Ethnic Churches are Sent

By Shannon Youell

Most of us love hearing stories of missionaries who have brought the Good News of Jesus as King–the King who brings the salvation of God’s kingdom now breaking into human reality to those who have followed other gods or not known God in any form or shape. The church has done a good and faithful job of bringing this news to most of the world. Stories of new faith and new communities brings us all new life and hope and energy.

When I was teaching in churches and discipleship schools in India, I had hours of “car” time with some of the pastors whose churches and schools I was teaching (Canada, quit complaining about traffic – it is insane in Mumbai!). Many of them asked why the church in Canada was declining and faithfulness to God was becoming a private pursuit when it was faithful Canadian missionaries who brought the gospel to much of India. My quip back was that perhaps their church needed to begin sending us missionaries to reignite our passion to be faithfully present where we are and to share the Gospel with our neighbours.

For years the pray-ers in Canadian churches have been praying for God to revive us, to reignite our passion for God’s mission, and to breathe new life on us. And we are seeing new life coming to us as God sends us the nations.

At Assembly 2019, CBWC welcomed into full membership four new churches: three Filipino and one Iranian church. Almost all our other plants in process are ethnically based – Cantonese, Arabic, Spanish, Karen, Kachin, African. We should take note of this….God is actually sending missionaries to Canada! And they are planting churches here.  


Welcoming new churches into the family

There is two-fold purpose behind their plants: the first is that first generation new Canadians long to worship God in their ‘heart’ language, just as we do. The second is that when Christ followers come, they recognize there are many from their own lands that have not settled into communities of faith, are not following Christ, not engaged in a faith community and in true missionary fashion, they want to share Jesus with those folk. 

There are many conversations around what this trend means, but I think the pertinent point is that God is doing ‘something’. These communities are exciting us with their stories of folk coming to Jesus, in their devotion to gathering, to intentional missional discipleship, to sharing Jesus boldly and courageously wherever they find themselves. Perhaps they are the ‘wake-up’ call our complacent, contemplatively established churches need, to help re-excite us to the reality that Good News is still Good News for the world. 

The question is how do the second and third generations, who will be English speaking and whose culture will now be predominantly Canadian, stay engaged? How does the existing church begin to be a place where ethnic diversity truly has a place?

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, in his book Future Faith, tells us that when non-Caucasian people go to a church where all the leaders are of one ethnicity, they do not see a place for themselves. Our churches themselves are not ethnically diverse. The existing churches that are growing the most are those that have multi-ethnic staffs of both males and females. The interesting piece of his research is that the other ethnic leaders do not even have to be of the same ethnicity as the person seeking to join a church – they just have to be non-Caucasian!

The other important note I want to comment on is something that a Korean pastor of a Vancouver church said in a church catalyst meeting: multi-cultural is not the same as multi-ethnic: multi-cultural means that there is a diversity of cultures and the expressions of faith and worship of those cultures are reflected in the gathering and scattering times. Our warm welcome of all people assumes they will worship, reflect, pray, and minister like our dominant culture does, which would make us multi-ethnic but not multi-cultural.

This is an important distinction to make as our new-Canadian church plants move to the second and third generations who will be looking for multi-cultural expressions of faith to stay engaged in church life. Canada’s young people are growing up in a diverse world and they too will gravitate towards diverse expressions of faith and community. We should be right beside them opening the pathways.

I would like to say this is a near-future challenge for us and for our new churches, but we are past that. This is our challenge now and it would certainly appear as though God is sending the world to us to help us engage together in a place of all nations gathered together, worshiping and serving our God and our King.

Expressions: Underground Network

As we finish up our series based on expressions of the church, we’ll discuss another piece of Chris Morton’s article on the variety of church expressions that seem to be thriving in the United States: The Underground Network. Check out Chris’ article, or watch this clip to get a sense of what the Underground Network is up to:

We interviewed CBWC Pastor Cam Roxburgh, who shares his impressions of the Underground Network and what their success could mean for the Canadian context.

