Expressions: Campus and Community

In this week’s offering, we hear from Chris Morton at Missio Alliance about a campus ministry that was willing to step out of its comfort zone and reshape its mission and culture in order to reach those who aren’t interested in church.

Campus and Community: The Center for Faith and Leadership 

Among the storied forms of church and mission struggling to maintain its place in a changing culture is the denominational campus ministry center—a staple at many colleges and universities. Campus ministry groups have traditionally thrived by providing a place of connection between like-minded students with similar backgrounds. With incoming students less likely to self-identify with a specific denomination or any church at all, these groups are often forced to reimagine their identity.

In 2012 the Baptist Student Union at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia was rechristened as The Center for Faith and Leadership. Directed by Carey and Gannon Sims, they have expanded their scope to include the needs of their surrounding community. They summarize this posture by saying:

Our front door is open to the campus, and our back door opens to the community.

The result has been to create an atmosphere which encourages students and young adults to use their creativity to serve others and to seek new means to connect with their neighbors. They use the language of “research and development” to encourage an environment of experimentation.

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Some of their experiments, many of which have been instigated, designed, and led by students, include:

  • Link: A mentoring community for homeless youth.
  • Will’s Place: A local food truck and catering business that got its start during a weekly meal for students and young adults.
  • Uptick Entrepreneur: A nine-month discipleship experience and monthly meet-up that brings together local business owners and aspiring young entrepreneurs who desire to impact their community through local enterprise.

Despite all of their activity, the methodology remains relational. “The Center is a place where friendships rooted in Jesus are changing the world,” says Gannon Sims. “We’re thriving because of a constant focus on friendships rooted in Jesus, and our values of mutuality, intentionality, and hospitality in relationships reflect this.”

Luke Taylor, Ministry Associate at the Center, believes that there are many people who want nothing to do with church and others who are never going to be attracted to the sermon-centric approach to most churches. Instead, “the Center is recreating church for the way they need it. It is by no means trying to take the place of church, but it is meeting people where they’re at and inviting Jesus into that place.”

We’re not all ministering to students, but we all need to consider the “doors” that our local church communities present. What pathways have been opened for not-yet-believers in your neighbourhood to enter meaningful Christian community? Perhaps it’s through congregants living in the neighbourhood, or through partnerships with local organizations or service agencies. We’d love to hear your stories of “R&D,” so drop us a line!

Expressions: Dinner Church

Last week, Shannon asked this question about our gathered life as churches: “What things do we need to rethink and reframe to move into our particular local mission fields to be able to share the life giving way of Jesus and God’s kingdom Shalom?”

Recently, Chris Morton at Missio Alliance posted an article posing some ideas of how to begin answering that question. We’ll be sharing those ideas here, as well as adding in some of our thoughts from the CBWC perspective, and from those in Canada who might be attempting similar reframings. Thanks to Missio for sharing these ideas with us!

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Four Models of Church that are Thriving in Modern America: 1. Dinner Church

Inspired by Jesus’ table practices, the writings of Origen and the Agape Feasts of the second and third centuries, there is nothing very “new” about Dinner Church. This model, seemingly forgotten to history, has found a new life in the hyper-secularized city of Seattle.

In his book Dinner Church: Building Bridges by Breaking Bread, Verlon Fosner tells the story of how his traditional Pentecostal Church went from dying of attrition to being reborn as a network of 12 (and counting) community dinners. These communities are aimed at those who likely would never come to a Sunday gathering, either because of work schedules or the cultural, and often socioeconomic, distance.

These are generally located in what he refers to as “sore neighborhoods,” usually made up of “the lower third,” or the third of the population that earns below a middle-class income. They meet in community centers and other common gathering places.

They also noticed that the dinner church approach is often appealing to isolated people, such as people who have divorced and are separated from their families, as well as “humanitarians”—people who are passionate about serving those in need but do not (yet) identify with Jesus.

