Tag Archives: Church

Heidi Dirks: Rethinking Mother’s Day

by Heidi Dirks

Holidays can be a time of togetherness and celebration with traditions that bring joy and warm memories. However, they can also highlight painful parts of life and ostracize those who feel they do not fit in with the celebrations that surround them.

Mother’s Day is no exception, and many people in our churches are acutely aware of the pain this day can bring. In order for churches to welcome all people, and be  places of emotional safety, we must be intentional about how, and if, we acknowledge and celebrate this day.

Origins of Mother’s Day

The celebration of mothers goes back to ancient Greece and Rome, where festivals were held to celebrate mother goddesses. Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent, is celebrated in some parts of Europe. While it began as a celebration of one’s “mother church,” bringing families together as they all returned to their home church, it has become increasingly secularized.

Our modern Mother’s Day celebration can be traced back to the late 1800’s where Ann Jarvis held work clubs to teach domestic skills to women in West Virginia, as well as care for soldiers wounded in the American Civil War. After the end of the war, these groups organized “Mother’s Friendship Day” events to encourage peace and reconciliation.

When Jarvis died, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, organized the first “Mother’s Day” to honour all that mothers do for their children. As the day became increasingly commercialized, with the giving of flowers and cards to mothers, she fought to keep the day as a celebration of one’s own mother rather than all mothers. Also during this time suffragette and abolitionist Julia Ward Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” appealing for peace.

 Mother’s Day in Church Services

Although the origins of Mother’s Day are connected to church attendance and pacifist values, Mother’s Day is not a church holiday and churches are under no obligation to celebrate or recognize this day. It is good to celebrate mothers, and women who mother people in their lives, and this should happen throughout the year. But it is also important to acknowledge that this day is hard for many people.

Given the complicated emotions and memories that are often associated with this day, the dangers of including Mother’s Day in a service often outweigh the benefits. On a personal note, I know many women who have spent years avoiding church on Mother’s Day because attending a service on this day was too painful for them.

Churches that choose to include a celebration of Mother’s Day as part of a church service are wise to do so in a thoughtful and critical way, recognizing that people in the congregation have a variety of backgrounds and experiences that affect how they experience a day that celebrates motherhood.

Some women have lost children, have strained relationships with their children, or have not been able to conceive the children they have so desired. Other people may have difficult relationships with their mothers, are painfully reminded of the loss of their own mother, or feel abandoned by their mother. Churches should be a welcoming place no matter what story we bring.

As churches desire to celebrate mothers, they may unintentionally make this day difficult for some women. In an effort to recognize mothers by giving them flowers or asking them to stand during a service, they have asked the sometimes complicated question of who is a mother. Is a woman who has lost a child to miscarriage or stillbirth considered a mother? What if a woman gave birth in the midst of difficult circumstances and it is not public knowledge that they have a child? If a woman identifies as a mother, but does not have children as a part of their lives, will others make assumptions or ask prying questions? What about foster mothers?

As churches try to include personal stories from congregants and provide space to honour mothers, they may pressure individuals to share when they are not comfortable doing so. No one should ever be put on the spot or pressured to share in a church service, but ensuring emotional safety is especially important on holidays. If people are offered the opportunity to share, churches should give space for a variety of stories about experiences with mothers and motherhood.

Mother’s Day may serve as a yearly opportunity to preach about how women are supposed to live. While this connects to the mother’s work clubs founded by Jarvis, it strays from the focus of celebrating the work of mothers. Mother’s Day should be a celebration of all that women do to love God and serve others. Women need encouragement and affirming words about their worth in God’s eyes, not guilt or pressure to conform to a narrow idea of what women are expected to be.

Womanhood and Motherhood

We must resist the assumption that womanhood and motherhood are synonymous. Scripture describes the pain of women who were unable to have children, a circumstance that came with serious consequences in ancient times (Gen. 29-30).

There are many reasons that women do not have biological children, such as infertility, singleness, and a decision to not pursue parenthood. Motherhood is a good thing, but it does not define one’s value as a person or as a follower of Christ. All people have inherent worth because they are created in the image of God.

