Rev. Dr. Stewart Brown takes time to thank God every day. It’s a big part of who he is.
Brown, a Wolfville resident for the past two-and-a-half years, has been the pastor of churches in Toronto, Halifax, southwestern and northwestern Ontario and Edmonton. These days, he works mainly as a consultant and facilitator, hosting seminars and maintaining a website and an online blog.
The author of several books, including the award-winning Majesty in Motion, released in 2009, Brown’s latest book, The Real Welcoming Church: Imitating God, Thinking Like Jesus, has been short-listed for a Canadian Christian Writing Award in the area of Christian instruction.
Though his writing efforts are not about recognition, Brown acknowledged being short-listed for a national award is “gratifying.” He had been “urged by other pastors” to put his thoughts on this particular topic, which is close to his heart, into book form.
Brown was born in Newfoundland and grew up in Toronto. As for how he ended up in Wolfville, he and his wife Sandra moved here, “to be closer to our son, his wife and our five grandchildren, who moved here from Alberta in 2012.” The couple have two other sons living elsewhere in Canada.
The main premise of The Real Welcoming Church is; “we can become a more welcoming church by being more welcoming people, in all aspects of our lives.”
In St. Paul's letter to the church at Ephesus, he urged the people to, “in your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” - in other words, “we have to be 'like God' or 'like Jesus' to others. Even if you don't want to be a friend to me, I can still be a friend to you.”
People in today's society “have a desire to be 'liked',” as evidenced in the popularity of social media platforms such as Facebook. There should, however, also be “a need to be 'loved',” and in the selfless and unconditional way that God loves us.
The book, Brown says, will help people looking for identity, stability in their lives and relationships, love, inner peace and personal value.
Written in an interactive fashion, it is divided into four main sections, entitled 'The Struggling Church,' 'The Godly Church,' 'The Welcoming Church' and 'The Inspiring Church.'
The contents are “prayerfully designed,” and based on years of study into God's word and research into a selection of churches. Over the course of his ecumenical career, Brown has served in, or been associated with, churches of “five different denominations.”
Asked who should read this book or who can benefit from its message, Brown replied, “all Christians, and anyone, of any denomination, with a spiritual connection with their God.” It has the potential to “transform the people in your church and your relationship with them, and theirs with you.
“Allow God to lead you in developing the mind or attitude of Christ within the context of your church's fellowship.” If you are living for God in your life, you will derive personal benefit. “It's your choice.”
In order to get the most out of the book, Brown says in the introduction to first, “be flexible. Be open to new ideas and the truth of God's word presented in new and creative ways.”
Secondly, “be thoughtful. Take time to think about the various parts of this resource. Schedule time to meet as a group (of as few as two people) to plan for your church to truly welcome, enrich and continually inspire visitors as potential fellow brothers and sisters in a shared church mission.”
Thirdly, “be prayerful. You can do nothing of lasting value without God. Since this is His church, seek Him sincerely and fervently about how He wants you, with the Holy Spirit, to use this material.”
Fourthly, “be careful. Change is difficult for many people. Plan wisely, sensitively, and prayerfully as God leads you in developing the mind of Christ. Don't get stuck in neutral, but allow God to change and build you in His way and according to His time.”
Lastly, “be available. The most important truth in this interactive book is God's requirement for a welcoming heart and mindset in you. God's work must be accomplished in God's way, timing and power. With this truth as your foundation, your attitude and availability to God are the keys.”
Brown has a series of seminars scheduled to help further empower people with both the book and his personal mission. As he points out, “the seminars came first, before the book.”
He was scheduled to do a seminar in Halifax May 24-25 on Creating a Welcoming Church Culture. He will be repeating the same seminar June 8 at St. James Anglican Church in Kentville. He also has an upcoming seminar on The Real Welcoming Church, planned for the Baptist church in Billtown.
It is Brown's hope that The Real Welcoming Church will help provide a guide to, “a stronger vision, a more effective evaluation, and a more fruitful strategy in successfully integrating existing members and newcomers into your church family.”
The book is “extremely practical,” he points out. “You need to start in your own home, your own family, then (focus on) your church community, and finally newcomers. Then, when people come in, they'll want to stay without even being asked.”
Copies of the book can be obtained by contacting Brown at email@example.com. They can be ordered online at www.amazon.ca, and should soon be available again at Coles in New Minas. For more information on Brown's ministries, visit his website at www.openheartministries.ca.