Sent or Stuck on Self?

By Joell Haugan

“Missional” is a bit of a buzzword these days in Christian thinking circles, as churches struggle with what it means to be “the Church” in the 21st century. For sure, Christ wasn’t mincing words when He spoke the Great Commission just before He ascended to heaven. Fulfilling this job is the primary work of the Church. Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians by Kim Hammond and Darren Cronshaw picks up on the “missional” theme emphasizing that all Christians need to see themselves as sent into the world to share and live out the Gospel…thus, “sentness.” This rather pointed quote highlights the need to retain “Great Commission” priorities for the sake of the the Kingdom:

People who have lost their sentness expect their church to deliver on its promises to meet their needs, to care for them, to make them feel good. Pastors who have lost their sentness see their primary responsibilities as organizing services and meeting the needs of the people who are paying the bills. People who have lost their sentness gauge the success of their pastors according to metrics related to sales: more customers, more money and, ideally, a more fancy showroom. In other words, we measure church success by building, butts on seats and bucks in the offering (pg 33).

This quote comes in the “Beyond Consumerism” chapter at the beginning of the book.  I admit, I like the quote.

I also hate this quote.

I like this quote because it really does shine a mirror on how we in the western church have allowed consumerism to creep into our church life. It echoes 2 Timothy 4:3-4 which warns about “tickling ears.”

We may very well be becoming more self-centred, individualistic and, perhaps even narcissistic. I often find the need to help our folks focus on others: others in the church, others in the community and others in the world. Granted, this isn’t exactly a new problem. But it does seem to be worsening as our culture becomes more individualistic.

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When we accidentally shift our “church focus” from others to ourselves we begin seeking answers to the wrong questions. The wrong questions include: “What is in this for me?” or “How did I like the church service today?” or “Was I comfortable today?”

A “sent” mentality starts asking “How can I serve others?” or “Where is God at work in my neighbourhood?” or “What areas of discomfort is God asking me to explore?”

As a pastor I often get asked “how big is your church?” I now usually answer with “we average around 169 pounds.” I then get blank stares. Really, though, it is a consumeristic question.

I hate this quote because I find myself worried about the very things listed: numbers, funds, and Sunday service performance. Is it because I was trained that way? Am I “missionally immature” for worrying about that stuff? These are questions that gnaw at me at times.

I don’t like being gnawed.

Focusing on our “sentness,” while not being the magic bullet, is a step in the right direction, for both pastors and churches.

Mission in Your Neighbourhood

By Shannon Youell

The last weekend in January found Cailey, Faye Reynolds, Sherry Bennett, Ike Agawin and myself doing something we’ve not done before:  (wo)manning a booth at Missions Fest 2017 in Vancouver.

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With our theme of “Join us on mission in your neighbourhood” and our new engagement cards in hand, we handed out copious amounts of candy, CBWC pens and lip balms (very popular by the way!) and fielded all sorts of questions and remarks. Unremarkably, most of the questions had nothing to do with what we were promoting. In fact, many who stopped at our booth couldn’t quite make the connection between “mission” and “in your neighbourhood.”  One man peering at our banner argued that “it’s not mission if it’s not in another country.”

This was surprising to me, inasmuch as Jesus called us to be on mission both where we live, in our city, in our nation and to all the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).  I wonder how it is that many see missions as only in a foreign land, far away from where we are. My cynical side says it’s because when mission is seen as far away, we can stay comfortably home and support others to go–which, of course, we should be supporting! But using it as an opt-out to be a minister right here of Christ’s work of reconciling man to God and to one another, is a travesty.

But, I think it is more likely that because we’ve grown up into a culture of Christendom, we still consider our land, our city, our neighbours as already gospeled merely by where we live. Yet the times we live in, as I said to a pastor in India while I was teaching there, reflect that North America actually needs missionaries to come here from those far-off lands that we’ve been missioning for centuries. Canada needs to be re-gospeled!

Of course, I was being facetious, as in fact, God has called and placed missionaries all around our land.  In all likelihood, if you are reading this, then you are one of them.

There were also the ones who stopped at our booth who were excited to talk about mission in our neighbourhoods.  Those were, of course, the best conversations.  The most memorable, at least for me, was a conversation Cailey had with two ten-year-olds.  They, too, stopped and were perplexed about our banner, but once Cailey explained to them what joining God on mission in neighbourhoods is, they got it!  I’ll let her convey their reaction…

After the youth rally one night, some grade 5 boys came up to my booth–pockets pull of pens, cheeks full of chocolate from other booths.

