Stewardship representatives end ministry with CCMBC

WINNIPEG

July 1, 2014

The Canadian Conference of MB Churches regrets to announce the permanent layoff of our four stewardship representatives, with the fifth set to retire at the end of July 2014.

CCMBC recently reported on the restructuring of its financial ministries, which includes the launch of a new entity called CCMBC Legacy Investments Inc. These changes have led to a new regulatory environment, including certification requirements for employees. As such, all five stewardship representatives will cease to serve the Mennonite Brethren constituency by the end of summer 2014.

Executive director Willy Reimer gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Al Thiessen (who served 15 years), Ben Wohlgemut (7 yrs.), David Leung (9 yrs.), Lorne Willms (3 yrs.), and Lloyd Reimer (who served 11 years and announced his retirement effective July 31).

“In the more than four decades this team has collectively served, these men have touched and equipped countless people, helping them see that God owns everything and that He invites His people to worship Him through generous and faithful stewardship,” says Reimer.

Changes in stewardship ministries

In August 2013, following the resignation of CFO John Wiebe, the stewardship representatives moved under the leadership of L2L director Ron Toews. However, due to the review of CCMBC’s financial ministries, the men found their roles in flux and were unable to have their customary conversations with donors.

“This hasn’t been an easy ten months for the stewardship reps. Yet, even as the landscape was changing around them, these brothers remained eager to serve and continued in ministry to the best of their ability,” says Toews. “Please pray for these men as they transition into a new phase of life and ministry, asking God to guide them to new and meaningful ministry.”

The CCMBC finance team continues its search for a new CFO, while maintaining its commitment to providing mortgages for churches and pastoral staff through CCMBC Legacy Investments Inc. Conference staff will continue to provide ongoing deposit services for members.

As well, L2L is developing vision and resources to help pastors and churches apply biblical stewardship to everyday life. For more information, go to www.l2lnet.org.

—CCMBC release

Seminary student gets big picture

WINNIPEG

“The more I study, the more I want to be the best follower of Christ that I can be,” says seminary student Kathy McCamis. “Jesus came to bring Good News; my life should look like good news to people around me.”

A graduate student at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary Canada on the Canadian Mennonite University campus, McCamis says learning about God’s mission in the world strengthens her desire to demonstrate God’s love and compassion for people.

McCamis served part-time as the pastor of Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren (FGMB) Church’s junior high ministries for four years. She left this position in 2013 to pursue seminary studies while continuing her part-time job as an occupational therapist in Winnipeg.

“I discovered through being in pastoral ministry that I wanted to learn more about the big picture of ministry,” she says. “What is the church to be theologically? Why do we do what we do? How does what we do connect with our faith?”

Part of the family

Through her involvement in youth ministries, McCamis developed an interest in helping new believers to feel part of a church family.

“It can be a hard transition for people who didn’t grow up in a church culture,” she says. “They want to follow Jesus but have a difficult time to find their way into the church. How can we bridge their youth group experience to being part of the community?”

She finds answers and resources to these and other questions through classroom study and interaction with instructors and students.

“I love envisioning new ways of being a church,” she says. “How can we change the packaging without changing the theological core and without altering what we as MBs believe?”

A relative newcomer to the MB church, McCamis enjoys learning about the history of Anabaptism and the global fellowship of MB churches. “It gives me a deeper appreciation for the church family I have joined,” she says.

As a recipient of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (CCMBC) leadership training matching grant, McCamis has 50 percent of her tuition costs covered by CCMBC and FGMB who each provide 25 percent of the total.

Answering the call

As McCamis writes her thesis on the call to ministry, she is especially interested in examining how MB churches mentor and encourage women and men to discern God’s call to pastoral ministry, and how pastors are called and affirmed by churches.

Learning about God’s mission in this world, she says, lends itself to thinking deeply about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the call to be disciples.

“Churches need to follow Jesus faithfully,” she says. “The call to discipleship is about having compassion for the marginalized, awareness of social issues and a love for people. It is important to love and serve others.”

For more information about the leadership training matching grant (LTMG) and other ways CCMBC helps equip leaders, click here.

—Gladys Terichow, CCMBC writer

Leadership development director goes national

Ron Toews has been appointed director of leadership development for CCMBC. This role will encompass oversight of the department currently called church ministries. Toews will work out of B.C., where he previously served a similar leadership development function since 2009 and pioneered the In Service virtual equipping seminars.

Toews commenced duties with CCMBC in September after serving a period as interim B.C. conference minister.

In addition to consulting as a mediator, Toews has served as pastor at Kitchener (Ont.) MB and Dalhousie (MB) Community Church, Calgary; chaplain to police services; provincial moderator; professor and board member for MB Biblical Seminary, and as interim principal at ACTS Seminaries. He holds a BRE from MB Bible College, Winnipeg, an MDiv from MB Biblical Seminary, Fresno, Cal., and a DMin from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill.

“Healthy and effective leaders are crucial for healthy and effective churches,” says Toews. “I am excited by the mandate to collaborate in leadership development across our country to help MB pastors and lay leaders thrive, so Christ’s purpose for the church in Canada can be achieved.”

God gave Ron and his wife Diane four children and five grandchildren.

Centering the community in the church: Oshawa pastor inspires possibilities

By Jan Woltmann

The cataclysmic events of 9-11 marked a watershed moment for church culture in Oshawa, Ont. People literally walked away from church: in droves. According to a Statistics Canada report published in 2003, the city of Oshawa, located 45 km east of Toronto, experienced the largest drop-off rate in Protestant church attendance in Canada following the tragedy.

For Oshawa MB church planter and pastor Dave Fowler, the new reality created the opportunity to think differently about doing church.