Not only do dinner churches reach different people, but compared to traditional approaches to church planting, they’re cheap! According to Fosner, one dinner church is being opened a week. Non-staffing expenses (food and rent) generally run about $1000/month.

Dinner Church is inspired by Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” As Fosner says,”The only question remaining is, ‘Who is going to set his table?’” Could it be that setting a table for sinners, seculars, and strangers to have dinner with Jesus might be one of the great callings of the church? What if when Jesus was telling Peter to “feed his sheep,” he wasn’t speaking metaphorically, but was actually directing him to a physical table?”

Connect with Dinner Church Collective:

DinnerChurch.com
CommunityDinners.com

 

We’ve seen similar dinner church initiatives within the CBWC family. Chuck Harper and FBC Vernon host Vernon Street Church, and every second week, Makarios Evangelical in New Westminster hosts a dinner for the international students at Douglas College as part of their church gatherings on Saturday evenings.

What both groups have in common with the Dinner Church Collective in Seattle is the desire to reach into the “blue ocean”—to find a way to reach those who are not likely to attend a Sunday service and draw them into their church family. Are there those in your local mission field who would find dinner church a welcoming space? What could this mean for your community? Share your thoughts and ideas with us!

Expressions of Gathered Communities of Disciples on Mission Together

By Shannon Youell

A friend of mine, who would be considered a successful church planter, was lamenting recently on their success as new churches. He expressed that though they have great services with most age groups present, missional community  groups, a vibrant youth and children’s ministry, and quite a few baptisms, the congregations are composed of all  people who were already or previously churched. He concluded that most people who are not yet followers of Jesus don’t wake up on a Sunday morning and say to themselves, “I think I’ll go to church today.”  Rarely happens.

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From our “churched” perspective, these people under this pastor’s leadership are doing a great job of gathering believers together and have been intentionally discipling and training those who would engage that way. But the result is that the heart of their mission–to reach people in their neighbourhoods and communities to communicate the Good News of God with and for humanity–has been ineffective.

It is noteworthy that this pastor’s lament is from within the context of thriving churches.  What about the growing number of churches that are struggling to continue keeping their doors open at all? Do communities of believers in a neighbourhood need to reimagine church? Reimagine how they may move and thrive as local missionaries to the cultural context of those they are to engage?

What things do we need to rethink and reframe to move into our particular local mission fields to be able to share the life giving way of Jesus and God’s kingdom Shalom?

What kinds of gatherings would an unchurched person perhaps venture to engage with?  There is no one correct way to engage as local missionaries. And, though the Sunday gathering will always be a deep and meaningful rhythm of people of faith, how about gatherings where we can engage those who are not just showing up at our church facilities?

This next month or so, we want to explore some different expressions of gathered community, who, on mission together, are experimenting and exploring unique ways to connect with people who see no need to step inside a church building and if they do venture in, find no connection to that community’s practices.

Perhaps something will spark with you as you read these. Perhaps you already are practicing out-of-the-norm-church gatherings (can you share your stories with us please!).  These are but four examples of groups who are making an impact by living and sharing the Good News of God-With-Us and for us where they are.

Over the next five weeks we will be sharing stories and videos from four churches that dared to reimagine church.  These are not “models” to copy, but rather explorations of how joining God who dwells (faithful presence) in neighbourhoods by also being neighbourhood dwellers who live with and among the people of our neighbourhood and discern how to engage, connect and build relationships with them in their ways.

Introducing Filipino Community Christian Church!

By Louanne Haugan, CBWC Director of Communications and Development 

Smiling faces, voices ringing, clapping in double-time and swaying in the pews! So much joy on the faces of those gathered to worship! As someone who loves – and I mean loves to sing, I felt like I was like catching a glimpse of heaven, as I joined Filipino Community Christian Church (FCCC) for their Sunday service. 

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Mountain Standard Regional Minister Dennis Stone and I were invited to bring greetings on behalf of the CBWC and share a bit about what it means to be part of the CBWC family of churches. FCCC is seeking affiliation with the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada, as a relatively new church plant in the community of Northmount in northwest Calgary. 

