Around Town: Lifting High Evangelism, TWU’s president, Birmingham . . .

Pastor Sam Owusu believes reliance on prayer and an understanding of the lostness of those who reject Christ are essential for evangelism.

Two local Christian leaders have recently been featured in Christianity Today – both on the theme ‘Lifting High Evangelism Again.’

Ed Stetzer, who writes The Exchange blog for CT and is known locally for his participation in C2C’s Multiply Conferences, interviewed Sam Owusu, senior pastor of Calvary Worship Centre (CWC) in Surrey (November 20) and Bill Hogg, national missiologist for the C2C Network (November 27).

Following are excerpts from the interviews:

Sam Owusu

From my point of view and my own experience, there are several reasons why evangelism has fallen on hard times.

First, we have only recently emerged from an area of public evangelism in tents and arenas where great harvests have occurred through the ministry of Billy Graham, Luis Palau, Reinhardt Bonnke, etc. We are sometimes focused on the great gifted orator who is able to explain the gospel and call people to repentance.

As good as this has been, we are in danger of creating spectator evangelism where the pastor or evangelist should lead people to Christ rather than believers witnessing to the grace of God in their lives.

Prayer is a key part of my life and the life of our church. I believe the reason evangelism has fallen on hard times is that prayer has fallen on hard times. It is hard to find a prayer meeting in churches these days. Many ask us for the reason why CWC has grown in an area where many churches are dying. I believe it’s because we started as a prayer meeting and we have held on to our passion for prayer, which involves praying for lost people.

We have all night prayer meetings, and every day there are people praying for the needs of our congregation, neighbourhood and nations. Prayer is where we should start because we begin to align ourselves with the heart of God for the nations. The history of the church shows us that a praying church is a revived church and an evangelistic church. People look at what happens on Sunday as people come to Christ, but it is fueled by the prayer meetings during the week. This is our experience.

Finally, I believe that North American Christianity has retreated from speaking about the lostness and eternal destiny of those who reject Christ. Hell is now a subject of much debate even in evangelical circles. We have tried to soften up the gospel and have married the spirit of this age of tolerance and politically correct speech; yet, Jesus is the one who spoke so clearly and authoritatively on hell and heaven.

This is why those of us from other nations who grew up with the simplicity of the gospel are leading the way of no compromise in our proclamation of a gospel that saves and redeems. As Dean Inge said, “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.”

Bill Hogg

Bill Hogg with his wife Morag. He agrees with Sam Owusu, saying: “We have lost the lostness of the lost.”

It’s easy to let evangelism take a back seat. Many churches are content shuffling sheep and luring switchers to their fold rather than catching Jesus’ Luke 15 burden for lost sheep and pursuing and penetrating lostness.

On the whole, we have lost the lostness of the lost. Evangelism by and large is not a passion. It is an afterthought or a hiccup rather than the heartbeat of most churches.

We need to be awakened afresh to the beauty, power and truth of the gospel and invite the Lord to ignite the fires of evangelism.

We need to wake up to the cultural moment we find ourselves in. It can’t be business as usual. James Emory White says, “If you build it, they won’t come!” We are now planting churches and scattering gospel seed in increasingly Post-Christian soil.

With the rise of the Nones and Dones, evangelism must involve gracious and patient explanations and powerful demonstrations of the good news.

Some of our inherited evangelism paradigms don’t serve us well in this moment we find ourselves in. We need to ditch reductionist sales pitch approaches to evangelism.

The gospel could never be tidily reduced to four or five propositions. At best, these approaches were guide rails or perhaps coat hooks on which a thorough, thoughtful exposition of the gospel could be hung.

These approaches shrunk the gospel down to a commodity for mass distribution. Evangelism as per Jesus and his primitive movement was messier and more fluid and adaptive than that. We need to move towards evangelism as an encounter with Jesus.

Over 20 years ago the late Stan Grenz [who taught at Regent College] advocated a “post-rationalistic gospel.” He contended that, “We must make room for the concept of ‘mystery’ . . . as a reminder that the fundamental reality of God transcends human rationality.” Grenz argued that the heart of Christianity is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and that an experience of Jesus is recounted by propositional categorization.

However, “propositions . . . have a second order of importance . . . Our goal in proclaiming the gospel should not merely be to bring others to affirm a list of correct propositions.”

