How can rebels learn to follow?

Hockey RinkTwo years ago, both of my sons’ hockey teams called themselves the “Abbotsford Rebels.” It caused me to think about how our society values rebellion. In most people’s eyes, those who rebel are more interesting than those who go with the flow; they show spirit and gumption and initiative. Rebels are commended for thumbing their noses at authority because those in charge can’t be trusted; leaders always have their own agenda, and their plans are not in the best interest of the people. North American culture encourages us to be rebels, but then we read the Bible and are confronted with another reality. Scripture identifies rebellion as mankind’s main “problem” and all of us are called, instead, to be good followers: submitting to God first and then to others in authority over us.

In this world which honors rebels we aren’t taught how to follow, so I thought I’d share a few ideas from scripture and from my own experience. We follow better when we …

Remember that God is above every authority. Since God is greater than any person or any institution (1 Peter 3:22), submitting to those in authority over us doesn’t render us powerless, it simply changes our focus. Rather than rebelling, we can pray to the only one who has the power to redeem any situation… that He would change hearts, that He would intervene, that His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven, and that He would refine us in the middle of it all.

Realize that leaders will be accountable to God for how they lead us. They are to keep “watch over [our] souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Hebrews 13:17). This is a big deal and it is a heavy burden for any leader to bear, therefore we are to “let them do this with joy and not with groaning.” (Hebrews 13:17)

Recognize that our own dreams and visions may not be born out of pure motives, and therefore we should always be open to critique from God’s word and from other Christians. God says to Jeremiah, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10)

Relive moments when we have felt the burden of leadership, and support others as we like to be supported. The Northview Women’s Commission is filled with leaders who are opinionated and passionate, who ask good questions and who aren’t afraid to raise controversial issues. However, these women also recognize that because I’m charged with leading this group during this particular time, I have to publicly ‘own’ everything they do and they take this seriously. They make themselves accountable, inform me of any issues which come up, ask for advice, submit to our church’s confession of faith and humbly serve the people of Northview. Their attitude lightens the burden of leadership, and allows me to serve joyfully. I hope that I can do the same for those in authority over me.

Why should we “follow well?” Because “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 4:5b-6).

Blessings on you today,

Kristal Toews
Pastor of Women

A Royal Priesthood and a Holy Nation … in the midst of a teacher’s strike?

School ClosedWriting to Christians who were trying to figure out how to live in the midst of difficult situations and persecution, the apostle Peter repeatedly reminds them of their identity and the hope they have in God’s sovereignty and His ultimate promise of deliverance. In contrast to the people around them who “stumble because they disobey the word” (1 Peter 2:8), Christians are to live differently.…

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

In the surrounding verses, Peter identifies what it looks like to live as priests who proclaim God’s excellencies to the surrounding world. It entails…

  • putting away all malice and deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander (2:1)
  • longing for pure spiritual milk (2:2)
  • coming to Jesus to be built up into a spiritual house (2:4)
  • abstaining from the passions of the flesh which wage war against our souls (2:11)
  • keeping our conduct among the Gentiles honorable so that they may see our good deeds and glorify God (2:12)
  • being subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution (2:13)
  • by doing good, putting to silence the ignorance of foolish people (2:14)
  • living as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil but living as servants of God (2:16)
  • honoring everyone (2:17)
  • loving the brotherhood (church) (2:17)
  • fearing God (2:17)
  • honoring the emperor (2:17)

Our circumstances may not be exactly the same as Peter’s first audience, but we have the same calling to represent and proclaim God. As our local world is immersed in the tension surrounding the teacher’s strike, it has become my prayer that all of us Christians would operate out of our real identity – as royal priests, members of a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession – regardless of what side of the fence we are on. I’d invite you to meditate on these verses with me, and let them shape our words, our thoughts and our actions as we all navigate the coming weeks.

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10).

May we be agents of the mercy we have received.

Kristal Toews
Pastor of Women

4000 Souls…

At the end of June, thirteen of us from Northview attended the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference in Orlando Florida with approximately four thousand other women.   For the plenary sessions all of us were all in one gigantic room.  As I glanced around at the crowd during our times of worship, prayer and bible study the sheer size of the crowd was overwhelming and I thought, “What would it be like to have the responsibility of leading and teaching so many people?”

