New Wine Calls for New Canadian Churches!
GUEST EDITORIAL – Tim Kernan
“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine will burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” Mark 2:22 NLT
I will never forget how the Spirit guided me to meet with Kip at 7AM at Starbucks beside the Ambridge Event Center in 2004 at the first Portland Missions Jubilee. About a year prior, our congregation in Montreal had been devastated by the sinful rebellion of 2003 that had taken the once magnificent ICOC back to its Mainline Church of Christ theology. After attempting to reach out to other churches in what was left of the ICOC and receiving no response, let alone direction, Lianne & I reached out to Kip & Elena in Portland, as it was already the fastest growing church in the ICOC in 2004. I was amazed that Kip put his number on the website and when I called and left a message, Kip phoned me right back a few hours later! He invited Lianne & me to the Jubilee and the church graciously and warmly welcomed us as family… As I heard the singing that first night at the Jubilee, my spiritual amnesia about God’s desire for a glorious church quickly dissipated as the “new wine” of a “sold-out commitment” once again began to flow through my veins.
That day at Starbucks immediately following my first sip of Verona, Kip opened the Scriptures with me and shared his clear and unapologetic vision. It was so good to “hear and feel” Kip’s faith to gather the remnant, his zeal to evangelize the nations, and his passion for God’s honor. Through that talk and Kip’s lesson at the conference – A Great Light Has Dawned – I was heartbroken to come to realize that most in the ICOC, including myself, had abandoned living the life of a disciple. Likewise, I was so convicted that I had passively chosen to abandon the Lord’s call to evangelize the nations in our generation. (1Timothy 2:3-4) As well, shamefully, we had rebelled against the central leadership with a central leader that gave us unity and direction, because we wanted to have “our own kingdom” which could only be attained by sinful autonomy. After Kip’s lesson, I saw that the solutions were not complicated: I needed to return to God with all my heart; call all others to do the same; and then be willing to withstand the “persecution by Christians” that would come in the form of being “put out of the synagogue.” (John 16:1-2)
Lianne & I were so excited to once again embrace the Biblical truths that we had learned as younger disciples and that had propelled the Boston Movement (ICOC) from one nation to 171 nations in just 22 years! After the Portland Jubilee, I returned to Canada with hope of bringing revival to my cherished Montreal Church. To my excitement the leadership of the church received the “new wine” with joy at first. However, as tensions mounted between the few that wanted to be “sold-out” and the many that embraced the broad path of Mainline traditions, I came to see that my faith was being compromised and the congregationwas in upheaval. Again, Jesus was so right, that when “new wine” is put into “old wineskins” (traditional churches) “the wine [will] burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins [will] both be lost.” So as not to “be lost,” Lianne & I “fled for our spiritual lives” to Toronto to begin a church of only sold-out disciples – “new wine calls for new wineskins.” The right idea, but I wasn’t trained…
Indeed, it was in Toronto that “my story” really begins as I was born there on June 11, 1976 into a large extended Irish-Catholic family. In many ways I thought I had the perfect family. My mother was a teacher and still is the model of elegance, refinement and professionalism. My father is a scholar with seven degrees including a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Paris – Nanterre. It was in this cultured environment that as a child, I began to dream of entering politics and perhaps becoming Prime Minister of Canada… But God had other things for me to see and do.
At 12 years old, it completely winded me to find out that there had been serious, ongoing child abuse by my adored father and that my parents were suddenly getting divorced. This was my introduction to the inhumanity, mercilessness and deprivation of evil. I am grateful that God guided me through these traumatic events, though I didn’t yet know Him. After the divorce, my mother did her best to raise my sister and me, but I was in uncontrollable pain. In fact, that year I failed my classes in school and began to “binge drink” on weekends with friends. Realizing my need for structure and discipline and earnestly wanting to make the world a better place, at 13 I joined the Army Cadets… And then at 17, I enlisted in the Canadian Army. Still an idealist, I saw this as a higher calling of sacrifice in order to protect others. That being said, I became more and more disillusioned.
Upon being honorably discharged at age 21, I was extremely encouraged to be accepted into the Political Science Program at the prestigious Concordia University in Montreal. Although I never believed that the military was going to solve the world’s problems, I became hopeful that laws and policies could. Though I am grateful for my seven years at Concordia, I saw that for most, education was simply a path to become rich. This led to another bout of disillusionment which was far worse than any previous and where I lost any sense of idealism. I took a job as a bartender and club promoter and began to indulge in gross immorality, drunkenness and drugs. I quickly made the wrong friends. Within a couple of years, everything that I said I would never do, I did… And countless lives were destroyed because of my grievous sins. The Bible talks about my life as simply, “ever-increasing wickedness.” (Romans 6:19) It culminated one night at the club as I came within seconds of literally committing murder. The pressure of the guilt and fear of seeing the direction of my life was so crushing that the next night I crawled out of bed and prayed on my knees in tears, “God teach me how to worship you.” It was all I could think of to say.
Amazingly the very next day, God sent a young man named Kobi Anderson who reached out to me in between classes… And I turned him down! As a former Catholic, I didn’t think “church” was the solution. Thankfully, God put on Kobi’s heart to persist with me. And after he invited me two more times, I finally agreed to attend his church barbeque… After all, there would be food! Upon arriving there, I was immediately struck by the energy of the church and the obvious love the disciples had for each other. I instinctively knew that I was finally among men and women who could help me. Just two weeks later on June 21, 2001, I was baptized into Christ and His glorious church by two amazing disciples – Kobi Anderson and Ghislain Norman! Over the course of the next two years, the Lord gave me the honor of leading the entire English-speaking half of the Montreal ICOC. Not only that, I was also becoming a “closer friend” with a very beautiful and spiritual young lady named Lianne Brown! As we were both Concordia University students, I would seek her out in the University Café… Of course, this was to help her in her studies! I distinctly remember stumbling over my words and becoming beet-red on one particular occasion. All I remember is that Lianne said, “Yes!” She’d love to be my girlfriend… And then she gave me a hug!
