Prototyping Churches

By Cailey Morgan

I was recently listening to the Thom Rainer Leadership Podcast. Their guest was Jimmy Scroggins, a pastor from Florida who tells the story of his church, which moved from a mega-church mentality, rebooting into a neighbourhood-centric church and eventually planting into a network of these smaller local congregations.

His story caught me, partially because of his attitude toward success. He had stopped worrying about how big or how fast the church was growing, and how fantastic their facilities were, and started thinking in terms of reaching everyone in their city.

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In our Western Canadian context, as much as we’d all agree that our churches want to reach everyone, my guess is that we find most of our growth through lateral movement–that is, Christians moving to our church. We don’t see a high ratio of people coming to faith, and when they do, they have often come from a background that was already familiar with Christianity, or saw the Church in a favourable light.

Prototyping
Jimmy Scroggins’ outlook on the church is that it should look like the neighbourhood. They have diversified into smaller neighbourhood congregations in order to reach the specific type of people that live in each community. This type of multiplication also has the added benefit of being accessible to various types of leaders and removes the pressure of having to conform to certain expectations of what church should be. As he says, anyone can do it:

“Just start. Start with one. You can’t sit around waiting for everything to line up, and get your whole plan together. I am a big believer in prototyping–and anybody can do it.”

We’re doing a decent job at reaching some people with our present forms of church and evangelism, and I celebrate the vibrancy we are seeing in so many of our congregations across the CBWC. But to reach the unchurched and the totally unreached in our neighbourhoods, something’s going to have to change (check out Mike Frost’s brief video on this topic).

Our Turn
Would you be willing to consider participating in some R&D, initiating a “prototype” in your area? Think about your neighbourhood. What does is look like? What does it need? What does it have to offer the greater community? Who isn’t being reached?

And what about your existing church? What do your people have to offer? Who can you train into leadership? What other congregations in the area could you partner with to offer something new to a demographic or neighbourhood that isn’t presently being reached?

“Start something, and try it! If it doesn’t work the way you want, tweak it or change it, or try something different. But every pastor in every neighbourhood–rural, urban, suburban, ex-urban–everybody can be training leaders and trying to figure out how can we start new congregations to reach new populations of people in our area that are not being reached.”

Shannon, Joell and I really do believe that every church is called to and capable of multiplication in some form. That’s why we’re here to pray for, evoke, resource, and support you on that journey to health and growth. Talk to us today!

Find us at The Gathering this weekend in Calgary to chat about what could be next for you and your congregation. We’ll have some resources for you, and would love to collect some stories of life and growth in your area that we can share here on the blog.

Missional Mindset in Everyday Spaces

By Cailey Morgan

While our homes and neighbourhoods should be seen as perhaps our primary mission field, we cannot forget the large amount of time that many of us spend away from home: at work, or in shared public spaces.

Second Place: Vocation
At first glance, there’s nothing epic about your workspace or office lunchroom. Forty hours a week standing behind your customer service counter or at the front of your classroom may not seem like the exhilarating adventure of a missionary. But it can be. God has put us where we are for a reason: to be His hands bringing kindness and mercy and His voice proclaiming justice and love.

“Theologically speaking, our vocation is not about economic exchange. It is not about making more money, or achieving the American dream. It is about contributing to and participating in God’s mission” (Tom Nelson, Work Matters).

As with anytime we want to join God in His good work, prayer is the ultimate tool for us to grow as missionaries in our workplaces. Here are a 3 simple practices to try:

  • The List: Write down 10 people you regularly interact with in the course of your workday (including those you may not like that much). Each day for a month, pray for a different person on this list. Ask God to give you His heart for that person, and ask Him what your role is in that person’s journey this month. Write down these conversations with God, and make sure to follow through on what He asks of you.
  • Constant Awareness: Choose a short phrase to repeat to God throughout the day as you engage various people and situations. It could be a question: “where are You at work here?” a declaration of intent: “I will speak the truth in love,” a statement about God: “the Lord is gracious and compassionate to all He has made!”  or a request: “Holy Spirit, please help me listen well to You and to others.”
  • Share It: Personally, I find that praying with others makes me more consistent and focused in my conversations with the Father. Ask a mentor, someone in your small group, or your spouse, to pray with you regularly for those in your workplace. There’s nothing better than the joy of sharing an answered prayer with a friend!

Third Place: Informal public spaces
In his book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg explains that informal public places where interpersonal ministry can flourish (also known as third spaces) have been minimized in our culture because urban sprawl, automobile culture, and home entertainment changed who we are and how we get our needs met. However, the trendy nature of coffeeshop culture and the emphasis on exercise for health in our society has provided some renewed opportunities to simply hang out and meet people!

Here are some of the benefits of third places, that should make us want to be intentional about spending our time there:

  • Third spaces are neutral ground—there’s not usually a single host.
  • They often act as a social leveler where all kinds of people can be found in the same place.
  • Conversation is often the main activity.

