by Terry M. Smith
WORLD—The EMC’s ministerial on June 26, 2020, held its national meeting by Zoom, spending an afternoon where it listened to opening thoughts by the BLO chair and learned of coming events, heard five challenges based on Acts 2, met in small groups for discussion and prayer, and shared thoughts as an entire group.
Richard Klassen, BLO chair, welcomed ministerial members to its first national meeting by Zoom. He invited the ministerial to dream big and be open to the Spirit in doing new things, setting our thoughts above (Col. 3) and pressing on (Phil. 3). Church renewal, he said, hinges on the life of Christ.
In Acts 2, said Layton Friesen, conference pastor, the church was all in one place and we are today. James Driedger invited ministerial members to a theology conference, hosted by Blumenort and the BLO, on Nov. 26-27 in Blumenort that will focus on how to minister to people dealing with same-sex attraction.
A teaching letter on Gracious Judge, Holy Saviour has been released and feedback is welcomed; the topic might be carried into an issue of Theodidaktos. The issue of men and women in ministry is being pursued with readings from two books assigned [chapters three to 11 of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Piper and Grudem, eds.; and Men and Women in Christ, Andrew Bartlett] and monthly videos of leaders interacting with the materials. In the fall, the EMC will grapple with how to apply this to us.
The main portion of the afternoon was spent on asking, “What is the Holy Spirit saying to the churches through Acts 2:1-21?” Layton said the EMC is in a crisis—originally a term to describe a stage in medical care where a patient begins to recover or not. Which will be defeated, the Good News or the disease? Stephanie Unger read Acts 2:1-21 and Layton led in prayer.
Five speakers presented (a sixth person, Venus Cote, had technical difficulties, yet her thoughts might be shared in the future). After a pair of speakers, groups met to discuss or pray.
The Integrity of the Net
Dan Comrie (Braeside) said he has served as a Pentecostal pastor for 30 years and during that time he has observed healings and been healed himself; and while he has observed abuses, he is not a cessationist in spiritual gifts. In Acts 2 we see an event that people did not orchestrate and where God was at work. He said that the early disciples were not line fishers; they fished by nets. The Church is not to be concerned about attracting people, like line fishers, but to be concerned, as net fishers, about the integrity of the net. The Church is to be concerned about the integrity of its message.
All the Gifts are Needed
Terry Smith (Steinbach EFC), who was in the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada for about three years 40 years ago, said all of the Spirit’s gifts are to be used by all of the Church because they are given to strengthen and protect it and to help it carry out the mission given by our Lord. To dismiss or ignore some gifts is as bad as to misuse them. Pentecostalism is a huge movement, and while some pastors go “off the rails” in healing and exorcisms, “name it and claim it,” and “health and wealth,” and misuse some gifts, the EMC can learn from Pentecostals and is to use the gifts.
Humbles and Enables
Michael Vanderzwaag (Mennville) said that the Holy Spirit throws people into confusion and is moving still. The humbling thing in ministry is to know that we rely on Someone greater and can’t fix everything. The Holy Spirit humbles and enables us, yet we have to be careful not to get ahead of Him. In the midst of the pandemic (fear not; this too shall pass), God is still on the throne and his Holy Spirit is still working to draw people to Himself. He still moves and enables.
Pandemic of False Worship
Janice Loewen (Blumenort) said that Acts 2 and Pentecost (the Feast of Weeks) fit into God’s larger work. The Early Church existed in a more difficult time than we do today; it lived during a worse pandemic of false worship amid the Roman Empire. Yet the Church survived and turned the known world upside down. She spoke of being assisted by the Spirit during a ladies’ discussion in Germany: two conservative ladies had raised their hands to comment or ask a question, and she had wondered how difficult the questions would be. However, the comment was about Janice’s “personal” relationship with God, and the question was how Janice became a Christian. She was concerned about ministering to a large under-reached people group in the 10/40 window.
A Break-Out Thought
In one small group, a pastor asked: How many EMC churches celebrate the Day of Pentecost? Another replied that his church does not. The first pastor said that the EMC celebrates the coming Jesus at Christmas, yet tends not to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Build Up Each Other
After coffee break, Steven Warthe (Portage) said Acts 2 speaks of prayer, the anointing, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and for fellowship. These items flow into each other and we can’t have one without the other. Prayer is the foundation for the Book of Acts. We need a fresh awakening and passion for prayer. They were united, focused, bold, and persistent in prayer. The anointing is needed to share Christ’s message. What is fellowship? Fellowship is more than talking together after a church meeting; it is more the intentional investing in the lives of one another, building each other up in truth and love. Portage has divided the church into small groups so they can share and pray with each other.
- There is a need for anointed, not just gifted, teaching.
- We don’t have to go to have an impact on people; people are coming to Canada. Churches need to be more intentional to attract people and require the Holy Spirit to reach out.
- Pentecost is the reversal of the Tower of Babel.
- A posture of listening and learning is needed.
- Listening is needed as we move into First Nations circles (Koreans are reaching out).
- The Spirit rested on each one of them. It’s exciting to see God moving in the EMC and our coming together to celebrate God’s message and work in a mighty way.
- People gathered for ritual and God interrupted them.
- Peter spoke boldly for Jesus. We need to be bold that Jesus is the only Saviour.
- What is God birthing through COVID?
- God is the great neutralizer. There are no distinctions between classes of people.
- Why not hold regular services outside? The Salvation Army used to hold them on street corners.
- We don’t have to rely on our skills, but on God’s Spirit and the Church will grow.
- Acts 2 shows how to interpret the Old Testament (Joel): through the lens of Jesus.
- The disciples were excited to realize that they could have Jesus with them all day [through the Spirit], not just in the flesh.
- Maybe there are things we need to address. Maybe we’re restricting the Spirit by not repenting and being lukewarm.
- God comes down to His creation. It is his work.
- Numbers 11 speaks of Moses’ hunger that all would be prophets. We need to be hungry for the Spirit.
- Notice “the” prayers [set, not spontaneous]. Fellowship is partnership.
Layton Friesen said it had been a “rich time” and encouraged leaders to take seriously the medicine given: Dan reminded us of God’s sovereignty; Terry of how we need to think about our Pentecostal brothers and sisters; Michael of the pace of God; Janice of what it means to personally surrender to the Holy Spirit and of wider needs; and Steven of how prayer, anointing, gifts, and fellowship work together.
Pastors are finding that the reopening of churches is harder than to close them. This is a time for spiritual depth, so focus on what the Holy Spirit is doing rather than on logistics and politics, he said.
Richard Klassen thanked Layton, the speakers, and tech support. He then led in prayer in gratitude for God’s “wonderful grace to us”—that we are of different cultures, countries, and languages, yet we are one.