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We were able to affirm the many ways that they model our shared ministry priorities. We witnessed youth involved in the worship service (cultivating leadership), relationships strengthened as they shared a meal together (investing in relationship), and newcomers from the community being loved-on and welcomed to meet Jesus in a new way (engaging in mission). 

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As I hugged church members goodbye after the service, my heart (and belly) was full! God is at work in this community of believers, and it’s our privilege to welcome them to the CBWC family.

We Live From Our Heart: Easter Reflection

By Shannon Youell

We live from our heart.

This phrase from Dallas Willard’s epic Renovation of the Heart, gripped my heart like winter’s icy grasp as I huddled under my beach towel on a rain-drenched beach in Kauai.

If I live from my heart, if we live from our hearts, what does how we live, act, interact, think, obsess over things, say about my heart?  About your heart?

Paul prays that believers would “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, (so) that they may be filled with all the fullness of God. ”

Peter writes about “how those who love and trust Jesus “rejoice with indescribable joy” (1 Peter 1:8 NRSV), with “genuine mutual love” pouring from their hearts (1:22), ridding themselves of “all malice, and all guile, insincerity, and all slander” (2:1 NRSV), silencing the scoffers at the Way of Christ by simply doing what is righ t (2:15), and casting all their anxieties upon God because he cares for us (5:7).”

“Our life and how we find (view) the world now and in the future is, almost totally, a simple result of what we have become in the depths of our being–in our spirit, will, or heart.” 

 “The greatest need you and I have–the greatest need of collective humanity–is renovation of our heart. That spiritual place within us from which outlook, choices and actions come has been formed by a world away from God. Now it must be transformed.”

What is in our hearts, the things that motivate us, propel us, fill up our head space, cause us our deepest consternation and confusion, matters more than anything else we can do, say or display to this world.

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So much of Jesus’ teaching, His discipleship, focused around the hearts of His hearers.  He was constantly challenging their thinking to move from matters of the law to matters of the heart. Why? Because when our motivations come from keeping the law, but our own hearts are corrupt and compromised, we engage the world from a position of self-righteousness and judgement, rather than from the place of loving God and others as we (should) love self.

Living from the law, even the law of grace, without the transformation of our hearts to love what God loves, leaves a trail of broken relationships with others rather than a path of reconciliation that restores relationships to God, to others and, yes, even with ourselves.

As we wrestle with engaging as missional disciples in our current cultural landscape, we must be asking ourselves where our heart is towards those to whom we are called to be Christ’s ambassadors. If our hearts are already biased towards people or particular groups of people, this will be evident in our engagement (or lack of engagement) with them. We approach them from a position of self-righteousness (I am not like you) and judgment (as though I am without my own rebellion and sin towards God, Jesus’ teaching, and others), and it is evident. We present as confrontational, even in our best intentions, because we do not first love others with God’s love through Christ.

As I have reflected on my own attitudes and actions to those around me and those I cross paths with, I have found myself thinking about Jesus’ encounter with the expert of the law in Luke 10:25-28:

He asked Jesus what was necessary to inherit eternal life (meaning life with God both now and into all eternity).  Jesus asked him what is written in the Law and how he interprets it. The expert answered with the Shema and the Leviticus add-on of loving neighbour as self.  “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied.  “Do this and you will live.”

Here we find a neatly tied bow called “matters of the heart.”

The question was asked by someone who had long gone to Saturday school as a child, knew and could recite parts or all the Torah, did all the “right” things in giving to the needy, praying and fasting.  He was faithful to attend services and other community gatherings.  He even answered his own question very correctly (marrying the Leviticus verse about loving neighbour with the Shema).

Jesus commends him that he knows this and then challenges him with the ouch factor:  Now go and do it.  That is how we find ourselves in the midst of the kingdom of God both in our present circumstances and lives and throughout eternity!

So why is it so hard for us sometimes to love others, especially those who we perceive as difficult or unreasonable, or who’s opinions grate on our nerves?  What is it in my heart, in your heart that we are “living from” when we dismiss, ignore, condemn and judge others?

