As I sit at my desk and look out at the North Shore mountains, I am reminded that the Bible describes God as being like a Rock—steadfast, immovable, and strong. It’s His strength that fills us, sustains us, and empowers us to follow Jesus and partner in His mission. Every church exists to cultivate a love for God and neighbours, and we’ve been sent into the world with the good news concerning Jesus. I wanted to send out a brief vision update that describes some of the ways that we are aligning with this mission and where God’s activity is being seen and felt through our church.
From a biblical perspective, “worship” is the broad category that encompasses all of life. God is glorified as people worship and pray, as they build relationships within their families and neighbourhoods, as we share the Good News, as we disciple (and are discipled), and as we steward all that God has given us. But it’s helpful to connect core activities and spiritual practices such prayer or worship to this larger category so that we can pay attention what God is doing and how people are growing.
Here’s a few stories of God’s work in our midst as people pray.
- One of our congregants was suffering with nightmares and had the same recurring nightmare for 1 ½ weeks. She decided to tell someone and reached out for prayer; these friends prayed for her over the phone. She called a couple who are friends and they prayed for her over speaker phone. They agreed she would read Ephesians 6 (putting on the armour of God) to herself before bed. She called her friends the next morning to say that she slept well and did not have the nightmare – and she hasn’t had nightmares since.
- In the Fall, a woman who attends our church was struggling with some faith questions and was not feeling connected to God. We connected her with a mentor from the church who would journey with her in conversation and prayer. One Sunday morning she woke up with the following thought: “I need to go to church today. God has something for me there.” She came to church expecting to encounter an insightful sermon or an uplifting time in worship, but she received more than she bargained for. She experienced some significant physical healing during the service that allowed her to participate in some activities later that day that she hadn’t done in years. Following this encounter with the Lord, she began to read the Bible again regularly. She writes, “I am reading it with a really new perspective. I used to read it like it was an example of how to live and rule set. And then I realized maybe that's really what the whole Bible is. Not a rule set or book of examples of how to behave, but rather God showing over and over again how audacious and ridiculous people are but that He still loves us and shows up for us. And that is really cool”.
- One of our congregants suffered a stroke which severely affected her vision. The doctors were uncertain she would recover her eyesight. Her daughter, who also attends our church, asked for prayer and many in our church family were diligently praying for vision to be restored. One day, when the daughter was in the hospital chapel, she noticed the large print Bible was laid open to Psalm 146. Verse 8 read: “The Lord opens the eyes of the blind”. She took these words to heart as a personal word from the Lord and her mom’s eyesight has recovered!
- Another congregant was in a really low place, a place of despair. One evening she sat down to write a suicide note. But as she wrote, God interrupted her note-writing and redirected her thoughts. He spoke truth to her and reminded her of who she is as His child and what she means to him. She felt hope in her darkness and has been able to hold on to that since.
Mission and Evangelism
Our vision is to see people reached with the Good News of Jesus, and that our own people would be actively involved in reaching out to family, friends, and neighbours. Nearly every week I am hearing from people who are sharing Christ in their workplace, or school, or family; our vision is being lived out all over the North Shore. Over the Christmas season our Sunday gatherings and Christmas Eve services were filled with people who don’t regularly attend. We can praise God for our people’s willingness to share their faith and invite friends to join them.
- During the first Sunday of Missions month, we heard from Daryush—the pastor of the Iranian church that meets in our building. In the middle of December I had the opportunity to join one of their Sunday gatherings and preach through a translator. After the service a young women came forward and prayed with me to receive Christ—this was only the 3rd service she had ever attended. After the service, I talked with another new attendee—not yet a Christian—and she told me that at the end of my sermon, while I was praying, Jesus personally appeared and spoke to her. These kinds of stories have been regularly taking place at the Iranian church in the last few months.
- At our latest North Shore Community Christmas Dinner, Dave Sattler and his team served nearly 400 guests; it’s the largest group we’ve ever hosted.
- In November and December we pioneered an ESL class that serves the needs of new immigrants who are connected to Coffee Time. In the first half of the class Pastor Paul focused on conversational English, connected to every day subjects like food, or family; in the second half, Paul took these themes and connected them to the uniqueness of Jesus (Jesus as the Bread of Life, Jesus is the One who invites us to join God’s family). These classes were significant and we plan to continue them in the new year.
In 2019 there will be a number of missions trips taking place.
- Dave and I will be connecting with Ralph and Ruth Shareski in Germany and then we will attend a gathering of Alliance missionaries who are currently serving among least reached peoples in West Africa, North Africa, and the Middle East. This trip will allow Dave and I to consider future partnerships with Alliance missionaries.
- During Spring Break Brendan will be leading a team of students to work with an Envision Site in Mexico City.
- Dave is currently laying plans to lead a trip to Zambia to partner with Kim and Brendan Vowell from the middle to end of August.
Our discipleship efforts continue to be founded upon a small group structure that permeates all of our ministries. At present, nearly every small group is full, and we are looking to recruit leaders from within our existing small groups in order to make room for more people.
- One of our men was reluctant to join a small group – he is naturally very shy, and with English as his second language, he was concerned about language barrier, being from another culture, and new to the church. But he felt strongly that his desire to grow spiritually was more important than any of his fears. He had come to believe that we are called to more than solitary Bible reading and prayer, and that relationship with God grows in the context of community. He stepped out in faith and signed up for a small group!
- Last year Mardi identified a gap in the handoff between our evangelism ministries—like Alpha—and our regular small groups. In short, people who pray to receive Christ—in Alpha, at our weekend service, or with a friend—aren’t already ready to join an existing small group. We’ve got a basic discipleship course in place and have already run a pilot group with a number of new believers; this course will serve us well in the years to come.
When I talk about Stewardship, I am referring to the ways in which we are stewarding finances, people’s time, gifts, etc.
- Our financial giving has been strong, allowing us to meet the needs of people in our community and partner with NSAC missionaries to bring the good news of Jesus to different places in our city and around the world.
- We are currently mentoring three pastoral interns: Beth Jamieson, Chloe Thicke, and Adam Wray. Beth and Adam are working with our Young Adults, while Chloe is giving leadership in our PreTeen ministry. Each of our interns have a deep heart for God and are invested in our church; we’re so grateful for the opportunity to invest in them and to give them opportunities to exercise leadership.
- As you know, we said goodbye to Linda Rae at the end of December; this is the first time in 12 years that we been without a Children’s Pastor. As an interim step, we have hired Bronwyn Spilsbury to give leadership to our Sunday morning ministry while we search for a new pastor. We recently hired a new Children’s Pastor—Megan Yusep— and we are looking forward to God’s work through in, beginning in February.
- Sanctuary Renovation: Mardi and I have had a number of preliminary meetings with an architect to discuss possible renovations to our existing sanctuary. While our building continues to serve our needs well, it is 30 years old and some upgrades need to be made to the lighting, refurbishing the pews, upgrade of speakers, changing the carpet, paint, etc.
I’m grateful to God, and to the many faithful people who are invested in the vision of North Shore Alliance. As we trust in God and rely on His strength, I’m looking forward to what God has in store for us next.