Think about your life. Do you have third places, like a coffee shop, park, gym or even grocery store that you frequent? If not, your first step is to consider why not, and one way you could alter your life routine to include regular times at a location like this.

If you do have regular third places in your life, have you considered the implications of your time there? What is your purpose? Can you add the goal of living incarnationally as Jesus did into these spaces? What hope can you bring? Where is there darkness that you can bring light? Who in those places needs to be listened to? Needs to hear your God-story?

Glow lightbulb

If we really are called to be salt—bringing preservation and drawing out the good aromas around us—and light—casting out the darkness and pointing to the hope of Jesus—then we need to get serious about seeing our every movement and moment in our lives’ routines as opportunities to live for the sake of others.

I pray that as we listen to God and to those around us, that He will guide each of you into His crucial and beautiful mission in the places you live, work, learn and play.

This is the final article in a series. Read the other posts here:

  1. Why, Oh Why?
  2. The Missionary Nature of God and His Church
  3. Incarnational Presence
  4. Space to be Truly Present
  5. Missional Margin
  6. Second and Third Spaces

Sabbath Book Reviews

In my article about how our life pace impacts our witness, I mentioned the importance of Sabbath in the rhythm of the local missionary. The Sabbath conversation is huge, and something that I’m still working through in my life in bivocational ministry (i.e., what does the Sabbath look like for pastors? Can we ask our people to take Sunday off when really, we as ministers have Sundays as a major work day? And is it biblical to celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday in the first place, or does it even matter which day it is?).

Here are two book reviews from my dear friend and pastoral colleague Rick Eitzen. My hope is that you will not only read Rick’s reviews of Brueggemann and Heschel, but will be inspired to pick up the books themselves.  ~ Cailey

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Sabbath As Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now by Walter Brueggemann
Reviewed by Rick Eitzen

Using the Exodus as the context of the Ten Commandments, Brueggemann demonstrates that the Sabbath is a powerful practice of resistance and alternative to a society of anxiety, fear, restless productivity and slavery represented by Pharaoh. It shapes and defines Israel as Yahweh’s people who receive the gift of rest and God’s presence while protecting those vulnerable in their society. The Ten Commandments, given in the context of the Exodus and deliverance of God’s people from slavery to new life, govern how Israel relates to Yahweh and one another.

For Brueggemann, the Sabbath as the fourth commandment connects the first commandment (no idols) to the tenth (no coveting). It reaches back to the first commandment by providing a practice of trust, rest and resistance in a culture of commodification and endless acquisition (serving Master Money) and it reaches forward to the tenth commandment: no coveting, defined as the pursuit of commodity at the expense of the neighbour. “Sabbath is a big no for both; it is no to the worship of commodity; it is no to the pursuit of commodity. But it is more than no. Sabbath is the regular, disciplined, visible, concrete yes to the neighborly reality of the community beloved by God” (p 86). When we do not practice Sabbath we easily slip into covetousness, for life that consists of frantic production and consumption reduces everyone else to threat and competitor. In the Sabbath, anxious productivity is replaced with committed neighbourliness (p 27).

For Brueggemann, the Sabbath is primarily a social issue. He insists that the social power and relevance of the Sabbath requires it be practiced with neighbours, that we as Christians are to “sponsor a system of rest that contradicts the system of anxiety of Pharaoh, because you are no longer subject to Pharaoh’s anxiety system” (p 30). He does not outline specific ways or rules by which we might resist on the Sabbath but rather calls us to examine ways in which we participate in the anxiety of our socio-economic system and “are defined by busyness and by acquisitiveness and by pursuit of more, in either our economics or our personal relations” (p 31). He questions the value and the statement of allegiance we make in every action, from buying and selling (shopping) to sports and entertainment and kids activities. “Sabbath is a school for our desires, an expose and critique of the false desires that focus on idolatry and greed that have immense power for us. When we do not pause for Sabbath, these false desires take power over us” (p 88). Jesus said that we can’t love God and money and Sabbath is a practice that actively resists the lure of money and our obsession with acquisition. The Sabbath day is a gift and calls us to recognize that “we live by gift and not by possession, that we are satisfied by relationships of attentive fidelity and not by amassing commodities” (85)

I appreciate the social implications of Brueggemann’s emphasis on practicing Sabbath. It is always a crucial part of our faith to remember the marginalized, the immigrant, the orphan and widow, thereby actively showing ourselves to be Christ’s disciples, creating an alternative community with different values and a different identity. I’m unsatisfied with his definition of Sabbath as mostly something negative, as “restraint, withdrawal, or divestment from the concrete practices of society that specialize in anxiety” (P 85), as well as his emphasis that the Sabbath is primarily social in significance.

