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

Don’t forget to Pray

Have you been to our prayer page lately? We update the page a few times a month with requests both broad and specific in regards to CBWC Church Planting. Here are a couple of new requests:

  • For clarity and vision of those considering church plants, both urban and rural.
  • That God would speak and inspire during the weekend Greenhills Calgary will be spending at Gull Lake Centre, August 2-5.

If you have a prayer request to share, don’t hesitate to email Cailey at cmorgan@cbwc.ca and she’ll add it to the prayer page.

Connected

A couple of months ago, we published the following article by Joelle Reiniger in our GO WEST! enewsletter. Joelle’s story has been such an encouragement that we’ve decided to post it again here. Now that the weather has improved and there are only a few weeks left of school for the kids, consider how your family can step out and connect with the people in your neighbourhood over the next weeks.

Last year our building fire alarm rang. Guessing correctly that it had simply malfunctioned, my husband Jordan and I reluctantly left our suite to join the group of groggy residents who formed a ring around our highrise apartment complex.Edmonton apartment building

We looked around at a community of strangers, who would likely never have been seen in one place without a fire truck on the way. This scenario could not be more different from the vision of community described by our co-pastor Karen Wilk, always urging us to live out the Biblical mandate to “love your neighbour as yourself.” Our neighbourhood is and likely always will be urban. Jordan and I love our proximity to arts venues, public transit connections and North America’s largest stretch of urban parkland, the North Saskatchewan River Valley.

As a former city hall reporter I have a longstanding interest in civic strategies to develop a sense of community in the city’s core, a passion Jordan shares. He works in the non-profit sector and is continually faced with Edmonton’s social problems including homelessness and the plight of the working poor. Through these experiences, we have come to believe that social isolation is the root of most of our city’s problems.

In North America, we are all too familiar with how difficult it is to combat isolation and loneliness amidst the busyness of our culture. There are limitations in time, but also limitations in space. From the car, to the cubicle to the coffee shop, our social spaces are ideal for filtering out unwanted human encounters, even in public places. This freedom to choose whom to interact with seems especially present downtown. There are 18 stories in our building. Most of the people who we share an elevator ride with, we never see again.

At first, this we didn’t view this as a problem. When we moved into our building, we had as many relationships and commitments as we felt we could manage. Yet, we found Pastor Karen’s teaching about “being” the church in our geographical neighbourhood compelling.

We caught the vision of taking literally the command to love our neighbour and to do so in a diverse community, not bound together by common interests, social class or consumer preferences but by the mere fact that we are people created by God for Him and for each other. Under Karen’s leadership, we began meeting regularly with other members of our church who wanted to participate in the work of God in their neighbourhoods.

Conversations often turned to the practice of hospitality, but as the rest of the group told stories about barbecues, potlucks and block parties, we doubted our built environment was conducive forming these human connections. In a downtown apartment, there is a stark division between public and private space. Other than our laundry, hot tub and fitness rooms, there are no public spaces for friendships to germinate.

With some trepidation, we hosted a Floor 5 Christmas party, just to see what would happen—to see if anybody would show up, if anyone else wanted to put a face to a laundry basket. A few did, and we had a great time, sipping spiked eggnog and swapping funny stories.

One thing led to another and, less than a year later, our neighbours are among the first people we think of when we plan to go out with friends or to invite someone over for drinks or dinner. With some, spiritual connections underpin our social ties. Our next door neighbour, also a Christian, has joined our Bible study. Another spiritually-minded man in our building has suggested forming an organized network to respond to the needs of neighbours as we learn of them.

In retrospect, it feels as though this process happened overnight, but our connection to the community got off to a slow start. We spent the first few months somewhat passively listening to Pastor Karen outline principles of the incarnational church. We spent a lot of time talking about how we hypothetically might connect with our urban neighbourhood.

Then we procrastinated, theorized and talked some more.

The turning point in our journey came a month or two after our Christmas party. We had connected with a handful of neighbours and could actually envision a thriving community in our Soviet-style apartment block. We also realized we could not participate in a Kingdom-centered vision for our community with only one foot in our neighbourhood. Relationships take time and meaningful community involvement was incompatible with our busy lifestyle.

Ironically, we found the time and space, in part, by limiting the scope of our formal church involvement. Our focus shifted away from viewing church as a spiritual fuelling station and as our default social network. We traded this paradigm for a vision of “being” the church in a more organic way in our community.

Increasingly, we came to view our Bible study group as our home church. We started taking communion together, devoting larger segments of our time to prayer, eating meals together and taking responsibility for each other’s welfare. This sense of connectedness naturally fuelled our desire to foster a Biblical model of community in our neighbourhood.

Last month our building fire alarm rang again. I walked around the base of the building looking for Greg, Krista, Dave, Teea, Devin, Jess, Josh, Hélène, Grant, or someone else to chat with while waiting to return to our apartment. When the bell rang, I felt safe. The Cold-War era concrete seemed indestructible, insulating us from the vulnerabilities of newer buildings.

I also felt secure because, this year, Jordan and I have neighbours who know our names and unit number—people who look out for us as we look out for them.

We are insulated, but we are by no means isolated.

This article from From GO WEST! 2.7 courtesy of Forge Canada‘s Missional Voice newsletter.

From Japan to Calgary

We have heard many great stories from Crossover Japanese Church of Calgary over the past year. Pastor Yoichi Taniguchi brought his wife Miyuki and their two daughters Agasa and Mana to Calgary several years ago from Japan to plant Crossover. Here is the history of how God brought this family from a small Asian island to the Canadian Prairies.