We also need to distinguish between a woman who has given birth to a child and women who mother others. One does not need to be a biological mother in order to mother others, loving them and teaching them to love God (Deut. 6:7-9; Luke 18:15-17). Celebrating women who have mothered us does not take away from the celebration of our biological mother. Mother’s Day can be a celebration of women who live in obedience to God’s call on their lives, which may or may not include having biological children.

Taking a Thoughtful Stance

Heidi-Dirks
Heidi Dirks

Scripture speaks of God’s comfort and healing for those who are grieving and struggling (Psalm 23; Psalm 34:18; Matt. 5:4). Churches cannot be blind to the pain felt by many people during holidays, including Mother’s Day. Followers of Christ have the privilege of extending the good news of God’s comfort to those who struggle, and in order to do this effectively churches need to be thoughtful and careful of any inclusion of Mother’s Day celebrations in their services.

Heidi Dirks (Braeside), BA, BEd, MA (Counselling), is a member of the Board of Church Ministries.

 

 

Dr. Harvey Plett: Children and the Church (Part One): A Search for Comfort

by Dr. Harvey Plett

Many parents have some misgivings about how their children relate to the Church and the Kingdom of God. A question that haunts many is, “If my child dies, will it go to heaven?” This discomfort has been produced, in part, by a lack of teaching in our churches, or by improper teaching about what the Bible says regarding children.

A further influence that has affected this discomfort is the influence of various groups that stress child evangelism. They stress that as soon as a child knows it is doing wrong it is old enough to make a salvation decision. In addition, most groups stressing chid evangelism also teach eternal security. This gives impetus to the idea of getting children to make decisions, for then they are eternally secure no matter what may happen in the future.

Another influence that has raised questions about the child’s eternal welfare has been getting to know people who have been baptized as infants. Later they have accepted Christ and are dynamic Christians. Many of these have continued to hold a strong view that their infant baptism, whether it is sacramental or covenantal, is a valid baptism. This creates a problem for us when such people ask for membership.

We understand, with our Anabaptist forebears, that the Scriptures teach a believer’s baptism. We tend to be afraid that by requiring a believer’s baptism of such individuals we will offend them and turn them away. We do not want to offend or hurt them and so seek for a rationale that will permit us to accept their infant baptism as a valid baptism.

Consequently many people are not sure about the spiritual status of children. For many it has also been an impetus to find an answer that is biblical and will give us peace should our child die.

 Psychological Comfort

In the search for some assurance, some parents find comfort in Child Dedication. Psychologically going through a ceremony gives a sense of comfort even though we all know that no human can dedicate another human, for each is ultimately responsible for himself or herself.

Somehow we hope the ceremony will do something to the child until it is old enough to make its own decision and also condition the child to make the decision when old enough. Those believe the biblical teaching of believer’s baptism know the ceremony really doesn’t do anything for the child, but it makes us parents feel better.

Children Are In the Kingdom

Jesus teaches children are in the Kingdom of God. Mark 10:13-16 gives us the context in which Jesus teaches this. In verse 14 Jesus says, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Rather clearly and simply Jesus rebukes his disciples for hindering children coming to Him and then adds that they are in the Kingdom. You find the incident also described in Luke 18:15-17 and Matt. 19:13-15.

Children are in the Kingdom because the salvation of Christ. Romans 5:18 says, “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.” Titus 2:11 also suggests that the salvation in Christ covers those who are still in what could be called their innocent state. No ceremony or baptism is needed to secure a child’s salvation. The child is covered by the blood of Christ.

Age of Accountability

This raises a few critical questions. Does this mean a child does not need to make a decision for Christ? When is a person old enough to be held accountable so that when he sins he will experience the consequences, separation from Christ?