Social justice is important and often overlooked but it is not the most important facet of our faith or identity. Yes, we love our neighbour as ourselves and Sabbath can certainly help us “come out from them and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17), but to love neighbour properly we must love God first, which requires an imagination for what we are coming into, not just coming out of. And what we come into is not only a social alternative but the very holy, loving and transformative presence of Christ as a people with a new identity, new family and new calling. Otherwise we risk becoming just another good social service agency and miss the empowering and transforming presence of Christ.

Brueggemann comes closest to a positive definition in his description of Sabbath as gift – “Sabbath is not simply the pause that refreshes. It is the pause that transforms. Whereas Israelites are always tempted to acquisitiveness, Sabbath is an invitation to receptivity, an acknowledgement that what is needed is given and need not be seized” (P 45). It is an invitation to trust, to cease striving, to “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt 11:29).

Sabbath As Resistance raises significant issues around social justice and the responsibility of God’s chosen people to daily choose whether they will serve Pharaoh and his system of anxiety and acquisition, or Yahweh and his way of trust, rest and new social order based on neighbourly community. It causes us to ask uncomfortable questions as to how our actions betray our worship and pursuit of commodity rather than love of God and neighbour.

Sabbath is a wonderful means of resistance, reshaping our identity and priorities and calls us out for the sake of the world, especially the vulnerable who do not thrive in a capitalistic system where striving to gain the world always comes at the expense of our souls.

The Sabbath by Abraham Heschel
Reviewed by Rick Eitzen

In 1951, Abraham Heschel, a Jewish rabbi and professor, wrote The Sabbath, a short and elegant book about its meaning for our modern age. Heschel begins and ends with a distinction between time and space.

Space
He argues that “we are all infatuated with the splendor of space…Thing is a category that lies heavy on our minds, tyrannizing all our thoughts” (Loc 172). God created the physical world and declared it good so although we are to enjoy the blessing of space/things, we are not to be obsessed or enslaved by them, for “life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our sole concern” (loc 150). And although “there is happiness in the love of labor, there is misery in the love of gain” (loc 158).

Time
“However, the Bible is more concerned with time than with space…it pays more attention to generations, to events, than to countries, to things…time has a meaning for life which is at least equal to that of space…a significance and sovereignty of its own” (Loc 202). Time is the realm of the main themes of faith and meaning. Herschel is careful to avoid a sacred/secular divide in distinguishing between time and space, emphasizing rather that we are too preoccupied with space at the expense of time/soul/eternity and that Sabbath is the cure to keeping both in proper perspective.

Beginning with Creation, Heschel notes that “things created in six days God considered good, the seventh day He made holy” (p 63). He did not create a holy place but a holy day, holiness in time – the Sabbath. “The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of the things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world” (Loc 248). It is a vision of a window in eternity that opens into time. In the Sabbath, “Eternity utters a day” (p 89). “The work on weekdays and the rest on the seventh day are correlated. The Sabbath is the inspirer, the other days the inspired” (p 10).

Sabbath is not a break from the week but its climax. “It is a palace in time which we build…made of soul, of joy and reticence” (p 2). God did not take a break on the seventh day; he finished His work. The Sabbath, just like the other six days, was an act of creation. “And God rested” – the word used is Menuha, which means rest, tranquility, serenity, peace and repose, “much more than withdrawal from labor and exertion, more than freedom from toil, strain or activity. It is not a negative concept but something real and intrinsically positive.” (p 10) (Note that “The Lord is my Shepherd…He leads me beside the waters of menuhot” – still, quiet, tranquil). Menuha was created on the seventh day which later became a synonym for the life in the world to come, eternal life. Much more than a day off, Sabbath is a glimpse into and opportunity to practice eternity.

Practicing the Sabbath
Even more significantly, Heschel declares that “who we are depends on what the Sabbath is to us” (p 89). So how does one practice Sabbath? Herschel gives very little practical advice, partly because he assumes a Jewish audience but mostly because his intent is to get at the significance, beauty, purpose and theology of the Sabbath. Certainly the day requires anticipation and planning, even to the point of orienting the week around the day. “Preparation for a holy day…(is) as important as the day itself” (loc 29).

What would it look like for Christians to practice Sabbath? Questions of date/time, practices of abstinence and engagement surface and certainly “there are some helpful Sabbath laws – those that require shutting off secular demands and refraining from work” (loc 114) which should be discussed and observed as communal practices (rather than private/individual) but the emphasis should always be on the spirit of the day and not the technicalities of the laws/practices (Jesus had much to say on this). Celebration of Sabbath is not routine or regulation but relationship and one should cease from work on the day just as one would cease from all other work on one’s wedding day. It should be practiced joyfully and with delight, although it “is not an occasion for diversion or frivolity…but an opportunity to mend our tattered lives; to collect rather than dissipate time” (p 5).

