By Michael Bell
A wise person once said to me: “Be vocal in your encouragement and praise, and be quiet in your criticism.” Too often the opposite is true where church members or parents are vocal in their criticisms and quiet in their praise. I have been attending my church, Mission Baptist, in Hamilton, Ontario, for a little over two years now, and so I thought it was time to list a few things that I really appreciate about the church.
In no particular order:
1. A website that is kept up to date, and has all the key information of the first page. if you were to google “Hamilton Ontario Baptist Church”, you would find us among the first few entries. I am a web developer, and while I am not responsible for the development or maintaining of the website, I appreciate the fact that it is effective and well done. Many of the new people who have come to our church have found it because of the website.
2. A church that, while seeking to be contemporary, has not neglected the traditional. I have had a couple of newcomers comment to me that we still sing some hymns and have a choir that sings during significant times in the church year.
3. A church that was willing to embrace change. The church was founded as a German church, by German speaking Canadians, with German services. They realized that they would have to change if they were going to continue to survive as a church, and change they did. At our recent church retreat, half of the congregation attended (despite the fact that it was a four hour drive), and half of those attending were between the ages of 5 and 17.
4. A church that is welcoming. The church has picked up quite a few families over the last two years. All of them have been warmly welcomed into the church, and I believe feel at home in the church. I appreciate the wide smiles and handshakes I receive on Sunday morning.
5. A church that cares about its students. We are close to a University campus, and the students from the University add a certain vibrancy to the church. I have noted that especially at the start of each semester, the church has made a special welcome to students. The church also provides a lunch for the students once a month.
6. Members who aren’t afraid to share the gospel. While this is not yet what I would call a strength, I like that fact that some of the newest attendees come from a beginner Bible Study that some ladies are running in their neighborhood.
7. A church that supports small groups. For those under the age of 50, there is quite a high involvement in small groups (the older ones still have their own German study). The Pastors and leadership team promote them from the pulpit, and held a small group fair to encourage involvement.
8. A church in which worship music is consistently “well done”. As a former worship leader, I am discouraged when not enough of an effort is put into planning services. At Mission Baptist, the worship team has a philosophy of “If you don’t practice, you don’t play.” I wish more churches would have this philosophy.
9. A church that has very good leaders. Both the Pastors, along with the Elder’s board, are quality people, dedicated to Christ, and are good examples for the rest of us to follow.
10. A church that values both men and women in leadership. I am an egalitarian. This is important to me.
11. A church that believes in a plurality of leadership. There is no “cult of personality” here. Instead the Pastors work in close cooperation with the Elders’ board.
12. A church that is not into legalism. Being followers of Christ is emphasized rather than rules and regulations.
13. In additions to number 12 above, we have a Senior Pastor who believes in: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.” I appreciate the good things he has to say about other denominations.
14. An Associate/Youth Pastor, who leads the youth in meaningful Bible studies, and who isn’t content with “pat answers”, but is willing to explore some of the issues that youth face today.
15. A church that believes in second chances. Our Senior Pastor was divorced a number of years ago. For many churches that would automatically exclude him from ministry. Our church recognized God’s calling and gifting in his life, and was willing to call him as Pastor six years ago, a decision which they have not regretted.
16. A church that supports missions. Constant attention is given to our own missionaries who have gone out from our congregation. Support is also given to those serving at home in full time ministry, as well as those going out on short term mission trips. This is a church that does “Missions” well.
17. A church that encourages further ministry. Along with those ideas stated in the previous point, the church has been very active in encouraging an older youth in our church who is interested in ministry as a Pastor.
18. A church that is multicultural and open to others. Along with the English services, there is a Bible Study in German, and an afternoon service in Spanish. The church facilities are also used weekly by a Korean church, as well as the Navigators campus group. Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship also uses the church from time to time.
19. A church that encourages those in their spiritual gifts. Despite being new to the church, and not yet a member (another story for another time), I have been given opportunities to use my teaching gifts within the church is ways that I probably would not have gotten in other churches.
20. A church that is not afraid of the charismatic gifts. Although the church is not outwardly very charismatic, there is an openness to what the Spirit might want to do, in ways that I have not seen in many Baptist churches.
21. A church with a plethora of volunteers. Having come from some very small churches, it is nice to be able to sit back a bit, and see so many people engaged and active in ministry so that the work load is quite well shared. It is also nice to see so many who are willing to invest time with my children.
22. A church where many work quietly behind the scenes. We have a great group of trustees, who while never very visible, get much done around the church in terms of maintenance and upkeep.
23. A church that assists the less fortunate through its monthly communion offering.
24. A church where youth are actively involved in the ministry of the church.
25. Finally, but certainly at the top in importance, a church where the “good news of Jesus Christ” is preached faithfully.
These are a few of the things that I have come to appreciate about the church. I am sure that I will have more that I will add to the list as they come to mind. All in all though, over the last two years, Mission Baptist has been a pretty wonderful place to be.
What are some of the things you appreciate about your church?