May 13, 2021
Thank you for reading this important update from the elders. In these days we remember that God is firmly in control of all things. Someone shared a reading in Ephesians 1 in our Tuesday morning prayer meeting recently, reminding us that God is working, “according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time.” That’s a good word for all of us as we lean in to trust him more in uncertain days. Uncertain for us, but not at all for the Lord who saves us. We hope you’re blessed and encouraged as you read about some of the things that the elders are discussing and working on these days.
The Pandemic, Restrictions, and Vaccines
As this pandemic drags on, we see increased hospitalizations, ICU admissions, variants of concern, and a host of collateral damage to the financial and business health of our country, as well as emotional, relational, and mental health issues. We are also aware, as Christians, that this is driving a wedge within local churches and in the broader church community. Bible-believing Christians, pastors, and churches are finding themselves on opposite sides of a contentious debate about restrictions, vaccines, pandemic politics, and whether the church should have unrestricted freedom to meet in person or not.
Our position has been clear from the beginning of this long pandemic, and we have re-iterated it regularly over the last 15 months:
- We are generally supportive of government measures to curb COVID-19 even if we do not always agree with the decisions that have been made. We understand that we do not have all the information necessary to make these decisions and that we are not experts in economics or epidemiology.
- We have had and will continue to have conversations with government and health unit officials with respect to places of worship being treated equitably in terms of restrictions. On our behalf, our lead pastor has engaged with the medical officer of health, his staff, and our MPPs on several occasions to lobby on behalf of places of worship and specifically to raise the concerns of those who are suffering as a result of restrictions.
- We do not believe that the gospel has been hindered, that churches have been unfairly treated, or that this is in any way to be considered persecution of Christians, pastors, or churches. All things considered, we have had a great year of ministry with conversions, baptisms, and new members joining.
- We have taken a hands-on approach to supporting first-responders, frontline workers in health care, small businesses, and families that have faced financial pressure. We have increased our giving to local partners and have seen greater engagement from our church in terms of assistance and volunteering.
- We hold firmly to the principle that God is at work in the pandemic and that we must not resist his work but discern what he has for us to learn and grow in as Christians and as the church.
- We lament that a small but vocal number of pastors, Christians, and churches have taken a contentious posture toward the government, their own communities, and their fellow Christians by making the pandemic a test of faithfulness to the gospel. Their claim of persecution is offensive to those who truly are persecuted around the world and their accusations of cowardice toward those of us who have complied with the restrictions are disappointing.
So, it follows that with respect to vaccines, we are supportive of government measures to vaccinate as many Canadians as possible. As history has demonstrated, vaccines have provided a quality of life that has been free of some of the devastating diseases that afflicted people prior to and including the 20th century. Medical progress is the end result of using our God-given gifts and intelligence to find solutions to the effects of this sin-marred world we live in. It is the common grace of God. Having said this, we also understand that not all feel comfortable with the vaccines. In addition, some people may have a valid health reason for not receiving a vaccine. If you have specific concerns with the vaccines, we advise you to consult with a physician and not social media. We also want to be clear that there is room in the church for that disagreement. As elders, we are not saying that everyone ought to be vaccinated; the choice remains a personal one and whatever decision a person makes will be respected.
For further reading on this, we recommend:
The voting members of the corporation (Harvest Bible Chapel Barrie), which include the board directors (i.e. the non-vocational elders), our lead pastor, and our emeritus elder, will meet with the finance team, our staff director of finance, and our outside accountants to review the 2020 Financials and then conduct the 2021 Annual General Meeting. All motions required by the government to fulfill the obligations of incorporation will be brought forward and approved at that meeting on Tuesday, June 8.
On Thursday, June 10, at 7 p.m., the members of Harvest Bible Chapel Barrie will be invited to attend the Annual Members’ Meeting to hear reports and presentations by the elders with respect to the financials and other matters of importance. If the stay-at-home orders are not extended to include June 10, this will be a hybrid meeting with in-person attendees (limited by whatever percentage is permitted) and a private livestream for those who choose to remain at home. Otherwise, it will be a private livestream only.
Worship Director Search Update
Pastor Todd is leading the effort to find our next worship pastor/director. A number of applicants have contacted us with their C.V. as a result of our advertising of the role, but only one has caught our attention. That applicant has become our primary (only) candidate and has participated in six meetings to date and many other side conversations with staff and some of our key volunteers. As soon as restrictions allow, we will be providing an opportunity for some of our musicians and vocalists to meet with him to jam. This will allow us to assess his chemistry with our team and his musicianship. Of note, this candidate is from outside of Canada. The extra challenges that this present during a global pandemic are obvious. Please pray that God will continue to lead us and the candidate and his wife as we carry on with the process as it has been laid out.
Given the ongoing pandemic restrictions and the current lack of a worship director, we have paused our drive to plant in Alliston until 2022. We are continuing to set aside funds for this plant and holding out the vision to have a new campus there soon to reach that growing community with the gospel.
The big news since our last update was that we were accepted into full membership with Acts 29 Canada. This makes us part of a diverse global community of church-planting churches. Pastor Todd preached a message on April 25 that laid out exactly what Acts 29 is all about and why we’re so excited to be part of it. If you have been tracking with us over the past four years, you know that this has been a challenging season for our church as we saw the dissolution of our former fellowship and embarked on a lengthy evaluation of our own DNA. Joining Acts 29 represents both the ending of that chapter and the beginning of a whole new one. We’re anticipating the great things that God has in store for us in the days ahead, and we’re grateful for his kindness in leading through the challenging days.
Elder Board Members
We are pleased to let you know that we now have a trial elder at the table. This man completed one of the most thorough elder questionnaires of all time! He will now sit with the elders for a period of not less than three months to assess his suitability to be an elder. It is, in many ways, a lengthy “job” interview. We’re eager to see how God leads in this. We are also open to looking at other candidates. If you have a man in mind who you think would be a qualified elder based on what we read in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-5, please submit a letter of commendation to the elders concerning the man you’re thinking of.
We are glad that Clement Bamikole will be re-joining the board following the Annual General Meeting on June 8. Clem has served as an elder for ten years now and was on his mandatory year off since last June. Clem brings so much to the table and we’re grateful that he has agreed to return to his shepherding role in the church. Continue to pray for Clem and his wife Bimpe, who works as a nurse at Southlake in Newmarket and has felt the weight of being a frontline worker this past year. Clem and Bimpe became first time grandparents recently when their son and daughter-in-law, Peter and Rebecca, delivered a beautiful granddaughter to them! Praise God!
No elders are scheduled for their year off in 2021. It will be great to have the full complement at the table!