Kids: “So what is your ministry all about?”

Cailey: “In my job, we help people in Western Canada start new churches, and one of the ways we do that is by helping them love their neighbours, so that their neighbours come to Jesus. I believe that we are all missionaries where we live—in our neighbourhoods, our schools, and even our soccer teams.”

Kids: “I can be a missionary right now?”

Cailey: “Absolutely! You are a missionary. In what ways do you guys think you could be missionaries in your neighbourhoods?”

Kids: “Well, we could love our neighbours—like, be nice to them, and play with them. Or tell them Jesus loves them.”

Cailey: “See? You’re already a missionary.”

Kids: “Cool! What’s your biggest dream?”

At which point I scratched my head, wondering who had raised these boys to ask such deep questions!

Cailey: “My dream is that people in all of our churches in Western Canada would see themselves as missionaries, and as God uses them to bring their neighbours to Jesus, more and more churches will be born. Then, the new Christians would start doing the same thing: loving their neighbours and telling them about Jesus.”

Kids: “Wow. If everyone in Vancouver did that, and then Canada, and then America…we could infect the whole world!”

So of course, I pulled out a copy of Ed Stetzer’s Viral Churches for the boys to peruse…ok maybe not, but I was so thrilled to see these young men catching the vision and call of Jesus for us to be disciple-making disciples.

Mostly, what MissionsFest revealed to us is that there is still so much work to do as leaders. We must disciple others to understand the calling of Jesus to join Him at His work of delivering justice, mercy, hope, grace, salvation, and love to those whom these things have not yet been realized.  To remind us that right next door to us—whether next door means our homes, our seat on our commute, our work place or where we hang out—there are people who are lost in the lost-ness of identity without Christ. Wherever we are, we are the one to help them find God.

God is a missionary God and He sends. He sent Abraham on mission. He sent the prophets. He sent John.  He sent Jesus. He sent the disciples. He sent Paul. He sent Barnabas. He sends you and He sends me.  On mission. In our neighbourhoods.

 

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?

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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

Missional Pioneers

By Preston Pouteaux

Over one hundred years ago my great grandparents came out to the prairies. When they arrived on their slice of raw grassland with a shovel in hand, my great grandfather knew that beneath the wild grass on their new homestead was good soil and hope for a better life.

Yet the stories I grew up hearing made me shiver as they talked about snow drifts that nearly covered the house and months of near starvation. When we tore down the original homestead some years ago, we found that the only insulation was a Kellogg’s Corn Flakes cardboard box stuffed in the wall. Life wasn’t easy.

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Leaving the comforts or challenges of home and trying to start again is one of the hardest things a person can do. Pioneers are the first on the scene; they set things in motion. They break the ground, start businesses, and build the foundation for all generations to follow. Yet in the midst of their challenges, pioneers discovered something of even greater value: each other. Stories of neighbours coming to help in times of loss, of whole communities coming together to raise a barn, and the ways that strangers because closer than family. Whether you were French, Ukrainian, Scottish, Metis, or something else, it didn’t matter. Pioneer neighbours were in it together to create something new. These are the people that built my province of Alberta, and it is this pioneering spirit that we are discovering again, today.

Friends of mine moved to Michigan and discovered that their neighbourhood was racially divided, poor, faced crime, and was struggling in many ways. People had moved away. My friends did what pioneers do best; they decided to start something new and breathe life into it. They bought an abandoned house and an empty plot of land beside it. They were determined to build more than a home, they wanted to create a safe place that was open to the community. They called it the Nest: a safe community space where neighbours knew that they were welcome.

Today the Nest hosts the Treehouse Community Garden and produces enough vegetables to feed ten families. It’s a safe place for kids and families to come together, with a library, guest rooms, a big porch, root cellar, and community kitchen. They fixed up the house with local materials and local help; they even paid off the back taxes on the old house. Everything about these pioneers aimed at taking something that was unused and making it good and beautiful again. It has taken years, and the work is only beginning, but they dream of making their neighbourhood their life’s work—a deep and abiding passion to love their little corner of the world. They inspire me.

