Thursday March 9th, 2017
6:30 PM to 9:30 PM
Wycliffe College, 5 Hoskin Ave Toronto, ON M5S 1H7
Please RSVP by March 1st. Thank you!
Single ticket $80 · Table of eight $600 · Sponsor a student $80
Thursday March 9th, 2017
6:30 PM to 9:30 PM
Wycliffe College, 5 Hoskin Ave Toronto, ON M5S 1H7
Please RSVP by March 1st. Thank you!
Single ticket $80 · Table of eight $600 · Sponsor a student $80
In January 2016, John Bowen will hand over the leadership of the
Institute of Evangelism to Judy Paulsen, the Professor of Evangelism. Here the outgoing and the incoming Director of the Institute quiz one another about the past and the future.
Judy: So John, what do you feel most satisfied about as you look back on these nineteen years at the Institute?
John: The main joy, I would say, is having seen generations of students pass through Wycliffe College, and know that I have had a small part in shaping them for their leadership in the church in the areas of evangelism and mission. That gives great satisfaction.
In terms of ministry outside the college, there are churches which today are more at ease with “the e-word” than they were. They understand that evangelism is simply overflow, overflow of the life of Christ—and an explanation of where that life comes from. And some have taken simple steps like offering a Christianity 101 course, or learning to tell their faith story. I believe there is also a deeper appreciation of the word missional in its various dimensions.
Just as important, I think we are coming to understand that neither evangelism nor mission is something we undertake in order to avoid death! Some existing churches will thrive, others will die—that’s just the way it is—but either way, churches exist in order to participate with God in God’s mission.
On a more personal level, I am very aware that my five books have all been published during these years—and I’m not sure that could have happened without the encouraging atmosphere of the College, not to mention the freedom of a few sabbaticals! So I’m grateful for that.
Judy: Is there anything you regret?
John: Of course. One biggie is that it would be nice to be able point to specific individuals who have come to faith in Christ directly or indirectly through the work of the Institute. One immediately comes to mind, who ended up studying at the College and is now in hospital chaplaincy. I do believe there are others, in churches where the Institute has had an influence, but often people don’t give us that feedback—and maybe it is better that way.
Looking back, I think also we should have spent more in-depth time coaching those individuals and churches that wanted to engage in mission and evangelism. There has been a lot of broadcasting of the seed, like the sower in the parable. To take that image further, we should probably have spent more time cultivating the seed that was growing in good ground, and less on pulling out weeds and clearing stones in places where the seed was unlikely to take root.
Judy: What will you miss?
John: I already miss the interaction with students—the give and take of the classroom and the personal conversations over coffee or lunch—and seeing them grow. That’s the main thing. But some of the other things will continue—the writing, the speaking at conferences, and so on. And there is a growing number of younger pastors and church planters I relate to as a friend/mentor, so that’s in a sense a natural extension of working one-on-one with students.
Judy: What comes next for you?
John: Well, as you know, in January I will turn over the leadership of the Institute into your capable hands! I will still retain the leadership of Wycliffe Serves till the summer of 2016.
Then I am due for a sabbatical in the second half of 2016. I am hoping to research why people in Canada are becoming Christians. Everywhere I go I meet new Christians—quite a counter-intuitive trend—and I know you do too, so what is bringing them to faith? Is it friendships, or certain kinds of church, or Alpha? Perhaps they are all reading C.S.Lewis! So what is going on? I think the answer to that question will help churches focus their evangelistic energies.
And I will then retire at the end of 2016, although Wycliffe has asked me to stay on, on retainer, for a further three years, which is nice.
So now, let’s talk about you!
John: What attracted you to this position?
Judy: I love that the Institute’s working mission is to enable every church to be an evangelizing community. I can’t think of a better task to spend my time on.
John: Do you have sense of how God has prepared you for this job?
I have to laugh at that question, because my first answer might be, “I’m pretty sure God got me confused with someone else!”
Honestly, in some ways I would seem to be the least likely person to be either teaching evangelism or serving as Director of the Institute of Evangelism. I simply don’t fit many people’s idea of an evangelist. I love Scripture, but have never been able to pull out just the right passage to answer every question. I love thoughtful and respectful apologetics, but rarely find myself engaging in such debates. I love helping people explore spiritual issues, but often do that more by asking questions than by presenting arguments or giving advice. I love teaching and public speaking, but am actually a rather shy person. But therein lies the beauty of the way God works. Throughout Scripture we see that God often leads surprising people into places of leadership.
