Caring Evangelism: How to Live and Share Christ’s Love

CaringEvangelismLogoCaring Evangelism is a course to help you become more effective in sharing your faith in Christ with others.

  • Process-oriented rather than results-oriented.
  • Teaches a ‘Caring Evangelization’ cycle which offers a positive model of conversion for Christians and non-Christians.
  • Intensive teaching of four evangelizing skills: building relationships, listening, witnessing, and praying.
  • Participants could proceed into further training as Licensed Evangelists in the Diocese of Edmonton, if they so desire, but this is not required; the course is open to all.

The sixteen-module course will be taught intensively over two weekends:

  • Friday November 29th (evening) and Saturday November 30th (morning and afternoon), at St. Mary’s, Edmonton.
  • Friday January 17th evening, Saturday 18th morning and afternoon, Sunday 19th afternoon, at Holy Trinity Riverbend, Edmonton.

We will ask for billets for out-of-town participants in order to keep costs to a minimum. There will be a registration fee of $50. Please contact Margaret Marschall at the Synod Office to register: 780-439-7344 or churched@edmonton.anglican.ca.

For more information about Caring Evangelism, see the Stephen Ministries website:

You can also contact me at stmrector@gmail.com or 780-437-7231; I will be the trainer for this course.

CaringEvangelismLeadersPackage

October 24th 1990

404231_10150660066745400_2065258587_nOn October 24th 1990 I was ordained a deacon in the Church of the Resurrection, Holman (Ulukhaktok), Northwest Territories, by Bishop Jack Sperry, Bishop of the Arctic. He translated the BAS ordination service into Inuinaktun specially for the occasion, and we did the service bilingually, alternating between English and Inuinaktun.

23 years later I am very grateful to the late Bishop Jack Sperry for taking a risk on a Church Army guy who didn’t have a proper seminary education. Along with my Dad, Jack was my other great mentor in parish ministry. I’m sure they are praising God together with all the saints now!

The meaning of infant baptism

I’m actually rather disappointed in this video by Archbishop Justin Welby in which he attempts to explain what baptism, and particularly the baptism of Prince George, is all about.

I like Justin Welby and I think as a bishop he is incredibly focussed on the Good News of Jesus Christ, on prayer, on Christian witness, and on reconciliation.

So I find it a little disappointing that our Lord Jesus Christ barely gets a mention in this video about the meaning of baptism!

In the New Testament, by contrast, baptism is inextricably linked, not just to God, but to Jesus the Son of God. Jesus clearly identifies the meaning of baptism in Matthew 28:18-20:

‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Baptism in this passage clearly means becoming a disciple or follower of Jesus. The call of baptism, for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as parents bringing a child to the sacrament, is for them to be sure that they are following Jesus as their Lord, and committing themselves to raising their son George in ‘the School of Jesus’, so to speak.

But it is impossible for George to grow and learn in the School of Jesus without supernatural help. John’s Gospel therefore talks about ‘being born of water and the Spirit’, the miracle that God does by his grace, granting us the free gift of the Holy Spirit to enable us to do the things he calls us to do. This is one of the things that baptism signifies.

Baptism is not just about ‘belonging to God’. Surely every child born on earth belongs to God, in the sense that God is their Creator and God loves them! No, baptism is about being born again into the family of Jesus, and it is the beginning of a life of following Jesus in the context of his people, the Christian church.

In this respect, it is disappointing that Prince George will be baptized in ‘a private ceremony’. Most of us Anglican Christians have long since given up baptizing people in private ceremonies. We believe that if a person is being baptized into the people of Jesus, then the people of Jesus should be there to support them, to welcome them, and to witness the promises being made. I am sure the Archbishop believes this. Surely, in this day and age, it’s time for the Church of England to make it clear that, whether a baby is born to be King or not, he gets to be baptized in the same way as anyone else – at  public service, so that the people of Jesus can be present to welcome him into the School of Jesus.

I wish the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge well, and I hope that when their son is baptized tomorrow they will be sincere in the promises they make and in their desire to help him grow up as a follower of Jesus. But I wish that Archbishop Welby had taken the opportunity in this video to be clearer about what the Gospel of Jesus really is, and how baptism is connected to it, and I do wish that by his actions he would make it clearer that, whatever privilege a person may or may not have been born into, they receive the sacrament of baptism in the same way, and under the same circumstances (i.e. the corporate worship of a Christian congregation), as anyone else, and it confers on them a dignity greater than any royal dignity on earth – that of being a follower of Jesus Christ, born again of water and the Spirit.

‘Imagine’ Revisited

Following on from this post, I thought I’d have a go at a little spoof:

‘Imagine’ Revisited

Imagine there’s no heaven – it’s easy if you try
Love always ends in graveyards – you have to wonder why
So many suffering people, but that’s all there is to say

Imagine there’s no countries – it isn’t hard to do
The world is ruled by Google – Big Brother’s watching you
Imagine all the websites eating up our days

You may say “It’s a nightmare!” Well you’re not the only one
I think it’s best if you don’t join us, or your world will come undone

Imagine no possessions – I wonder if you can
No one to buy our music – we’’ll need a brand new plan
Imagine all the rock stars begging in the streets

You may say “It’s a nightmare!” Well you’re not the only one
I think it’s best if you don’t join us, or your world will come undone

© 2013 Tim Chesterton

 

Death and the Poets

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 – Dylan Thomas (1914 – 1953)

Mighty Trucks of Midnight, verse 3

I believe it’s a sin to try to make things last forever
Everything that exists in time runs out of time some day
Got to let go of the things that keep you tethered
Take your place with grace and then be on your way

 – Bruce Cockburn (1945 – )

Dylan may be the better poet (though Cockburn is no mean wordsmith either), but I think Cockburn has the better thought here.