It is easy to tip our hat to our great grandparents and thank them for building the province where we live and thrive. Their hard work paid off, we might think, and now we can carry on with living.

However, when we forget to be pioneers in our own ways and in our own neighbourhoods, we may fall into the trap of becoming hands-off observers and consumers. We buy a house, when what we really need to do is build a community. We balk at the decisions of others, when we need to get involved. Becoming a neighbourhood pioneer is not easy, but those communities built on a pioneering spirit are those that stand the test of time.

It was during early pioneering days that the church in Canada found its footing. Although there were a number of factors that we can point to for the establishment of churches across Canada, it seems to me that one commonality exists for their genesis: pioneering communities. As farms and towns sprouted up across the country, churches were a natural and fitting gathering point for families. Here neighbours connected, burdens were shared, prayer was offered, projects were launched, and culture was created. Churches birthed community, and community birthed churches. The two went hand-in-hand.

A pioneering church is a thriving church, an engaged church, and a missional church. Early church pioneers began schools, cared for those in need, started hospitals, held week-long tent revival meetings, and acted as insurance when there was no such thing.

Pioneers can create something from almost nothing, because they do it together, with grace and faith that their hard work will truly create something beautiful and lasting.

A renewed call for a pioneering posture is a call towards embodied engagement with the world around us. When we believe that our work is done, that what needed to be started has already begun, then we lose the ability to see the new work that God is doing all around us. When we see the world from the perspective of a pioneer, we develop practices that reinforce our ability to step into chaotic community dynamics. We can gather allies, build relationships, and lean into new growth. We can use limited resources and establish goodness and vitality. In Michigan, for example, many saw only the decay of an aging neighbourhood. But through the eyes of a young couple, this decay was soil for something new. They became pioneers and today inspire others to see their own neighbourhood in new ways.

Take a moment today and walk through your neighbourhood as a pioneer. Look for unbroken ground, for decay, for places and people where life may not be flourishing. These are the places where the Kingdom of God may be found, where Jesus is calling us to embody His life and love. Just below the surface, the soil is good. It takes pioneers like you and me to bend down and dream about what could be.

This article originally appeared in Forge Canada‘s newsletter Missional Voice. Preston Pouteaux, DMin. Tyndale Seminary, is a National Team member with Forge Canada, and is a pastor at Lake Ridge Community Church in Chestermere, Alberta. He studied at Briercrest College, Regent College, Tyndale Seminary, and Jerusalem University College in Israel. Preston is the author of Imago Dei to Missio Dei. He’s an avid beekeeper. @prestonpouteaux

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.

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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

Seminars in Regina and Vancouver

There are two great learning opportunities upcoming with Forge Canada.

The first is a FREE event with Cameron Roxburgh in Regina, SK:

Faithful Presence November 5Register here for Faithful Presence.

The second is in the Lower Mainland, BC, with Preston Pouteaux:

Keystone Vancouver What if Jesus followers imagined themselves as keystone people – those who create neighbourhoods where others thrive, blessing and shaping their environment so everyone can find life? Some scholarships available for smaller churches.

Register here for Keystone People.

Questions? Shoot me an email at cmorgan@cbwc.ca.

You can keep up with all Forge Canada resources and events at forgecanada.ca.

Listening and Learning with a Blackboard

As we further explore engaging our communities, I want to introduce you to an out-of-the-box idea that First Baptist Church in Victoria has been experimenting with.

FBC Victoria is located right on the corner of Quadra and North Park on the edge of downtown.  They are overshadowed by a much larger and dominant building housing Glad Tidings Church, so much so, that people are often surprised that FBC is a church too!

To help the neighbourhood realize that FBC is there among them, Pastor Jeff Sears and congregation decided they needed to do something so “people realize that we are a church and we are active.”

They have installed a chalk board, complete with chalk, inviting those in their neighborhood to write to one another and the folk at FBC.  Pastor Jeff explained to a passerby who inquired about why the board was up that “our church needs to hear from our neighbours so that we can learn from them.”  Not to preach to them or to write pithy inspirational messages, but to hear and learn how the people in the neighbourhood around them view their world and the beautiful and not-so-beautiful aspects of life and purpose.

blackboard2Each week Jeff poses a question on the board, such as “What was your most life defining moment?”  One of the poignant responses was, “The birth of my child; the death of my child,”  a reminder that there are those all around us whose lives are defined by both beauty and anguish. Perhaps comments such as these will heighten our awareness that every stranger we pass has a story that they need to share and we need to hear.

