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Sunday
Oct192014

God Loves Our Creativity

Jeff Bjorgan

Spiritual Formation Pastor

A few weeks ago we had our ministry Sunday. If you recall, we placed a bunch of sign-up sheets on tables and asked you to get involved by giving us your info. Some of the ministry opportunities were what I would call classic: Sunday School workers, nursery, ushers, etc. The church is by and large a volunteer organization; we couldn’t do the majority of things we do without the hours and hours committed to volunteering. As a pastor, I often feel overwhelmed by the high commitment and passions of volunteers who put so much of their time and effort into what we are doing here at Emmanuel. It’s really quite something to behold.

One area that is sometimes overlooked on ministry Sunday, however, is the area of the arts. Within our church we have many artists, from painters and sculpturers, to videographers, writers, and poets. We have actors and musicians, and photographers. And the church’s ministries can benefit greatly from these artistic endeavours. Art, it has been said, is a form of worship. When art flourishes in the church, it raises our standards and diversity of expressions when it comes to worship.

But we need forums to allow our artists to shine. I encourage you, if you have artist gifting, to come chat with me. We would love to adorn our walls with paintings and pictures or art pieces. We are continuing to develop our video ministry, and are looking for people to read or present the Scriptures in artist ways. Today after the second service we’re having a luncheon for writers, story-tellers that can contribute to the fabric of our church by reporting and reflecting on our ministries, our families, our theology. There is lots of room for our artistic ministries to grow.

God loves our creativity. Let’s make Emmanuel a place where artists can thrive and contribute.

Sunday
Oct122014

God Bless Ann Voskamp

Jeff Bjorgan

Spiritual Formation Pastor

A few years ago, I came across a website that awarded prizes for the best Canadian Christian blogs. One of the awards went to a new blog, written by a farmer’s wife, a Mennonite woman, with six children and a busy home life. I was enamoured with her writing ability, her crafting of sentences, and the sense of joy and wonder that I received when I read her musings about faith and Scripture, and thankfulness.

I’m guessing I’m not the only one that discovered her blog, because it wasn’t long until Ann Voskamp (you may have heard of this blogger) was on Oprah, and now tours all over North America speaking about the importance of thankfulness. Ann passionately believes that thankfulness is a trait of those who live by the Gospel. Regardless of what life presents us, thankfulness is the key to our relationship with God, our sense of identity in Christ, and our realization of our purpose in life.

Here are a few of my favourite quotes:

“If you aren’t known for thanking God, you aren’t thinking enough of God.”

“The secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.”

“And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.”

“When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us?”

It’s Thanksgiving Sunday. The Scriptures tell us to “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” What are you thankful for today? How does being thankful expand your relationship with God? In what ways can you express your thankfulness for all that God has done in your life, regardless of how “seemingly microscopic” the experience has been? This thanksgiving, let’s remind ourselves of the importance of being the “thankful people of God.” Thankfulness is a healthy, contagious disease; let’s re-commit to spreading it around.

Over the next few weeks leading up to Advent, we will be collecting food for the local foodbank. Feel free to drop off non-perishables throughout the week and on Sundays.

Sunday
Oct052014

Up, Up and Away!

Jeff Bjorgan

Spiritual Formation Pastor

It’s amazing how much can happen to a building in a week. This Sunday, when we drove into the parking lot, we were greeted by a behemoth of form and stature! This past Thursday in Prime Time we talked about the problem presented in Genesis 1 expressed in the Hebrew phrase, tohu wabohu (a phrase that’s very fun to say, by the way). It basically means “formless and void.” It spoke of a world that was more like a deflated balloon: one without shape and the life-breath to fill it. Well, we’re building our own creation story here at Emmanuel! The form is coming together; we’re looking forward to filling it with life. These are exciting times.

Seeing the building taking shape reminds me that we continue to work hard at raising the funds to make sure this project finishes well. Besides encouraging people to honor their pledges that were made a year or so ago, we’re also pursuing grant opportunities and other fundraising activities that come our way. It’s humbling and awe-inspiring to see the funds come in each week. I’m reminded again that, at the end of the day, a church is sustained by the collective generosity of its people. This building doesn’t go up on the backs of only a few people.

Sometimes it seems like churches are always asking for money. It’s probably because money is something that we all cling to rather closely, and so we’re suspicious of organizations that want to take it from us! However, it is also conducive to the spiritual discipline of generosity that helps move kingdom projects forward. We don’t want to exhaust people with a continual asking for funds. However, we want to be good stewards of the task that God has placed before us as a congregation. That’s why we still want to encourage faithful giving over the long haul.

