Thursday, December 04, 2008

Uncommon Ministry for an Uncommon Time

All things change, it is said. It seems that there is no stability economically, environmentally, politically, socially or spiritually in Canada. It is time for new solutions, or so it seems, for all these things. If the Church is to survive, a new purpose and a new method is required, for this new generation.

But, what a surprise when a new Church and a young pastor argues that that is exactly the opposite of what the Church should do. The Church is not a cultural expression. It is the Body of Christ. It has zero flexibility in its purposes and methods: “I will build my Church” Jesus says (Matt. 16:18) and “no one can build on any foundation, other than that which is already laid” (1 Cor 3:11).

Christ calls the church to be countercultural. This cultural order is in rebellious opposition to God and Christ, therefore, “Friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4). Thousands of people, all around the world are looking for an alternative to the culture which surounds them. They are desperate for truth.

Grace Evangelical Free Church is a response to that mandate. Through biblical and theological expository preaching this Church plant glorifies God and proclaims Christ. By aggressive missional evangelism, it glorifies God by proclaiming Christ, and with a focus on spiritual leadership and acceptability, Grace glorifies God through living Christ. For more information on this new work, visit

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Grace Appeal November 2008 "Our Membership"

The Ethos of Membership
Membership Matters
At Grace we have a high view of committed community. The Church can only fulfill the mission Christ has for it, when “each member does its part” (Eph. 4:16).
Our membership is not about “society membership”. Our membership is not about “voting”. We are not yet organized independently, and so cannot have these things. So if it is not about government recognized membership, what is it about?
Our membership is about “following Christ”. The Bible says we are to “assemble together” (Heb 10:25), in Churches over which Christ appoints leaders to “equip” us all “for the work of ministry”, (Eph.4:11-12).
Our membership is about “encouraging one another” especially through the difficult times, to “stir one another up to love and good works” (Heb 10:24). How have you encouraged a fellow member this week?
Our membership is about organizing to fulfill the great commission: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).

The Ethos of Discipleship
Discipleship Matters
Through each other we are growing up into our goal of being the body of Christ, making disciples in south Calgary.
Being a disciple is not a program. It does not mean being in small groups, or following any particular pattern, necessarily. But here is the question, what are you doing in your life to be discipled and to disciple another?

What does active discipleship look like?
1) Discipleship simply means building friendships for the purpose of doing one another spiritual good. What relationship are you currently building at Grace, to achieve this? This can be in small groups, or in one on one relationships.
2) Accountability partnerships can work excellently for this. Agree to read a book of the Bible, or a good Christian book with a friend from the church, and meet once a week to talk about what you have learned and how you have applied it. This is ideal for busy people who need to work at their own pace and who have a hard time meeting with a larger group.
3) Small groups are ideal for this purpose, as they allow you to work through bible teaching, and to encourage and be encouraged by a tight knit group that grows to be great spiritual friends together for the cause of the gospel.

The Ethos of Encouragement
Encouragement Matters
One of our most important roles as a Church is to “encourage one another”. The world, the flesh and the devil all conspire together to discourage us.
Jesus faced his greatest challenge, going to the garden of Gethsemane the night he would be betrayed: “taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”” (Matt 26:37-38). Jesus told the disciples that they should “Watch and Pray” together, “that you may not enter temptation” (v. 41).
Even in the mundane of life, Christians need to be the last to look for praise and the first to give it. Paul said to the Philippians, “I thank my God fin all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy” (Phil 1:3-4). Who do you thank God for? Why not encourage someone this week?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Grace Appeal October 2008 "Our Ethos"

Membership Matters (The Ethos of Bodylife)

At Grace we have a high view of committed community. The Church can only fulfill the mission Christ has for it, when “each member does its part” (Eph. 4:16).
We are celebrating membership this month, starting with a communion service symbolizing our unity on September the 28th, we move out to act together as the hands and feet of Christ in October and November. It is encouraging that we have experienced such a great response. Our people want to belong, and they want to serve.
Through each other we are growing up into our goal of being the body of Christ, making disciples in south Calgary.