The decision to put the board up came with risk: in Jeff’s words a “dangerous venture.” What if it was damaged or stolen (the board was caringly made by a congregant), or people write vulgarities and statements against the church, Christianity and God? It was a risk the folks were willing to take to engage their neighbourhood. The good news wasn’t shared by hunkering down in veiled places, but by exposure and risk. They decided that they wouldn’t erase anything negative people wrote about the church as long as it had something to do with the question posed, and though some people did indeed write vulgarities, they were often erased by other passersby. The neighbourhood began to own the board, one person writing, “I love this blackboard.”

The first week they hoped for a couple of comments to the posted question and were blown away with how fast the board filled up.  Jeff says that this told him that people want to be heard, to tell their story, to find meaning from one another in sharing story.  blackboard1

FBC Victoria’s Mission Statement articulates the thought around the chalkboard:  “We are a diverse community united under Christ in spirit and in action, transforming the heart of our neighbourhood.”

The approach to fulfil their mission is not to go tell people what to think, but to hear what others think and to find the intersection between their stories and the God story–how to bring their stories into God’s redemptive, restorative story.  All the questions posted on the board relate to the message Jeff shares the following Sunday, praying that some board contributors/readers will be curious to hear and share more on the questions.

Nora Walker, Board of Deacons Moderator at First Baptist, shared that one man wrote that FBC could make a difference in the community by giving him someone to talk to.  An attempt to follow up fell through, but a few weeks ago at an FBC-hosted BBQ, the same man showed up and connections were made. Nora makes a point of visiting local coffee shops and eateries near the church and has engaged with many people in conversation who now know FBC as the “church with the chalkboard.”  Often they then talk with her and tell their stories.

But there is also an inward reason for the board. Jeff says that he and his congregation want to become more aware of the thoughts and feelings of their neighbours, to not look upon them as strangers but to see that they have deep and important things to share.

It would seem to me that this concept, too, is part of all our discipleship. We don’t have all the answers, and we need to understand the questions and hear the answers from one another both within and without our gathering spaces. That we learn and are enriched by our diversity as humans; that we share in mercy and compassion both in painful and joyful events; that in the midst of both, we can find Jesus ever-present amongst humanity laughing with us, mourning with us and bringing the comfort of God in deep, meaningful ways.

What ways are you engaging the community around you, or in what ways are you imagining engagement taking place? We want to learn from one another how to be Christ’s presence in our everyday spaces and places. Write and let us know what you are up to so we can share your innovative and risky ideas here.

Pastor Shannon Youell
CBWC Church Planting Director
syouell@cbwc.ca

What Could Multiplication Look Like?

by Cailey Morgan

Church planting and church multiplication can mean many things to many people. Over the next months, we plan to highlight several multiplication styles in hopes that we can each consider our own contexts and be spurred towards growth.

Since I have grown up in, and still participate in, a CBWC Church Plant called Southside Community Church, I thought I would share some of the nuts and bolts of how we operate. I’m sharing so that you will be encouraged by our story, and that you will in turn share your way of doing things so we can all learn from each other.

What Could Multiplication Look Like? Example 1: Congregations Comprising Mission Groups

At Southside, the values of life in proximity and multiplication are very important. We believe that all can take part in church planting, and that small multiplication in a place has a big impact.

Burnaby Sign by waferboardWe began in Edmonds, a high-density, high-diversity neighbourhood in South Burnaby in the early 90s with a small group. Each person in that group had opportunities to develop as a leader, so that when the group grew large enough to become two small groups, there were new leaders ready to lead the multiplied groups.

We organize our small groups, called Mission Groups, based on geography of where each member lives. They begin as groups of 6-10, and once they reach 12-16 are readied for multiplication. We are called Mission Groups because, while meeting in a home is often part of what we do, and Bible study is a crucial part of our formation, our groups exist for the purpose of following God on His mission in our neighbourhoods.

This pattern of group multiplication continued until we had several groups in Burnaby, but also a group commuting across the bridge from Surrey. As it became difficult for the people from Surrey to spend time in their own neighbourhoods–since they were constantly joining the Burnaby residents in serving that community–it became clear that it was time to not just multiply small groups, but congregations.