If you are new to Emmanuel and yet weren’t around to hear about the financial needs of the building project, I encourage you to chat with a board member or someone on the building committee (names are in our Connecting Point Magazine). Perhaps you might feel compelled to present a pledge yourself; it’s a great way to find a sense of ownership in a new place. The amount you pledge is really up to you. I just ask that you pray about it. At the end of the day, it’s fun to participate on big tasks together.

God bless you for your generosity Emmanuel—let’s finish well!

Sunday
Sep282014

Christian Friendship

Jeff Bjorgan

Spiritual Formation Pastor

Everybody needs some kind of human connection. One of the things that breaks my heart as a pastor is hearing people, in Christian community, say they have no friends at church. There are working relationships, lots of people to shake hands with and smile at, but when push comes to shove, these folks wonder if anyone will notice if they are missing. They wonder if anyone really knows them, or even can recall their name.

The lack of friendship amongst Christians also exasperates me. Cultural studies have declared for years that we have created a disconnected society. People don’t walk through their neighbourhoods much anymore, they spend most of their time in their car, or in their house, or on a device. The studies of told us again and again that the side effects include relational dysfunction. People have no longer learned some of the basics in human interactions: how to initiate a relationship, how to ask questions about the other person, how to be curious or engaged in someone else’s story. People haven’t learned the basic art of assertiveness or haven’t been taught that most things in this world aren’t handed to you on a platter—you have to go out and capture the world you want yourself.

Christian community is no different. Walking into a church does not guarantee friendship or connection. If you are looking for friendship, be a friend. If you are looking for connection, create one.

I think that Jesus’ parable on the Good Samaritan may have had a bit of this idea in mind. When asked, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus responds with this well known story, and then simply turns the question back on the questioner: “Who are YOU being a neighbour too?” The world is changed by changing our own perspective.

Sometimes I end up in conversation with a hospitable person who, at a weak moment, wonders out loud why they never get invited out and why they always have to initiate friendship. I understand this feeling, but I like to respond, “Who cares? The person who reaches out in friendship will always have more opportunity for friendship than the person who sits back waiting for friendship to come to them. Keep doing what you’re doing—it’s what Jesus asks us to do.”

My encouragement to you: this fall, as you seek relationships and connection, ask yourself the question, “Who am I being a friend to?” and begin the vital and rewarding work called the discipline of friendship.

Sunday
Sep212014

New Normal

Tom Harbour

Tom Harbour

Counselling Pastor

After a whirlwind of activity, and three “big” Sundays, we are now settling into our "new normal" at Emmanuel Church. I so appreciated how seamlessly Pastor Paul moved into our pulpit last week, and I look forward to his focus on “joy in adversity” from the book of Philippians over the next few months.

If you weren’t at last Sunday’s kick-off BBQ, you missed out! In comparison to years past, we were not choked by dust, unable to find the location, or watching our neighbourhoods burst into flame! Instead, approximately 150 people from all ages and stages met at Westbank Town Centre park and enjoyed hamburgers or hot dogs, bouncy castles, crafts, soccer, football, the water park, cotton candy, and popcorn. Many hands make work light, so thank you to the dozens who stepped up for the event to make it a success.

However, our “new normal” is founded on one key word: transition. With that in mind, the pastoral search committee is hosting a town hall meeting at 6:00 this evening. If you haven’t had a chance to read the committee’s excellent work on our church and community profile, grab a copy from the info desk, read it, and then come this evening prepared to help craft the pastoral profile—qualities YOU want to see in our next pastor—this evening.

I’d like to remind you that EHS starts on Wednesday. What is the reasoning behind the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality course? Founder Pete Scazzero believes,

Emotional health and spiritual maturity cannot be separated. It is impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. When we ignore the emotional component of our lives, we move through the motions of Christian disciplines, activities, and behaviors, but deeply rooted behavioral patterns from our pasts continue to hinder us from an authentic life of maturity in Christ.

If this resonates with you, I will be giving an overview of the course this Wednesday at the Johnston’s. See Steve, Leah, Val, or me for more details.

Finally, on a personal note: with the teacher’s strike finally resolved, I am back to work, which means I will only be available evenings for counselling appointments. However, don’t hesitate to call—it just may take a bit longer to schedule some time to talk!