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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       

How wonderful, how pleasant!

January 20, 2010 Leave a comment

There were a lot of people in Church on January 10th. About 8,000.

No, FireLight Christian Fellowship didn’t experience a slight spike in attendance that Sunday. Actually, that was the estimated attendance at the One Heart City Church service that we were part of at the MTS Centre. As you may recall, it was an event where on that Sunday, twenty-six Churches decided to meet together instead of in our own local venues. Stepping out of our parochial comfort zones to worship the Lord together is risky business. We (the leaders who had planned and participated in it) expected maybe up to 4,000 people to show up. Boy, were we wrong.

The place was comfortably full by 10:30, and uncomfortably full by 11:00. Although, it didn’t seem to matter, and the MTS Centre was abuzz with activity and anticipation as the starting time drew near. That’s when the wave started. Really. The Wave. The whole place erupted spontaneously into a loud and joyful expression of wavy corporate unity that would rival any crowd at a sports event. This wave offering wasn’t what they were referring to in the Old Testament, but I’m sure it put a smile on the Lord’s face nonetheless. And it was only the beginning.

A children’s choir from the Churches began (Emmaus from FireLight and Nassia from LivingStones were in the choir), then pastors from the Churches shared the reading of scripture from the book of Revelation Chapter 5, verses 6-14 (I got to read verse 6). The next thing was an entry of the nations – Christians in cultural dress carrying the flags of 50 nations. Our very own George Balaktsis looked very Greek and in his traditional outfit and very proud as he hoisted the flag of his forbears. Ron MacLean greeted the people, and then a worship team put together from all the Churches led the giant congregation in songs of worship to our Lord Jesus (Brad Warkentin from LivingStones led one of the songs). Then there was communion (LivingStones’ Krishna and Konner were part of the usher team supervising that gargantuan task), a clever puppet show, and a great message about evangelism courtesy of David MacFarlane. We then gathered as pastors and gave the benediction to the people together. Wow!

I was moved to tears several times during the service. Even after more than a week of reflection, I can only get a glimpse of why. I think I was feeling something that was bigger than my mindset or my perception could intellectually process. In the end, I believe I may have been feeling a bit of what the Father would feel in seeing His children trying to get along, a bit of His pleasure at seeing the Church cooperating with Jesus’ prayer from John 17, that we His people would be brought to complete unity in Christ, a bit of the blessing that follows an action on our part that is near to the heart of God. What we did as Churches gathering together and sowing into the unity of the Body of Christ is, after all, biblical. And so is the blessing we experienced:

“How wonderful it is, how pleasant, for God’s people to live together in harmony!  It is like the precious anointing oil running down from Aaron’s head and beard, down to the collar of his robes. It is like the dew on Mount Hermon, falling on the hills of Zion. That is where the LORD has promised his blessing— life that never ends.” – Psalm 133:1-3

We hope to do this again next year, with even more Churches participating. Will there be enough room? Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

May the Lord bless you,

Rob (www.weccwinnipeg.ca)