Lianne’s father – also a disciple – had begun to play a greater role in my life. In fact, he became my discipler! I suspect to this day that he must have read the Chinese General Sun Tzu’s book The Art of War. Sun Tzu teaches “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” Mr. Brown I think applied it “keep your church friends close, and your daughter’s boyfriend closer!” Mr. Brown and I spent hours at Tim Horton’s Coffee Shop. He told me the story of our movement and God’s dreamof an evangelized world. As a part of the mission team that planted the Montreal Church, Mr. Brown infused in me the godly principles that started the ICOC Movement and directed me to read such books as The Master Plan of Evangelism. Perhaps the pinnacle of my early discipleship life came after just two months of being a Christian when I attended the Pass The Torch Conference in Toronto. It was amazing to see thousands of Canadian disciples together in unity. Sadly in 2003 because many people did not have a “Mr. Brown” in their life, when our Canadian brother Henry Kriete released his bitter and poisonous letter, many quickly fell away.
After the Montreal Church cowardly severed ties with the new movement, in 2006 Lianne & I began to gather the Toronto Remnant Group. In a year’s time, despite of my inexperience, God grew our church from just the two of us to 17 members! It was here that Craig Wademan joined the new movement and Megan Bard (now Studer) was baptized in less than 24 hours after she attended her first Sunday Service! I became fulltime basically by default. Kip, after receiving another desperate call from a disciple wanting to be a part of a global sold-out movement, then called me because this phone call came from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo! Since I was a French speaker, I was the only logical choice to help form a remnant group there! Though I was working as a foreign exchange and mortgage broker, Kip did not realize that for me to be gone almost two weeks would mean that I would have to resign from my job. That said, there was no hesitation as I too had once been “a desperate phone call.” Praise God the church’s contribution and Lianne’s salary as an administrative assistant paid the bills and Lola Lof became the remnant group leader of the Kinshasa International Christian Church which numbered seven sold-out disciples! This “new wine” in time multiplied into 51. After a few years, Micky Ngungu brought 151 disciples from part of the Kinshasa ICOC to join the 51 in God’s new movement!
In May of 2007, Lianne & I were asked to be the 41st and 42nd members of the Los Angeles Mission Team. What an education to watch master builders – Kip & Elena – construct the mighty City of Angels International Christian Church from scratch! Of note, in 2008 the Portland Church – like the Montreal Church – deserted the new movement and departed back to Mainline Theology. Consequently, these 42 were the distillation and fermentation of the “new wine” of what would come to be called the SoldOut Movement! The Spirit has taken “us” in just seven years from one congregation of 42 to become over 3,000 disciples in 51 churches in 24 nations! And to God be the glory!
After a few months in Los Angeles, Kip sent me to London to set up the London Remnant Group. After a couple of years, we returned to LA to train in the great South Region. In 2012, the Spirit sent us to plant the Paris International Christian Church. And though we were there only three months, the “new wine” continues to multiply! Afterwards, Lianne & I served the Lord in Syracuse, New York as well as Chennai, India where Lianne contracted Dengue Fever and could have died. I pray that like Timothy who “proved himself… as a son with his father… in the work of the gospel” that I too have likewise done so with Kip. I have been honored to not only lead the South Region of LA, but later the North Region as well. I have learned organization and discipline by directing the Global Leadership Conference (GLC) and my Bible knowledge and preaching have been greatly enhanced by the extraordinary opportunity to even become a Professor in the International College of Christian Ministries (ICCM)! Prayerfully, I will receive my Doctorate Degree in Ministry from the ICCM at this year’s GLC!
Now, in the midst all of these grand adventures, God is gathering a small contingent of missionaries to form the Toronto Mission Team! On board with us are Jake & Megan (Bard) Studer, Craig & Elizabeth Wademan, Steve Fraser who was an early disciple in the London Remnant Group, and fellow Canadian Erik Boomer of Hilo. These eight are the “new wine” that will be sent out from LA on May 25th, and Lord willing, will celebrate on Sunday, June 29, 2014 the Inaugural Service of the Toronto International Christian Church! Therefore, my dear fellow Canadians, no matter whether you are bloodied and bruised from the Satanic false doctrines that have permeated our former fellowship; or your own sins have weakened your faith and you are now spiritually alone – take heart! If you are willing to put God first in your life then contact us and join in the spiritual liberation of our beloved country!
I am reminded of a quote by one of my heroes, Winston Churchill, during the Battle of Britain considered the darkest days of World War II. Broadcast on the BBC on May 19, 1940, Churchill rallied the British people when he said, “I have received from the Chiefs of the French Republic, and in particular from its indomitable Prime Minister, Mr. Reynaud, the most sacred of pledges that whatever happens they will fight to the end, be it bitter or be it glorious. Nay, if we fight to the end, it can only be glorious.” It is now clear that the light in our former fellowship has succumbed to the darkness of lukewarmness. Equally clear, “new wine” calls for new Canadian Churches!
The voice of God continues to call, “Whom shall I send?” (Isaiah 6:8) After being humbled and encouraged by God and through the training we have received, Lianne & I finally feel ready to multiply churches. So, let the Battle of Canada begin! Though the “new wine” numbers but eight, we are determined to fight the devil and his demons “to the end, be it bitter or be it glorious. Nay, if we fight to the end, it can only be glorious!”
Your partner in the gospel,