Seminars to equip pastors for local mission

Christian Week
September 2010
Aaron Epp

David Macfarlane recalls with passion how a Bible study group at the church he pastored in Waterloo, ON, made a difference in the life of its community.

"The group realized it had become inward-looking-really all about themselves, their own fellowship, their own Bible study," says Macfarlane, who is the director of national initiatives for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). "They decided to do something to be externally focused."

One of the group's members, a real estate agent, suggested they put together welcome baskets filled with maps, fresh baking, candles, emergency contact information and other small, practical items. The group then delivered the baskets to people who moved into the area.

One Saturday morning, two men from the group walked up to a house belonging to a family who had just moved to the neighbourhood. They could hear young children crying and screaming inside.

"The door was opened by a young father who had a loaded diaper in his hand, he was frazzled, and he took the basket," Macfarlane recalls. "He had never been to church and he told them, 'It's really weird that you came by today, because my wife and I just yesterday at breakfast were talking about going to some church so that our kids will have a religious background.'"

The young man and his family showed up to church the next day. Soon after, they committed their lives to Christ.

"There are tons of stories like this across Canada," Macfarlane says. "There are all sorts of wonderful people doing amazing work."

Manitoba pastors will be able to hear similar stories of evangelism when the BGEA hosts five seminars in the area from Sept. 28 to Oct. 28.

Titled REconneXion: Igniting Your Community Influence, the seminars aim to inspire and encourage pastors, as well as equip them with ideas they can put into practice to present the gospel to their community in ways they hadn't though of before.

Macfarlane, who has spent more than two decades in ministry, will give two talks at each seminar. Dave Overholt, founding pastor of Hamilton, ON's Church on the Rock, will also give two talks.

Macfarlane and Overholt will talk about coming up with new ideas for ministry; designing strategies and systems for impacting a community; presenting the gospel in today's Canadian context; and discovering ways to wire your congregation with "evangelistic DNA."

"One excellent way to reach a community is to realize everyone has the same basic needs," Macfarlane says. "Spiritual needs, educational needs, social needs, work-related needs and so on and so on."

One thing churches can do is make a list of the things they can do to address the needs of the people in their community, whether it's offer English classes for newcomers to Canada, teach a course on basic computers skills or offer free babysitting once a month for single mothers in the area.

"The truth is, it's not rocket science," Macfarlane says. "[The seminars are] about encouraging local pastors, giving them tools and ideas that they can use in their own communities. We're not selling a program. We're sharing ideas."

If churches are seen as a positive force in their communities, it opens the door to evangelism.

"Ultimately, we have to be talking to [people] about Christ, and about Him being the way and the truth and the life," Macfarlane says.

"One of the biggest challenges Christians face is that we don't have a good reputation in our own communities," he adds. "We need to be seen as the hands and feet of Jesus in our community and earn the right to be heard."

BBB Festival of Hope My Hope with Billy Graham

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada

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