Vast stretches of farmland roll into the horizon, broken by silos and the occasional herd of mule deer. Welcome to the southern edge of Alberta and Saskatchewan. From Lethbridge to Swift Current, we have been able to meet with people starting churches in cities both large and small. As one travels along the highways, one realizes that there are many smaller towns without an evangelical witness, some without a witness at all, evangelical or otherwise. Southern Canada is far from the Bible belt and a different culture from America altogether. Although very similar in lifestyle to Montana, where we are based at, there are enough differences for one to realize very quickly that approaches to starting churches in Canada must be different than they are in the States.
The believers in Canada are doing a wonderful job – they just are small in number compared to the overall population. There are a large number of immigrants arriving annually, a great number from Asia. These immigrants are seeking a better life filled with opportunity. How wonderful it would be if mature Asian Christians were in place to meet them and introduce them not only to Canadian life, but to Jesus Christ?
Pray to the Lord of the Harvest to raise up workers to go into the fields of Western Canada and establish churches that will reach those coming to seek a new life with a new life in Christ. Pray for us, that as invitations come, we will be faithful to encourage, uplift, and resource the believers there with what they need to continue spreading the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Being a pastor in Montana means many different things to me. Since arriving in 1995, I have served churches in Red Lodge, Columbus and Havre. Being a pastor in Montana means unloading trucks outside at work at 4:30 in the morning in -40°F weather so that the church can still afford to have a pastor. It means reaching out to people who have never heard basic Bible stories such as Noah and the Ark, David and Goliath or the real Christmas story.
Pastoring in Montana means enduring weeks of loneliness, isolated by geography and finances from family, friends and even other pastors. It means driving hours to conferences for the fellowship with friends and the opportunity to sharpen ones skills. It means penetrating reclusive lives and investing time into communities. It means sharing your home with people from all walks of life and all kinds of backgrounds. It means being vulnerable and authentic and living a transformed life in front of a watching world.
Pastoring in Montana means that you start laying the foundation for future works to take place. Very quickly you learn that there is no prestige, no glory, no “bigger” church to aspire to. What there is, is plenty of is hard work, years of discipleship, mentoring, teaching and engaging. There is the joy of seeing a second generation come to know and serve the Lord. There is the joy of seeing families and marriages being put back together. There is the satisfaction of establishing stability and credibility in a community that is constantly watching to see if your Christianity is real. There is the awesome exhilaration that comes from seeing new believers mature and go out in service for the kingdom, taking the gospel to yet another place that needs to hear it.
Being a pastor in Montana is a tale of two extremes. It is a tale of hardships and frustration and of rapture and joy. It will cause you to grow closer to God than you thought possible because there is no one else around for you to turn to. It will drive you to your knees over and over seeking strength, guidance and wisdom. It will also lead you to give God all the credit because only He could possibly penetrate the darkness and hardened hearts of those who do not know Him.
Jeff Iorg, President of Golden Gate Seminary, sums up what I think being a pastor in Montana is all about when he says in his book, The Painful Side of Leadership, “Most leaders easily forget their primary reason for being placed in their leadership role. The primary reason isn’t for you to do things for God. It’s so God can use your leadership setting as a laboratory for shaping the image of Jesus in you.
I pray that the image that is being shaped in me, as I pastor in Montana, is that of Jesus Christ.
 Iorg, Jeff. The Painful Side of Leadership. P12. B&H Publishing Group 2009
Here at Ta Ethne we salute companies that see their work as a ministry for God rather than for making profit. Not that making profit is wrong. After all, if one doesn’t make a profit, one cannot stay in business. We salute those who see the reason for their business as being a vehicle or platform to extend works of mercy and ministry in God’s name to others. One such business is DaMory Diapers (www.damorydiapers.com). This small business does big Kingdom work. They manufacture cloth diapers, which are good for the environment and for babies. More than that, though, is the fact that they give away new diapers to local crisis pregnancy centers, give discounts to clergy families and discounts to those in financial need. Many times they donate almost as many diapers as they sell in a month. The reason – by sharing with those in need, it builds relationships and opens the door to sharing the gospel.