I am increasingly convinced that we need an evangelism that is infused with the power of the Holy Spirit. Does our evangelism make room for mystery? For the Spirit’s leadership and guidance? Are we creating space for and do we have an expectation for demonstrations of the Spirit’s power?

The primitive Jesus movement turned their world upside down because they were empowered and anointed by the Holy Spirit.

Go here and here for the full interviews.

Hogg will be a speaker at the Multiply Conference (“Reclaim the centre, embrace the source, advance the kingdom.”) at Westside Church in Vancouver early next year (February 6 – 7).

Stetzer, Owusu and Hogg will all be taking part in the Amplify Conference (“Our world is in desperate need of the gospel.”) at the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Illinois next summer (June 25 – 26).

TWU’s incoming president

Dr. Mark Husbands will take over from Bob Kuhn next summer as president of Trinity Western University.

Trinity Western University announced December 6 that Dr. Mark Husbands has been selected as the university’s fifth President. He will succeed Bob Kuhn July 1, 2019. Following is part of TWU’s news release:

Husbands comes to TWU from Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa where he serves as Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Prior to joining Northwestern’s administration, he was the Leonard and Marjorie Maas Chair of Reformed Theology and Director of the Emmaus Scholars Program at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. His experience also includes six years as Assistant Professor of Theology at Wheaton College in Chicago, Illinois, and two years at Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto, Ontario, where he taught theology and directed its extension education and summer school. . . .

By July, Bob Kuhn will have served as TWU President for six years. Following his presidency, Kuhn anticipates returning to Kuhn LLP to practice law part-time, as well as continuing with writing and speaking engagements and consulting on special projects.

Go here for the full release.

Birmingham recalled

Admittedly, Birmingham is not ‘Around Town,’ being in the middle of England. But I have reasons, weak ones, for including it here.

First, I promised to write about the fourth leg our my recent trip, but I am running out of space (I already have three other stories this week) and time (this will be my last weekly update until the new year). Second, I did find some significant local connections while there.

So, please consider this brief piece the fourth of four vignettes from the 40th anniversary trip Margaret and I took to ArmeniaGeorgia, Malta and England earlier this fall. Apart from a couple of days in London, we spent the English portion of our trip in Birmingham. I’ll just focus on three experiences:

1. New Parish Conference

Sally Mann and her husband run a very active church/community in London. She was in Vancouver meeting with Alan Roxburgh this summer.

One of the main reasons for going to Birmingham was to take part in the New Parish Conference. If the name sounds familiar, tha’s because its sponsor, Parish Collective holds regular Inhabit Conferences in Seattle, several of which I (and many other Vancouverites) have attended.

But there have also been Parish Collective gatherings in this area (at Southside Church in Surrey and St. Andrew’s Hall (VST) at UBC). Also key local community leaders such as Karen Reed, Barry Jung and Trixie Ling are closely connected to the movement.

Conference organizers invited us to “Join a movement of communities across the UK and around the world who are reimagining what it means to be God’s people in the places we live.”

A pleasant surprise was getting to know two close colleagues of Alan Roxburgh, author and founder / consultant with The Missional Network, who lives in North Vancouver.

Martin Robinson, principal of ForMission College (which co-sponsored the New Parish Conference) has teamed up with Roxburgh in at least two major efforts: they are both lead editors of the Journal of Missional Practice and are co-authors of the brand new book Practices for the Refounding of God’s People.

Sally Mann is part of the editorial team for the Journal of Missional Practice and met with Roxburgh here in Vancouver this summer. She spoke two or three times at the conference about her unique involvement with Bonny Downs Baptist Church in the east end of London. She is the fifth generation in her family to worship at that church in East Ham.

She and her husband Dave began pastoring the church in 1997 and after moving to a sister congregation are now overseeing both. Years ago their small church of about 30 people created a community group which now has 100 employees. It’s a stirring story (see the accompanying video or go to two Journal of Missional Practice stories here and here).

In a valuable workshop she explored the fact that over the years the church became more churchy and the community group grew more leery of church involvement. That grieved the Manns, so they are now working – with some success – to draw them back together.

2. Newbigin House

Newbigin House is a real community centre.