We do have two illustrations in the Bible when children are held accountable. The first is that those who were 19 and younger would be able to enter the Promised Land (Num. 14:29-31). Evidently they were not held responsible for the murmuring and rebellion against God, which resulted in the condemnation to all who were 20 and over. The second illustration is Jesus being brought to the temple at the age of 12 (Luke 2:41ff). This could have been preparation for his Bar Mitzvah the following year. A Jewish boy became responsible and accountable for himself in his obedience to the Law when he turned 13.

Child Development

Both examples are illustrative and not necessarily normative. However, when we add to this our knowledge of child development, we know that a person grows in knowledge, understanding, and accountability.

Somewhere around puberty a person begins to become accountable. To make a decision for Christ, a person has to have some understanding of what sin is, what faith is, and what salvation is. The understanding of sin, as merely individual acts, is not an adequate understanding of sin.

A child taught about right and wrong by her or his parents will be bothered when it does things it has been told not to do because its trained conscience registers it negatively. Human development teaches us that a person becomes responsible and accountable as they grow older and develop understanding and, as I have suggested, it probably comes around the onset of puberty.

Discernment

Two more truths in connection with this must be kept in mind. Each person develops and matures at his or her own pace. We all know individuals who were very mature by 14 and others who were only that mature when they were 16 or 17. Thus we as a community of faith will have to do some discerning when a person is accountable enough to receive baptism.

The second truth is that the transition from childhood to adulthood, through what we call adolescence, takes time. And so, we have a somewhat overlapping of the childhood state and young adult state. Again this demands discernment by the community of faith. This discernment must be made humbly, lovingly but not motivated by fear.

Dr. Harvey Plett
Dr. Harvey Plett

So what does this mean for our life together as churches? Stay tuned for Part Two.

Dr. Harvey Plett (Prairie Rose) is a long-time EMC minister, educator, and conference worker. He has served as president of SBC and as EMC moderator. He continues to do some teaching, preaching, counselling, and writing. He and his wife Pearl live in Mitchell, Man., and celebrated 58 years of blessed marriage on Aug. 22, 2016. They have a daughter, three sons, 13 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Terry Smith: The Fine Print

by Terry M. Smith

Christian: I want to join your church.

EMC Minister: Great. Have you been baptized upon your faith in Jesus?

Christian: Twice. Mennonites by pouring and Baptists by immersion. Is a third time needed?

Minister: No double or triple dipping needed. Do you accept our Statement of Faith?

Christian: Do you mean footwashing, pacifism, inerrancy (is that full or limited and how is that different from infallibility?), a vague creation account, the personality of Satan, eternal separation for the unrighteous?

Minister: Well, just the important stuff.

Christian: Important stuff? Why is the rest there, then?

Minister: Partly to define ourselves against Catholics, Orthodox, mainliners, and other evangelicals.

Christian: Really?

Minister: Well, suppose we ask, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, that the Bible is the Word of God, and that salvation is only through the Lord Jesus Christ”?

Christian: That’s fine.

Minister: Will you identify with us, participate with us, be accountable, learn with us, knowing that our Statement of Faith is our teaching standard?

Christian: Sure.

Minister: Then you can become a member. 

Christian: But I’m left handed.

Minister: What?

Christian: Gal. 2:9 says Paul was received by the “right hand of fellowship.” Is that to be taken literally?

terry-smith
Terry M. Smith

Minister: I think I have a headache.

Christian: Don’t worry. Pentecostals taught me how to lay on hands and Anglicans taught me the benefits of strong drink. Do you mind if I speak in tongues?

 

Straffordville: Baptisms, Picnic, and Ground-Breaking

by Kathy Klassen

STRAFFORDVILLE, Ont.—On June 19 we gathered at the Froese Vegetable Farm in the cold storage for the baptismal service of eight young people and the membership reception of one young man. The room was filled to capacity with about 250 people present.

For the service Pastor Abe had chosen to share from Romans 6:1-10. What a blessing to hear the testimonies of the struggles and victories of the young people. After the service, we all walked to the large pond and gathered around to watch each of the young people get baptized by Pastor Abe with each of their fathers assisting.

It was a beautiful warm and sunny day, and it made one think of the time when Jesus was baptized. We sang “To the River” as we were gathered around the pond. Then we had a disco lunch all together.

