Tag Archives: Winnipeg

Witness as Evangelism: Recap & Reading Recommendations*

Last Sunday at enCompass Church in Winnipeg, I preached on evangelism in terms of witnessing (seeing and hearing) what God was doing in a person’s life or situation, and then speaking about that (or witnessing to that) to them, like a detective discovers evidence and presents it to their clients.

While many Scripture passages talk about evangelism this way, Peter and Paul’s response to the Pharisees trying to get them to stop preaching impacted me a lot: “As for us, we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).

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Along with a detective, I used the image of a sniper, waiting patiently to speak to those God directs us to in the ways He shows us, instead of using a ‘shotgun’ approach like random evangelism with abstract (yet true) facts about our separation from God and need for a saviour. And I used the image of a tour guide – we don’t just tell people where to go or see, but we join them (or have them join us) on the journey closer and closer to Jesus.

There will always be a need to explicitly speak the Gospel to people (Rom. 10:13-15), but a more effective way of initially bringing people to Jesus in our current culture is to show them (witness to) what Christ is already doing in and around their lives, and to tell of our own experiences of answered prayer and His activity in our lives.

Philip and his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) was a perfect example of these three illustrations: he listened to the orders of the Holy Spirit, he observed that the Ethiopian was reading from the prophet Isaiah and responded by acting on that, and then journeyed with him and explained the Gospel to him using Isaiah as his starting point.

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For those interested, I would like to suggest four books that I found helpful for my sermon, or that I’ve found helpful in the past regarding evangelism:

  1. Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism, by Carl Medearis
  2. Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier, by David E. Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw
  3. Reimagining Evangelism: Inviting Friends on a Spiritual Journey, by Rick Richardson
  4. Transforming Conversion: Rethinking the Language and Contours of Christian Initiation, by Gordon T. Smith

What books or other resources have you found helpful as you think and practice witnessing Jesus and witnessing to Him?

*cross-posted from here.

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A Cheap, Easy, and Healthy-ish Handout for Panhandlers

Photos by JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS  Peter Dunn (top) agrees aggressive panhandlers can pose a problem. He says he never runs up to cars.  Kevin Leblanc (above) holds a sign that says Òeverybody hurts sometimesÓ at the intersection of Osborne Street and Broadway.

Kevin Leblanc. Photo by Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press

Like most larger cities, Winnipeg has its share of panhandlers that stand on boulevards asking for money from stopped cars with cardboard signs. Many people don’t like that and would love to see that changed, and in fact it is technically illegal. But those people, it seems to me, don’t really care how the panhandlers are gone or where they go – as long as they’re not personally bothered any more (the issue came up during our last civic elections, and many were quite vocal about their opinions).

While there are good solutions to this issue and homelessness in general (and other North American cities are paving the way there), it’s not a simple fix, and the reasons people end up on the street are both numerous and diverse.

So, what can one guy like me do? Probably more than I realize. In any case, I know that I don’t want to give money. So what my wife and I are doing is giving out lunch bags every time we’re asked for money instead.

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The idea initially came from a good friend of mine, who kept juice boxes and granola bars in his car for that very purpose. When I told my wife about the idea, and how I’d like to do it, she suggested we could do better than that. So we went to Dollarama and got supplies.

Each ziplock bag contains a juice box (unfortunate in most Winnipeg seasons – hot in the summer, frozen in the winter), a chicken salad and cracker pre-made package, and a snack of some sort. Our current bags have Welch’s fruit gummies, but in the past we’ve had cookies, graham crackers, and granola bars. Finally, we started adding Worther’s hard candies to the bags.

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Each bag costs less than $3.00 (seriously), and we keep a few of them in the console of our car for easy access, and about 10 in the trunk to replenish it as needed. It’s simple. It’s cheap. We give the panhandlers dignity instead of ignoring them (or worse), and show them that we care – even if it’s not a lot.

Now, I’m not saying all this to brag. Realistically we’re not doing much to help the overall problem, although we see we’re making a small difference in people’s lives when they smile in surprise and thankfulness when we hand them a bag.

No, the reason I’m writing about this is because I wonder why more people don’t do it, and I wish they did.

So what do you do, if anything? Will you consider doing this too, or something like it? And if you have ideas on how could we make our bags better, yet still easy & cost-effective, please share them in the comments!

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Of Quakers and Their Ways: A Brief Review of “Quaker Faith & Practice”

I’ve always been interested in reading how different “streams” of Christianity practice their faith, and last year read the “Hutterite Confession of Faith” (see my review here) which was great. So when I saw “Quaker Faith and Practice” on Amazon, I wanted to pick it up. Unfortunately, the Canadian version was unavailable, but I picked up the British fifth edition (and I’m curious what the differences in content are, if much. The Canadian one seems paired down in comparison though).

