Interview: More Than Gold CEO on Winter Olympics 2010 in Vancouver

( [email protected] ) Feb 14, 2009 05:13 AM EST
More Than Gold(MTG), a growing network of denominations, churches, Christian institutions and individuals, gathering in preparation for the influx of hundreds of thousands of visitors coming for the 2010 Olympic Games, has been asked by the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC)to assist them throughout the games and Para-Olympics.
Karen Reed, CEO of More Than Gold, talked to The Gospel Herald about the windows of opportunity for Kingdom-building and how the leaders of Chinese churches can collaborate to make a lasting difference for Vancouver and for the international community before, during, and after the coming Winter Olympic in 2010. (The Gospel Herald)

More Than Gold(MTG), a growing network of denominations, churches, Christian institutions and individuals, gathering in preparation for the influx of hundreds of thousands of visitors coming for the 2010 Olympic Games, has been asked by the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC)to assist them throughout the games and Para-Olympics.

Karen Reed, CEO of More Than Gold, talked to The Gospel Herald about the windows of opportunity for Kingdom-building and how the leaders of Chinese churches can collaborate to make a lasting difference for Vancouver and for the international community before, during, and after the coming Winter games.

GH: Why was the brand “More than Gold” chosen and is there a message of faith that this name was derived from?

Our journey began in 2004 when leaders of several denominations and major Christian organizations in Metro Vancouver / Fraser Valley came together to form the Vancouver Whistler Games Network (VWGN). It quickly became apparent that interest was being expressed by a remarkable range of Christian groups. In 2008, VWGN launched ‘More Than Gold’ (MTG).

The name comes from the Scripture in I Peter 1.7, that your faith is more precious than gold. The name and identity of ‘More Than Gold’ has been successfully used to express Christian witness at past major sporting events such as the Commonwealth, Pan Am, and Olympic Games. In fact, the More Than Gold theme and logo carries a history that dates back past the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games. MTG was designed specifically to serve as an integrated identity for Christian outreach without overstepping any denominational and belief boundaries and at the same time, any existing and established brands, particularly that of institutions such as the Olympic Games.

We hope that wherever locals, visitors or athletes see this phrase, they will know that the Christian community is present. The MTG brand is identified by the logo of a snowflake for the Winter Games

We envision the MTG Network to pioneer new ways for the entire Christian community (with all its beautiful diversity) to collaborate in significant ways to build the kingdom. The Olympics has been the catalyst to form the network – and to work together in outreach efforts to the 1000’s of visitors and athletes and locals. There will be a broad range of opportunities for service and witness during the games and Para-Olympics. There is also a strong desire is to see legacy come from our efforts. Since networks are the best way to bring change, we are seeking to build the network for beyond the Olympics. We want this to be a hub that serves as a key avenue to connect people and resources and needs in a way that helps the church to work together in unprecedented ways to accomplish what only can be done together: the transformation of our city.

GH: How do you want the Chinese churches to participate in the More Than Gold’s vision to network the whole faith community in Vancouver?

I think that this is a worthwhile endeavor for all of the Body of Christ in the lower mainland to participate. I am personally very eager to see specifically the Chinese community collaborate together with us in this.

About twelve years ago, I heard Dr. Ray Bakke, who has done urban consultations around the world, say that the three major world trends occurring today are urbanization, globalization, and Asianization (the exponential growth of the Asian population globally), and that Vancouver was the incubator to watch these world trends. Since then, I’ve always have the vision that Vancouver should be leading the way for urban ministries. I was a pastor at Broadway Church for 21 years. I watched the dramatic demographics of the congregation shift in those years from a mostly white congregation, to one that more reflects the mosaic of Vancouver (the church now has people from 80 countries of birth). I love the rich diversity of Vancouver - which gives us a taste of heaven!

While I long to see all of the ethnic churches work together with the English churches in the involvement with More Than Gold, I am especially keen to see the Chinese churches participating, which is the dominant ethnic group in Vancouver. We need the Chinese community engaged – for several reasons. One, the third most dominate group of visitors that will come to the Olympics are Chinese (they have the most athletes). We need Chinese volunteers involved to serve and witness. Secondly, in working together during this high profile event, Chinese churches and leaders can significantly assist the English-speaking churches to increase their understanding about the Chinese culture, which equips the whole church for these global shifts. My personal assistant while at Broadway, who speaks both Mandarin and Cantonese, has helped me begin to understand different ways to think, bringing her unique cultural distinctiveness and strengths to influence a broadening our understanding of how to do ministry in Vancouver. Our ethnic diversity is God’s idea – and adds a richness to the whole Body of Christ. We must be in places to learn from each other – with humility - so that we can honor God and deepen our grasp of His ways.

In terms of involvement with More Than Gold, there are is a wide range of avenues for volunteering.