Dallas Willard suggests that it comes to a common mistake that Christians fall into:

(We)….  “assume that we are supposed to do all the glowing things mentioned in such passages (of godly living) without loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. In fact, (we) think we must do them while our heart, soul, mind, and strength are still strongly inclined in the opposite direction, against God.

Willard’s premise is, of course, that if we ourselves are not continually in the process of being spiritually transformed daily, then we attempt to do great things for Jesus while disliking or even hating what God so loves.

It may seem a fine line to some, but for me, as I have pondered on this, it is exactly what the early church wrested with in the discourse around faith and works. If our works are lacking daily transformation of our own hearts conformed more and more to God’s heart and what he loves, then we are trying to do things ourselves, though, as James wrote, if our faith is lacking works, it also speaks of the degree of transformation we ourselves have allowed in our own hearts.

As I continue to work my way through Willard’s book, I am being struck time and again with how he hits the nail on the head when it comes to our own underestimated self-righteousness and God’s call on our lives, as witnesses of His great love, to live from a heart transformed continually by Christ our Lord and our Savior.

As Jesus commends, when we begin with loving God with all our heart and all our mind and all our strength and souls and love our neighbours as we have (proper) love for selves, we will find, as Peter states, that scoffers will be silenced. If we live, act, speak, behave and love from a heart transformed rather than from matters of the law, we will see the presence of kingdom among us ripe for harvest right where we live, work, play and pray.

What a way to be distinguishable to the world with Christ’s message of hope! As we walk through this Holy Week, finding ourselves living into the story as it unfolds, let us remember Jesus our Christ, who pours out His love for us while we were (are) still sinners in rebellion in our own hearts.  Jesus’ life poured out for all is an indicator of Himself living from His heart, the very heart of God.


All quotes from Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart (Navpress: 2012).

Re-Engaging a Community: Northmount

By Shannon Youell

A few weeks ago on this blog, I told a story of a pastor stunned to discover that people in the neighbourhood, for which their very large and active church lived, did not know what the building was or what went on there, even though scores of people came and went every week. 

Many of our own good and faithful pastors and congregrants recognize the disconnection between what they engage in as community inside their building and the neighbourhood around them. Recognizing and acknowledging this fact is the beginning of leaning in together to discuss, pray, listen and perhaps to lay down some things so that our church communities can re-imagine what it means to be relationally engaged with those around us.

Northmount Baptist Church in Calgary engaged in this conversation a few years ago. They came to realize that God was calling them to rediscover their own neighbours and how they can join them where they are at, while also joining God in what He is already doing.

So they took the risk, assessed their own strengths, weaknesses, limitations and barriers, and plunged in faith into hiring an Outreach Pastor with the mandate to engage with the surrounding neighbourhood.

“At Northmount we are looking for new ways that we can come alongside the community.”

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Stampede Breakfast

Pastor Gabriel Alalade was hired and he started by first getting to know and understand the people in their neighbourhood. What are their passions?  Their dreams? Their hopes for their immediate community and the people who live in it? He connected with new immigrant families, youth and young adults, families with young children and began to engage relationally with them. He began intentionally discipling the youth and young adults towards what it means to live as missional disciples in everyday life.

He and some of the young people from Northmount began hosting a coffeehouse once a week where people of all ages, both within and beyond the church came to be wonderfully served by the team. Northmount has also planned and executed neighbourhood BBQs and Stampede Week Pancake Breakfasts that literally drew hundreds. Pastor Greg Butt said it was kind of like the loaves and fishes story….somehow the food kept feeding the crowds that came! Those have been great opportunities for the people in the neighbourhood to meet the people who gather in the church and rediscover what the building is and the warmth and hearts of those from within it. 

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Young adults Gabriel is discipling.

A key focus has been on discipleship–the intentionally relationally engaged, living all of life as Christ’s missional disciples, kind of discipleship.