Given all of that, I think what has most prepared me for this new role is the life I’ve lived. Simply being who I am, God has consistently led people who are curious about him into my path, and God has always shown me how to frame the Gospel in such a way that it’s real to them. Such conversations and relationships have been one of the great joys of my life.
On top of that, having served as a parish priest and pastor for sixteen years, and for many years before that in various roles of leadership, I’ve seen first-hand how important healthy communities of faith are to the spreading of the good news of Jesus. My Doctor of Ministry degree in Missional Leadership (from Fuller Theological Seminary) allowed me to explore this deeply.
I’m more convinced than ever that the cultivation of healthy, vibrant churches, and the people in them being freed to see themselves as bearers of God’s invitation, is key to evangelism.
John: Well, those things are some of the reasons I knew you were the right person for this! So now, what are the main challenges you see facing churches who want to engage in evangelism in today’s world?
Judy: One challenge is to help Christians see the sharing of the Gospel as a natural part of the Christian life—every Christian’s life. For centuries now, we’ve thought of evangelism as something done by preachers, pastors, overseas missionaries, and people ‘specially gifted’ as evangelists. That nicely left most Christians off the hook, and left us with a very narrow view of evangelism. I think it’s time to renew the confidence of Christians that whether they are a brand new believer or a life-longer follower of Jesus, whether they are an extrovert or introvert, whether they are bold or shy, God wants them to pass along the gracious invitation that God extends to every human being.
Another challenge is to get churches reengaging with the communities around them, so they can build relationships with people who have never heard the Gospel or seen it in action. Churches need help to assess how their structures and practices may have largely ignored evangelism. People need encouragement to talk about their faith, both within and outside their church buildings. I have some ideas about how we might do that. And frankly, I can’t wait to get started.
John: Thank you, Judy!
Judy: Thank you, John!
Judy Paulsen serves on the faculty of Wycliffe as Professor of Evangelism, where she teaches on the relationship between the gospel, church and culture, organizational change, and both corporate & individual evangelism. She serves the broader church by teaching at conferences and retreats across Canada. Her research into the discipleship of people through a multigenerational form of worship was included as a chapter in Messy Church Theology, published in the UK in 2013. More recently, Judy served as a co-author of “Invited”, a study series for churches encouraging an invitational sharing of the gospel, published by the Diocese of Toronto in 2015.
Saturday November 15th 2014: David Fitch (Northern Seminary, Chicago, author of The Prodigal Church) will be speaking on The Church in Post-Christendom in St Catharines ON. For full details, click here.
Seminaries are generally introverted by temperament. Churches send their students to their denominational seminaries to be “formed” for ministry, and at the end of three years the students graduate, duly prepared (to some extent, at least) for the rigours of congregational leadership. But most of the formation happens behind closed doors—in classrooms, chapel, refectory, and informal groups. For many people and many churches over the years, this has been a relatively successful system, not likely to change to any radical degree any time soon.
But is there such a thing as an extraverted seminary? Could there be? What if those resources presently turned inwards, to the in-house formation of students, were also turned outwards to the churches? What might that look like? And what might be the effects?
Of course, most seminaries have some extraverted activities already: continuing education conferences, faculty members going out to preach and speak at conferences, student missions, and so on. But what if this were a major ministry of a seminary? What then?
A result of strategic planning
These are thoughts that went through the minds of the Wycliffe College board during the past year, as they went through a Strategic Planning process. And one thing that emerged at the end of the process was a new centre at the college called Wycliffe Serves! This is a hub from which will radiate all the ministries by which the college serves the church outside the walls.
Some of these ministries exist already: the Institute of Evangelism, of course, has been doing this kind of thing for over twenty years. But Wycliffe already offers other events which serve the church, such as “preaching days,” and the annual high school program during March Break called Arise! To these we plan to add more: seminars on clergy wellness led by our professor of Pastoral Psychology, Wanda Malcolm; help for inner city pastors from experts such as our adjunct professor Steve Shaw; and courses and seminars on children’s catechesis (based on the booklet Reimagining Children in the Church). And we are presently in the midst of negotiations with Messy Church in the UK in hopes that it too may come under the umbrella of Wycliffe Serves! Our expectation is that eventually there will be a Wycliffe Serves! event almost every month.
How will this be organised?
A couple of months ago, I wrote in good idea! that the Rev Dr Judy Paulsen would be taking over the teaching half of my job, and that has already begun. I will continue to direct the Institute of Evangelism half-time, but now the other half of my work will be taken up with directing Wycliffe Serves!