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Subtitled “The Book of Christian Discipline of the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain”

One thing I found surprising right off the bat was a lack of the history of the Quakers; how they came to be called that, when and by who they were founded, etc. The introduction was a history of the manual itself only. In that way, this book really is a manual for Quakers themselves who (presumably) know this history already. This information is readily available on Wikipedia of course, but reading it from a Quaker perspective would have been insightful. Because of that I won’t say much more about their beginnings here beyond to say that the term “Quaker” began as a derogatory term, but over time gained acceptance amongst their practitioners (who also call themselves “The Society of Friends”).

Listening as Essential to Worship

As a non-Quaker, I found the parts on the necessity of listening in silence until God speaks, especially in community, to be fascinating. I knew of the Quaker practice in their worship gatherings already, but reading the ideas behind it (especially the emphasis on doing it in community – not as individuals in the same room but doing it together) encouraged me to continue trying to practice it in my own life, both on my own and to now include others when I can.

Photo: Stephen Coles

Photo: Stephen Coles

True silence… is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.” William Penn (2.14)

Worship is our response to an awareness of God. We can worship alone, but when we join with others in expectant waiting we may discover a deeper sense of God’s presence.” Advices and Queries (1.02/8)

The sections “Meeting for Worship” (2.35 ff), “The Sense of the Meeting” (3.02 ff), and “Our Community” (10.01 ff) were also worthwhile readings.

I skipped past all the business regulation items, of course, it having no relation to me; however, the fact that they aim to conduct business meetings as they do their times of worship is great – and one day if I’m in a church business meeting (and am able to) will introduce this idea to the participants.

Concerning Direction

I was very saddened to read of all the more liberal theological & moral ideas that has seeped into Quakerism; They mentioned it was introduced at the Manchester Conference in 1895 (19.60), and not as a bad thing. And so God is sometimes referred to in terms like “whatever he is to us,” or as a non-personal seeming “inward Light.” The Bible was seen as a non-authoritative book by some sections (which, when compared to Jesus/The Holy Spirit I agree it is subservient. George Fox is quoted saying “If we did not have the Scriptures… Jesus is enough” which I like), and personal experience of the Light as superseding it. My own thought on this is that, while God is bigger than the Bible and will still speak to us outside of the Bible today (as Quakers teach), he will never contradict the Bible (which some sections in this document disagree with).

While this book is meant to be a manual, there are a lot of personal testimonies and anecdotes included in each section from Quakers throughout history; the writers were careful to include both men and women and non-Europeans when they could. These were fascinating, but because of what I found in my previous comment, I tended to skip many of them that were post-1700’s.

Of course, like in every denomination, not all Friends are theologically liberal and not all of them are conservative, but either way they are a part of the global Body of Christ and their voice is worth listening to and engaging with and learning from.

Recommended Quaker Authors

On the plus side, reading this document has inspired me to seek out other Quaker writings, such as those by George Fox (the founder), Thomas Kelly (his “Testament of Devotion” being on my to-read list for some time already) and William Penn. Interestingly, as I was writing this review I learned that Dallas Willard was a Quaker (I’m reading his “Divine Conspiracy” right now & recommend it). I’ve also loved Richard Foster’s works, another Quaker, especially “Streams of Living Water” and the more famous “Celebration of Discipline,” both of which I highly recommend.

Obligatory Quaker Oats Pic.

Obligatory Quaker Oats Pic.

It turns out that there is a Winnipeg Quaker fellowship. I’ve wanted to check it out in the past, and after reading “Quaker Faith and Practice” I’m honestly not sure if I want to anymore (and after snooping around on their website). Besides, if I did, I’d have to get over my feeling of intimidation in going too!

So, in conclusion there are some valuable ideas in “Quaker Faith and Practice” that I will refer back to and continue to learn from and practice in my life, but as a non-Quaker I wouldn’t recommend it overall, and especially not to an immature believer.

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The Power of Praying for Strangers

This past weekend was a busy and inspiring weekend at my church!

On Sunday we celebrated 13 baptisms, which is always exciting, and the testimonies of those baptized were interesting (one guy grew up Baha’i) and God-glorifying. After that, for the first time in the church’s life, we invited those who felt called to be baptized to come forward ‘spontaneously’ to make an obedient profession of their faith through baptism. And 30 people came forward! Including many young adults, two of whom I was particularly excited about and proud of.

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The other event took place the previous afternoon, when myself (the YA ministry lead) and 11 young adults went to Central Park in downtown Winnipeg to share the Gospel. There was excitement and trepidation, and even outright fear, but we prayed & planned beforehand, and we were willing to step out in the knowledge that God was with us, and that He would embolden us.

