by Cam Roxburgh
I am a blessed man. From the thrill of planting a multi-neighbourhood church in Vancouver, to leading national movements, I have been blessed to have front row seats at what God has been doing in and through His people over the last generation. There is much to celebrate, but there are also a few things we must continue to pay attention to if we are to live as a faithful presence in this next season of life.
Here are a five reminders that I think are important for us as Christ-followers to pay attention to as the church seeks to participate with God on mission.
1. Embracing the Margins
I continue to see and hear of so many churches that think we can reclaim a privileged place back in the centre of our culture. Some churches are growing, while others chase “the silver bullet” to find out what they are doing to imitate them for the sake of growth⎯all the while missing the reality that it may be that the Lord is allowing us to be moved to the margins so that He might do a new thing in His people.
In this present time, we need to learn to live as a faithful presence at the margins (James Davison Hunter) and not to seek to retain a position of power and privilege. This will mean radical paradigm shifts in our approach to life in our culture, that are more than tweaking the way we run our services, program our discipleship, and present a sure-fire way to get to heaven. It seems that real, deep growth seems to occur when we do not have a place of privilege.
2. Becoming Missional
This second item may seem redundant, but let me explain. Although being missional has become the neatest, latest, greatest on the list of “how to grow your church,” I am becoming increasingly concerned that most who use the word have little to no idea what it actually means. It is not about getting our people out into the neighbourhood so that they can get the neighbours into church. It is 100% about the reality that God is a missional God. He Himself is a missionary by nature and in action, and therefore we as His people, made in His image and a part of His plan, serve Him by being missionaries in the places where He has sent us.
What does that mean? It means that we are formed into beings who reflect His missionary nature in everything that we do.
It also means that we believe that in and through Jesus, we have come into the reality of the presence of the kingdom of God. We do not try to convince people of the need to go to heaven, but point out to them the reality of the presence of the kingdom and the King. Nor do we say that through our efforts we build the kingdom, but rather we point to its reality.
3. Becoming a Community of Disciples
We need to attend to becoming a community of disciples. In this age of rampant individualism, we need a move of God’s Spirit to work within His people to once again help us to bear witness to one of the greatest realities of who He is: that He is one! This of course does not just mean that we are monotheists, but rather that our God exists in nature as a unity—in community. He is one.
We need to become a community of His people who reflect our Lord. This happens not just through our own personal spiritual disciplines, but through a series of practices that God leads each and every community of His people in, so that we live as a faithful presence in our neighbourhoods.
4. Becoming Witnesses
Fourthly, we need to become witnesses. I grew up believing that to be a witness meant that we learned many different ways of presenting a series of propositions to others who needed to believe them to get into heaven. However, a witness is someone who has seen or experienced something. We need to teach our people to learn to discern God at work—to see Him in the neighbourhood and to hear Him as He speaks. Many Christians would not be able to tell you where they have encountered Christ in real and meaningful ways in the past few days.
We too easily go back to telling our story of when we “prayed the prayer” instead of being able to speak about seeing Christ yesterday, or hearing Him speak today. Witnesses tell stories of recent and even current encounters, they don’t just convince others of propositions.
5. Becoming Worshippers
Finally, I think we need to focus on what it means to become worshippers, or better yet, a worshipping community. Being missional means we reflect the nature of the God we believe in through the way in which we worship Him.
We are still stuck in the rut of believing that worship has to do with what I get from a “Sunday Service,” and how I feel when I leave the building. Was I fed? Was I moved? Although worship wars tend to be a thing of the past, so is our witness through being a worshipping community. The Jews understood that we bear witness to what we believe about God and who He is by the way we worship. Our worship then says volumes about what we think about God now. We think that 25 minutes of singing 3 of our favourite choruses, followed by a 40-plus minute sermon (which could be better articulated in half the time), and followed by a closing song, equals worship. We have so lost the plot when it comes to what it means to live among a culture which worships so many false gods in better ways than we worship the one true God.
We must ask the hard question, “what are we inadvertently doing that is producing consumers and not disciples?” Let’s stop calling them services. Let’s stop spoon-feeding people⎯or at least making that the goal. Let’s stop being so unimaginative. Let’s stop going to church and instead become the people of God who gather together in fresh and imaginative ways to worship, really worship our King. “What do we have to bring to Him today?” should be the question of every person who comes to share their story of where they have seen or experienced God in their neighbourhood that week.
We have come a long way over the past 10 years, but we have a long way to go. Buckle up.
This article was originally published in the Missional Voice. Cam Roxburgh is the National Director for Forge Canada, the VP of Missional Initiatives for the North American Baptists, and the Team Leader at Southside Community Church in Vancouver, Canada. Cam is speaking at our BC Regional Assembly this June. Contact Dawn Johannesson at 604.42.7646 or firstname.lastname@example.org for information about the Assembly.