We had Vacation Bible School at the Straffordville Park on July 11 to 15; and on Sept. 4, we enjoyed our Sunday School picnic at the park in Brownsville. Some people played baseball while others sat under the pavilion visiting and eating sunflower seeds.

And then on Sept. 25, after the church service, we went to our church lot for the ground-breaking ceremony of our new church building! We are excited to finally see some progress made, and look forward to once again being able to have our own building.

Dylan Barkman: As We Gather For Life-Changing Experiences

by Pastor Dylan Barkman

Convention 2016

Please open your Bible and refer to Rev. 3:14-22 to the Church in Laodicea. Notice that in verse 14, this “evaluation” or “report card” is not written to unbelievers; it is written to the Church, arguably a group of people that already ought to be “advancing Christ’s kingdom culture”!

In verses 15-16 Jesus judges their deeds as “lukewarm” and as a result is about to spit them out of His mouth!

Lukewarm

Consider what “lukewarm” refers to in terms of a hot tub. We naturally consider the water to be hot. However, hot water is 100oC and cold water is 1C.  We enjoy sitting in water around 38ƒ, which is “lukewarm” in comparison to hot or cold water. The effect of this “lukewarm” water puts us in a place where we are content, relaxed, exert little effort, want for nothing, and desire to stay that way forever, nearly asleep.

This attitude in the Church infuriates Jesus (the Ultimate Judge, 1 Tim. 4:1), who is about to “spit them out” as a result.

Jesus quotes them as saying, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” They were wealthy and tempted to look to their wealth as their source of strength.  Like them, we are likely the richest generation of Christians to date, proved by our abundance of “toys” and “wants.” And whether we admit it or not, we take pride in our wealth even as a conference.   

In verses 17-18 Jesus says, “You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”

We will understand what “the gold refined in the fire” is once we see the five steps Jesus lays out for us.

Repent!

The first step is “be earnest and repent.” Because this letter is written to the gathered church it begs the question, “Does your church, or the conference, have something in place where people can intentionally repent and deal with sin?” 

Truthfully, many churches assume people deal with all their sin on their own, when what typically happens is that we get really good at sweeping certain sins under the rug and still present ourselves as “good Christians” on Sunday morning. The weight of unconfessed sin just feels normal. Yikes!

Then in verse 20 Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Remember Jesus is speaking to a movement of people that ought to be advancing His kingdom culture! However, the obvious question is, “What is Jesus doing outside of the door of the Church?”

To answer that question, consider the following diagram. The circle represents your life. In your life is a throne on which whatever is “Lord” or “King” of your life sits. Before receiving Christ, your life is ruled by “self” and Jesus is not part of your life. At the time when you accept Jesus as Lord of your life through faith, He becomes ruler of your life. He is truly Lord and King and you no longer are number one in your life. This is as it should be.

Frightfully, for the rest of our lives, unless we are intentional about keeping Jesus as Lord, our selfish tendencies kick in and we drift back onto the throne. Although Jesus is still in our lives, He no longer has true function as the actual Lord of our life. As Jesus’ own analogy goes, He is still nearby; however, He is on the wrong side of the door.

What is it that competes with Jesus as being the true Lord or King of our churches and our conference? It does not have to be obvious sins like pornography or alcoholism that replace Him as Lord. It can be subtle things like a focus on money, intellect, education or tradition. Ultimately anything at all, even good things, that replaces Him as the true King and Lord is rebellion against God and sinful.

Hear His Voice!

Jesus is the one who knows the correct answer to this question, which is why we need to listen to Him in prayer. In other words, we need to “hear His voice,” which according to verse 20 is step two.

If we do not follow through with step one “earnest repentance,” we will not make it to step two “hear His voice” (see Ezekiel 12:1-2). Rebellion against God (unconfessed sin) is the reason for not being able to hear even though we have ears to hear!