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Gabriel (far left), Greg (second from right) and volunteers.

“We long to make disciples and leaders that multiply into the world. Everything we do and everything we say reflects this vision that God has placed on our hearts.

Gabriel reports that “Things have been moving steadily in terms of some of the discipling initiatives.”  He is seeing growth with those engaging in Bible studies, social engagements and prayer. 

Among other things, Northmount is currently working on a vlog and blog series shaped as a roundtable discussion for Christians, seekers and agnostics and making better use of a community Facebook page they began to connect neighbours to neighbours.  

Re-engaging our neighbourhoods means re-examining each of those areas where we live, where we work, where we play and where we pray, as places where God desires Shalom to exist for the benefit of the dwellers.  It is never a short engagement, but a long, committed, love-inspired relationship. 

Communities like Northmount need our collective support to continue forging, in faith, into this reconnecting and re-engaging with their neighbourhoods. The investment is long but the return is eternal, as we learn from one another as churches and as followers, missional disciples, of Jesus, our Lord and our Savior, fresh ways to engage our own communities.

Live at NMO

By Shannon Youell and Cailey Morgan

We blog live from New Ministers Orientation 2019 at Carey Theological College where we are gathered as CBWC staff, 5 planting pastors, 12 lead/senior pastors, 3 associate pastors, 3 children/youth/young adult pastors, 2 discipleship/congregation care pastors and 1 chaplain!   Together we are discovering the shared work we do as a family of churches who are interconnected in ministry, and the impact we are able to collectively have both within our particular congregations and beyond into our neighbourhoods.

The question the church planting team is asking is:  Why do we plant churches? Why do we multiply? Why do we care whether there is an expression of God’s Kingdom in our neighbourhood?  This is what we have been exploring with ministers and church planters from across Western Canada this week. 

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Church Planting Director Shannon Youell with Arash Azad, Jessica Lee, Allan Santos, Mouner Alajji and Tim Ngai.

For  us, the why we do things isn’t to make more churches – that is the result of our why. Start With the Why author Simon Sinek reminds us that understanding our why is crucial before we adopt a how. When we fully understand our why, we can then rethink, reframe and reimagine our hows to get our what, which is new and renewed expressions of gathered and scattered communities of faithful presence in the places we live, work, play and pray in, where we relationally disciple the people we live among.

Church planters Allan Santos (GCF Calgary planting GCF Red Deer), Mouner Alajji (Hope Christian Church of Calgary), Arash Azad (Emmanuel Iranian Church North Vancouver) and Jessica Lee and Tim Ngai (Makarios Evangelical Church, New Westminster) shared with us their unique expressions of bringing the Gospel of the Kingdom of God into their particular contexts. Each emphasized their intentionality in training, equipping and forming missional disciples who serve and reproduce themselves.  

Their stories, their hearts and their passion encouraged our hearts. We, too, as members of the CBWC family these new works have asked to join, can bless and encourage their hearts, as each one of us and our churches join God at work in the harvest field by enabling these leaders to do the work they do. This requires us sharing in both the cost and the joy of the new churches.  They should not, and can not, labour on their own.  Just as the first churches sowed into the support and ministry of the newer churches, so must we.  

If we all generously participate the burden is eased and the load is light.  

New churches are the result of our engaging the world God so loves and being faithfully present with people for the purpose of building deep-rooted relationships that morph into discipling of those we are engaged with and who see, in our friendship and care for them, an image of God’s kingdom plan of reconciliation: humans to God, humans to one another and to all created things.

CBWC is equally as passionate about seeing fresh expressions of God-With-Us within our existing congregations too.  Discipleship is a pathway of engaging Christ and Community that is life-long and a response to obedience to the mission Christ commissioned each and every one of us to.  Though discipleship includes learning and studying the Scriptures, it is much more about growing in and investing in relationships with those who both know Christ and those who do not yet know Christ.  

As we invest in the lives of others in deep and caring relationships, journeying with others, sowing into their lives the beauty and goodness of God-With-Humans, Us, Christ will be revealed and lives will be shaped and transformed .  

