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.

Discipleship

Check out this video on discipleship:

We’d love to hear from you. Your thoughts and opinions are greatly appreciated, so leave a comment here, or email me: tlavigne@cbwc.ca.

Until next time… Tom Lavigne, @tomlavigne1 (Twitter) CBWC Director of Church Planting

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.

Planting for Kingdom-Mindedness

Continuing from last issue, Timothy Keller answers the question, Why Plant Churches?

WE PLANT CHURCHES AS AN EXERCISE IN KINGDOM-MINDEDNESS

All in all, church planting helps an existing church best when the new congregation is voluntarily birthed by an older “mother” congregation. Often the excitement and new leaders and new ministries and additional members and income wash back into the mother church in various ways and streKarenFamilyWithCdnHostsngthen and renew it.

Although there is some pain in seeing good friends and valued leaders go away to form a new church, the mother church usually soon experiences a surge of high self-esteem and an influx of new, enthusiastic leaders and members.

However, a new church in the community usually confronts churches with a major issue—the issue of “kingdom-mindedness.” New churches, as we have seen, draw most of their new members (up to 80%) from the ranks of the un-churched, but they will always attract some people out of existing churches. That is inevitable.

At this point, the existing churches, in a sense, have a question posed to them: “Are we going to rejoice in the 80 percent—the new people the kingdom has gained through this new church—or are we going to bemoan the situation and resent the three families we lost to it?” Our attitude to new church development is a test of whether our mindset is geared to our own institutional turf or to the overall health and prosperity of the kingdom of God in the city.

Any church that is more upset by its own small losses than grateful for the kingdom’s large gains is betraying its narrow interests. Even so, as we have seen, the benefits that new church planting offers to older congregations is very great, even if not initially obvious.

Read Tim Keller’s final conclusions on the question why plant churches? in our next issue of GO WEST!.

This series of articles is composed of Timothy Keller’s paper Why Plant Churches. Copyright © 2002 by Timothy Keller, © 2009 by Redeemer City to City.

New Churches Best Reach the Unchurched–Period.

This article by Dr. Tim Keller appeared in GO WEST! Issue 2 Volume 4. read the previous installment.

 

Dozens of denominational studies have confirmed that the average new church gains most of its new members (60–80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshiping body, while churches over ten to fifteen years of age gain 80–90 percent of new members by transfer from other congregations.1 This means the average new congregation will bring six to eight times more new people into the life of the body of Christ than an older congregation of the same size.

Crossover Church Plant Christmas Party

Crossover Church Plant Christmas Party

Although established congregations provide many things that newer churches often cannot, older churches in general will never be able to match the effectiveness of new bodies in reaching people for the kingdom. Why would this be? As a congregation ages, powerful internal institutional pressures lead it to allocate most of its resources and energy toward the concerns of its members and constituents, rather than toward those outside its walls. This is natural and to a great degree desirable. Older congregations have a stability and steadiness that many people thrive on and need. This does not mean that established churches cannot win new people. In fact, many non-Christians will be reached only by churches with long roots in the community and the marks of stability and respectability.

On the other hand, new congregations, in general, are forced to focus on the needs of its non-members, simply to get off the ground. Because so many of a new church’s leaders came very recently from the ranks of the un-churched, the congregation is far more sensitive to the nonbeliever’s concerns. Also, in the first two years of our Christian life, we have far more close, face-to-face relationships with non-Christians than we do later.

A congregation filled with people fresh from the ranks of the un-churched will thus have the power to invite and attract many more nonbelievers into the church’s life and events than will the members of the typical established body.

What does this mean, practically? If we want to reach our city, should we try to renew older congregations to make them more evangelistic, or should we plant lots of new churches? That question is surely a false either-or dichotomy. We should do both! Nevertheless, the above shows that, despite the occasional exceptions, the only broad-scale way to bring many new Christians into the body of Christ in a permanent way is to plant new churches.

To throw this into relief, imagine that Town A, Town B, and Town C are the same size, and they each have a hundred churches of one hundred persons each. In Town A, all the churches are more than fifteen years old. The overall number of active Christian churchgoers in that town is shrinking, even if four or five of the churches get very “hot” and double in attendance. In Town B, five of the churches are fewer than fifteen years old.

They, along with several older congregations, are winning new people to Christ, but this only offsets the normal declines of the older churches. Thus the overall number of active Christian churchgoers in that town is staying the same. Finally, in Town C, thirty of the churches are under fifteen years old. In this town, the overall number of active Christian churchgoers is on a path to grow 50 percent in a generation.2

Response
“But,” many people say, “what about all the existing churches that need help? You seem to be ignoring them.” Not at all.

Find out how church planting helps bolster existing churches in the next issue of GO WEST!. Until then, let us know what you think of Keller’s arguments.

This series of articles is composed of Timothy Keller’s paper Why Plant Churches. Copyright © 2002 by Timothy Keller, © 2009 by Redeemer City to City.

1. Lyle Schaller, quoted in D. McGavran and G. Hunter, Church Growth: Strategies That Work (Nashville: Abingdon, 1980), 100. See also C. Kirk Hadaway, New Churches and Church Growth in the Southern Baptist Convention (Nashville: Broadman, 1987).

2. See Lyle Schaller, 44 Questions for Church Planters (Nashville: Abingdon, 1991), 12. Schaller talks about “the 1% Rule.” Each year any association of churches should plant new congregations at the rate of 1 percent of their existing total; otherwise, that association will be in decline. That is just “maintenance.” If an association wants to grow 50 percent plus, it must plant 2–3 percent per year.

Creating Welcoming Communities

Church Planting is all about creating communities of faith that welcome people home.

I was raised in a Catholic family, in a Catholic community – attending catechism and church regularly – trained as an altar boy and sensed God’s call on my life for ministry around the time I received my first communion… Unlike some I have no Catholic horror stories – we had a wonderful priest and a loving community that supported us in many ways.

TOm-Chris-masAfter several years of being away from a faith community I returned to Christ through the leading of friends in an evangelical Pentecostal church. I was welcomed, loved, mentored and discipled. Affirming God’s call to ministry I was trained in a Pentecostal Bible college and interned in one of their churches. I deeply appreciate and am thankful for the encouragement
and blessings I’ve received from the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies.

So, why am I a Baptist? Sensing God’s call to church planting, we joined with friends from different Christian experiences to create a community of faith where denominationalism was not a hindering factor. When our church plant looked at affiliating with a larger church family we looked for a group that would offer a healthy degree of autonomy as well as help us with ongoing support. We found a welcoming home with the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada (CBWC).

If you’re church planting and find yourself looking for a family of churches consider the CBWC and check out some reasons to join us in creating welcoming communities of faith in Western Canada.

Tom Lavigne, Director of Church Planting

Your Kingdom Come

I’ve been trying to articulate for myself how my life intersects with the Gospel dance of grace and works, the tension between God’s power and our role in His Kingdom coming on earth. Irish folk rock band Rend Collective Experiment has crafted a prayer in song that has been particularly helpful for me as I learn to, as Scott Hagley says, “anticipate and participate in the reconciling work of God.”

Here’s the song:

I was particularly caught by this verse:

Unleash Your kingdom’s power
Reaching the near and far
No force of hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts
You made us for much more than this
Awake the kingdom seed in us
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ
We are Your church
We are the hope on earth

Which lyrics spoke to you? Is the culture this song is trying to create actually possible?

Cailey