On the second day at the conference it suddenly dawned on me that I know what it’s like to have this responsibility! At Northview Church, we lead and teach the same number of people on a regular basis – yikes!

This realization was sobering; seeing 4,000 people in one place caused me to feel the size of our congregation in a new way.  As leaders, we are responsible for those in our care. The author of Hebrews reminds his recipients that church leaders “are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Hebrews 13:17). That is a lot of souls.

With this charge and responsibility in mind, I thought I would take the opportunity to ask for prayer for Northview’s elders and pastors:

  • that, like the writer of Hebrews, we would “have a clear conscience, desiring to act honourably in all things.” (Hebrews 13:18),
  • that we would “rightly [handle] the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15),
  • that we would be “kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting … opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:24-25)
  • and that we would “preach the word;  be ready in season and out of season;  reprove, rebuke and exhort with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Will you pray for us?

Kristal Toews
Pastor of Women

 

Interested in hearing more about the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference?

  1. Listen to our podcast!  We recorded a special podcast on the conference with guests Sterling Ray, Nancy Steiger, Rebekah Meeker, Janice Yaskow, and Cecilia Steenkamp.
  2. Listen / Watch all the sessions on-line! All plenary and breakout sessions are free to view at your leisure.
  3. Consider coming along in 2016!

What does a Female Pastor do in a Complementarian Church?

Northview’s leadership structure follows a “complementarian” model.  Both men and women are encouraged to participate in all lay-ministry and pastoral leadership positions with the exception of those which fit the “elder” role (governing church affairs and guarding its teaching) as defined by 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and and Titus 1:7-9.

The biblical framework for this model has been discussed in Northview sermons and podcasts and other resources.  I can direct you to them if you would like but, for the purposes of this brief blog post I thought I would do something different.

What people seem most confused about is how this model “plays out”.  Hearing that Northview has a complementarian structure, people assume that women are not encouraged to lead or to teach.  In my opinion, the best way to dispel assumptions is with facts, and so I spent a few hours analyzing my own time-sheets from September 2013 to April 2014.  The results are depicted below.

Teaching and Preparation – We have approximately 250 – 300 women participating in weekly Bible Studies at Northview.  I spend the majority of my time teaching and preparing to teach.

Leadership Training – We train women to teach the Bible and to lead groups of people.  We attend conferences and seminars and bring other Northview women along to learn, and I also mentor an intern each year.  I participate in the weekly “sermon review” with the other teaching pastors; providing feedback to them, and receiving suggestions for my teaching.  We give each other direction on how we can improve the content and delivery of our presentations

Congregational Leadership – This includes MC’ing weekend services, leading communion, baptizing, baby dedicating, attending and participating in monthly elder meetings, one on one meetings with people in the church and representing Northview at MB Conference events and activities.

Administration (emails etc) – Well that’s self-explanatory!

Consulting with staff – Northview has a large team of pastors, directors and support staff. We meet regularly and as needed as a large group and in smaller teams to plan, problem solve, and serve our congregants.

Special Events – We have a few annual events such as our Imagine Spa, Women’s Retreat etc.

Podcast and Blog – Brandie, Thaleia and I have recently begun the Bonus podcast discussing practical faith questions and applications and, as I have time, I contribute to our blog and facebook posts.

Prayer – We spend lots of time praying with people in the midst of all these activities.  I wasn’t sure how to separate it out, so thought I’d just mention it here at the end.

In addition to these activities, I am encouraged to pursue my own education.  To that end,  Northview is helping to fund my seminary courses at Regent College.

Being a female pastor in a complementarian church like Northview is stretching and challenging.  I have never been more challenged to think hard and well, and to lead others effectively.

If you are a woman, and you wonder how your gifts can be used here, please contact me! What I love most about my job is watching people grow in their faith and abilities as we serve God together.

Kristal Toews

Pastor of Women

 

To all Women on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day are polarizing events.  They focus a spotlight on our intimate relationships;  for some women this is a joyful experience, and for others it is painful.  With this in mind, I hope to cautiously encourage all women as we approach Mother’s Day :-).

