March 13th, 2007
Dear Search Committee:
Greetings in Christ. This letter is to request your prayerful consideration of our profiles.
Charlene and I have been in ministry together since 1991. We share all ministry equally although each of us has different strength areas.
Over the past couple of years, the Lord has laid on our hearts a renewed passion for those who are not coming to church...specifically youth and adults between the ages of 25-55.
As a general rule, the Presbyterian Church has lost its touch in this demographic, and as they represent the future of a strong and vibrant church, we cannot allow this lack of impact to continue if the church is to prevail.
Charlene and I have become convinced that reaching these people again for Christ and his Church is possible, but it will involve significant focus, a willingness to change on everyone’s part, and a great deal of prayer.
It seems apparent that people are staying away from our churches because they no longer connect with our traditional services of worship. What is also true though is that people today are searching and are open to coming to church, yet since they do not connect to the service of worship, they do not stay.
We have become convinced in our hearts, and our beginning efforts have proven to us, that if we can change our format of worship, we can connect the gospel of Christ in new ways to new generations. Change is difficult because it means if we are going to reach new people for Christ, we are going to have to learn to use the “worship language” that connects them to the gospel. We believe that through the creative use of the Arts (i.e. Drama), contemporary music, relevant sermon series that call people to open their hearts to Christ’s call, and the judicious use of new technologies, we can have vibrant, engaging and meaningful worship services that will allow both “seekers” and members to worship together.
In many ways, though the “position” of the church in society has moved far from its once held heights, people are more receptive today to hearing about Jesus than they were just 30 years ago. For churches that are open to stretching themselves in new ways for the sake of Christ’s gospel, it is an exciting time to be in ministry. In many places, changes are being embraced and new visions are becoming reality, and the gospel of Christ is reaching entirely new generations, and we are excited by the opportunities that this new day presents.
We thank you for your consideration of our profiles and wish you God’s deepest blessings in your search for a new minister.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. John Wilson
Rev. Charlene Wilson
All skills listed below are used in pastoral and diaconal ministries, but each person has special gifts and particular interests. Rank in order of priority from 1 to 18 -- 1 to 6 being the areas you most wish to exercise.7 Administration (Managing the affairs of the congregation and other organizations)
All skills listed below are used in pastoral and diaconal ministries, but each person has special gifts and particular interests. Rank in order of priority from 1 to 18 -- 1 to 6 being the areas you most wish to exercise.14 Administration (Managing the affairs of the congregation and other organizations)
Leadership in Christ’s Church has often been confused with management. The two concepts are not the same. Leading is difficult work, especially so in a volunteer organization. Leadership involves the continuing process of capturing Christ’s vision for the forward movement of His Church, and effectively communicating this vision to the people of His Church. This means continually looking to God for direction and being open to change so that the church can fulfill the role of being God’s messengers of the gospel.
Charlene and I have always worked with a “team concept” in our understanding of leadership. We believe in the absolute necessity of a strong Session where members are open to personal growth in their own faith and individually and corporately committed to leading the congregation into the full measure of Christ’s grace and power for mission to this world. Sessions must model leadership. They do this best not by micro managing every detail of the church, but by intentionally, with prayer and vision, setting the overarching template for ministries within the church, and then allowing members to move forward with the specific vision, dreams, and gifts that God has given them. This model encourages the movement of the Holy Spirit throughout the whole people of God, and bonds everyone together in the mission of the church.
Leadership is not inherent to our human nature, it can be, and it must be learned. To that end we seek to empower all people to grow in their gifts of leadership. We must be open to allowing people to make “excellent mistakes”, efforts in ministry that may or may not work. A spirit of trial and error is absolutely necessary for effective leadership and ownership in any program. Once this template of leadership is “owned by the people”, the spirit of hope and imagination grows.Pastoral Care
Over the years that Charlene and I have ministered together our understanding of pastoral care has changed. While each of us has been given the gifts of “presence, sympathy and compassion” to minister to people in distress and trouble, we recognize and deeply appreciate that in the Presbyterian Church we share the pastoral oversight with ordained elders, themselves gifted and called to exercise pastoral care for the people we serve.
Yet our understanding has been further challenged and shaped by our theology of the “Priesthood of all believers” and the practical knowledge that not even ministers and elders together can really adequately fulfill the mandate of providing effective and transformational pastoral care to the congregation and community.
What we have come to appreciate is that God intends all of his people to minister in love to one another in Christ and to attain the full stature of their “Priesthood”.
We therefore see pastoral care as the shared ministry of the community of faith.
Over the last three years at St. Stephen’s, we have led the congregation into a Lay Pastor’s program. The fruits of this ministry of pastoral care, now shared by a growing number of dedicated lay people, have been most encouraging. We have seen the Lay Pastor’s program grow and become deeply appreciated by both the giver and receiver. The program has had its greatest support and success with those who are sick or elderly.