And that He did. We went in pairs, and each pair reported afterwards that their fear left quickly, and even amidst spiritual attack right as we got to the park, and rejection during our time there, we were able to engage in conversations and, even better, prayers for people that pointed them to Jesus. We also handed out the Gospel of John to all those who would accept, and a group of girls at the park (who happened to be students of one of the YA), were so excited to take all our leftover books and hand them out to people as we were leaving.

We returned to the church excited, emboldened, and with the prayer on our lips that this wouldn’t be a one-time event, but a lifestyle for our YA community. We finished the afternoon by singing some worship songs and thanking God for His goodness, and by praying again for those we encountered, even those who rejected us.

My Experience:

My partner and I went to the water park area. We would introduce ourselves by saying our names, that we are followers of Jesus, and asking how we could pray for them – to bless them, or for healing, or anything else. Strangely, every single encounter we had were with Catholics, except one couple, but it was evident from speaking to them that most of them were not practicing. We were fortunate to not be rejected at all; everyone we asked, albeit uncomfortably, allowed us to pray for them, and afterwards seemed glad that we had. My partner was amazing, and she would even hold the hands of the women we prayed with.

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One couple we met were aboriginal, and while they let us know that they worshiped differently than us (the Great Spirit, by burning sweet grass/sage, etc.), they were quite open with their family struggles and allowed us to pray. It was such an honour, and as we prayed the woman began to weep, and I felt love well up in my heart for them. If you know me, then you’d know that I don’t feel love easily. I believe this was the love of God pouring through us as we actively loved them through prayer.

How easy it was to pray for people, and to show them concretely the hope we have in Jesus, and the hope that He would move in their circumstances. The prayers weren’t eloquent (at least mine weren’t), but we all testified afterwards to experiencing the Spirit of God in us as we prayed. Frankly, I feel chagrined that I don’t this more often, just throughout the course of my daily life, even. And I wonder that the Church doesn’t seem to teach or practice this either (although if it doesn’t practice evangelism much, I guess it wouldn’t practice praying for people either).

My hope is through us the people we encountered that day were reminded of, or able to see for the first time, the beauty of Christ, and want to know Him more. No one gave their lives to Him that afternoon, but we know that He works beyond our brief encounters, and was working before we even got there. And, my prayer is that each of the young adults who went would hunger to see more of Jesus like this in their lives.

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An Outline for Prayer Meetings

Last night, the young adults at my church had a prayer meeting. I’ve posted the outline below, based on the Disciple’s Prayer*, for anyone who comes across it to adapt and use. I decided to include some of the general items that we prayed for, by way of example.

It was a fantastic night, and God’s presence was felt as we sought His face together!

1. Begin by silently preparing your heart, and asking the Holy Spirit to pray through us tonight (facilitator will close). If desired, a worshipful song may be included here.

 2. Read the Disciple’s Prayer together

 Our Father who is in the heavens, Your name be sanctified;

Your kingdom come; Your will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth.

Give us today our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

Amen**.

 3. Pray

 Our Father who is in the heavens, Your name be sanctified;

Read: Psalm 105

           Pray: Take this time to praise and worship God for who He is and what He’s done.

Your kingdom come; Your will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth.

            Read: Luke 13:18-21; 1 Cor. 4:20; Rom. 14:17

Pray: For national and international issues and leaders.

Among other things, we prayed about Bill 18, for the new Pope Francis, for the salvation of the Dalia Lama, and for Madagascar, which was experiencing a terrible plague of locusts (no joke!).

 

Give us today our daily bread.

            Read: Matt. 6:25-33; Phil. 4:19

Pray: For personal needs.

 

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

            Read: Matt. 6:14-15; 1 John 2:1-2; Psalm 139:23-24

Pray: A time of personal and corporate confession & forgiveness. Silence is an appropriate option for the personal confession time.

– Confess (by name) the ways our church has fallen short of being a Light to those inside and outside its community

– Confess the social injustices (by name) that we Christians have allowed to exist and thrive in our city

– Confess how we’ve made it more about church/Christianity/ourselves etc. instead of Jesus

– Repent for the way we’ve treated those outside the Kingdom- with anger, fear, & hate instead of love

 

And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

            Read: 1 Cor. 10:12-13; 2 Sam. 22:3-4; 2 Thess. 3:3; Eph. 6:10-18

Pray for:

Here we prayed predominantly for a renewing of God’s Spirit in our churches, and for revival to break out in Winnipeg, especially its young adults. We prayed for other Christian organizations and gatherings as well. We prayed against the darkness in our city.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

            Read: Psalm 146; Rev. 11:15; Rev. 21:5

Pray: Take this time to thank God for His answer to prayer, His sovereignty, and His other attributes

Amen.

*a.k.a. The Lord’s Prayer – props to Jamie Aprin-Ricci for the better moniker

** Matt. 6:9-13, The Recovery Version

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