How does one rest on the Sabbath and what about all of the work that still needs to be done? “’Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work’” (Ex 20:8) (note that both work and rest are commanded)…Does not our work always remain incomplete? What the verse means to convey is: Rest on the Sabbath as if all your work were done” (p 19).

Heschel’s concept of Sabbath with its distinct laws and rituals is of course Jewish and at times his personification and almost deification of Sabbath is uncomfortable but his emphases on the purpose, Biblical basis and reason for practicing Sabbath should be considered very carefully. There is something about the Sabbath that is biblical, rich, beautiful, and absent in many Christian circles. Not only is it the climax of creation and one of the ten commandments, it may also be “the answer to the problem of civilization: not to flee from the realm of space; to work with things of space but to be in love with eternity. Things are our tools; eternity, the Sabbath, is our mate. (We) are engaged to eternity” (p 37).

Communication and Engagement

by Cailey Morgan

One of our goals for the coming year is to build our network by connecting with the following people:

  • Potential church planters and church communities working toward multiplication from within the CBWC.
  • Potential church planters from within the greater Western Canada context.
  • Potential new affiliations: church communities who do not yet belong to a family of churches.

In order to help us reach these goals, we’re participating in several local networking events. Last week,  Joell took part in the Missions Conference at Millar Seminary. Next weekend, January 27-29, Shannon and I are hosting a booth at MissionsFest Vancouver. Come find us in booth A06 if you’re in the neighbourhood!

In preparation for sharing our story and our dreams at these events, we put together some promotional cards to help explain 4 ways that individuals, small groups, and churches can engage with Church Planting. Since many of you, our readers, are part of the CBWC family and have some kind of interest in our ministry, we’d really covet your feedback on these cards, and your opinions on how these methods of engagement could work or would need to be adapted for your context.

So here are the engagement cards in their entirety for your perusal. Please read through these cards with a hopeful, prayerful and critical eye, and contact us with your thoughts and ideas of how you and your congregation could engage, and of ways to improve how we communicate. Email me at cmorgan@cbwc.ca or leave a response on WordPress.

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Belong Front Page

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Bolster Front Page

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Initiate Front Page

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Multiply Front Page

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Back Page

Thanks for your engagement!

Space to be Truly Present

By Cailey Morgan

Over the past several articles, I’ve been taking a look at some of the paradigm shifts that Brad Brisco suggests in Missional Essentials are crucial to us as God’s people learning to live out our purpose as His sent ones.

We discussed how our posture must change from doing ministry to, or even ministry for, to ministry with. With is a much more patient and intimate way of gospelling, that takes place wherever we happen to live our lives—our homes, our workplaces, our schools, our shopping haunts.

But practically, what does this look like for us? How do we live out ministry with in a hyper-individualized, over-scheduled culture of fear and isolation? Again, my themes arise from Brad Brisco’s work, as well as thoughts from Ray Oldenburg, Tim Keller and Richard Swenson. In the next few posts, let’s take a look at our homes, our workplaces and third spaces—and ultimately our hearts—to explore opportunities for mission in each sphere of life.

First Places: Our Homes
Our homes and neighbourhoods are a very basic building block for living as missionaries. Jesus exemplified radical hospitality, and had a lot to say about how we are to treat our neighbours, and the opportunities that our homes present us for genuine witness. Having people into our homes, and finding ways to be present in the community in hopes of being invited into others’ spaces, is an avenue for evangelism we all should be living out.

Home Sweet Home by jlhopgood CC BY-ND 2.0

However, most of us are not.

As Brisco says, “How on earth can we expect to love our neighbours if we don’t know their names?” We all have neighbours, but everyone I’ve talked to has said it’s a struggle to get to know those living near them. Some of us don’t like initiating new relationships. Some of us see our neighbours in their gardens as we drive by, but never have the time to stop and chat. Some of our neighbours operate under “stranger danger” and don’t trust us—or sometimes we’re the ones who have built walls to “protect” our families, which really end up perpetuating the lack of trust.

So how do we grow in using the first space—our homes—as part of our life of mission? I think there are three elements we can evaluate.

1. Trust. What are three ways that your willingly offer your time, talents, treasures and relationships to the Father? What are three ways that you take matters into your own hands? This evaluation can be sensitive, because we need to look at who’s really in control of our iCals, our kids, and what we turn to for identity and value.

In the book Untamed, Deb Hirsch does not mince words in her evaluation of whether we trust God with our home life:

the family has effectively become a pernicious idol…missional hospitality is seen as a threat, not an opportunity…our families and our homes should be places where people can experience a foretaste of heaven. Where the church is rightly viewed as a community of the redeemed from all walks of life.

2. Relationship. Do you know your neighbours? Shannon and I love the neighbourhood mapping exercise of drawing the street and seeing how many neighbours you can name. This exercise becomes especially helpful when you use it as a basis for prayer. Lord, how should I pray for the people in that home? What are my opportunities to be the answer to those prayers? Sometimes, the next step is to just knock and say hi.