CP: Cam, as you know we are highlighting the work of the Spirit through the Underground Network. We understand that you know Executive Director Brian Sanders, and therefore we thought it might be helpful to get a few words that would help us understand from your Canadian, CBWC vantage point some of what we need to celebrate and pay attention to.

CR: It was only recently that I had the privilege of meeting Brian. I met him last fall through a Forge Canada Missional Training Network event, and then again this spring on two occasions. I brought him to Chicago to speak to leaders through work with the North American Baptists that I do, and we met again in New York only a couple of weeks ago at a leaders’ network. We hit it off, and have agreed to do some work together on a project that I think will be a very helpful tool in encouraging churches to assess where they are at missionally, and suggest some next steps in their journey.

It is really an amazing story. Brian of course is a dynamic leader, but as I have listened to him, read his work, and heard the stories, there is a lot for us to learn and to celebrate. God is clearly at work. My encouragement to all of us, is to get a copy of his book and read it. There is a lot there to chew on.


Cam sharing at Banff Pastors Conference 2018

CP: What should we pay attention to?

CR: There is a long list, too big for this edition, but here are a few of the top ones that come to mind.

Empowering Others – the very first thing that you cannot help but notice with the Underground Network is that there is a culture of empowering others. This is not a top-down leadership model at all, but rather they look for opportunities to help others to do what God is inviting them to do. They give ministry away at every turn. I heard story after story of them simply asking people what it is that they felt God calling them to do and then as a team finding ways to help make it happen.

Paying attention to God at Work – this was another of the key components. They tried to discern with people what God was calling people to, and where they saw God at work. They spent time empowering people, but empowering people to join God on mission, not just to “do activity.”

Focus on Leadership Development – this was a very exciting element to me. I think Brian has been doing a lot of work around intentional leadership on two levels. First, there is an intentional development of practices for leaders that shape leaders around the life of Jesus (my words) instead of a CEO model. Second, there is a mentoring or coaching aspect that I think is helpful. I think as they mature as a movement, it will be even further developed in intentionality.

CP: What concerns or cautions might you have for us as we consider what this type of model could look like in Western Canada?

CR: I feel a little awkward even commenting on this. I just want to say a big YEAH! For what God is doing in them. But, there is one thing that I think I can mention gently. Brian comes from a parachurch organization – a campus ministry and this developed and grew into a “church movement.” I think this gave life to The Underground, but also injected a parachurch DNA. So, I would say that they are a ministry looking for a deeper ecclesiology, rather than a church (with rich ecclesiology) looking for greater ministry. I am looking forward to them growing in learning to reflect on how everything that they do reflects their understanding of who God is… and I think they are a little lax on this at present. We are all theologians – whether we think we are or not. And we all bear witness to who God is by the way we live together. So we must pay great attention to this in our midst.

CP: Are there Canadian examples that are similar to what is happening in the Underground Church Network?

CR: I think the closest Canadian example or illustration of God doing similar things would be the MoveIn movement. This incredible story, led by Nigel Paul, has spread across Canada into many neighbourhoods. It really is a grassroots movement of people, particularly younger people, moving intentionally into neighbourhoods (poorer usually) to be the hands and feet of Jesus in that place. I would encourage us all to Google what they are doing and then to wrestle through how our churches might be encouraged to do similar things.

CP: What encouragement would you, a CBWC Pastor, have for us in what God is doing in creating movement in the CBWC?

CR: In light of our conversation, I think the simplest couple of pieces of encouragement would be these:

  • First, reading is a good thing and there are many books out there that can encourage missional movement or foster an imagination in us. The Underground Network is a good start.
  • Second, we need to keep finding ways to help our people understand that we cannot claim to follow Jesus without recognizing that we are a sent people. Not just sent individuals, but a sent people. This means both that we each need to do our part – called by God to join Him on mission – but that we embrace the reality that we are His kids, part of His family, that bear witness to the Trinitarian nature of God as we live more deeply as community into our neighbourhoods. This is a massive paradigm shift from the way we as evangelicals have lived in the past. It is hard – but incredibly life giving.

