In my last article, I described our PAOC Initiative 2020, which calls us to believe that in the year 2020, one per cent of the Canadian population (350,000 people) will find their spiritual home in one of 1,500 PAOC churches across the country. Currently, we have approximately 235,000 Canadians in 1,120 disciple-making communities. In addition, we are trusting God for a similar increase in our expressions of international mission.
Six years ago I wrote a book entitled What I See. In it, I invited our Fellowship to consider what it would look like for us to be a “relationally based mission family.” I remain absolutely convinced that to be effective missionally, we must be effective relationally, whether here in Canada or around the world. It is my conviction that the missional goals of Initiative 2020 are achievable only if we live out the values of a family that is relationally healthy.
What does that require of us now, in 2014, as we move toward 2020 and beyond?
In May and June we honour our mothers and fathers, recognizing the vital role they play in shaping a home and the lives within that home. A healthy family stems from the wholeness of its parenting. Welcoming new “children” into our church families will require spiritual parents who give sacrificially of themselves to see people come to faith and grow. Three hundred and fifty thousand people by 2020 is a pipe dream unless we multiply the number of “moms” and “pops” who will genuinely open their lives to share the good news in word and deed. Like physical parenting, spiritual parenting requires persistence and sacrifice. The goal is to see mature followers of Jesus emerge from the maze of pre-Jesus confusion.
A relationally healthy family also knows how to communicate well. Open, honest and respectful communication leads to a deepening of relationship. It’s how we communicate truth, correct error, and express emotion and life. In the family of God, this means that truth is spoken with love, that we avoid deceit, flattery or destructive speech, and that we value the ability to affirm, correct and instruct one another.
In a PhD level survey of our credentialed leadership, the value that surfaced foremost was that we are a family-based, versus an institutionally based, Fellowship. Included in that value was opportunity for “authentic” conversations. A family that is strongly linked comes to the table. Open, honest, respectful interaction around the family table allows issues to be addressed and values to be reinforced. It also allows for moments of storytelling, tears and laughter that together create a family history.
As a church family, we must keep coming to the table. Part of Initiative 2020 is a commitment to hold “family gatherings” where authentic conversations can take place. At the table we will talk about what principle-based spiritual leadership looks like in Canada today. We will explore ways of creating truth-based, disciple-making church families. Through open dialogue we will address both lifestyle and theological issues as we consider our absolutes, our family convictions, and our personal persuasions.
As I wrote in What I See, issues that face the family of God need to be addressed with scriptural attitudes. These would include: not making it difficult for those turning to God (Acts 15:19); speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15); not judging or condemning (Luke 6:37); not being a stumbling block (Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 8:9); and knowing that everything may be permissible, but that not everything is beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23). My personal conviction, as indicated in the New Testament, is that the standards of those called to be leaders in God’s family generally exceed those established for the corporate body.
My prayer is that in everything we would grow to be more like our Lord. We must become a Pentecostal family that is strong in love, grace, unity and truth. Then, rooted in relationally based unity and empowered by the Spirit, we can share the good news in word and deed with great credibility. Initiative 2020—our vision for spiritual, theological and missional vitality—is completely dependent on our being that type of people.
Pentecostal families, strongly rooted in mature leadership, with the ability to communicate Your Word in a life-giving way—Lord, grant this to us so we may see the transformation we long for in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Amen.
- David Wells, General Superintendent
This article appeared in the May/June 2014 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Visit www.testimonymag.ca.