3. Space. How about an audit of your home and how it could be used creatively to bring people together? Some of us might need to roll our barbecues onto the front porch so that we’re more visible from the street. Others could throw a neighbourhood party in the garage.

I have some friends in an apartment building who got permission from the manager to turn an unused piece of courtyard into a community garden. Not only are they spending evenings sowing and weeding with their neighbours, but they also bring their morning coffee out to the patio table in the garden and hang out with whoever joins them.

A helpful resource here is Don’t Invite Them to Church: Moving From a Come and See to a Go and Be Church by Karen Wilk. This flexible guidebook will help you, your small group, or your church get started in neighborhood ministry and missional living.

Next time, we’ll work through the major roadblock to neighbouring: our time, or seeming lack thereof.

This is the fourth article in a series. Read the other posts here:

  1. Why, Oh Why?
  2. The Missionary Nature of God and His Church
  3. Incarnational Presence
  4. Space to be Truly Present
  5. Missional Margin
  6. Missional Mindset in Everyday Spaces

The Missionary Nature of God and His Church

By Cailey Morgan

In my previous article, I explained how Brad Brisco, Director of Bivocational Church Planting for the North American Mission Board, suggests that until we truly understand the why of our life as God’s people, we won’t have eyes to see how God is trying to shape our what and how. Brisco gives several paradigm shifts in our why thinking, the first being the missionary nature of God and therefore of the church.

CC Kevin T. Houle

Kevin T Houle

God is a Missionary and God is Missionary
When someone says the word missionary, what image comes to mind? Often, the picture is of an individual passionate about bringing the restorative work of God to a group of people far away. They’re so passionate, in fact, that they are willing to move into a new and uncomfortable context, learn a new language, incarnate into the daily life of those people, and in many cases (Jim Elliot and his colleagues come to mind), missionaries are even willing to be killed by the very people to whom they have come bringing hope. When described in that sense, I’m comfortable considering God as a missionary, especially as seen in the life of Christ.

However, when we say He is a missionary God, we are not only saying that He is a missionary, but that He is missionary: mission-focused, mission-like. His person is one of mission. Being missionary is one of His attributes.

From Genesis’ creation narrative to the promise of Christ’s recreative work in Revelation, the grand story of Scripture is about God and His mission. He is at work in the world. His nature is missionary.

God’s Called and Sent Ones
What does God’s missionary nature mean for us, then? As His people, following in His footsteps, we are to be a called and sent people. This paradigm shift helps us see the church not primarily as a mechanism for sending missionaries. Indeed, as Brisco says, “the church is missionary! We are individually and collectively the sent people of God.”

The language in Scripture is almost overwhelming on this point. The prophetic books are stories and words of people sent by God to participate in His redeeming mission and redemptive deeds. Jesus refers to Himself as the sent One over 3 dozen times in the book of John.

God’s people are called to Him and then sent as part of His mission. And this cycle of calling and sending is to be reflected in the rhythm of God’s people as it was in the book of Acts. We are to be a gathered and scattered people, called and sent, as it were, daily, weekly, yearly.

A Gather-Scatter People
Becoming missional does not mean abandoning everything about our present structures. Take, for example, a typical weekly church routine. Rather than a Sunday service being the main missional activity of our week—the program we bring our friends to so they hear about Jesus—what if this service was the calling, the gathering of a people who have been sent into their streets and schools and workplaces to share the gospel in every moment? The service becomes a celebration of God’s transformative work in the lives of us and our friends, and a time of equipping in order to again be scattered into spheres of influence for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

In this upward spiral of gathered and scattered, weeknight home groups become evenings of intercession and of vision: how do we support each other as we search for God’s action in our neighbourhoods and step out in faith to follow Him there? Bible studies become more vital than ever as we hide God’s Word so richly in our hearts that it not only changes us but begins to spill over into our daily interactions, bringing hope to those who don’t yet know Christ.

Let the Holy Spirit guide your imagination. Are there other elements of your congregational life that need to be steeped in the missionary nature of God? Is Jesus inviting your family into a new way of following His footsteps? Or a renewed understanding of your call and your sentness?

Next time, we’ll look deeper into God’s calling for us, and how it could be that His exhortation “Go!” in fact means “Stay!”

For more from Brad Brisco on these issues, check out these video sessions with Brad, made available for free from our friends at Forge Canada Missional Training Network.

This is the second article in a series. Read the other posts here:

  1. Why, Oh Why?
  2. The Missionary Nature of God and His Church

  3. Incarnational Presence
  4. Space to be Truly Present
  5. Missional Margin
  6. Missional Mindset in Everyday Spaces

Why, Oh Why?

By Cailey Morgan

Have you ever researched the meaning of life? I recently asked Siri about that very topic, and her response was “chocolate.” Thanks Apple.