This year, we began some small groups. Though the main goal of our groups was educational, we quickly realized how such groups could also become part of a pastoral care program. As we spent time eating and discussing our faith together once a week for twelve weeks, we became friends on a deeper level. We found that a deeper sense of community was being developed when we shared life’s ups and downs and prayed for one another. Everyone looked forward to this time that we spent together in a small group. It did not replace worship on Sunday morning but it really enhanced it because those from the group had a greater connection with some people as they joined together in worship on Sunday morning.Preaching and Leading Worship
Worshipping our Lord and hearing His word for us, should become for all of us the high point of our week and central to our Christian faith. This is where the Christian community comes together to express their devotion to God and Charlene and I take very seriously our preparations for each and every service of worship. Since our Reformed tradition teaches that “the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God”, we must devote ourselves to the Scriptures and prayer, so that we may bring forward a fresh Word from our Lord to his people.
In Worship, we must provide appropriate ways for us to express our love and devotion to our Lord. We also must provide opportunities for God to speak to us, to touch our hearts, and to move us forward in our growth in the Christian life.
Worship is a dynamic opportunity to express our love for God. We need to recognize that worship styles, including music styles, need to be open to variety and creativity so that all can hear and connect with the message which is being given. Sincere loving discernment and gentleness in Christ must be the norm by which we approach variety and change in worship, yet change we must. We believe that there exists today in our culture incredible opportunities for renewed contact with younger generations which are presently absent from our communities of faith. We must make sure that our worship services are not barriers to people having an opportunity to hear and respond to the eternal message of Christ. The Church today must be open to exploring new forms of communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ to new generations through relevant, contemporary music and the creative use of the Arts, and technology. Worship on Sunday mornings is the place that people come to find out about the Christian faith. It is one of our outreach tools as well as our own meeting place.
Charlene and I bring different gifts to worship and to our preaching. Congregations have appreciated the diversity between us and the gifts that we bring together in the worship of our Lord. Further, the ability to share our preaching load has offered us the ability for “downtime” between sermons. The ability to alternate Sundays, ensures that we are mentally refreshed and ready to approach the Scriptures to hear God’s Word for the coming week.Evangelism
The Presbyterian Church in Canada finds itself today in a new context in this country and in our communities. One no longer can assume people know who Jesus is or what He has done for us and for this world. In many ways, the Presbyterian Church in Canada finds itself in many of the same circumstances as the Early Christian church of the first century. Our mission front is no longer in foreign lands, it is right in our neighbourhoods. The opportunities for evangelism are quite numerous. People are increasingly more open to talking about issues of faith and to hearing about Jesus. Our challenge is to learn how to share our faith in this new context. What we need to believe as Presbyterians is that we actually have a strong foundation as our starting point. We need to realize that people actually want to hear about our Reformed expression of the Christian faith. They are willing to hear if we are willing to risk talking.
Archbishop Carey once said that “mission and evangelism must form a seamless robe, so that we cannot tell when one stops and the other begins”. What that means to us is that when we engage in mission work and service work we must feel free to let people know that we’re doing it because Christ has done so much for us! We also know that when we engage in faith sharing, we need to be able to assist in helping people live the abundant life that Christ promises to all. There are so many desperate people in our communities looking for that abundant life and not finding it in their marriages, or with their children, or in their work place. We need to realize that in Christ we have something of vital importance to offer them.Education in the Church
The path which Christ asks us to follow as disciples is not easy or straight forward, though it is rewarding. The Christian faith is not a set of rules to which one must adhere, but a life of discernment and learning of what it means to have Jesus Christ living in us, and us in Him. Christian education opens up for us the Bible’s rich texts and ancient stories which still speak to us today. A worship service cannot provide enough teaching space for all of the interesting and important theology that is in this sacred God-inspired text.
Too often people think of Christian education as the time for children to learn about the Bible. However, they forget that the Bible is not a children’s book. It was written by adults for adults. If Christians stop reading the Bible as adults, they miss understanding the astounding love and incredible forgiveness God has for each person as they turn their face toward Him in times of trouble and despair as well as in times of joy.
As we grow older, we come to appreciate the depth and riches of the Scriptures. The stories that we valued as a child, are not likely the verses that spoke to us when we were teenagers, and are not now the ones that we need as adults. God continually speaks to us, as we grow up, and as we grow in our faith through His word.
Christian education happens in a variety of ways in a variety of places. John and I were both influenced by Christian camping as children and have seen first hand the influence this continues to have on children, teens and all others who participate. As Directors of Huron Feathers Presbyterian Centre and as participants in the Board of Gracefield Camp and Conference Centre, we have been highly involved with youth and mission in Christian camping.
As well as increasing pastoral care, small groups models also have the added benefit of providing a convenient opportunity for Christian education. As we build community among each other and practise hospitality in our homes, we enjoy opportunities to grow our faith through Scripture study, book discussions, or DVD programs (Charlene and I have found this quite popular with people). We have seen that hosting a small group in a home has a much different feel than hosting it at the church. In the home, a small group takes Christian faith into one’s everyday life. Those attending the small groups have appreciated the ability this has provided for them to deepen their interpersonal relationships with their brothers and sisters in Christ even as they further their growth in faith and life.
The Christian church is a unique place where people of all ages create a community and learn together what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ. Christian education plays an important role in making this happen effectively so that everyone individually and collectively can experience the richness of God’s love in their life.