“The original vision of the core group I started with some 14 years ago was to plant churches in schools to create a network of churches across the Durham region,” explains the veteran pastor who is partnered with two other denominations: the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec, and the Christian Missionary Alliance in Canada. “After 9-11 we began exploring the notion of church as community centre – a community venue out of which a number of events, services, programs, organizations, and the church could all find a home – creating a true centre for the community.”

Life Point Church Harmony Creek Community Centre

The process of acquiring a piece of property for this purpose proved to be lengthy, rife with seemingly insurmountable setbacks, but prayer and perseverance prevailed.

On Sunday, Oct. 2, Life Point Church (formerly the Durham Church Network) held its first service in its renovated space, a United Church building that they converted into Harmony Creek Community Centre, located at one of the largest and busiest intersections in Oshawa. The service took the form of a breakfast club (an idea borrowed from several Quebec MB churches), featuring football legend, Michael “Pinball” Clemons. An estimated 300 people came to hear the professional athlete who is celebrated for his community involvement and his leadership both on and off the field.

Dave Fowler and Michael Clemons

As part of the opening festivities on Saturday, Oct. 1, Fowler invited community leaders from non-profit and charitable organizations to an all-expenses-paid, day-long leadership training event, sponsored by the Canadian Conference of MB Churches (CCMBC), and facilitated by stewardship representatives Robert Bell and Ben Wohlgemut (certified trainers with CCMBC’s Eagle’s Flight program). In 2009, Fowler and his leadership team experienced the benefits of such a seminar and resolved to offer it to community leaders who may not otherwise have the opportunity.

“The response to the day was overwhelmingly positive,” said Fowler. “I was thrilled to meet with people who are movers and shakers in various organizations, some of whom I’ve been working with for quite some time. It opened up new avenues of conversation for those who came to the breakfast club the next morning – that was our hope.”

For Bell and Wohlgemut, it was the first time they presented the Eagle’s Flight leadership material to a largely non-church group. Of the 26 attendees, more than two-thirds were leaders from the community.

“Life Point wants to reach their constituency for Christ,” said Wohlgemut, “and they’re doing so by providing leadership tools for people who are in secular organizations – they’re serving them by giving them very practical helps. That’s inspiring!”

To be sure, Life Point Church is realizing its dream of becoming the centre of Oshawa community life. The gymnasium, part of the existing structure, is already home to a dance school, a karate group, and several women’s fitness groups, and is converted to a “jumpzone” with inflatable playground units for community use on weekends. Renovations are underway to make room for a large daycare centre chain due to move in next month; a music school will be occupying a revamped balcony area; a professional event planner from the church will ensure that the facility is used for weddings, banquets, and concerts year-round. And more community agencies are expected to have an onsite presence in the future.

God is on the move in Oshawa. People are returning to church: in droves.

Gary Burke: why Ministry Advantage matters

By Jan Woltmann

It’s a perennial question pastors and church leaders ask themselves: What would happen to this ministry or this church if I got hit by a bus? It’s not intended to be a morbid question; rather it’s a hypothetical one that teases priorities into sharp focus. At least one Canadian MB pastor in rural Alberta can answer with confidence: “I can get hit by a bus tomorrow, and I’m convinced this church is rooted enough to continue in a solid direction.”

Gary Burke is the lead pastor of Linden (Alta.) MB Church, a faith community of 220 people located an hour’s drive northeast of Calgary. Burke has pastored the 82-year-old church for four years. This fall, he and four other pastors from across the country will be the first Canadian MB coaches for Ministry Advantage (MA) – a customized coaching program offered by the Canadian conference that equips pastors to lead more effectively.

Gary Burke

So, why can Burke make such a bold declaration – one that reflects both strength and sustainability? Because MA is helping him develop a church that is increasingly “anchored in a purpose – not a personality or a program.”

That purpose was solidified for the Linden church in 2006, when they engaged in ReFocusing, a Canadian conference revitalization process aimed at promoting church health. The endeavour helped clarify God’s call for the congregation. It built trust, says Burke, and a sense of shared purpose and ownership that “paved the way for the effectiveness of Ministry Advantage.” With the help of MA in 2009/2010, Burke recognized that his primary task was to help the church take next steps to fulfill its discovered purpose and stay focused on its calling.

While this may sound simple and straightforward, it is anything but for most pastors, Burke says.

“I need to be pushed,” he explains, “I don’t naturally think about how to take strategic steps to move the church forward; rather, I’m thinking about this Sunday’s message or the couple I’m counselling this week.”

One of the biggest challenges pastors face, says Burke is prioritizing leadership development:

“we say our mandate is to equip the saints for ministry, but when we get into day-to-day life, we run around doing a lot of ministry and not equipping for ministry. Our job is to lead in a way that can handle growth – not just growth measured by numbers, but growth defined as movement toward the mission.”

What kept Burke on track when faced with these all too familiar and formidable obstacles was a weekly call from his MA coach. In his estimation, this regular connecting point was and is the key to success. It proved to be a very practical, positive way to “keep the big picture stuff on the radar,” he says, and to keep him accountable to systematically move in that direction with the adaptable tools MA provides.

The homework required for his weekly coaching call became the work he presented to his leadership team, and is becoming the framework for training ministry teams. And though some weeks he understood the value of the “homework,” other weeks he was less inspired. During these times, encouragement from his coach reminded him “this work mattered because it was building a culture that was becoming more intentional about following where God leads.”

Which is why Burke opted to be an MA coach this year: it will keep him actively thinking about what he’s learned and applied in his context, instead of putting it on the proverbial back burner. He looks forward to the mutual growth and development that will take place with his future mentee, but most of all, he hopes MA will be a tool that leads pastors where God is calling them to go.