By the grace of God, we look forward to a future where we combine the “introverted” work of forming students for ministry with a more robust “extraverted” ministry of serving churches to equip them for mission and ministry in these challenging times. Stay tuned for more information!
Two strategic conferences recently took place in the East and West of Canada.
It’s always a risk running a conference at the beginning of February. Will there be a snowstorm? (There was.) Will people come? (They did.) How long will it take them to get home again? (That varied. The longest reported so far was forty-eight hours from Edmonton to Montreal.)
Toronto, January 31st –February 2nd
In Toronto, some 200 people showed up for the seventh annual Vital Church Planting conference, co-sponsored by the Diocese of Toronto and the Wycliffe College Institute of Evangelism. Some came from as far away as Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, and seven or eight denominations were represented.
One draw was undoubtedly the plenary speaker, Bishop Graham Cray, who is currently the Archbishops’ Missioner and Team Leader for Fresh Expressions UK. Graham was also the chair of the committee that wrote the ground-breaking Mission Shaped Church report, back in 2004.
The theme of the conference was “Dying to Live: Disciple Making and New Christian Communities.” Graham argued that the main motivation for starting new Christian communities is not to put more “bums in pews” or to prop up failing budgets, but to give more people the opportunity to become disciples of Jesus Christ in his work of redeeming the world. He challenged us with the question: “Who will not be reached with the Good News if we just keep doing what we are doing now?”
Workshops explored different ways that discipleship can be encouraged, all the way from children’s ministry to preaching and teaching, and to small group ministry. Bishops, diocesan executives, and leaders of other denominations had their own track of workshops, led by Bishops Linda Nicholls and Graham Cray, to discuss issues of putting discipleship into the DNA at the heart of our church structures.
On the Saturday of the conference, sixty new people (mainly laity) joined the conference for an intense day of learning. After an introductory talk from Graham, folk went into a series of three workshops, with a break for a bag lunch, and then ended the day with worship and a closing charge from Graham.
A number of those who have been to previous VCP conferences said this was the best so far, and I tend to agree.
Edmonton, February 5th – 7th
After the Toronto conference, Graham and Jacky Cray, Nick Brotherwood (of Fresh Expressions Canada) and I flew on to Edmonton for their Vital Church Conference. Here there were three plenary speakers: Bishop Graham, James Penner (an expert on Canadian youth culture and spirituality), and Terry LeBlanc (an Aboriginal Christian leader).
Although at first there seemed to be few connections between the three topics, by the end it became clear that the thread connecting them was the importance of relating church to different cultures, and not seeking to impose a form of church that is alien—whether on young people, First Nations, or other groups presently uninvolved in church.
For many of us, the highlight of the conference was the panel discussion, chaired by Nick Brotherwood, on the final day, when the three speakers got to interact—often humorously—with one another over these issues.
About seventy-five people attended the conference—the third such, co-sponsored by the Diocese of Edmonton and the Wycliffe Institute.
Archbishop Rowan Williams coined the phrase some years ago, “the mixed economy.” By that, he meant that the church in these post-Christendom days needs to pursue God’s mission along two fronts: the revitalization of existing churches, and the planting of new Christian communities. These conferences helped move both agendas forward. The only question now is what we will do with what we have learned.
Congratulations are due to Wycliffe College Institute of Evangelism Director, John Bowen, who recently received an Award of Merit at the annual Canadian Christian Writing Awards gala. The award was in the “Culture” category, and was for “The Missionary Letters of Vincent Donovan 1957-1973” (Wipf and Stock 2011), which John edited. Donovan is an important figure in influencing the understanding of God’s mission in different cultures. John is the author of the award-winning Evangelism for ‘Normal’ People: Good News for those Looking for a Better Way (Augsburg Fortress 2002) ; The Spirituality of Narnia: The Deeper Magic of C.S.Lewis (Regent College Publishing 2007); and, Growing Up Christian: Why Young People Stay in Church, Leave Church, and (Sometimes) Come Back to Church (Regent College Publishing 2010). He is also author of several of the Dare Booklets and the Wycliffe Booklets on Evangelism.
The annual Canadian Christian Writing Awards, sponsored by The Word Guild, celebrate the best in Canadian writing in periodicals, anthologies, and books by authors who write from a Christian worldview.
These awards have been given since 1988, when they were known as The God Uses Ink Awards. This year, 360 entries were received for 35 different categories, from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Submissions from Canadians living in the United States and Uganda were also entered. Nice job John!
