Hebrews 13:8 says that "Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever." With that in mind, it stands to reason that our fresh vision has a vintage feel. The timelessness of God's Word leads to a timeless mission from His Word.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." (Matthew 28:19)
As mentioned in our Purpose, this is the timeless mission from His Word. Our Heavenly CEO takes the human-element out of creating a corporate mission statement. He prescribes our mission for us and it is pretty cut-and-dry, simple and to-the-point. We're called to make disciples of all nations.
In the past, I believe that I have been guilty of elevating our vision over our mission. True, we need to stay true to our vision for being a church family who does an excellent job of discipling children and families. I believe we have done this and done it with excellence. (Shout out to Tawny Douglas who leads our student ministries in a way that honours God and disciples students for eternity.) However, our vision is simply a vehicle to our mission (or purpose.) It's the way in which we accomplish our mission. The whole truth is that there are many churches in our city who are on the same mission! Our vision (to be a church who does an excellent job of discipling children and families) is the "flavour" of NorthRidge. Just as ice cream is ice cream - whether it's chocolate, strawberry or cookie dough - we are simply a flavour of the mission to make disciples in Maple Ridge.
With all that in mind, in 2016 (and - potentially - beyond 2016) NorthRidge will focus on a return to our mission as a priority. For a picture of what this will look like, let's mirror a framework established in Acts 1:8...
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Let's call our Jerusalem, "NorthRidge". What does NorthRidge look like when it's focused on its mission?
NorthRidge meets as the church every Sunday. As a leadership team, (Elders, Council and Staff,) we do everything we can to plan for maximum opportunity for discipleship on a Sunday morning. From our youngest to the oldest, we strive to provide an opportunity to receive what God has to offer every week. By providing focus and minimizing distraction, we're on point when it comes to creating an environment where people can encounter Christ and hear what He has for us today.
The next step is to engage the congregation and call them to partner in the mission to create an opportunity for discipleship. The way this looks is pretty simple: a warm welcome and an authentic invitation into community.
We can do a much better job of providing a warm welcome. It's the Holy Spirit who does the work of calling people to the Father, but (unfortunately) we can be effective "un-doers" when we're closed and self-focused. Simply put, we must be on the lookout for those who are making their first visits to the church. We have to do all we can to work in harmony with the Spirit.
With regards to an authentic invitation, we need to prayerfully consider who God has put into our lives so that we can share the Good News with them. It's an age-old illustration that we have the antidote to eternal death. Shockingly, we withhold that antidote for fear of offense. While this is consistent with our Canadian DNA (not wanting to impose our beliefs on anyone) it is the ultimate selfishness. If you know the truth about how Jesus paid the price so that you can be free from the penalty of sin, you can't keep that truth from them!
As a "family" church who strives to be warm and authentic, we would benefit from practising this throughout the week. Sharing lives in a small group is the best way to activate warmth and authenticity. A part of being family is spending quality (and quantity) time together. Let's make 2016 a year where we connect deeply in small groups.
Looking forward, we need to be committed to a lifestyle of invitation. We need to be sensitive and aware of those that we are in relationship with so that we can be ready to have an answer for the Hope that is within us! (1 Peter 3:15)
Let's call our Judea and Samaria, Maple Ridge and its surrounding communities. What would NorthRidge look like when it's focused on its mission?
There are over 300 people who would call themselves "NorthRidgers". If each of them walked with an understanding of their mission in Maple Ridge, we could change our city for the better... forever. Because we're not in the business of controlling minds and lives, we strategize. :) Strategically speaking, there are some fantastic organizations we partner with in an attempt to be "on mission" in Maple Ridge.
Some time ago, we embarked on a partnership with Youth Unlimited. More recently, this turned into a concrete manifestation of what we want to do in Maple Ridge. NorthRidge sponsors a breakfast program - providing people and finances - which feeds students of Thomas Haney every Friday morning. More than food, these breakfasts are a chance to share lives with kids who might not be getting all they need in their homes. Maureen Floris, Sandra Reilly and Cindy Dangerfield are Youth Unlimited/NorthRidgers who put "feet to their faith" and are meeting the needs of local students. We are committed to partnering this way again in 2016 and look forward to more in the future!
Another thing on our desk for consideration, is a partnership with Hope For Freedom Society. In April 2016, Hope for Freedom will be opening a 25-bed recovery home in Maple Ridge (only 5 minutes away from Thomas Haney.) Kevin McArthur (pictured above) will be pastoring this Phase I recovery home. Kevin's appointment (as a Foursquare pastor) is under the umbrella of NorthRidge, and we're excited about his work with these brave men. I am committed to working with our Elders and Council to make wise decisions about the depth of our potential partnership.
Kevin has recently undertaken the task of overseeing the renovations of our Community Hub. (If you haven't seen it, you've got to drop by. We've been blessed!
When we consider the "ends of the earth", that's a big place. There are seemingly endless opportunities to serve globally. In the past, we have partnered closely with leaders in Costa Rica to serve that country for over a decade. This has been a fantastic partnership due to our strong ties and the quality of the people receiving us and stewarding financial gifts.
Bearing fruit can mean a couple of things... Fruit is good to be harvested and enjoyed. However, even better is when fruit falls, dies, decays and becomes a seedling. Over a decade of relationship with Costa Rica has created some seedlings and we're excited about seeing THEIR fruit overhang into the neighbouring nation of Nicaragua!
Brent and Michelle Ellingson (pictured above) serve as Elders here at NorthRidge. For many years now, their heart as a couple and as a family has been to serve in Costa Rica and its neighbouring countries. Now, Brent and Michelle have heard and answered the call to full-time missionary work in Nicaragua. (Check out their website to learn more about their mission.)
Brent and Michelle will be working under the banner of EMI (Engineering Ministries International) and under the covering of Foursquare Canada in partnership with NorthRidge Church. The way Brent describes the layers of these relationships is quite simple: "EMI will be my job." (A job rich with ministry opportunity.) However, Brent and Michelle are on a parallel mission as missionaries sent by NorthRidge.
The Ellingsons are flying out on Feb.13, 2016. As they settle in, we'll learn more about the specific ways we can support their ministry in Nicaragua. In the meantime, Council has budgeted a deposit into our "missions" account in anticipation of some sort of international project in 2017.
As you can see, this is a lot to think about. However, the hope is that you'll catch the vision that this is all a part of one mission - to make disciples. From a warm, authentic invitation to discipleship on Sundays, to intentional partnerships in our community, to a strategic focus on Nicaragua, NorthRidge is on a mission. We're excited to have you play your part!