Margaret and I stayed for the better part of a week at Newbigin House in the Winson Green neighbourhood of Birmingham. Our hosts were Ash and Anji Barker, who are a remarkable couple. I first met them in 2004 when Ash gave a couple of us a tour of his neighbourhood in the Bangkok slum Klong Toey, where they lived with their two children for 12 years. (We had all just attended the Lausanne Movement’s Forum for World Evangelization in Pattaya, Thailand.)

A couple of years ago, after a short time back in their native Australia, they moved as “pioneer ministers” to one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Britain, with a high proportion of new immigrants, including many Muslims. They once again began working and worshiping with their neighbours. The Church of England asked them to move into Newbigin House to run it as a community centre.

I cannot do justice to the work they and their team are doing, but here are some of the things we saw evidence of:

* Flavours of Winson Green:

“A social enterprise involving community members from different backgrounds and social groups using cooking as the method to interact.” It is very similar to our local Flavours of Hope.

Margaret took part in evening in which a couple who are refugee claimants demonstrated to a class of 20 how to prepare a three course Afghani / Pakistani meal. Participants made, ate and enjoyed their meals, while learning something of the plight of refugees in their midst.

* The Real Junk Food Project Birmingham:

“TRJFP Brum has been operating since 2014 – rescuing over 15 tonnes of waste food and serving over 2,000 meals every month.”

A ‘super volunteer’ from Newbigin House invited Margaret to a local Anglican church where a chef used ingredients he had “ordered” to produce an interesting and tasty soup, salad, main dish and dessert, all offered for “whatever you can pay.” A ‘waitress’ – the woman who invited Margaret – stepped in as soon as she realized they were short-handed and took everyone’s order.

Alpacas hanging around the back door of Newbigin House.

* Alpacas for hire

Animals are also available for hire, for events and parties. Newbigin House workers and volunteers walk a couple of alpacas to and from the local school, especially along a nearby street pejoratively dubbed Benefits Street in a TV special because of the number of asylum seekers and refugees living on benefits (government support).

As Anji said on a Songs of Praise special about Newbigin House (go here to watch the seven-minute video), “We find that walking them to and from school is a great way to meet the neighbours and it’s really good for breaking down barriers with kids who don’t speak any English as well.”

* Soho Albion Football Club:

Ash Barker enjoyed the West Bromwich Albion / Leeds United game.

Ash is director of the Soho Albion Football Club. He said:

I lived and worked in Bangkok for 12 years and saw there how football could bring people together. I moved to Winson Green and realized there was no football club here, we met Steve [Hopcroft] and we connected really quickly. We dreamed that football could be that galvanizing catalyst for relationships and we’re really looking forward to seeing some of our boys progress.

I was fortunate enough to attend a Champions League game between West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United with Ash and Kurdish-born Soho Albion general manager Isaac Waladbaigi.  Great to hear about their love for football and for the young people of their neighbourhood.

There is much, much more to be said about Ash and Anji Barker – not only related to several other local initiatives, but also to their teaching and training around Britain, and their international work (Red Letter Christians with Shane Claiborne, Tony Campolo, etc; Urban Shalom Society; books, most recently Slum Life Rising); and more).

Ash and Anji haven’t been to Vancouver yet, in all their travels; but we’ve invited them, and hope they’ll take us up on it.

3. Tolkien’s bog

On the Tolkien Trail in Moseley Bog.

For a change of pace, we took a day trip to Moseley Bog, south of the city centre. J.R.R. Tolkien grew up in the area, and it is not hard to see this influence of the landscape on his writing.

An article in The Telegraph on Sites that shaped Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings included this:

The darkness creeps up on you in Moseley Bog. Even during the daytime, you can’t see much sky through the rotting canopy of branches, so the onset of dusk is for the most part indiscernible.

Once in the grip of evening, the bog takes on a more sinister personality. And you understand what JRR Tolkien meant when he wrote: “The trees do not like strangers. They watch you. They are usually content merely to watch you, as long as daylight lasts.” He was writing, in Book One of The Lord of the Rings, about the mysterious Old Forest, haunt of the ageless Tom Bombadil. But the woodland that inspired this description was Moseley Bog, the shadowy marsh behind the house where Tolkien lived as a small boy.

That house was 264 Wake Green Road. Like the bog, it forms part of Birmingham’s little-known Tolkien Trail, which takes you to landmarks the author used in his books, including the Two Towers – of Edgbaston, not of Middle Earth.