From what I have observed in my own life, and in the lives of women I serve and know, it seems that we women tend to tie our identity to relationships.  If we have a husband and children who are “successful” we bask in the glow of other’s admiration and derive our self-esteem from their achievements.  If we are married to someone who doesn’t “measure up” to our ideals or the ideals of our parents, our friends, or our church community, if our children aren’t as smart or outgoing or athletic or dedicated in their faith as we would like, we can go down the opposite path – trying to “get everyone to behave” for the sake of our own image and reputation.

The absence of relationships if we don’t have a husband or don’t have children, can also can make our quest for identity convoluted and rocky.

Regardless of where you land on this spectrum, I believe the need for caution is the same for all women.  We are always tempted to define ourselves by our relationships with other people rather than by our relationship with God.

A variety of circumstances sprinkled throughout my years of marriage and life with kids have made me personally aware of this tendency.  In His grace, God has continually reminded and convicted me that I will only walk truly in line with Him and in harmony with others when my identity is derived from Him.

When I am reminded of who God says I am and what He requires of me, I can enjoy and cheer on friends and family who are doing well, pray for and support those who are struggling, and allow room for people to grow truly in God’s image and grace in His time and through His purposes rather than falsely in response to my self-serving expectations.

Keeping my eyes on Him teaches me to ask, “What are you requiring of me, God, in this time and place?  What do you want me to learn, where do you want me to serve? How can I bring honor and glory to You today?”  This attitude enhances my ability to love and care for those around me while keeping my relationship with God at the center of my vision.

So this Mother’s Day, my encouragement is the same for all women in all circumstances: if you have a great marriage and supportive kids, or if you have a difficult marriage, aren’t married or don’t have children, thank God that your worth is defined by your relationship with Him and ask Him to teach you to love Him and serve Him better.

If you struggle in this area, and want to figure it out come talk to me or Thaleia; that’s what we’re here for.

My prayers are with you this Mother’s Day.

Kristal Toews
Pastor of Women

Anniversaries and Generations

PortraitMarch 12th was my Grandpa’s birthday. On April 11, 2014 it will be 13 years since both my grandfathers passed away suddenly and without warning, within 2 hours of each other. Seven months before that we had buried my grandmother. The milestones of that year stick in my mind.

I have been thinking about these special people a lot lately as the anniversary approaches and as I watch Northview families walk through grief. In my personal bible reading I am slowly praying through the Psalms, and was reminded of my grandparents again today as I read:

O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.  Psalm 71:17-18

As I reflected on these words this morning I thanked God that He has taught me from my youth, and that He gave me grandparents who proclaimed His might to another generation.  None of them were particularly “hip”. They weren’t computer savvy (my grandma spoke with amazement about how we could purchase airplane tickets through the “intercom” :-)), they never learned to email and weren’t “up” on many of our day-to-day realities – the movies or TV shows we were watching or the books we were reading – BUT they were used mightily by God in our lives to proclaim His might. If you attend any class I’m teaching you will likely hear me reference their stories of faith and legacy.

Thinking of them makes me wonder if our generation is carrying on their tradition. In the past few weeks I have heard many times, from many sources, that women and men in my generation and older are shying away from connection with younger people. They feel a bit intimidated, as if they aren’t cool enough. They wonder if they are relevant, or if they have anything to offer. One of my friends spoke with the women’s ministry leader from her previous church who initiated a mentorship program;  20 women signed up – 19 of them were young women wanting to be mentored, and only one woman over the age of 50 volunteered.  Why is that?

With this question in mind, the purpose of this short blog post is to encourage those of you who may be my age (yes I’m 43 :-)) and older to consider the part that God has given you to play in the lives of those in other generations. At Northview Women events and studies there are several older women who participate, but there is always room for more.  Seeing tables of 8-10 people filled representatives from all generations is priceless; each of us has something to offer, whether its advice, time, a listening ear, or stories of God’s goodness and grace in the midst of everyday life.

O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.  Psalm 71:17-18

Blessings on you today,

Kristal Toews
Pastor of Women