Brian Stiller

Podcastor

Author

Global Ambassador @ WEA

Brian Stiller

Podcastor

Author

Global Ambassador @ WEA

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Journey of Faith

June 20, 2019 Articles

As my 80th year gets closer, it’s now clearer to me how my walk of faith has been more of a zig zag that a straight line. Central to my life and ministry is my starting point, raised by a nurturing and spiritually grounded community in my early world in the 1940s and 50s.

Life for us all, is a merging of personal skills, family, friends, and peers, all within changing cultural landscapes. I was raised in the home of the “Bishop”, then called superintendent of the Pentecostal churches in Saskatchewan, a province in western Canada. My father had inherited a divisive problem, which split churches. It was enormously troubling, but it remarkably created a longing within our churches for loving unity and true fellowship.

I learned, watching my father and I was privileged. How many young people have that kind of tutoring? And living in a family of two brothers and two sisters was an enormous gift. Today the five of us hold on to this lifetime of sibling love.

What then do we learn from our life experiences?
Life is a journey on which excursions come as a surprise. People we meet, ideas which push up against ours, circumstances that break into our lives. My father taught me how to allow God’s world to become my horizon. Ideas and experiences upset and realign what we assume is right or wrong, best or mediocre. What is exceptional as a follower of Jesus is that our calling is an opening to an eternal future in which our todays are but moments on his forever path.

People intersected my life, and by them I was changed: gratefully, women were central in my journey: Bernice Gerrard – by her preaching I came to faith: May English – she taught me how to preach; Grace Brown thoughtfully led me into a charismatic encounter. Harry Faught – he encouraged me to trust the biblical record; Mel Sylvester – he believed in me, pushing me to lead; and so many more. When wrestling with Christian faith, its legitimacy and trustworthiness, I was given a book by Francis Shaeffer: Escape from Reason. I saw that all of life was the Lord’s. Serendipitous. An act of the Spirit.

The point is, all of us journey on pathways, some of them chosen by others and some we self-choose. Then we encounter people, circumstances, movements and ideas which shape us, some distorting and others enhancing. Some bruising and even destructive, while others are remarkably fortuitous and transforming.

What has come my way created a composite, a mixing of life experiences, mentors, failures and opportunities. Many just come, and we have nothing to say about them. But there are choices we make, ones that are direction-setting. I look through this mix to locate advice I would give to my younger self.

I was recently asked this question: what I would say to a younger leader. I have thought about that and earlier have written my response, lessons derived from my life journey: Find A Broken Wall: 7 Ancient Principles for 21st Century Leaders.

As I have sorted through my life in ministry, I have tried to locate an essence, a central factor which has been a primary learning principle that took hold and helped direct what I did. Here is what I discovered.

From the time of my call to ministry, I have been enamoured by the idea that God’s love was made evident in Jesus. Also, I was deeply moved by preaching and its ability to shape people in life and witness. While those were bedrock values, there was something else guiding my choices of vocation and designing my strategy as a leader. It took me years to locate what I have seen to be a motivational driver that led me in making choices about calling and vocation.

It is this: in leadership, take care to build healthy ministries. As much as the message of Christ was at the core, and while our outlook was centered in the Gospel, as I now understand my task, it was to build sustainable ministries around vision and mission.

This might seem strange, lacking imagination and excitement. But I also learned this: While vision and passion move us forward, building a sustaining ministry is essential to the furtherance of mission. I’ve seen dynamic leaders, great ideas, social and spiritual movements lose strength and momentum because they weren’t surrounded by an accompanying ability to organize. Neither were they careful to build into their work financial sustainability, both which enables leadership to mobilize into further action.

This journey has had four vocational phases. Building institutional strength began with Youth for Christ in Canada. This youth ministry was about to crash and burn. We wrestled with finding a way to serve its original mission: Geared to the times, anchored to the rock. The challenge was to find a way of speaking the Gospel to young people living in a world radically different from that of my teenage years.

A few years later I was challenged to take a really big risk: The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Canadian Alliance of the World Evangelical Alliance. Its mandate was stellar and compelling, but it had become a series of committees and accumulating files. This was my sweet moment. Taking an idea and crafting a plan and generating national momentum

Then a decade and half later came the shocker: Lily and I were home watching our favorite baseball team, the Blue Jays lose, when I got a call. The oldest Evangelical college and seminary in Canada was going bankrupt. For over a decade and half, rebuilding became my preoccupation, for a school now called Tyndale University.

More recently, I was almost 70 when I got a call to help the World Evangelical Alliance to serve as global ambassador. That original role morphed into helping rebuild its leadership model and shaping a financially sustainable plan to strengthen it as a global ministry to empower it to serve millions of Evangelicals in their witness and voice.

These four life moments are descriptive of the workings of an underlying principle in leadership, which is the basis for what I would say to a younger me: Risk. Do the hard work and build that which lasts.

This journey of faith has been in leadership, primarily in the Evangelical community in Canada, and the past decade within the global community served by the World Evangelical Alliance (Wea). Formed in 1846, WEA today is a major network serving some 600 million Christians. With National Alliances in 135 countries and 9 Regional Alliances, we are in a refreshing phase in creating communities which serves in these many countries, yet also through global advocacy, seeking ways to speak on behalf of those in need, marginalized and forgotten.

As part of the Global Christian Forum, we in WEA count it an honor to work with Christians of other communities and communions. This is a means for us to find ways in which we can help each other to understand and work together on common platforms so our witness of Christ lifts people in faith.

Brian C Stiller
Global Ambassador, the World Evangelical Alliance
2019