The sun was shining brightly on the day we wandered through Moseley Bog, but the woods were quiet, and we had no trouble at all imagining we were walking along with Bilbo Baggins.

I will take a few weeks away from Church for Vancouver. Merry Christmas! – see you in the new year.

December 13, 2018

Mending Time – December 13, 2018 - December 19, 2018 at All Day
Timberline Country Christmas – December 13, 2018 - December 19, 2018 at All Day
musica intima: Ding Dong! in East Vancouver – December 13, 2018 at 8:00 am - 10:00 am
A Classical & Inspiring Christmas – December 13, 2018 at 9:30 am - 11:30 am
Film Screening: For the Love of God – December 13, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe by Ron Reed – December 13, 2018 - December 29, 2018 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

December 14, 2018

Divine Radiance: Annual Christmas Concert – December 14, 2018 - December 16, 2018 at All Day
Good Tidings! A Good Noise Gospel Christmas – December 14, 2018 at All Day
Singing Christmas Tree – December 14, 2018 - December 16, 2018 at All Day
Music in the Morning: Pedja Muzijevic – December 14, 2018 at 11:30 am - 1:00 pm
Music in the Morning: Pedja Muzijevic – December 14, 2018 at 11:30 am - 1:00 pm
A Joyful Christmas, presenting Nicol Matt from Germany – December 14, 2018 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

December 15, 2018

Dundarave Festival of Lights: World Christmas – December 15, 2018 at All Day
Good Tidings! A Good Noise Gospel Christmas – December 15, 2018 at All Day
Singable Saturdays: Messiah Edition – December 15, 2018 at 10:00 am - 12:30 pm
North Shore Community Christmas Dinner – December 15, 2018 at 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Christmas Dinner Theatre – December 15, 2018 at 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Coastal Church: Christmas Grand Services – December 15, 2018 - December 16, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Messiah in the Valley – December 15, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

December 16, 2018

Musicking at Brentwood Presbyterian: Fall 2018 (several dates) – December 16, 2018 - December 24, 2018 at All Day
Chantez Noel – December 16, 2018 at 2:30 pm - 5:00 pm
musica intima: A Christmas Story – December 16, 2018 at 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Blue Christmas Service – December 16, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Christmas Tales – December 16, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Dude, You Hear What I Hear? – December 16, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Christmas Presence – December 16, 2018 - December 18, 2018 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

December 17, 2018

Good Tidings! A Good Noise Gospel Christmas – December 17, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

December 18, 2018

Christmas Tales 'Let's Give Them Hope' Fundraiser – December 18, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
musica intima: A Christmas Story – December 18, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

December 19, 2018

Christmas Tales – December 19, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Blue Christmas – December 19, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Jazz Evensong (Wednesday evenings) – December 19, 2018 at 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

December 20, 2018

Blue Christmas – December 20, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
musica intima: Ding Dong! on the West Side – December 20, 2018 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
musica intima: Ding Dong! on the West Side – December 20, 2018 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
musica intima: Ding Dong! on the West Side – December 20, 2018 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
musica intima: Ding Dong! on the West Side – December 20, 2018 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

December 21, 2018

Carols on Carrall Street – December 21, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Christmas Carol Service – December 21, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Two from Galilee – December 21, 2018 - December 22, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
musica intima: A Christmas Story – December 21, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

December 22, 2018

Sing-along Messiah – December 22, 2018 at 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Vancouver Canata Singers: Christmas Reprise XVI – December 22, 2018 at 2:00 pm - 3:15 pm
Ember – December 22, 2018 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
CeleBirth: New Life Christmas Concert – December 22, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Vancouver Cantata Singers: Christmas Reprise XVI (New West) – December 22, 2018 at 7:30 pm - 8:45 pm

December 24, 2018

Jesus' Birthday Party for Children – December 24, 2018 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

December 25, 2018

Hope & Love 4 U: December 25th Christmas Edition – December 25, 2018 at 9:30 am - 1:30 pm

December 30, 2018

DTES Churches Joint Gathering – December 30, 2018 at 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Jazz Vespers @ St. Andrew's United Church – December 30, 2018 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

December 31, 2018

Celebrate New Years Eve 2019 with Worship Invasion. – December 31, 2018 - January 1, 2019 at 9:30 pm - 12:30 am