It should also be noted that just because Jesus is omnipresent, it doesn’t mean that hearing His voice is inescapable. Consider Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings 19:11-12. The Lord was not in inescapable things like the wind, earthquake or fire. Rather, the Lord came as a gentle whisper, which is easy to escape. In fact, one has to be intentional in order to hear it.

Open the Door

This leads us to the third step: “Open the door.” Like the Laodiceans, it is alarming that a barrier (the closed door) has come between us and Jesus. Something we have control over, like resistance to His Holy Spirit (Isaiah 63:10, Acts 7:51, Eph. 4:30, 1 Thess. 5:19) prevents us from experiencing the presence of Jesus.

We Open the Door

The Holy Spirit is God and convicts us of sin. He is gentle, good, gives good gifts, and is a deposit guaranteeing what is yet to come (2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5; Eph. 1:14). If we justify resisting the Holy Spirit, who lives inside us, we believe a lie. The truth is that everything that the Holy Spirit has for us is for our benefit, and, therefore, we should welcome Him with open arms.

Or as in the analogy of Jesus outside the door, in order for the fourth step (Jesus’ “coming in”) to occur, the responsibility lies with us to “open the door”! Jesus doesn’t force his way in.

Experience Intimacy

The fifth step is to experience a personal, intimate, two way communicative relationship with Jesus, as though you were sitting down to a meal of your choice with Him in person.  This is what it means to truly know Jesus, which is very different than just knowing about Jesus (Matt. 7:21-23)!

The presence of Jesus is the “gold refined in the fire” (v. 18) because it is the presence of Jesus that:

• We can only get from Jesus.

• Cannot be purchased with money, but will make us truly rich.

• When we experience it, it will take away our shame unlike clothes that only mask our shame.

• Will be far more satisfying than anything our fat bank accounts can ever buy because it will open our eyes to His truth.

• Is something that we can expect to be in Heaven! (And is actually what makes Heaven great anyway!)

The communication (prayer) that our churches and conference have with Jesus should reflect this kind of personal and real relationship with Him.

When we take these five steps, our conference will be victorious (vv. 21-22).

Dylan Barkman
Dylan Barkman

Dylan Barkman is the teaching pastor of Pansy Chapel in S.E. Manitoba. This article is adapted from his Convention 2016 message shared on Sunday morning, July 3.

Heartland: Two Amazing Stories

by Brigitte Toews

LANDMARK, Man.—In May we had the pleasure of listening to Tim Hague’s amazing story. He was born of a white mother and black father during a time when racial tensions in the USA were at their peak and where inter-racial children were neither black enough nor white enough to be wanted for adoption.

He was placed in an orphanage with little hope of ever finding a family. After he was shuffled around from church to church in the southern states, a white Christian couple heard the call and took to heart James’ definition of pure religion: “to look after the orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27) and so took action.

Tim’s distress, however, continued while growing up. Once the family adopted him, their own church disowned them. He was then bullied as a child and ultimately rejected by the parents of potential girlfriends. Tim persevered in his trials; and he eventually met and a married a blond, blue-eyed woman named Sheryl and moved to Winnipeg where they raised four children and he became a registered nurse.

In early 2011, Tim was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Instead of accepting the disease as a curse, he said he decided to embrace the next stage of his journey with joy and expectancy. After starting treatment, Tim trained and ran his first triathlon and continued to be open to whatever God planned for the rest of his life.

Through the encouragement of Sheryl, Tim and his son Tim Jr. auditioned for the Amazing Race Canada. Underdogs from the beginning, the pair pulled off a miraculous win on the very first season of the show.

As Tim Hague’s race continues, he shares his story and inspires others to “live their best.” He has become an advocate for Parkinson’s and an ambassador for Compassion Canada, continuing the legacy of his parents.

Early this year Gary and Mavis Unger (Heartland) also heard the call to look after the orphans in their distress. They went to Haiti on a short-term mission trip four years ago and carried back with them a burden for the orphans at the Maison Orphanage in Port Au Prince.

With much prayer, the couple quit their jobs and left their home and family for a time to pursue what God had planned for them. In the short term, they have taken on the role of working directors for the Orphanage.