There are all kinds of opportunities to engage in evangelism. One of our staff has been seconded from the Billy Graham association to coordinate the evangelism training (we plan to train 5000 people). This is a great way for Christians to increase their skills to share their faith. There is over 1/2 a million pieces of literatures that will be printed, such as Bibles and pocket-guides, both with Olympic athletes testimonies included in them. We will need hundreds of volunteers to distribute them and of course, we need every language group to be available for that. It would be great if a task force were formed quickly, within the Chinese community, that could coordinate translation and printing of Chinese resources.

Prayer is a key component, and there is already a significant amount of prayer gatherings that have begun around the Olympics specifically (monthly prayer meetings around all the Olympic sites etc). There will be prayer meetings across the country in the 100 cities that follow the torch relay. There could be a Chinese organizing committee that could assist in engaging other Chinese churches in those cities.

Furthermore, there is a hospitality piece, where half a million bottles of water will be handed out at the games. The Vancouver Olympic Committee is looking to us to also supplement them with general volunteers. We will need 1000’s of volunteers to assist in a huge variety of opportunities for service and witness. There are sports initiatives and children outreaches, Performing Arts events and festivals, Homestay opportunities, Chaplaincy, and working groups that are involved in sustainability issues such as sex-trafficking, the creation care and homelessness (see the website to connect to these working groups)

The benefits for churches to be involved:

It enables Christians to serve and to be involved in something big that is outside their church setting, like when people go on mission trips. It also provides an opportunity, to connect with people from other denominations. It offers an avenue for churches to find inroads for new ministries opportunities, or broaden existing ones. Participating cross-denominationally enables you to contribute to the larger body of Christ.

My vision for the network is to collaborate together in building the Kingdom. Just imagine the significant impact for transformation that could happen, if the whole Church seriously linked arms together in unity. We need the whole body of Christ to see real transformation. The English churches need the Chinese churches at the table to contribute their perspectives and leadership. We want to use the Olympics as a reason to connect those relationships and resources and needs.

GH: Since many different ethnic groups are coming to watch the Olympics, how can the Chinese church help in terms to reach out to those people?

Besides what has already been mentioned, I would add that More than Gold isn’t a centralized organization, but it more of a hub that helps facilitate and connect people from the whole Church. We want to empower what is already happening and what is being organized through the 15 working groups (that was created at a grassroots level). We have a skeleton staff (that is mostly seconded) but an army of volunteers. There are also twelve different denominations that have provided and paid for a staff person to work specifically with More Than Gold. The broad reach of denominations, parachurch ministries and the ever-expanding partnership base, believes that this is a good outreach and investment, and that it is a significant season to labor together – for such a time as this.

Therefore, what we want to see are the leaders within the Chinese community saying that this is something that we can take advantage of as the world is coming here, joining in the volunteer opportunities along with thinking about some new ideas and ways to contribute. All of the working groups developed from a grass-root level. Every time a new idea came up, people would take ownership and run with it. I want to encourage participation at every level – and would invite the Chinese community to gather key leaders and discuss how to engage their churches and consider ways to be involved.

GH:. You’ve mentioned about creating a lasting legacy for More Than Gold, can you explain how it can be achieved?

Legacy, or sustainability is about relationships. We envision that as churches and denominations and ministries work together, breaking down barriers and forming friendship, that commitment to partner for further kingdom building will happen. We are also looking to develop an infrastructure that facilitates that in terms of expanding the website to enable collaboration and increasing the ways to communicate. We are also in the beginning stages of developing neighborhood clusters that gather leaders in micro neighborhoods to work together for the common good in their locale. Additionally, Vancouver is a key global city. Yet we have some of the poorest in North America in our midst. The true strength of a city is how we care for the most marginal. We need to consider how we as a church can co-labor together in new ways – to the level that we see the impact on the least among us. We can only accomplish that together. It is my hope that the Network will continue to work way beyond the Olympics toward that. May we have hope and real commitment to steward well what God has entrusted to us, that we would see that the transformation of our cities in our lifetime.

GH: What progress has More Than Gold made so far?

A core management team was expanded January 1 to provide the needed leadership for this next critical year. 15 working groups have been in place for over six months – and have done significant work in preparing for their specific areas of involvement. Our Website just launched at the end of January and a team is aggressively working to continue to advance and develop that. Partners are being added weekly. BC Christian News and Maranatha News will be doing monthly center articles on More Than Gold. Significant momentum is happening – and we want to invite everyone to join in as we move quickly ahead toward 2010.

GH: What would you like the Chinese churches to pray for?

Thank you. Prayer is the foundation for all we do.

Please pray for courage and bold faith. It takes courage to step out of your comfort zone to build relationships with others of different ethnic groups, churches, and communities. It takes courage to ask what is the Spirit saying to us – for such a time as this. We also need humility and sensitivity to the leading of the Spirit. We need a sense of urgency – to redeem the time. This is a complex and important time in human history. We must be leaders of faith – to see the unseen - with enormous confidence in the character of our good God and His call upon our life. The world discovers Jesus when they see and experience the church unified in love. May the Olympics provide such an opportunity for the Christian church in Vancouver to be a strong witness of love and unity and action.

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