Why? CCSA Katie Sayer

Our church, as a Body—God’s people in a place—needs to be asking these kinds of questions. Why are we here? How do we view the church in the context of the world? What is the church’s purpose? Why does our local congregation exist? These are questions not so quickly solved by a conversation with an iPhone.

Perhaps your mind runs to the weekly church service, the sending of international missionaries, the provision of tradition around cultural milestones such as Christmas, weddings and funerals. Perhaps home groups, visiting the sick, potlucks, and youth programs round out your experience of church.

But these activities in and of themselves do not explain why God’s church exists. Each of these elements are biblical and often helpful manifestations of God’s people in the world, but they are only the how, not the why.

In some circles, there has been a backlash against traditional elements of congregational life like these. And in most cases, I agree with the prophets who are crying out “something’s missing!” But all our attempts to change the how—offering sermon podcasts, meeting in a funky warehouse, improving the coffee served during the service, or even exchanging “Sunday morning seeker-sensitivity” for grassroots missional neighbourhood outreach—will not change the reality that perhaps it is the why that we have backwards. (Although I must ask if there’s anything less pleasing to God or humanity than coffee so weak it comes out of the urn looking like tea!)

I would argue that if we are able to interpret ourselves, our world, and most importantly, our God correctly (the why), then the modus operandi (the how) will become of secondary importance. When our people are inspired by God’s good why, the how becomes a point of healthy discussion and relational depth, rather than a reason for dissension.

So What is the Why?
What is Christ calling us to? Who are we to be? I believe both these questions can be answered through prayer and the study of our context, once the primary issue—what is our purpose?—has been answered.

Brad Brisco, church planting advocate and co-author of Missional Essentials and Next Door As It Is In Heaven, points out several paradigm shifts he thinks today’s church needs to make, in view of Scripture’s description of our purpose. Here are two that I think are especially relevant for us:

  1. The Nature of God and of the Church is Missionary.
  2. The Church is to be an Incarnational Presence.

In the articles that follow in the coming weeks, I will elaborate on both paradigm shifts. My hope is that some of the traditions of your church will be validated as you see them from a new perspective, and that some parts of your congregational expression will be challenged as your why is again brought front-of-mind.

If you’d rather hear from Brad Brisco on these topics than me, check out Missional Essentials, a brilliant and down-to-earth 12-week curriculum (available in Spanish and English) to help your small groups or leadership team explore these and several other biblical directives.

This is the first article in a series. Read the other posts here:

  1. Why, Oh Why?
  2. The Missionary Nature of God and His Church

  3. Incarnational Presence
  4. Space to be Truly Present
  5. Missional Margin
  6. Missional Mindset in Everyday Spaces

Rural Realities

Over the past couple weeks on the blog, we’ve been celebrating the beautiful diversity of Western Canada and some of the ways to move forward in church planting in rural, urban and suburban settings. Here’s an interesting piece from Joyce Sasse of the Canadian Rural Church Network on some of the particular opportunities for spiritual development we may find in rural areas. ~ Cailey

The Spiritual Values of Rural People

By Joyce Sasse, CRCN– CiRCLe M Newsletter

While rural people would not readily be able to enumerate the following, my studies in the Rural Church Movement have led me to believe these values are held in common by rural people around the world.

Awareness of the Presence of God
Creation is recognized as a gift from God by those who feel they work as co-partners with God. This is so integral to their lives, “God-talk” for many grassroots people is not seen to be necessary.

Respect for land and landscape
It is as if one is connected to the Creation by an umbilical cord. When the land suffers from drought or pollution (or some other degradation), the pain is felt in the people. When the brilliant colors of an autumn sky burst forth, the beauty is contagious. In the face of nature’s destructive powers, the inclination is to look for glimmers of hope.

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Centrality of Community
“[The rural church’s] strength is in knowing we exist for the community, and the community values our existence.”1

In the extended community beyond church buildings and denominational labels, many community members try to tend the needs of each-other. Given insightful leadership, they have the capacity to reach across what were once religious, age, gender, sex and ethnic biases.

Paradox: Being Independent, but Aware of the Need for Interdependence
The request is to respect my privacy, but when there is a major emergency everyone gives of what they can to help the people in crisis. When a home burns or a farmer is injured at harvest time, the amount of support offered is incredible.

Awareness of the Prevalence of Pain in Our Midst
“Be kinder than usual for everyone is fighting some kind of battle.”2
Laments and ways of acknowledging and expressing grief, prayer support and funding are much appreciated. Letting others know about pain experienced by members of the community is a delicate but important matter.

Diversity is Essential (socially as in agriculture)
It is recognized that the input of “others” is necessary if the community is to garner fresh vitality. Consider finding a place for the new daughter-in-law, the newcomer from the city or from another country. Great generosity is extended to the “new minister” as the community finds a place for him/her in their midst.