At NMO this week, we have seen and heard the testimonies of disciple-makers in new churches and long established churches,  that investing in relationships, cultivating leaders to engage in mission naturally begins to bear fruit that reproduces.

“The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you” (Exodus 34:10). 

Oh, and the answer, given by one of our pastors, about why we care whether there is an expression of God’s kingdom in our neighbourhood is this: God’s shalom is for all people.

Re-Engaging a Community: Longview Bible Fellowship

By Shannon Youell

Nestled in a community of approximately 300 people 40ish miles southwest of Calgary, Longview Bible Fellowship has long been a fixture of being God’s presence in a neighbourhood. If you ever have a chance to visit with Pastors Gil and Andrea Kidd, you will find yourself captured by their joy, passion, vision and seemingly boundless energy—they are truly a delight and being with them is like sitting in a field of flowers on a wonderfully sunny day.

“In a small community like Longview, the more people who contribute to the village social life, the richer the village will be.” Pastor Gil

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Gil and Andrea, in seeking to rebuild relationship and trust, have invested themselves in re-engaging the community around them and it truly is a labour of love—love for God and love for others. LBF is in the process of affiliating with our CBWC family.

Pastor Gil gives us some insight into their steps for re-engagement. They began with first doing a good exegesis of the community they live within, and joining with the community stakeholders who care for and have a passion for seeing the whole village flourish.

“LBF was one of the thinktanks from which the Seniors Club emerged, and LBF keeps coming up with new ideas as to how to engage the village.”

The Seniors Club, of which Andrea is the secretary and members of LBF are a part, has created a regular place to visit with others and have some fun: sip tea with old friends,  share food with new friends, and meet the realized needs of those who are struggling. They also created a meals-on-wheels program. These two initiatives are building relational equity and a new trust in this small town where mistrust of church from past hurts has been heavy.

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They have held Alpha and quarterly hymn sings (outdoors in finer weather), all the while being intentional about investing in relationships and friendships that are not dependent on someone coming to their Sunday service but inter-dependent as they, too, are a part of the community.

“As these engagements continue, the influence of the church is spreading.”

As LBF continues to influence their community, they are also seeing people expressing interest in the Sunday service. They have seen many visitors come and join them for hymn sings and some have re-engaged with the LBF community at worship.

LBF’s heart is to be the people of Christ present in a place, where people drop in for whatever reasons—to chat, to ask questions, to contribute, to receive and sometimes, or perhaps, often, just have a cup of coffee and a conversation about the weather, while also being the people who are equally present and engaged in the places and priorities of the town itself.

Re-Engaging a Community

By Shannon Youell

I remember the tension between the closing of a Tim Horton’s location and a church in my local community.  Both had been permanent residents for many years – the church for about thirty and Tim’s for as long as I’ve lived here.  

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Our local newspaper splashed their front page with the story of the beloved coffee shop that had one day enticed those around them to come in for coffee, donuts and conversation, and the next day had all the windows papered up and doors locked. The community was thrown into a state of disbelief. I overheard conversations around this bombshell where ever I went in the community: where will we meet our friends, our co-workers? Where will we go for community without Timmy’s?

Down the road, a church, too, had closed its doors. The congregation of faithful people had slowly declined and those remaining were finding it more and more difficult to keep the lights on and the building kept up.  

However, there was no headline, no dismayed buzz in grocery store lineups, no fanfare whatsoever. The neighbourhood and the community didn’t even realize that a church gathered there. They simply saw a building one passed everyday on the way to whatever their everyday looked like.

I remember hearing Bill Hybels tell the story of the man looking for his cat. As Bill did his final checkup of the Willowcreek facilities after hosting several Sunday worship services, he found a man wandering around in the mostly-empty parking lot. He asked the man if he could help him and the man said he was looking for his cat. So Bill joined the search. They engaged in some conversation as they walked the entire lot and at one point the man asked Bill what went on in this place.  

