use of the Investors’ Group Field.

I was there, listening to “Bless the Lord O My Soul (10,000 Reasons) reverberate around the stadium – thousands of people singing loud, heartfelt praises to the Lord. At that moment it was crystal clear to me why we were there.

I was there when over 240 people accepted the Lord Jesus as their Saviour, and when people generously gave a record amount toward programs to help young people in the inner city of Winnipeg. So at the One Heart 2013 city Church service, the Church in Winnipeg conducted itself in fine fashion, glorifying the Lord and reaching out to the lost.

Were you there? If you weren’t, you missed a miracle. But there’ll be more to come.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob

We were Made for This!

April 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Eric Liddell

This is Eric Liddell – or an actor who played Eric Liddell in the movie “Chariots of Fire”. Eric Liddell (the real one) made headlines during the 1924 Paris Olympics when, after breezing through the heats, he refused to run in the 100 metre final because it was scheduled on a Sunday morning – the day and time when God’s people go to Church. So he went to Church on that Sunday, then later in the week ran as a last-minute entry in the 400 metres – which wasn’t his event – and promptly won the gold medal!

This wasn’t the only thing that irked the Olympic gurus. Eric had this irritating habit of running “funny”. Contrary to all scientific sprinting theories of the times, Eric would run normally for a while, then begin lifting his knees high, throwing his head back and dropping his jaw, running like a crazy man. Then he would win.

When questioned about his unorthodox style, Eric Liddell simply stated, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” So it seems that this world-class sprinter, when doing what he was made to do, became supercharged by the joy of the Lord!

I’m sure we can all relate to this. Sometimes in life when we find ourselves doing exactly what we were cut out to do, we can gain such strength and endurance – and joy! – that even in the face of hard work and long hours we can shout joyfully, “I was made for this!”

The Church in our city can take a lesson from all this. These days, often the Church seems just plain tired. And it’s not the kind of tired that doing less fixes. In fact it seems that the less the Church does, the more fatigued it becomes. Perhaps this is because the Church needs to be doing more of what it was cut out to do. We need the joy of the Lord that comes from doing what we were made for, and the Spirit-stoked energy that proceeds from this.

But, what are we made to do? What are we cut out for? Happily, the Word of God gives us some key insights into this question. These insights come in the form of the “identity” things that Jesus says about His Church. There are many times when the Lord helps the Church understand who we are. I’ll just mention three.

First, we are ONE. This may be news to some of us in the Church as we continue to fragment, compartmentalize and isolate ourselves as households and local Church fellowships, but Jesus considers us to be one, a perspective which is summed up in His prayer to the Father as recorded in John 17:20b: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one…” So when we gather as the parts of the Body of Christ, cooperating to be His hands and feet in this world, we are doing what we were made for!

Second, we are SALT. Jesus says, “You are the salt of earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” (Matt. 5:13) According to Jesus, the Church is made to have a preservative influence on the world around us – preserving the truth that hope is still to be found in this world – hope in Jesus Christ. So it makes sense that we get out of the saltshaker and into the world, doing what we were made to do; preserving hope in Jesus in a world that has lost all hope, and bringing the flavour of Christ to a world that has become tasteless.

Third, we are LIGHT. In Matthew 5:14 Jesus calls the Church “the light of the world”. So as the Church, we are made to shine the light of God’s character in our dark world. The life of Jesus demonstrated that God is kind, patient, and generous, blessing the righteous and even the unrighteous, because of who He is. And when we as the Church shine the light of God in our fallen world, we are doing what we were made to do. Acting any other way doesn’t make sense. Jesus puts it best: “A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

So we are one, we are salt, and we are light. How can we as the Church do these things we were made to do, so that we can get out of the churchy doldrums and feel God’s pleasure as we function according to our design?

I’m glad I asked. On Sunday, May 26th starting at noon at the new Bomber stadium, the Church in Winnipeg will be getting together to celebrate Jesus at the One Heart City Church service. It will be a great time, but more than that, it will be the Church being ONE, which is what we were designed to be. I know that we will feel God’s pleasure as we gather.