‘Pierced by sorrows, but called to joy’.

Wise words from the national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada, Bishop Mark MacDonald:

People my age or older will remember quite a few sayings (and a Mark_column_620surprising number of pop songs) that warned us that life is not about money. It seems long ago and quaint when the biblical phrase fell quickly off our elders’ tongues: “The love of money is the root of all evil.” I now believe they should have reminded us of the rest of the verse: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10, King James Version).  We now are living into that warning.

Economics, almost always crudely calculated in terms of financial profit and loss, has become the primary field of understanding and evaluating human action. In other words, it has become our morality. Economics ruthlessly designs our daily lives and solely determines the quality of the environment we live in. This reality has become so pervasive that most of us are unable to recognize that, in less than a generation, we have yielded the sovereignty of our lives to economics. We are hypnotized by its power; we are overcome by its authority; we have lost our joy and dignity to its tyranny.

It seems absurdly obvious to say that this is a spiritual issue, but we need reminding. For Jesus, freedom from the love of money was essential to truly human life. To let money shape our lives is, quite simply, to be unfaithful to God. For us, as individuals and as a society, there is no way back to joy and right that does not involve challenging the lordship money. As a church, there is no way to faithfulness and renewal that does not include the repudiation—in our own thought, speech and action—of the idolatry of money, otherwise known as greed. In this, the poor cry out to us for hope and justice, and we now know that the land cries with them. If we do not change, they will bear witness against us as a church, in this life and in the world to come.

In contrast, the way of a faithful life is compelling and attractive. As the writer to the Hebrews describes in chapter 13, verse 5, to be free from the love of money, we should be content with what we have. But this contentment is known in God alone; we are reminded that God has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” The freedom and joy of leaving the tyranny of money are found in trust and obedience to God.

You can read Bishop Mark’s excellent comments each month in the opinion pages in the Canadian ‘Anglican Journal’. Bishop Mark’s column is called ‘Walking Together’.

On Bearing with One Another

I find it to be true that the more aware I am of my own faults and shortcomings, the kinder I can be to the faults and shortcomings of others.

When I was a much younger person, I was a lot more perfectionistic than I am now. I noticed the shortcomings of people in my parishes, but not the incredible miracle that those people were actually in my parishes, unlike most people, who weren’t there. I noticed the faults of my parents, conveniently ignoring the fact that I was  far from being a perfect parent myself. I criticized the institutional church and ‘organized religion’, conveniently ignoring all the good that it does, and the fact that God only has sinners to work with; there are no other kinds of people available.

The Apostle Paul says,

Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:12-14).

I’m reminded of the story Jesus told of the unforgiving servant in Matthew chapter 18. A servant in a position of trust had been embezzling funds to the tune of millions of dollars from his master the king. The king discovered what had been going on, and ordered that the man and his family be sold into slavery to pay his debts. In desperation, the man pleaded for more time: ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay back everything’ (a rather vain promise, as his debt was equal to more than the annul revenue of the kingdom). But the king gave him more than he asked for: he had pity on him, and forgave the whole debt!

The servant, however, was not so merciful when he saw a fellow-servant who owed him a few dollars; he demanded repayment, and when he in his turn was asked for time, he refused to give it, but had the man thrown into jail. When the king heard about it he was angry; “I forgave you millions, and you can’t forgive a few dollars?” So he reversed his  judgement and had the servant thrown into prison, as he had originally planned.

I wonder why the servant was so anxious to recover the small debt that was owed to him? Did he, perhaps, not really believe that the king had forgiven him the whole debt? Was he still acting on the assumption that he needed to gather all the money he could to repay – that he had just been given a little more time, as he had asked, and not the free pardon he had in fact received?

And then I think to myself, I wonder how often I think like that? I wonder if, when I ask God for forgiveness, I’m not really seeing myself as I am: hopelessly in debt to God, a debt I can never repay in a million years, and one I keep adding to every day. My only hope is the free pardon; any promise of repayment is simply an exercise in self-delusion.

I have been a committed Christian now for over forty years. In all those years I have prayed and asked God to help me have victory over my sins. And it’s true that there has, I believe, been some improvement – just a little bit more patience, perhaps, or charity for others. But make no mistake, I’m still a sinner. There has been no dramatic increase in holiness that I can see. When I see God face to face, I won’t be able to say, “I’ve basically been a good person, Lord, so you can give me what I deserve”. I know it won’t be true; I’ve spent many years in selfishness and self-centredness, and if the Lord gives me what I deserve, then I have no hope at all.

But fortunately for me, the Lord is kind and patient, merciful and forgiving. And that being the case, I must treat others in the same way. People are a mysterious mixture of good and evil, sins and virtues, strengths and weaknesses. The best of people often have character flaws that they keep well hidden, but they are there just the same. The worst of  people often have surprising virtues. This is the human condition. These are the people that make up church congregations. These are the priests and bishops who serve the church. All God has to work with are sinners; there are no other kinds of human beings available to him. Fortunately for us, he is patient and merciful. It is good for us to remember this when we are tempted to be harsh and unforgiving toward the faults of others.