Responding To Burning & Vandalized Churches

One day last week, as I left the church for home, I thought that I could smell smoke in the air.  I dismissed that thought, assuming that the smog was a result of the muggy conditions that lay over southern Ontario.  When I arrived home, April pointed out that the wildfires burning in northern Ontario were impacting atmospheric conditions in Mississauga.  Air quality warnings were beginning to pop up on our weather apps. 

There is another dark cloud of smoke that has settled across all of Canada.  The embers of burning churches have stretched all the way from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.  The most recent statistic is that 55 Christian churches in Canada have been vandalized and/or burned to the ground.  But there have been few warnings publicized to the Canadian people.
My biggest surprise is that little is being reported about it in most of the major news outlets in Canada.  Little to mediocre comments from leading political figures dot the smoke-filled skies over Canada.  Equal representation apparently doesn’t apply to Christians in Canada, whether in politics or journalism.  Less comparable tales of disrespect to various groups in our nation often lead the evening news.
I’m raising this concern to you, my church family, to give you several suggestions about how to process the madness igniting around us, especially since the desecration of sacred spaces in Canada would normally rock the nation to its core.  By the way, one of the churches that was vandalized is less than 5 kilometers from our church building.  This tragedy is hitting close to home in many ways.  Here are a few of my thoughts: 
GRIEVE.  Living in a sinful and broken world should break our hearts.  We need to allow ourselves to feel the pain that God feels as He absorbs the horrors of this world.  This madness is one of the reasons the Bible calls Jesus the “man of sorrows.”  Hatred, violence, and prejudice are all symptoms of the sinfulness of humanity, for which Jesus had to die.
HOPE.  We have reason to be concerned, even pessimistic, I suppose.  But for Christians there is a greater reality at play.  God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him.  Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15.13, NLT)
PRAY.  Ask the Lord to bring healing to our land.  Pray for the troubled souls of our nation who are both grieving and lashing out violently at others.  Canada has been a BLESSED nation, but we need God to restore our brokenness.  Ask God to raise up compelling and competent leaders who will have both clarity and courage to lead us to better days.  Pray for leaders who will serve all Canadians, regardless of their political party, so that all our citizens can live in peace.  Pray that the perpetrators of these violent crimes will be brought to justice. 
PEACE.  Seek to be a peacemaker not a troublemaker.  Don’t succumb to the vengeance-oriented extremism of our day.  Make peace as the Bible prescribes.  Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.  Dear friends, never take revenge.  Leave that to the righteous anger of God.  For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.  Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them.  If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”  Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”  (Romans 12:18-21)
LISTEN.  Give each other the respect of a listening ear.  Don’t assume that you know what someone else is thinking or feeling.  Life stories matter and should be shared.  I’ve found that the more I listen, the less I tend to judge.  Unless and until your response is fueled by grace and informed by truth, you will get sucked into the vortex of “endless debates.”  Stay focused and be “slow to speak.”  As the Bible says, Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful andfoolish.” (Proverbs 18:13)
FORGIVE.  Tell all that will listen that there is a solution to the problems we have created. Forgiveness lies at the heart of the good news of the Gospel.  THE answer to the deepening divides in our world is summed up by Jesus.  He taught us to pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Hatred cannot be evacuated from the human heart until the love of God is introduced. 
Stay blessed in the Lord church family because He loves you with an everlasting love!
Pastor Deric

More EXCITED Than Ever About Our Church!

I know this may sound exaggerated, but I have never been as excited about the future of our church as I am right now.  Don’t get me wrong.  I loathe COVID-19 and all that it has managed to disrupt in our lives.  I literally grieve at times when I see what it has done to our wonderful church.  Hundreds gathered every weekend in dynamic worship and fellowship in a building that is too small.  We were squeezed into every available space.  Now we’ve been squeezed out by one public health order after the other.  Slowly we are beginning to re-gather and re-focus.
But I know that the church of Jesus Christ is the most resilient entity the world has ever seen!  Jesus said so.  “I will build my church, and hell itself can’t hold me back,” let alone a virus.  This exile has been hard on everyone, but Christians have felt the isolation on a different level.  Corporate worship and fellowship define us.  So, it’s fair to say that COVID has shaken things up.
So why am I excited?  Because now is the time to re-think and re-engage our identity as Christians, as members at City.  Now is a GREAT time to re-envision our church as God planned it.   Here are three ideas that gives rise to my renewed excitement:
1. I’m experiencing a vision renewal.  We have carefully developed our mission, vision and purpose statements over the years but now is the time to revisit and recommit to them.  Do you know what they are?  As a Spirit-filled church family, we are passionate about making fully devoted followers of Jesus (disciples) who are reaching out to the world around us and building up believers on the foundation of God’s Word.  Our signature “people path” is our strategic map that keeps us focused.  Why don’t you jump in with both feet to help us reach our potential.   
2. I’m excited about relationship.  We all feel the need to re-engage with other believers in authentic fellowship.  If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that we need each other more than we often realize.  We are built to belong and to share each other’s friendship.  Going forward means that you must strategically make time for others in Christian fellowship.  But our passion for relational renewal must include strategic outward focus.  Now is the time to re-commit ourselves to reaching out to the world around us with the hope of Jesus. 
3. I’m excited about leading a structure renewal.  Yes, leaders get excited about “structures” because they express the philosophy of ministry by which we operate.  I’m excited about the concept of leading from the top down BUT empowering from the bottom up.  The staff are “your servants for Jesus’ sake” who are here to “equip you to do the work of the ministry.”  Our goal is “every member is a ministry partner.”  If a person is a Christian, they need to use their gifts to serve the body of Christ.  It’s very exciting. 
Dismal predictions flourish about what may still lie ahead for the pandemic.  Who knows?  They may be right or wrong.  But it doesn’t really matter to us as a church because we are focused on the message of the Gospel, the family of God and the mission of the church.
May I just say one last word?  As your pastors, we are always excited about YOU.  People matter to God and we care about your well-being.  Remember our love and prayers for each of our church family.
Your servant for Jesus’ sake,
Pastor Deric