Believe in a Strong Work Ethic
In the past it was often noted that urban leaders came from a rural background where they had learned leadership within the community. Through programs such as 4-H, leadership skills are taught at an early age. A heritage-gift for children in small communities is helping instill in them the desire to “do well”.

Story-telling is the Primary Means of Communication
“Telling our story helps us make sense of our lives.”3

As one gains fluency in expressing their stories, these cultural values are more easily passed on to succeeding generations and to new-comers. In the rural church context a budget presentation that tells the story of the congregation’s values and aspirations trumps any presentation made via charts and graphs.

Alright, friends in rural Canada, Do you agree with Sasse’s assessment of rural life? Are there other assets you can think of when it comes to church planting in a rural context? Share your thoughts on this blog or email cmorgan@cbwc.ca

1 Robyn McPhail, New Zealand
2 Source Anonymous
3 Source Anonymous

Churches in Cities

Last week, I shared a resource with some tips for suburban life for God’s Kingdom. This week, let’s talk about the importance of church planting in the city! ~ Cailey

9 Reasons We Must Connect our Churches with Cities

By Chuck Lawless

Even if you have no interest in urban settings and ministries, I plead with you to continue to read this post. We are called to get the gospel to all peoples of the world (Matt. 28:18-20), and we will not do that if we shy away from the world’s cities. Please read on, and pray about how your church might tackle a city – then encourage others to read this post as well.

Calgary_Downtown.jpg

  1. The smallest church can reach out to a city. To be honest, it’s simple – find a ministry in a city, and partner with them. Whether your church is itself urban or rural, with 10 members or 10,000, you can do something in the city. The needs are so great that opportunities are there for everybody.
  2. People are in the cities. This reason is basic, but not insignificant. The world has been more urban than rural for at least seven years now. The ten most populated cities in the U.S. have 25 million people in the actual city boundaries, with 95 million people in the ten largest metropolitan areas. The church needs to be where people are.
  3. Evangelicals aren’t always in our cities. Though this picture is rightly changing, evangelicals have not been strong in cities. We have emphasized evangelism but have been cautious about engaging some of the most obvious mission fields in the world. Gospel-witness voids still remain.
  4. The nations are in the cities. Years ago, I was privileged to minister in a Vietnamese village in Moscow, Russia. I’ve been with Hispanics in South Asia and Europeans in Southeast Asia. If the Lord would allow me, I would live in the middle of New York City – an urban setting where more than 800 languages are spoken. If we want to reach the world’s people groups, the city is the place to go.
  5. World influencers are in the city. Think about the potential of influencing the world if we reach leaders in New York, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, or Mumbai. The worlds of the arts, literature, politics, sports, media, etc. are there – what would happen if the gospel influences them?
  6. The needy are in the city. Poverty in the city offers significant opportunity for the church to minister. The combined stresses of poverty and urban life often threaten families, foster division, and invite crime. The church has the answer to all of these issues – if the church is there.
  7. Job opportunities are often there. That’s not to say that everyone will find a job, but the sheer size of cities often provides employment opportunities. Here’s the reason this point matters: believers can move to cities to be a light in the darkness, trusting that finding a job will not be an impossibility.
  8. Reaching the city requires partnerships. No single church can reach millions of people, even with multi-site approaches. City reaching requires us to push beyond our differences to work together. That unity is what Jesus prayed for in John 17, and it wouldn’t hurt us to work together for the Great Commission task.
  9. The job is too big for us. Who can reach 22 million+ in greater New York or the 37 million+ in Tokyo? Who would even know where to start? God does, and He requires us to seek Him and His wisdom. If the city drives us to our knees, that’s a good place to be.

What other reasons would you add?

Be sure to check out Dr. Lawless’ daily blog posts at www.chucklawless.com. Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

Urban Suburban

Have you ever seen the show Urban Suburban? On each episode, a Canadian family trying to decide where to settle down is taken on a whirlwind real estate adventure to help make up their minds. The show’s two hosts argue the benefits of each kind of lifestyle–comfort, affordability, luxury, walkability and so forth, until the family finally makes a decision, which, of course, starts out being a compromise but ends up being a dream home made for happily ever afters.

In God’s paradigm, when we ask the question of urban or suburban, the answer is “YES!” We need missional communities in city centres, in sprawling suburbs, and in rural outposts. God’s Kingdom is advancing into every nook and cranny of our nation, and we have the opportunity to join in. 

Over the next couple weeks, we’re going to share some articles from various sources that can help us explore what church planting could look like, and what ongoing church life could look like, in each of these contexts. Western Canada’s geography gives us an amazing opportunity to express God’s love in so many different and beautiful ways, so I hope you are encouraged by these articles and find helpful encouragement. For this first week, here’s a look at suburban missional life. ~Cailey

7 Practical Tips for Missional Communities in the Suburbs

by Jon Dansby. This article reposted from the Verge Network.