Under their guidance, many projects have been planned and funded by their supporters back home. I look forward to their future reports to hear the rest of the story.

In the meantime, we are in this amazing race. Like a winning marathoner we must train and cast off everything that hinders us. And we must fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, enduring patiently so we too will finish well and receive the prize and give God the glory.

Mennville: Seven baptized in August

By Luella Brandt

Mennville, Man.—Seven young people were baptized on the confession of their faith and to publicly show their desire to follow Christ on Aug. 21. The church was packed with supporters as we heard their touching testimonies, witnessed them get baptized, prayed with them as they were surrounded by people whom they chose to pray for them, and later greeted them as brothers and sisters in the Lord. We want to continue to uphold them in prayer as Mitch gets married and the rest of them start Grade 10 this month.

Crestview: Ribbon-Cutting, VBS Held

By Sharron Straub

Winnipeg, Man.—There’s been a lot happening around here this summer.

Melvin and Kari Peters, who serve with Mission Aviation Fellowship in Africa, were with us on July 10 to report on the work they are doing in starting up and developing the new sub-base in Marsabit; they bring the love of Christ to those living in isolation in northern Kenya.

Darrell Thiessen from Jesus People USA joined us on July 17 to share about his work in the Uptown neighbourhood on the north side of Chicago, Illinois.

A huge praise item: a long-term project has finally been completed. Our church building has been equipped with an elevator so now those who have been finding the stairs a bit difficult will be able to get to the basement easily and with dignity. Hallalujah! A ribbon-cutting and dedication was held on Sunday, July 24. Thanks to the men who devoted a lot of time to seeing this project through to completion.

Kingdom Rock: Where Kids Stand Strong For God was the theme for VBS week August 7—11. It was an amazing five days with about 20 children attending. Each evening started with a barbecue supper that was a great way to connect with both the parents and the children. The children learned that prayer, family and friends, God’s love, the Bible and trusting God help us to stand strong.

Youth Pastor Kevin and Lee Pauls welcomed a daughter, Lucy Devona, on Aug. 24, a sister for Desmond. Congratulations!

A potluck breakfast was held on Sunday, Sept. 11, to start the fall season. Sunday School resumes on Sept. 18.

Vanderhoof: VCF Reaches Out to Community Through VBS

by Krista Giesbrecht and Shannon Hall

VANDERHOOF, B.C.—Following Jesus, The Light of the World, was our theme for this year’s Vacation Bible School held at our church on July 11-15. We were blessed by 100 kids, ages four to 11, who attended.

Cave Quest was the program we used; it was a great deal of fun for kids and adults alike. Throughout the week we learned how God’s love takes us through dark times in our lives. Thanks to a lot of hard work, our church was amazingly decorated with caves all throughout to have a fun experience.

There were different stations to rotate through daily: singing time, Bible quests, cinema, games, imagination station (always a favourite), and, of course, snack time. Throughout the week lessons taught that Jesus gives us hope, courage, direction, love, and his power.

By the end of the week kids had brought in 500-plus items of non-perishable food items to donate to out local Neighbor Link, which helps those in community who need it.

None of this could have happened without all of the hard work and dedication of 49 volunteers, 13 of which were our youth, who had a heart to serve. “Praise God for volunteers and for the opportunity to reach out into the community to churched and non-churched kids,” said Kim Giesbrecht, VBS committee leader.

Kim works hard year after year to bring this to our community and her effort doesn’t go unnoticed. We are very thankful for a leader with such a big heart for serving God.

Redcliff/Medicine Hat: 2016 Gospel Music Jamboree serves hundreds

by Abe Bueckert

REDCLIFF, Alta.—The Redcliff Gospel Music Jamboree on July 22 and 23, 2016, was a wonderful success.

The whole process started a bit slowly, but then began to gain momentum. We ended up having eight music groups participating, four from Man., two from Alta., one from Sask., and one from Mexico. Needless to say, it was a very full and busy weekend. Continue reading Redcliff/Medicine Hat: 2016 Gospel Music Jamboree serves hundreds