Discipleship Matters (The Ethos of Faithfulness)

Christianity is a cyclical disciple making worldview. All those who are Christ’s obey his command in Matt. 28:16-20, in His power.
The command: “Make Disciples” is qualified by three participles:
1. go 2. baptize 3. teach
The most effective way to reach the world for Christ, is not the fastest way, its not the flashiest way, it is the simple, long term, personally demanding vision of 1-1 discipleship. Most conversion happen through long term personal contact with a Christian, whose life “adorns the doctrines of God” (Tit. 2:10) and whose “good works” cause others to recognize their source, “and glorify your Father who is in Heaven” (Mat. 5:16).

We want to be the kind of Church that is always engaged in discipling, and being discipled.

Participation Matters (The Ethos of Citizenship)

We need to remember as citizens of two kingdoms, the heavenly, but also this earthly one, to participate in the upcoming Canadian elections; “the only thing necessary” it is said, “for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. Christians should be careful to vote for those candidates, regardless of party affiliation, who most closely resemble Biblical ethics and morals. Vote:
1. As if totally disinterested in the outcome, vote for the good of others (Phil 2:3). Think about the safety and well being of our fellow Canadian citizens, knowing that they only have this realm to call on for justice.
2. As in “whatever you do” vote “for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). God is glorified when his principles are recognized, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).
3. Find out what your candidates believe on moral issues, especially in the promotion of life, family and religious freedom, God’s top priorities for any peoples (Gen. 1:27, 2:24 and Gal. 5:1).

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Humility of Faith

What makes Christianity unique, amongst all the other religions that are in the world?

We believe that we are saved by grace through faith alone. As Romans says, "all have sinned and are falling short of the glory, which is God" (Rom 3:23), "and are made right with God by his grace as a gift through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus... to be received through faith" (Rom 3:24-25).

If we understand that it is a gift, that we can contribute nothing to that gift, then we come to the conclusion: "what then becomes of our boasting? It is excluded" (Rom 3:27). 

Every other faith teaches our cooperation, in some way, with God for our salvation, whether the pillars of Islam or the scales of karma. 

The Christian faith teaches the absolute dependance of people on God for all aspects of salvation. Therefore a Christian cannot feel that he is better than his unbelieving friend, relative or neighbor, because any righteousness, or goodness in a Christian is "God's righteousness" (3:21) working within, "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil 2:13).

Christians then out to be the most humble people alive. But then, who would want to be a Christian? No one likes t be humbled.

But there is one more reality, "God  resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). That Grace grants sonship (John 1:12), and the inheritance of heaven (Gal 3:29). The humble shall truly "inherit the earth" (Matt 5:5).

Not only that, but at the present we have the power of God to aid us a mere prayer away. We know the truth, have certainty about the future, and absolute invincibility to any deadly assault or illness, until God decides its time for us to come home. 

And not only that, but we are experiencing the absolute joy, the gratification and satisfaction of being in our glory, that is in THE glory, the presence of God, in whose presence "there is fullness of joy" and at his right hand "pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11).

The cost... giving up our pride, confessing our poverty and lostness, and accepting by faith that Christ died for our sins, as the Scripture says, that he was raised for our justification (that we would be right with God), as the Scripture says. 

And in humility recognize that our ability to realize the truth of the gospel is a gift of God, and so we have absolutely nothing in which to take pride, save that we know him. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

GEFC Worship Services

As I have written before, as we pursue the church plant, we seek to glorify God and exult His Son, by "being the body of Christ in South Calgary, making disciples".

This is an exciting time, because we have made a very practical step in that direction by beginning to worship together and to built a corporate identity, understanding what exactly it means, to be the body of Christ together.

In Scripture reading, music, prayer and the preaching of the word, we are building an intentional example of means to worship together. But we are also building a means of evangelism and discipleship, by trying to teach the rational for everything done in the service. For the last few services I have written a simple program, explaining the elements of the service. The inside read as follows:

Scripture Reading

Daniel 9:1-14

In Paul's instruction on how to conduct ourselves in the Church, he instructs Timothy: "Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture" (1 Tim 4:13).

In the Synagogue, the Jewish people would read through the Old Testament in a repeating selection of readings to familiarize everyone with all aspects of the word.