First, let me say that the suburbs are a great place for a community on mission. Usually, the mission to declare and demonstrate the gospel is the missing link that ties MCs together, but suburbs are great for mission!

Suburbs Christopher Chappelear

There are lots of reasons that this is so:

  • Suburbs are broken up into neighborhoods.

Both community and mission happen more naturally in a defined neighborhood. This may seem obvious, but sadly it’s not. You can shoehorn your calendar to make it work far away, but you’ll run out of steam eventually. It’s hard to get focused and passionate about reaching an undefined group of people like “all our friends at different jobs” or “people from all our different neighborhoods.”

For the same reason, people don’t move overseas to reach Afghanistan and then all live in different countries. Our MC’s explicit mission is “to make disciples in the Brushy Creek neighborhood.” We are all praying for the same faces and names. This has been life for our MC!

  • Suburbs usually have several entry points. 

Besides just being neighborly, most suburbs have several coordinated things going on. Our biggest break was when my wife began attending Bunco (also called “drunko” by the ladies) with a bunch of other neighbors. Then these saucy ladies invited her onto the Yard of the Month committee.

Suburbs do all kinds of things where you can join in (HOA, basketball, Bunco, Xmas parties, block parties, Halloween, parks, sports, pools, your own parties, etc.). As we’ve gotten in deeper friendships, we have a policy to never say ‘no’ to a neighbor.

  • Suburbs allow you to know people well enough to serve them.

Suburbs allow you to know people well enough to serve them. There are people with needs right around you. Rather than serving at some organization over 20 minutes away, you can get to know your neighbors and serve them. We had a single mom living across the street and as we got to know her, I saw that her yard was a constant struggle for her. I told her that her yard was now our responsibility. So our entire MC showed up and worked. She sat in our driveway sharing a drink with my wife and was blown away, unable to comprehend why we would do this.

So, get to know people. Is there a couple who hasn’t had a date in over a year because they need a babysitter? A mom who needs English lessons? An elderly recluse who needs a friend? Some neighbors who are looking for a regular central hangout?

Practical Tips for Suburban Missional Community

Let me talk about a few crucial practical elements have been a huge part of my MC.

1. Pray. I know, I know. This sounds like one of the Sunday school answers: “Jesus…Bible…God…pray!” But it’s not. Missional Community is truly a work of the Spirit. The Spirit alone makes our testimony about Jesus effective to the world. Jesus rebuked the disciples for their prayerlessness in working for Him against Satan’s kingdom (Mk 9:29).

No less for us when we’re laboring to win people out of Satan’s kingdom. We must pray in a way that believes, “you do not have because you do not ask!” Ask often with names and faces in mind.

2. Do things differently on purpose. This is crucial. Somebody smart once said, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” You and your people won’t drift toward mission any more than you naturally drift towards any other kind of difficult obedience. In past groups, we assumed that studying the right thing would move us to obey it. It never really worked. So, we had to even talk about our MC differently from the beginning.

3. Cultivate community while doing mission. Obviously, there are at least 2 parts to missional community: mission and community (duh). So, that means that you’ll have to keep your eye on both. Your community needs mission and your mission needs community. A community without mission is self-focused (and disobedient).

A mission without community is hamstrung without the community apologetic. In our MC, we spent time in my home gathering for meals from the very beginning. At these meals, sometimes my neighbors would come by, sometimes they wouldn’t. Cultivating mission and cultivating community isn’t either/or, rather it’s necessarily both/and.

4. Mission takes years, not weeks. Adjust your expectations. If you’re going to make a difference, you need to be in it for the long haul. This is where doing MC in the suburbs really shines because your neighbors have to ask the bank before they can go somewhere else. You really want your unbelieving neighbors to find true friendship with your MC. That takes time!

5. Move your 3rd Place to your home. This is something that is unique to suburbs. A Third Place needs to be neutral, natural, and regular. Your home isn’t neutral or natural if you’re trying to reach those at your work. In this case, a restaurant, a pub, or something else is more appropriate. However, a home is completely neutral and natural for unbelieving neighbors. We meet in my home at least twice a month for our 3rd Place meal and it has been incredibly fruitful. We’ve basically fused our Third Place and our Family Meal.

6. Invest in hospitality! Spend time and spend money to get to know your neighbors. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21). In the same way that you don’t really care about a stock price until you invest in it, you won’t care about hospitality until you put some time and money into it. If you invest in this, you will want to see it flourish. Hospitality is certainly the most overlooked evangelistic discipline. Hospitality aids proclamation. Over time we’ve bought folding chairs, large folding tables, outdoor light strings, speakers for music, lots of different beverages, more plates, etc.

7. Don’t forget to be a community. I’ve talked a lot about mission, but you’ll need to invest some time with people who’ve joined your MC. Quality time requires quantity time. Do stuff on the weekends. Go eat wings, fix each other’s homes up, read the same books, take care of each other’s kids, be friends.