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Sunday
Jan312016

Welcome to Messy Church!

Jeff Bjorgan

Lead Pastor

It's tempting in the Christian church to talk a lot about reaching out to our community and our world.  We hear many sermons about what we should be doing: how we should be serving, how we should be connecting, and how we should be convicted.  And I think we appreciate the challenges, for the most part.  We've all had the conversation about not being comfortable with a comfortable church setting, or a sterile Christian environment.  We think the church should be involved with the widows, orphans, and the poor.  We believe that the church should be engaged in the community.  We encourage each other to live out the gospel, meet needs, talk to the hurting, communicate with our neighbours.

But it's always been easier to talk about doing these things than actually doing them.  The fact of the matter is, when the church is living out its convictions, life gets messy.  On Sundays, kids can be loud.  Strangers who are drawn in can miss some of the "Christian cues of worship etiquette."  People from different Christian backgrounds and experiences can clash over petty and tribal things.  Throughout the week, people can make a mess in our building, high-need characters distract and consume our staff's time, and unbelievers (gasp!) who darken our church doors can say the most colourful things.  Neighbours are not communicative, or trusting, or wanting to hear what we have to say. 

Jesus brings light in the midst of decay and darkness; that doesn't make the decay odourless.   

But amazing things can grow out of manure.  And a perfectly staid and sterile church is probably not much of a church at all.  Jesus calls people.  And people are messy.  And there's nothing overly romantic about messes.  When we live out the gospel well, we live in this tension.  It's what Emmanuel has wrestled with for years.  I'd have it no other way. 

Welcome to messy church!  Grab a broom or a cleaning cloth and lend a hand!

On an aside, Emmanuel has always had a pretty relaxed open door policy, with volunteers coming and going at all hours of the week.  This is a good thing.  However, we need to be wise.  If you are in the locked church after hours, please do not open the church doors to allow in people you do not know.  Thanks for your help in this manner!

Sunday
Jan242016

Volunteers

Jeff Bjorgan

Lead Pastor

In all my years of pastoral ministry, I continue to be in awe and inspired by the fact that churches survive and thrive off of time and effort given primarily by volunteers.  There are staff that help organize and care for people, and help set the tone, but churches live and die by the quality of their volunteerism.

Every week at Emmanuel dozens (hundreds?) of people roll up their sleeves and get to work, committed to glorifying God in a variety of ways while being a part of Christian community.  Whether it's Sunday morning ministry, which includes everything from worship leaders, to media technicians, to ushers, and Sunday School teachers, or mid-week ministry, which includes everything from maintenance, to committee work, to program volunteers in adult, children, and youth ministries, this place is abuzz with people committed to the cause.

Ever so often I would like to acknowledge a volunteer that we should be celebrating.  Lorraine Roth, for instance, worked alongside our decor staff (Anna Mason and Nancy Beselt) to help put together our prayer stations.  We don't often have a lot of time to put into the planning of the stations, and the work that goes into the stations requires many hours of planning and preparation.  Lorraine has helped us this year with joy and enthusiasm and we're so glad that she has blessed us with her creativity and passion this year.

Ken McPherson has spent countless hours at the church helping us get our new auditorium established.  Since we've been having services, Ken has continued to come and clean up corners and walls that have been bashed up, painting rooms and coatracks, and helping with other maintenance troubleshooting.  We are so grateful for his behind the scenes work, that he does so patiently and cheerfully.

Do you know a volunteer that deserves some recognition?  Why not drop them a note of encouragement in their church mailbox, or write them an e-mail!

Sunday
Jan172016

Technology

Jeff Bjorgan

Lead Pastor

Technology, as we all know, permeates our lives.  Communicate technology, in particular, is pretty much completely integrated into everything we do.  Over the last decade, we've seen an ever-increasing interaction between our devices and the Web.  Although there are many challenges and problems with a world so dependant on devices, communication technology has also helped us communicate and network in ways thought unimaginable even a few short years ago.  Think of what life would be like without Facebook, or Skype, or google, or the ability to share information and documents so easily via the cloud.