The Early Church followed this, adding a read and repeat pattern of Scripture memorization. We follow intentionally in this 2000 year old practice, because at GEFC "God's Word is Central".

Corporate Prayer of Repentance and Preparation

Although we fall easily into a pattern of being individualistic in our thinking, the church is to be a collection of individuals who "present" their "bodies [plural] as a living sacrifice [singular]" (Romans 12:1). Daniel, although faithful illustrated this group identity on behalf of those God called him to minister to and Jeremiah the faithful shepherd of Israel embodied it saying: "We acknowledge our wickedness, O LORD, and the iniquity of our fathers, for we have sinned against you" (Jer. 14:20).

FCC Statement of Faith

We are clearly instructed, "Give attention to …doctrine" (1 Tim 4:13) and commanded --"Pay attention to yourself and to your doctrine; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you" (v. 16).

Further as an EFCC Church we want to understand what it means to unite around God's evangel, to God's glory for our total satisfaction and joy in fulfilling our created purpose.

Preamble: The Evangelical Free Church of Canada is an association of autonomous churches united in a common commitment to God’s evangel--the gospel of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again to give us eternal life. To God's glory, the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. Our essential theological convictions are vitally connected to this gospel.

God’s gospel originates in and expresses
the wondrous perfections of the eternal, triune God.

1. We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.

Therefore, we understand that the object of our existence is to glorify God and to enjoy His wondrous perfection forever!

Worship in Music

A believing person responds to being Spirit-filled, "with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Eph 5:19).

We are commanded: "Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness." (Psalm 29:2).

Worship in Word

Martin Luther said actively listening to preaching "is the highest form of worship". This is so, because in preaching, God by His Spirit speaks directly to you; "It pleased God by… the message preached to save those who believe" (1 Cor. 1:21) and therefore we continue in it: "like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation," (1 Peter 2:2).

Friday, April 18, 2008

Reflecting on T4G

This last week was a great encouragement and an enjoyable one for me. Together 4 the Gospel 08 was everything I had hoped... and more.

The Fellowship of fellow attenders and the challenge of the speakers has made me very excited to return home to my ministry. As I prepare to preach on Mark 16 this weekend, I am bringing forward with me the call to clarity and to place the passage in its theological context.

As I worked on translating the passage this week, I found a quiet nook in the Southern Baptist Seminary Library. There I sat successful working through the text when suddenly voices got animated and people crowded around me. Since I was pretty sure it was not to check out my parsing, I wondered what it could be.

Looking up, I beheld, the big guys had walked in, and about 5 feet from me Mark Dever, CJ and Ligon Duncan were trying to look at some books surrounded by a crowd of admirers!

Well, that ended the study session for me, as I of course joined the crowd of admirers :)

And now back to work deciding on how much to speak about the drinking of poison, handling snakes and textual criticism...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

T4G 2008!

This is a conference that brings together a Southern Baptist (Dever), a Presbyterian (Duncan) and an Independent (MacArthur) along with several other leaders, on the issue that matters.

While many issues of polity and practice are important, it is encouraging to see the Christian church unite on what really matters. Too often, we unite on being united and decide that everything has to go (including a clear understanding of the gospel) or divide on something that is at best secondary (views on polity) and leave off cooperating with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Today we face a similar situation in our Canadian context, that Lloyd-Jones faced with the Evangelical Alliance in GB half a century ago, or which Spurgeon faced with the Baptist Union churches in London in the 1800's, or the Puritan's in the 17th century, or the reformers in the 16th, or even the situation of the Nicene clergy, especially Athanasius in the 4th century. It is this, that unity is on everyone's lips. And unity should be.

Unity is our goal, but how do we achieve it? Unity comes through the gospel. The gospel is a propositional understanding of doctrine regarding Christ, a historical fact of the death and resurrection of Christ and an experiential union with Christ through the Holy Spirit.

I'm glad the T4G organizers and attenders are together on this issue and sad, that so many others are not.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

New Logo!

Grace EFC announces this new logo this week. It will soon grace all our media. The Beautiful imaging was done by Han, a member of Okotoks Evangelical Free Church. The elements of the name demonstrate the commitments we have as a church.