The Path of Christian Living in Our Family

By Miyuki Taniguchi

My family came from Japan several years ago to plant a Japanese Church in Calgary. But that wasn’t always our plan. Here’s the story of how God worked in our hearts and lives to bring us to Canada.

It began with the book The Prayer of Jabez. My husband Yoichi and I started following the prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10: “Bless me and enlarge my territory.” However, unexpectedly, things moved towards not blessings but rather hardship for our family.

First, our daughter Mana lost hearing in her right ear at the age of six. Ever since then, she has experienced constant earaches and headaches, and is slowly losing hearing in her left ear as well.

Tom Lavigne with the Taniguchis

Tom Lavigne with the Taniguchis

We pray to the Lord to stop her pain and recover her hearing ability. We trust that the Lord will not give Mana only hardship, but He has a lifelong good plan for her. She has been learning how to have faith in Him and get closer to Him by dealing with her troubles and pains.

Then, our elder daughter Agasa stopped going to school because of bullies. She went through a lot of difficult times. I did all that I could do to stop the bullying, but nothing worked. Then, one of my friends who lived in America invited Agasa to live with her family. I didn’t want to send her since she was still thirteen, but Agasa made a decision to go there by herself. When sending my daughter to San Francisco, I was saying to myself, “I am not worthy to be a mother, for without giving her a proper care, I have to send my brokenhearted daughter abroad.”

When my heart was full of sadness, the Lord spoke to me, “Even if you have to live far from your daughter, there is still something you can do. It is prayer. That is what I value the most in raising up children.”

Then the passage came to my mind. It was from Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future.”

That was more than a comfort to me. That passage strengthened me. In retrospect, I can confidently say now that it was a path the Lord has set for Agasa, because in her new circumstance she found healing and became who she used to be before. I gave my sincere thanksgiving to the Lord and my friend who took very good care of Agasa. Several months later, a miracle happened. The girls who bullied Agasa gave their apologies. Agasa knew it was God who did this for her. She came to know God personally through this hardship and was baptized.

My husband Yoichi was also going through a hard time. He told me that he would quit his job. I just could not understand why my husband who was working for mentally handicapped people for more than ten years was suddenly having difficulty in continuing his job.

I had a strong belief that caring for handicapped people is a job God gave him. My plan of our family life was to continue working until retirement, finish our duty for our children’s education and after that, we would dedicate our life to the Lord. That was what I wanted.

But I came to know that God’s way was different from my way. Yoichi quit his job and decided to be a full-time minister for the Lord. I came to know that the Lord wanted me to give up what I have grabbed. It was the stability of our family. I was also working as a schoolteacher in Japan. I decided to quit my job when he became a pastor, so I could help Yoichi minister in church. God took away worldly things so I would learn to depend on Him.

When we had to decide if we should go to Canada to reach Japanese people there, we went to a fasting place run by a Korean minister in Portland, Oregon. He asked us why we came and we answered that we came to seek God’s will if we should go to Calgary to work at a Japanese church. Then he told us that there was a lady who came several months ago from Calgary to ask God to give them a Japanese pastor.

Why!? What on earth does this mean to us? We felt it so strange that she came all the way to Oregon to seek a pastor for Calgary. Why did we come to the same place for the same reason? Was it God’s guidance? After a week of fasting and prayer, Yoichi was full of peace about going to Calgary. But our pastor told us that we should not go unless we have a clear calling from God. I sought His will and got the Bible verse from the Lord. It was the words that God gave Gideon in Judges 6:14:

Go in the strength you have…Am I not sending you?

I didn’t share this with Yoichi. A week later, I simply asked him if he got the words from God besides his peaceful mind. Surprisingly, he said, “Judges 6:14.” At that time we had an assurance that going to Calgary was His will.

This passage is very short, but has power. It has sustained us when we were discouraged about our ministry. We know we don’t have many abilities to do His work. God knows it. But it is God who chose us and said to us “go with your strength for I am with you. I am the one who does the ministry.” The Lord is saying to us, “not by might, not by power, but by my spirit.

Crossover Church Plant Christmas Party

Crossover’s Recent Christmas Party

The works of the Lord are not done by our strength or by our abilities. All we need to do is to dedicate ourselves to Him and give Him our broken heart and mind. We just need to depend on Him.

By looking back to the things that happened to our family, I now can say that the things seemed like a hardship were not actually a curse. Those things have happened just because our Lord has faithfully answered our prayer of Jabez. The Lord has been working on my family and enlarging our spiritual territory for the Lord.

Read it!

If you haven’t already, I’d suggest checking out this week’s issue of GO WEST!

Go-West-capsNot only do we read some educational theory behind why we should plant churches, but we also get to hear a great story of God at work in the life a young church planter and his response to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

Here’s some of the feedback we’ve already received about the story:

Thank you, Tom, for the story…I am blessed and deeply moved.
It is humbling to read of such immediate obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for sharing this with us that we may similarly respond in immediate obedience to our Lord.

Head to our quick-and-easy sign up page to subscribe to GO WEST!, check out recent issues in our archive, or share the latest issue of GO WEST! with a friend.

The Holy Spirit in Church Planting

Tim Keller, Redeemer Church and several other Church Planters share some basic yet profound insights into the role of the Holy Spirit in church planting. The 4:33 minutes/seconds you’ll invest in watching this clip may have a long and profound impact on your ministry:

What are your thoughts on what Tim Keller has to say?

Tom