Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Terrific Ministry in Our Church

This is not anything I take credit for in any way, but it is one of the things about my local church that make me feel privileged to belong. One of our men's Bible study groups has taken on the job of serving the single mothers in our congregation. They just finished painting the entire townhouse of one of the single mothers in our church and they did a whole list of odd jobs around the house while they were at it. The boys in that family know that their earthly father left them but they also know that God has provided men from our church who care about them and seek ot mentor them. One of the younger teen boys in that same family was trained to drive the ride-on tractor and do the lawns at our church by a man who is unable to have a family of his own. He and his wife are trying to adopt, but in the meantime he leads this ministry to single mothers.

We have been at our church for over six years now and I love the people there and the evidence of God's Spirit at work. We moved from the (US) equivalent of an American Baptist Church to the (Canadian) equivalent of a Southern Baptist Church and at first we were not quite sure how this was going to work out. We were a little dubious about being in such a conservative setting. But I have found that the church has surprised us in so many ways and I believe that I've been changed more through my ministry there (I'm the part-time Theologian in Residence now) than the church has been changed by my ministry.

Our Youth Pastor is a graduate of Liberty University. We have a number of home-schooling and Christian-schooling families, as well as a number of teachers in the public school system. We are located in a growing suburb of Toronto that is part of a dynamic metropolitan area of over 6 million people. We are become steadily more and more multi-cultural and reflective of our community. I noted that when the grade 3-4 kids were called forward to help lead a song with rhythm instruments a couple of weeks ago, the majority were brown and black in skin color. We have over 20 different first languages among our people and literally have people from every continent (except Australia). We have more and more East Indian and Asian lately, having had a large Caribbean contingent for a long time. We also have immigrants from Eastern Europe and Latin America. It is a dynamic place with an attendance of 450 on Sunday morning, over 150 adults in mid-week Bible study groups and the same number in adult SS. Our children's choir and Kidds With Purpose groups are extremely active and the youth group is growing quickly. We are only 18 years old and our building was finished in 2002.

The church has people in it and so it is not perfect. But the vision for missions, the authenticity of discipleship, the humility of the leadership and the guiding vision of our pastor make for a healthy and growing church.

Why do I say all this? Well, simply to encourage anyone reading this blog about the health and reality of the local church. Don't believe all the doom and gloom. Rumours of the death of the church are greatly exaggerated and have been for 2000 years. Sure there are dead patches; there always have been. But the Spirit is constantly causing signs of new life to sprout up all around us - if we have the eyes to see and, in my case, if we dare to try a new church that has a reputation for being conservative.

2 comments:

A. S. Tatum said...

Craig,

I just began reading your blog. I am a seminary student in a "moderate" Baptist seminary in North Carolina and most of my ministry has been in mainline churches (although I am and have long been a Baptist). I spent a few months as an interim youth minister at a Southern Baptist Church (much more conservative than my background thus far) and these days I find myself missing that community more than anything. I found a church that was more welcoming, more mission focused and - as you say - growing. When I say that this church is mission focused, I mean that there were poorer families in this church who took out second mortgages and lines of credit on their homes to help finance mission and service trips to Ecuador and the Ukraine. I have found little such generosity and christ-likeness in any of the more affluent mainline churches I have served. Of course, caricatures exist among true, blue "Southern Bpatists" (take, for example, Paige Patterson's recent "Take the Hill" antics at Southwestern Seminary in Texas). But I do believe that there is a growing movement among "catholic evangelicals" that seeks to call the church to fuller obedience and an embodiment of a cruciform life of service an ministry. Thanks for your reflections! A true encouragement, indeed.

Craig Carter said...

A. S. Tatum,
I'm interested to hear of your experience. Of course the caricatures have some basis in fact and conservative Evangelical churches are not perfect. But in my case, I have found that a conservative Baptist congregation has exhibited much more grace and spiriutal depth than people who only know the stereotypes can ever imagine. Glad to hear you have experienced something similar.