1st and foremost to the Free Grace of God, dispensed by His Holy Spirit (represented by the dove). This Grace is found only in the Evangel (the gospel, or good news) which we express as evangelicals.

2nd that we are evangelical means that we are centred on that gospel, because we hold to the principles of the 16th century Reformation: a) Scripture Alone as our authority and sufficient source for ministry and Christian Growth, b) Grace Alone as the only means of Salvation. No works can contribute. and c) Faith Alone in Christ as the only expression of Grace received, which can result in Salvation.

3rd that we are a Free Church. Recognizing that the churches of the Scripture were not intended to be a part of a State organization we look to the local congregation as the final moral authority for all decisions regarding our ministry and doctrine, in friendly cooperation with other churches in the EFCC.

Finally, the logo speaks of our location "Calgary" the fastest growing city in the industrialized world, and the motto: Where God's Word is Central.

This motto speaks of the two aspects of God's word as His Son Jesus Christ (John 1:1) and the word of God which was inscripturated by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who in the Bible took the things of Christ and revealed them to us. It is thus called Christ's word (Col 3:16) and it is in them that the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ is made to shine forth in our hearts.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What do Christians Believe?

I believe in Jesus as the self-attesting Christ of Scripture. Meaning he is the foundation of my beliefs and I believe what I believe because I am His follower.

Jesus teaches the Triune God, as the only God who is (Mark 12:29), and who created humanity (Mark 10:6). Having fallen, Jesus taught the human race descended into sin (eg. John 8:21), and needed redemption. Jesus declared Himself to be that redemption, who gave his "life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Jesus taught that he was the "only way" to Salvation unto eternal life and freedom from sin (John 14:6), and that this way was by faith in Him, "whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"(John 11:26).

God, Jesus taught is the standard of Good itself (Mark 10:18), and therefore all God does is good because he does it. Jesus taught that God has revealed himself in the Scripture, and Scripture cannot be changed or ignored (John 10:35).

Jesus taught that he would establish his church (Matt 16:18), and that the Apostles would have authority over it (Matt 18:19). To help them He would send the Holy Spirit, who would inspire them to write the Scriptures both calling to mind the teachings Jesus had already given and delivering new teachings as they were able to handle them (John 14-16).

The mission of the church as guided by these apostles is global discipleship, evangelizing and teaching them to obey all the teachings of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20).

The Apostles since clarified the content of the gospel of Christ "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 4) and direct the church today through their authoritative record of Jesus and Epistles directing the church, in how we ought "to conduct [ourselves] in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).

Since "His divine power has granted [past tense verb] us all things pertaining to life and godliness" (1 Peter 1:3) we now look to these teachings as our guide for life and conduct, and as "able to make you wise for salvation" (2 Timothy 3:15), "profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (v 16), with the purpose that the man of God be "complete, thoroughly equiped for every good work" (v. 17).

Jesus also gave the Holy Spirit as a gift to his church, who gives each person spiritual gifts (1 corinthians 12:7), for the good of all, and especially gives gifted leaders to equip the rest of the church (Eph 4:11ff).

Jesus promises to return with his reward, good for good, bad for bad (Revelation 22:12).

Monday, January 14, 2008


I am preparing to preach on prayer this coming Sunday. I am praying hard that God teach me to pray, so that I can share what I learn!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Thinking Compassionately about the Gay Agenda

A Canadain pastor in Saskatchewan has posted a really helpful thought on the oft repeated mantra of the gay community that homosexuality is an "orientation some people are born with". This post was refreshing as it avoided the tired arguements and/or rants most commonly seen on both sides of the issue.

Whether or not one is born with an inclination, Pastor Al argues, is no foundation for morality. The Bible is clear that all of us are born "in sin" and that the intents of our hearts are "wicked continually". This being the case, no christian should be concerned with the claim that a penchant for any sin is one "natural" to the person.

This is the whole christian message. Sin, since the fall described in Genesis 3 is "natural". All theft, envy, jealousy, kidnapping, murder, blasphemy, sexual sin etc., all come from this route.

The gay community needs our compassion and care, becasue they are being cruelly decieved by other sinful people, and through the scemes of the evil one, to accept sin not just as "natural", but as "good".