There is clear evidence these days that one of the most effective forms of evangelism in contemporary North America is church planting. More people come to faith in Christ through new churches than through long-established churches.
So how do you begin a new Christian community where none exists at present and where there is little or no “Christian memory” to help it get jump-started in the community? After all, it is no longer the case that “If you build it, they will come.”
These days, in order to begin a new Christian community these days, you need to start much “further back” than was the case fifty years ago. But what does “further back” mean?
The process often seems to happen like this:
(a) Try to discern what God is doing in your community: look, listen, pray
(b) Build relationships, meet whatever needs you can
(c) Encourage natural, relational evangelism
(d) Offer discussion groups or Bible studies or Christianity 101 for those who are interested
(e) As people come to faith and are baptized, start a Eucharistic community.
This is not a formal “system” (these things by their nature resist systematization) and events do not usually unfold as neatly as this implies.
But this outline does show that a process is involved, and that growth from tiny beginnings into a mature church takes time—maybe several years. It’s like human growth: embryos can’t do most of the things that mature adults can do. However, unless a human being goes through the embryo stage, they will never become a mature adult. For that reason, nobody criticizes an embryo for not being on facebook.
But how do we learn in practice to do this new, post-Christendom kind of church planting? This September, Wycliffe College in Toronto is for the second time offering the course, Mission Shaped Ministry. Here’s the basic information:
1. What is this course?
Mission Shaped Ministry (MSM) is an eight-month (September to April) ministry-based, practical orientation to church planting and fresh expressions of church. It is adapted for Canada from the materials developed by Fresh Expressions UK.
2. Who is it for?
MSM is primarily for teams (ideally, lay and ordained together) who are thinking and praying about the possibility of pioneering a fresh expression of church, as well as for those who are already involved in one. Over the eight months, the course will enable you to take practical steps forward towards the realization and growth of that vision.
The course is also suitable for senior church leaders (equippers and encouragers—“permission givers”) who can check it out, and then encourage others to take the course and to become involved in pioneering ministries.
3. The teaching
The lead teacher is the Rev Dr. Connie denBok. Connie is a pastor in the United Church of Canada, has herself planted three churches, and is an outstanding teacher who taught Mission-Shaped Ministry last year. Connie has an extensive network of church planting friends in different denominations and of varying ethnicities, who will be helping with the course at different points.
4. The dates
The course runs from September till April. The schedule involves nine Thursdays (7.00-9.00) and two Saturdays (9.30-4.30) at Wycliffe College, and a residential weekend to be held at the Mount St Mary retreat centre in Ancaster, outside Hamilton, ON. The exact dates for the coming year are these:
Saturday Sept. 17
Thursday evening Sept. 29
Thursday evening Oct. 13
Thursday evening Nov. 3
Thursday evening Nov. 17
Thursday evening Dec. 1
Thursday evening Jan. 12
Weekend of January 27-29 (not January 20-22, as previously posted)
Thursday evening Feb. 16
Thursday evening Mar. 1
Thursday evening Mar. 15
Saturday Mar. 24
5. Distance learning
The first time we ran MSM we had groups of distance learners from points as far apart as Edmonton, Fredericton and Barbados! So you will be glad to know it is perfectly possible for a team or group to participate from a distance.
The way it will work is this: Each classroom session will be videoed and (within a couple of days) uploaded to a website. You will then be able to download the session and watch it at a time to suit yourselves at any point during the following week. Then, one week after each classroom session, Connie or another member of the MSM Canada team will be available for live interaction by phone, to discuss the content and to answer questions.
Important proviso: As you will see from the schedule above, a residential weekend is part of the course. If you are within driving distance of Toronto, we will expect you to attend the weekend in person. If distance makes this impossible, we will figure out with you the most worthwhile way for you to access the content of the weekend.
For those attending the classes live at Wycliffe College, the cost is $295 for the eight months. The cost of the residential weekend is a further $200.
Since MSM works best with teams, we will be offering a special rate of $245 for each person who comes as a member of a team, a saving of almost 20% over the normal rate! (The residential weekend, of course, still costs $200.)
For those watching the classes on video from a distance, the cost for the whole course is $195.
If you attended the course last year, and are returning this year with a team, you can take the course for free! Please indicate this on the registration form.
The registration form with details of how to pay, can be found here.
8. What if I am a student at TST?
(TST is the Toronto School of Theology and comprises seven federated seminaries—Wycliffe, Trinity, Emmanuel, Knox, Regis, St Michael’s and St. Augustine’s.)