Bill was stunned, not that this man was randomly inquiring to the purpose of the place, but that the man was looking for his cat. He lived in the neighbourhood. He wasn’t someone unfamiliar with the neighbourhood, yet he had no idea what this place, where multitudes of humanity who are joining Jesus on mission flowed in and out of, was.

I tell these stories, not to discourage us, but to acknowledge that many of us as church communities find ourselves disconnected from our communities. Some are struggling with what that means for the future of a Christian faith presence in those places. And these struggles are real and hard. 

Re-engaging our communities will take some hard examination of our entrenched understanding of the things we do. I’ve spoken often that we must shift our thinking from doing to or for the communities around us to doing with.

As people who traditionally have engaged in issues of injustice, of oppressed people groups, of those who hunger and thirst, of those society has marginalized or dismissed, we can look at our neighbourhoods through only that lens, and with all goodness of intent, find “solutions” we can take to those affected.  However, when we come up with the solution to what we perceive to be the presenting issues, and impose them on a community, we presume we understand the deeper issues and we don’t include that community in the conversation. This creates an us and them community rather than fostering a we community.

Community engagement experts across not-for-profit and community service sectors advise us that actually getting to know the stakeholders in any neighbourhood or community (Luke 10 calls them people of peace), is the first necessity of building relational trust. Listen to what matters to them, what their passions and concerns are.  Let them know you share these same passions and concerns because you are equally as invested in this neighbourhood, in this community.  

Re-engaging our communities should never stem from a project mindset but a love-of-neighbour mindset, which means allowing ourselves to be equally loved and cared for by the community around us.  

Over the next several weeks we will looks at ways two of our churches are investing in relationships to re-engage their communities: one a familiar CBWC church and one a brand new affiliation in process. Then we will look at some fresh expressions of others ways to engage and bring the presence of God’s shalom into our neighbourhoods, communities and towns.

 

Hope in Calgary

By Shannon Youell and Cailey Morgan 

Mouner Al Ajji was church planting in Aleppo, Syria, when the war started in 2011. Life was very difficult, and he and his wife eventually applied for refugee status in Canada in 2014. 

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It was these trying times—and his family’s transition to Canadian life over the past few years—that prepared Mouner for his current ministry: pastoring an Arabic church plant in Calgary with a focus on welcoming both Christian and Muslim newcomers to Canada.

Hope Christian Church of Calgary began their ministry in September of 2017. With support from CBWC Church Planting and Westview Baptist Church, Pastor Mouner and his team are guiding the congregation through the rhythms of worship and mission, table and prayer that church plants have been engaging since the time of the book of Acts.       

Mouner explains: “For the year 2018, our them was ‘Times 2.’ The idea was to look at ourselves and what we have and think and believe that according to what we have, we can move and multiply. In 2019, we will focus on putting into practical action Act 2:47: ‘Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.'”

Hope Church has been finding ways to help newcomers settle in. Sometimes the support is practical: furniture, groceries. Other times, it’s explaining Canadian laws and rights. Hope Church had a lawyer come to speak to them about wills and funerals, and a mortgage broker came to speak about credit card use and lending. 

And once in a while, settling in means engaging Canadian culture together. Last summer, they “decided to try this crazy camping thing,” as Mouner calls it. Spending a weekend camping at Gull Lake was a new experience for many of people, but an experience they hope to repeat this year.

Looking to the future, Mouner hopes to partner with an English-speaking Sunday school so that the second generation in his congregation will grow up engaged with God’s people and find a long-term home in the church. 

Church planting with newcomers to Canada is slow, beautiful, relational work. It’s going to take a while for Hope Church to reach a sustainable equilibrium financially. CBWC Church Planting is committed to supporting this Kingdom-oriented ministry in these early stages of development, and we need help from churches and individuals like you to bolster this work through prayer and faithful financial support. 

If you’d like to participate with us, or to learn more about the Church Planting Trust, contact Church Planting Director Shannon Youell at syouell@cbwc.ca or 250.216.6332.