The church as a whole has a bit of a love/hate relationship with technology.  We see its abuses; we wrestle with the way to use it; we appreciate the way it helps us do ministry.  We certainly can't keep up with the pace technology changes, and there is very little point to try: projects can become obsolete before they even get out of the design stage!  Our strategy at Emmanuel at every level of ministry is to simply create a bit of a laboratory environment where we grant people the grace and opportunity to try things, experiment, and make mistakes, all with the end goal of glorifying God and making him known.  

When it comes to technology, one of the things in our laboratory includes the launching of a new webpage, which we hope will take place by the end of January.  We haven't had a refreshed website in almost a decade, and a lot has changed in that time!  Further, we continue to explore developing our own videos, and are looking into a short/long term goal of providing a video feed for our services.  We are looking for better ways to connect people with each other through social media, and we're seeking to stream-line our office administration through better use of online resources.  We'd like to save a few more trees in 2016, so we're looking into producing less projects on paper.  In the auditorium, we continue to work on improving our lighting and media and sound.  All of this is important, as long as it's used to continue and strengthen the mission of the church.  I am grateful for all of the volunteers and friends that work behind the scenes to help with our communications.  God has blessed you with amazing brains!  

If you happen to have a hankering for technology and would like to help out in areas of media, or lighting, design, or communications strategies, please give me a call.  I would love to chat with you.

Sunday
Jan102016

Week of Prayer

Jeff Bjorgan

Lead Pastor

We are entering into our annual week of prayer.  We like to start the year off, encouraging our congregation to take time every day to really focus on seeking God for the sake of one another, for the sake of the church, and for the sake of the world.  This year's theme is called "action prayers".

What is an action prayer?  It's one that involves every part of us: our willingness to wrestle with the things of God, our willingness to plant ourselves into the fabric of the prayer--interceding on behalf of others, pleading for God's will to be done, willing to be part of the answer to the prayer.

Prayer is simply talking with God.  We talk, and then we listen to what God has to say to us.  There is no magic to it.  There is no real technique, although the experts have tried to come up with a few.  The only explicit model of prayer we've been given is by Jesus, who offered us the Lord's Prayer.  I say all this because no one should be afraid to pray, or unwilling to pray, or assume that their prayers will not be answered.  We can all pray.

Join us on Sunday night as we join the youth in their worship and prayer service.  Join us again on Wednesday night as we have a prayer service focused on intercession.  And sign up to go through our prayer stations, where you get an hour to yourself of guided prayer.  And pray through the Lord's prayer, daily this week.  Let's start this year off right and see what God can do in his people when they humble themselves and pray.

Sunday
Oct112015

Thankfulness

Jeff Bjorgan

Lead Pastor

A very happy thanksgiving to all!

What are you thankful for?  How often do we ask ourselves that question?

Thankfulness is a feeling or expression of gratitude.  It means we’re appreciative of what we have been given, or the people in our lives, or the situations we find ourselves in.  When I think of my church family, a few things come to mind that I am thankful for:

  • I am thankful for an amazing group of volunteers who have poured in hours and hours to this place called Emmanuel.  When I think of the building project, I think of the building committee, the church board, carpenters, electricians, painters, carpet layers, graphic designers, and I think of the sacrifice they have made to make this place special for future generations.  When I think of our ministry programs and Sunday morning celebrations, I think of nursery workers, Sunday School teachers, ushers, greeters, set-up teams, sound technicians, media personnel, worship leaders and musicians, coffee bar staff, info desk helpers, youth volunteers, small groups leaders… the list goes on.  I am so thankful for a church that journeys well together.
  • I am thankful for the great gift our church staff is to me.  I am thankful that it is a joy to come into work each day, share life together, dream together, pray together, and share the burden together.  Working in a church is a unique experience.  Staff becomes family on so many levels.
  • I am thankful for my family, for my wife and my four kids, for the ways they bring purpose and focus to my life, for the gift of their uniqueness’s, and the joy that their presence brings me.

And the list can go on!  I am thankful for God’s presence in my life, for the gift of being born and raised in Canada, for the beauty of the Okanagan, for chocolate, and for hockey, and for laughter, and music, and fresh air and pizza, and peach pie…

You know, all this thankfulness would put anyone in a great mood.  Studies have shown that thankfulness is directly related to our health.  I encourage you on this Thanksgiving weekend to take some time to write out what you are thankful for.  It could be a life changing, and mood-altering , God-encountering experience!