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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

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Living Letters

March 23, 2011 Leave a comment

God is accused of lots of things, but one of the most ironic is the charge that He is not paying attention. We often say, “Why doesn’t God hear me? Why doesn’t God speak to me?” The truth is that God hears and speaks to us regularly. It’s us who often aren’t listening – we tend to stick our fingers in our spiritual ears and belt out a hearty, wilful rendition of Yankee Doodle while the Lord tries to get OUR attention.

This past week, the Lord spoke to our family of Churches in an interesting way. We believe that for the last while, He has been trying to get our attention about His mission for us – His Church – in this world. It’s all about our role as ambassadors for Christ – ministers and messengers of reconciliation between God and people. We have preached about evangelism, we have taught about hospitality and reaching out to others, we have done activities to practice sharing our faith… All with OK results. Not great, but OK. Then the Lord sent us a letter.

More than one letter, actually. Eleven, to be exact. Francine, one of our members, happened to come in contact with a group called Missionaries to Canada. It was a team of young people from Indonesia and South Korea who were living out a call from the Lord to come to Canada and share Jesus with Canadians! You might think, “Wait a minute. Isn’t that our gig? Isn’t Canada the one that sends missionaries to those countries?” The answer is a sad, “We used to.” Now we’re too enlightened to do that. And this “enlightenment” has caused our nation to become a spiritual shadow of its former self. The Lord knows the trouble that Canada is in, and He has answered our nation’s need for Jesus by sending Christians from other nations to bring the light of the gospel into the enlightened darkness that we have wrought, and to encourage Canadian Christians to pick up the torch again and reach out to the lost all around us. He is sending living letters to Canada.

As a result of this initial contact with the Missionaries to Canada, this team of international missionaries visited us for a week. They stayed in our homes. They ate with us. They provided presentations and equipping for us. They sang. They taught. They served. They testified about what Jesus had done in their lives. And they spoke to us in English, a language that many of them had only begun studying four months ago. Far from home, way out of their comfort zone, into a frigid zone, in our homes, in our Church, around the table, these young people became living letters to us. The Lord sent them and spoke through them about His heart for the lost, and His desire to see us doing Jesus’ work on the earth, with an eloquence and an effect that easily outdid any best-selling book or cool video on the subject.

The week we spent with the Missionaries to Canada was profoundly impacting. That’s because the Lord sent them and spoke to us through them. Sending living letters is just one of the myriad of ways that God uses to get through to us. I’m glad He doesn’t give up trying.

Are you feeling like God isn’t paying attention to you these days? Maybe He is already sending you a living letter. He does that.

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)