The One Heart city-wide Church service is actually the kickoff event for another great opportunity to be what we were made to be. This opportunity is called Love Winnipeg – a chance for the Church in the city to be salt & light, working together as local fellowships in our city to preserve and shine, reflecting the character of God in our communities through neighbourhood cleanup projects, helping hands and practical expressions of God’s kindness to those around us. Here at WECC, we will be helping Discovery Children’s Centre on June 4th as we partner to provide a Family Fun Day for hundreds of people in our community. What an excellent chance to do what we were made to do, blessing and serving both this child care centre and the community around us!

Of course, there will always be critics of the Church as we attempt to be what we were made to be – salt & light together in a world that desperately needs our help and our message. But, as with Eric Liddell, the criticisms lose ground to a victorious Church that, although at times running awkwardly, is feeling God’s pleasure.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob       

So we loved Winnipeg…

May 31, 2009 Leave a comment

So we loved Winnipeg today…

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 Love Winnipeg is a city-wide multi-Church initiative where we join forces and express God’s love for our city in practical ways – helping neighbours with their yard work, hosting free barbeques, giving away water & pop…you name it. This year was particularly good, because our Church had the opportunity to fan out and Love Winnipeg in more than one way.

In our Hampton neighbourhood, Vic, one of our elders at LivingStones, spearheaded a team of about 20 adults, along with many children, who volunteered to help people on our street with their Saturday projects. They donned their red Love Winnipeg t-shirts and worked hard alongside the neighbours, helping them get jobs done in a fraction of the time. It was an excellent opportunity to make contact with our neighbours, and to express God’s love to them in down-to-earth ways. Come to think of it, Jesus came down to earth to express the Father’s love for us in down-to-earth ways, so it’s fitting for the Church to treat the world like Jesus did. He said, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve…”. So, great job, Vic & crew! Thanks so much for the many hours of cheerful work that you did. The neighbours are grateful, and our Father in heaven is pleased. Not bad for a Saturday afternoon!

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Meanwhile, across town…

LW_Rob.jpg Brad, Jake, John and I were part of the musical entertainment at a gala free neighbourhood pig roast out in the parking lot of Mission Baptist Church, hosted by a number of Churches and ministries. The pigs were being cooked in GIGANTIC roasters, and about 100 people were there to enjoy the food, the people, the music and the sunshine. We had great fun playing two half hour sets of music, mostly popular songs that were rewritten to be all about Jesus. Brad and I both had a chance to preach the good news of Jesus Christ between songs. It was a privilege to proclaim the good news of the Father’s love and salvation in Jesus in a neighbourhood that all too often has experienced the bad news of the Enemy’s grip on people’s lives.

The pigs weren’t the only things that got roasted. Even though the air was cool, I think it probably would have been a good idea to put on sunscreen… my face hurts (insert joke here).

 

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 As I watched people today, it was obvious to me how beneficial it is when the Church does what it was created to do. I saw it in the smiling faces of red t-shirted people who were working hard to bless their neighbours, I heard it in the cheerful words of those who were happily sweating over the pig roasters, and I even felt it – a warmth – not in my face, in my heart – as we blessed people with music that had a message of hope in Jesus. When we as the Church love the world by blessing, serving and bringing a message of hope in Jesus to it, WE COME ALIVE! Even though there is hard work involved in relating to the world as Jesus did, there is abounding energy and joy that comes as the Lord empowers us to do His work. It seems that the Church here in North America is too often fatigued, lethargic and distracted – we often feel maxed out. Perhaps it’s not because we are just too busy. Perhaps it’s because we are busy doing the wrong kinds of things, and need to focus on doing the kinds of things Jesus did while He was here, the things that bring joy to the Lord, and to us as His Church. Love Winnipeg gives us a taste of that. I think we’re on to something… 

May the Lord bless you,

Rob (www.weccwinnipeg.ca)  

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