When a company or business sees itself as an instrument of God’s Kingdom, God blesses them with the ability to continue to impact others. Let us know of other businesses that see themselves as ministers of the gospel so we can salute them too.
Perhaps the most rewarding of all our overseas trips was to the wonderful country of Malaysia. Fantastic hospitality, great food and dedicated disciples made for a successful trip. We went, at the request of churches there, to hold discipleship training events and interactive question and answer sessions on any topic they picked. We met in three different cities (Penang, Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur) over 6 days. Presbyterians, Baptists, Assembly of God, Lutheran, Independents, and others all gathered together and shared with us and each other. Kudos to Canaanland Christian Book Store over there who made sure our teaching materials were in place and who provided us with a guide/translator who became a close friend with each of our teammates. Lifelong friendships, nay, eternal friendships were made as lives were shared with each other.
We learned so much that week – more, I’m sure, than we imparted to them. How inspiring it was to receive VCD’s of churches taking our training and showing us the ministries they came up with based on the training. Many ideas we have shared with churches in the states. I firmly believe that by working together and gaining insights from each other, churches around the globe can strengthen and edify each other. We have things we can teach, we have things we can be taught.
Please, pray for the Malaysian church. Great people ministering in a Muslim country, many facing increased persecution. They are strong in the faith, eager to share their witness, great examples for the worldwide church of God. Visit there, get to know the people, worship in a church with them. We did, and gained so much from it. How joyful it was to find such exuberant Christianity among the believers. God willing, we will be invited back to share with them once again.
Have you ever stopped and thought about the relationship between confession and testimony? In testimonies, people often talk about what God has done for them. This is good and appropriate, but it is not the only form of testimony. Another form of testimony, and one not shared a lot, is what we have done for God’s Kingdom. Part of being accountable to our fellow Christians is to regularly talk about what we have done for the cause of Christ. It is so easy to sit and talk about all the things God has done for us, and not do anything for Him in return.
Confession is our talking (admitting) what we have done wrong. It also is part of our accountability. So we have this coin. On one side is confession – an admittance of what we are doing that is wrong, and repenting of it. On the other side is testimony – an admittance of what we are doing that is right. For a church to grow in maturity, both of these must be regularly practiced by the group.
If we have nothing to share with our brothers and sisters about what we are doing for God, we may have more to confess than we realize. We need to practice testimonies of what we are doing as well as acknowledgment of what God is doing.
I realize that some will think it might come off as bragging, It could, depending on the way a person phrases it, or their attitude. But just because the practice can be abused doesn’t mean we should abandon it. Let God deal with the braggart, but let us not shrink back from boasting in the Lord as to what we do for Him. It just might inspire others to get involved with us and it will keep us accountable so we are not found to be pew-warmers instead of disciples.
It Isn’t Fair
“It isn’t fair! It can’t be right!
I now protest with all my might!
I raise my voice both loud and strong,
It’s wrong, my friend! It’s wrong, it’s wrong.
“It’s wrong, I say, dead wrong, indeed!
That’s why I weep and beg and plead.
It is a black and wicked sin
To keep the light from dying men!
“I plead the cause of men afar,
Unsaved, unloved, untold they are.
Why have we been so late and slow?
Why have there been so few to go?
“Unsaved, unsought and still untold,
Because we love and hoard our gold!
How dare we show such selfish greed?
And keep the truth from men in need?
“Let’s follow Jesus’ last command!
Let’s take the light to every land!
This truth is plain: the need is great.
The time is short; the hour is late!
“Let’s not linger, rest or sleep,
But rise and go and give and weep!
And quickly tell a dying race
Of Jesus’ love and power and grace!
Fred D. Jarvis (June 1984 Pulpit Helps)