January 2, 2019

Book Sale – January 2, 2019 at All Day

January 5, 2019

Kairos Course – January 5, 2019 at 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
OMF Day of Prayer – January 5, 2019 at 9:00 am - 3:30 pm
Feast of Carols – January 5, 2019 at 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

January 13, 2019

Jazz Vespers: Karen Graves & Mimosa – January 13, 2019 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

January 15, 2019

Open House: Surrey Christian School (Fleetwood Campus) – January 15, 2019 at All Day
Open House: Surrey Christian School (Secondary Campus) – January 15, 2019 at All Day

January 16, 2019

Robert Mann: Science & Faith – Are They in Conflict? – January 16, 2019 at 12:30 pm - 1:20 pm
Professor Robert Mann: The Multiverse, Science & Theology – a Critical Inquiry – January 16, 2019 at 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Eve Leader: Through a Glass Darkly – Opening Reception – January 16, 2019 at 4:30 pm - 7:30 pm

January 17, 2019

Open House: Surrey Christian School (Cloverdale Campus) – January 17, 2019 at All Day
Robert Mann: Reflections on Science & Faith – January 17, 2019 at 11:45 am - 1:15 pm
Almost Silent Retreat – January 17, 2019 - January 19, 2019 at 7:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Robert Mann: Time and Eternity – January 17, 2019 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

January 18, 2019

Missions Fest 2019: Mission: Discipling – January 18, 2019 - January 20, 2019 at All Day
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – January 18, 2019 - January 25, 2019 at All Day
Creation Care: Have We Gone Too Far, Or Not Far Enough? – January 18, 2019 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Dr. Hugh Ross – January 18, 2019 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Watoto Children's Choir: We Will Go – January 18, 2019 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

January 19, 2019

Watoto Children's Choir: We Will Go – January 19, 2019 at 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

January 20, 2019

Taizé Contemplative Service – January 20, 2019 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Watoto Children's Choir: We Will Go – January 20, 2019 at 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Service – January 20, 2019 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

January 21, 2019

Open House: BC Christian Academy – January 21, 2019 at 9:30 am - 12:30 pm

January 22, 2019

Inklings Institute of Canada: 'Are Women Human?': Dorothy L. Sayers – January 22, 2019 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

January 23, 2019

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Service – January 23, 2019 at 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Watoto Children's Choir: We Will Go – January 23, 2019 at 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Book Launch Lecture: Craig Gay – Modern Technology & the Human Future – January 23, 2019 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Jazz Evensong: Susannah Adams – January 23, 2019 at 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

January 24, 2019

Scott Cormode: Recalibrating the Church for Today's World – January 24, 2019 at 9:30 am - 11:30 am
Apostles' Creed Chapel Series: Dr. Harry Maier – January 24, 2019 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Dawn Pemberton: Etta James – A Soulful Sunday: Live at the Left Bank – January 24, 2019 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

January 25, 2019

Kairos Course (three weekends) – January 25, 2019 at All Day
Delta Christian School Open House – January 25, 2019 at 9:00 am - 10:00 am
Watoto Children's Choir: We Will Go – January 25, 2019 at 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Lauren Mann – January 25, 2019 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Paul Brandt 'The Journey Tour' with High Valley – January 25, 2019 at 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Ask Me Anything: The Problem of God Forum – January 25, 2019 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
For the Journey Retreat with Steve Bell – January 25, 2019 - January 26, 2019 at 7:30 pm - 3:00 pm
Bentall Taylor Ulrich – January 25, 2019 at 8:00 pm - 10:30 pm
Love & Mercy: Presenting Eric Lichte from Portland / Vancouver – January 25, 2019 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

January 26, 2019

St. Thomas Aquinas Festival – January 26, 2019 at 9:30 am - 4:00 pm
Watoto Children's Choir: We Will Go – January 26, 2019 at 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Ember – January 26, 2019 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Worship Invades 2019 – January 26, 2019 at 7:30 pm - 10:00 pm

January 27, 2019

Jazz Vespers @ St. Andrew's United Church – January 27, 2019 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Jazz Vespers: Dave Guinea Swing Band – January 27, 2019 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Watoto Children's Choir: We Will Go – January 27, 2019 at 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Steve Bell in Concert – January 27, 2019 at 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

1 comment for “Around Town: Lifting High Evangelism, TWU’s president, Birmingham . . .

  1. Jayden Johnson
    December 15, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Insightful thoughts on evangelism.

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