Cam Roxburgh, DMin. Fuller Seminary, is the National Director for Forge Canada as well as the Team Leader of Southside Community Church in Vancouver, BC. He also serves as the VP for Missional Initiatives with the North American Baptists. He continues to have a passion for helping the church to join Jesus on mission in local contexts. He is the husband of Shelley and the father of four adult kids. They live in Surrey, BC.

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.


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 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.


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.

Summer Video Series 6: God’s Mission and the Places We Live, Work and Play

by Cailey Morgan

Shannon, Joell and I are thankful for so many resources that are available for us as we seek to evoke and resources CBWC churches and members towards our shared mission of making disciples who make disciples.

Today’s video is another from Forge America. Brad Brisco: God’s Mission and the Places We Live, Work and Play is the longest of the resources we’ve made available here, because it actually includes a story of a group of people who’ve been contextually living out the stuff we’ve been talking about here on the blog.

God's Mission & The Places We Live, Work, & Play – Brad Brisco from Forge America on Vimeo.

We saw one example of how to live and work missionally. But what are some other ways we can be a light in the places we live, work, play, in our Canadian context?

Summer Video Series 5: Incarnational Evangelism

by Cailey Morgan

Shannon, Joell and I are thankful for so many resources that are available for us as we seek to evoke and resources CBWC churches and members towards our shared mission of making disciples who make disciples.

Forge America’s resources include several videos available online, one of which is Hugh Halter in our video for today, Incarnational Evangelism.

Incarnational Evangelism – Hugh Halter from Forge America on Vimeo.

Have you ever been in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation but knew that it was the place God wanted you to be to share His good news? Share your thoughts here or by emailing me:

Summer Video Series 4: What is a Missional Church?

by Cailey Morgan

At CBWC’s 2017 Gathering in Calgary, we were able to share several short videos we thought were particularly helpful for our context. Over the summer, we will be sharing those videos here on the blog in hopes of continuing the conversation, and hearing from you about these important topics.

In today’s video, Alan Hirsch: What is a Missional Church?, we consider the Sending God and His call for us as a Missionary People. What could missional look like in your context?

Summer Video Series 3: Living as Ekklesia

by Cailey Morgan

At CBWC’s 2017 Gathering in Calgary, we were able to share several short videos we thought were particularly helpful for our context. Over the summer, we will be sharing those videos here on the blog in hopes of continuing the conversation, and hearing from you about these important topics.

In today’s video, our very on Shannon Youell shares Living as Ekklesia, a call to consider the history of our language around the church and the ways in which we have exchanged Kingdom values for earthly values without even noticing.

Living as Ekklesia – Being the Church from Online Discipleship on Vimeo.

What do you have to add to the discussion on Ekklesia? In what ways do we as the church today need to change our perceptions and language?

Summer Video Series 2: Living With Intentionality

by Cailey Morgan

At CBWC’s 2017 Gathering in Calgary, we were able to share several short videos we thought were particularly helpful for our context. Over the summer, we will be sharing those videos here on the blog in hopes of continuing the conversation, and hearing from you about these important topics.

Today’s video, Jayne Vanderstelt: Living With Intentionality, speaks to the reality that mission is not something that we add on to what we are already doing in our compartmentalized lives. Rather, mission happens when we respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit, intentionally loving and serving those whom God puts in our path as we live lives that are visible and consistent.

Do you think the lifestyle Jayne presents is feasible? Why or why not?

Summer Video Series 1: The Church for Whom?

by Cailey Morgan

Shannon, Joell and I are thankful for so many resources that are available online for us as we seek to evoke and resources CBWC churches and members towards our shared mission of making disciples who make disciples.

At CBWC’s 2017 Gathering in Calgary, we were able to share several short videos we thought were particularly helpful for our context. Over the summer, we will be sharing those videos here on the blog in hopes of continuing the conversation, and hearing from you about these important topics.

Today’s video, Michael Frost: “The Church For Whom,” helps us consider who it is our churches are actually trying to reach. What sticks out to you? What do you need to do differently? What bugs you about Mike’s assessment of the church?