May we as a church be caring enough to confront this evil (the practice of decieving sinners to make them comfortable in their sin). But at the same time, may we be consistent and recognize that there are usually a number of hypocracies in our own ranks, that may in fact be equal to the deception on the outside. We live in a worldly church (generally speaking) that tolerates all manner of sinful and worldly behaviour, as long as it doesn't go to far!

But that is a great deciet. Sin has gone to far when it is allowed to thrive and live in our hearts. The smallest sin can keep you out of heaven, as James wrote, "do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (Jms 4:4). The Apostle John warned, "Do not love athe world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 Jn 2:15).

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


The time has arrived and our new enterprise is off the ground... or at least on the lauching pad. This week I am investigating communities in the lower rim of Calgary, and preparing my orientation packet for potential partners.

It is critical at this time that the foundations are established properly to ensure the health of our new church plant.
The seed having been carefully selected is to be nurtured in the greenhouse, as it were. Christ declared, "I will build My church". While one plants and another waters, it is Christ who "causes the growth".
With this in mind, I am carefully crafting a mission statement, vision and plan that allows us, as a church to serve as Christ's hands and feet in this endeavor, and never to build our own ediface to our own image.
Acts chapters 4-6 show the earliest Church, what characterized it, and how it evangelized and grew. I want to establish the principles of this church in what we do. Of course in every generation this has been attampted. Calvin wanted to reform the church to its purest biblical form, Wesley desired to have a "primitive church in the methodist connexion", yet each had their foibles. So it is no surprise to us that we will err. However, we have the vast amount of Church history and especially post reformation history and theology to draw on. As each century has corrected the faults of the previous, and as each of the previos provides a defence against the errors that follow, our labours to study this history and to apply its lessons, should allow that a carfully developed work today, would be purer and more authentic then any before.
This is our task, and I have begun it in earnest. During the past months I have invested in reading "Calvin's Institutes", selections from Luther, The Savoy Declaration, 1689 LBC and Westminster standards. I have read Tertullian and Augustine, Ian Murrey's two volume biography of Lloyd Jones, His study of Wesley and the men who followed him, Two biographies of Charles Spurgeon, A study of the English Reformation and History of the Anglican Church, Two books on the origins of the EFCA and another on the EFCC and an article on the early influences from Scottish Puritans on the Free church in Sweden. Specifically targeted materials have been consulted including John MacArthur's "The Master's Plan for the Church", Mark Dever's 9 Marks of a healthy church, as well as a dozen contemporary church planting books including Ed Stitzer and Steve Sjogren's works.
But more importantly, I have fallen back on the book of Acts, the Pastoral Epistles and Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians along with the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians and the 5th chapter of 2 Corinthians, along with Matthew 16 and 18 (The two times Jesus taught on the Church specifically). Combining the lessons of the historical applications of these scriptures three things stand out.
Prayer, Purity and Preaching. From Acts to Augustine, from Tertullian to the Metropolitan tabernacle, from the Methodist Revival, to the Mission field, these three thigs have always been both the producer and the product of true spiritual church expansion. Christ builds His church on these and so it is in these footsteps we must follow. Certainlly these are not to exhaust our efforts, they are rather the guiding principles and foundations, from which organization, and results flow.
Yet, there is a danger. When we move beyond these basics, the basics shared by every (without exception) revival and successful ministry, these same histories show a massive collision of ideas contradictory to one another. We are faced with a choice of where we will look to draw our principles today, for leadership, organization and form.
The wisdom of the world is made foolish by God and all the secular theories combined are but "empty" moronacies, in light of divine wisdom. We must therefore become foolish, in the eyes of the world, Paul directs in 1 corinthians 3, to absorb the wisdom of God, who has written to us and told us how we "ought to conduct ourselves in ... the church".
Consequently, those authors who agree in expositing Scripture for leadership, organization and form are to be considered as helpful witnesses and those that express opinion and tradition as secondary sources.
In all this, the Scripture's through firthand exegetical labours will be the one ultimate guide, all advisors of history being helpful as expressions or digressions from these truths. in all things, may Christ have the pre-eminance.