Some families were already living in the North Surrey neighbourhood we planned to multiply into, and other core folks moved from Burnaby across the river to bolster the leadership and development of the new congregation. This cluster of mission groups became the Robson Park Congregation.

In the following years, we repeated the pattern into the Willoughby area of Langley and into Forest Grove, a community in North Burnaby. These two centres operated as distinct congregations for over a decade, but at this point each are acting as a single Mission Group until they are ready to multiply into multiple groups, again forming a congregation.

These days in Edmonds, since so many people in our congregation live within walking distance, sometimes families who live less than a mile from each other end up in different Mission Groups! Most recently, there have been a cluster of young families from our congregation settling into the Uptown area of New Westminster, the city bordering Burnaby to the south. For the past year, all of these people have been in a burgeoning Mission Group together with the Burnaby residents living closest to New West.

burnaby and new west signs CC WakasuiAfter a time of discernment and apprenticeship, a couple from Uptown stepped forward to lead a New Westminster group and we were able to multiply.

Now, this new Uptown group can concentrate on the people God has placed immediately around them in their neighbourhood, while still joining Edmonds to celebrate God’s goodness in our Sunday gatherings.

When my Mission Group multiplied, I said that it felt like “breaking up,” because it’s not easy to leave the comfort of familiar faces. We have grown close to the people we’ve been serving side-by-side with, and it feels strange to not have them there when we gather in homes on Wednesday evenings, or as we prayer walk our streets and parks, or at the BBQ for our neighbour’s birthday.

But rather than separating because a relationship went sour, multiplication is closer to the thrill of seeing your kids move out to start their own families with their spouses. How beautiful that the feet of Jesus are now walking down twice as many streets! Our friends are now free to give and accept hospitality on their block, and there is room for new believers in my living room once again.

There you have it: an overview of what church planting and multiplication means to us at Southside Community Church. But different contexts and leaders lead to different formats. What about you? What does multiplication look like for your congregation? What models have you seen in other churches?

Please email me at cmorgan@cbwc.ca so we can work together on sharing more multiplication methods.

Book Review: Prodigal Christianity

Review by Kathy Cheveldayoff of David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw’s Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier (Jossey-Bass, 2013).4603052529_5dc6265d6b_b

For me, this book report has been a difficult, painful exercise because:

  1. I have been tried in the fires of persecution for my faith numbers of times.
  2. I have lived through the 20-something-year cycles which the church goes through (Ecclesiastes 1:9: nothing new under the sun.)
  3. I have come to this book to perhaps finally find answers about engaging the post-Christian world. I have been disappointed.

My Christian faith has been tried and tempered by a number of precepts:

  1. God’s Word is the truth.
  2. Faith needs this truth foundation to flourish.
  3. There cannot be any relativism in Scriptural interpretation.
  4. Contextualizing from culture to Scripture will, in the long run, create a watered-down version of the Gospel.
  5. We can’t fix anything. Only God can.
  6. God’s message is spoken through believers using all the gifts, or not (see Romans 1 on Creation speaking God’s message.)

Therefore: The Gospel of Jesus Christ must be allowed to be the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We cannot fall for the utopian agenda because Jesus comes to minister exactly where life is the darkest. I have seen this so many times in ministry amongst the marginalized and persecuted unto death. The circumstances may not change but the capacity to stay the course in spite of circumstances is what Jesus Christ brings to the table.

So, yes there is pluralism, and yes there is diversity. There always has been. Jesus Christ experienced it many times as well as the apostles in their witness. Jesus spoke truth, lived truth, and ministered truth amongst the people groups He encountered. And everywhere He went He brought hope and healing. That is why His message was believed and why the faith exploded.

We cannot be like those Paul warns about in 2 Timothy 3:5  who, having a form of godliness, rejected the power thereof. Case in point: many Muslims are coming to Christ solely through experiencing God’s power through dreams, visions and actual healing and with nary a believing Christian in sight. Fitch and Holsclaw’s book should have talked about this aspect of the faith as this is what secures the heart of the unconverted.

So, no, this book did not really answer my question but it did give me an idea that really, over the millennia, we have been on target and we will continue to do so, as we are coerced by the Holy Spirit to dive into the river of God, experience His radical love  and  then share it with our neighbour.

Do you agree with this assessment? What did you find helpful in this review? What would you add to the conversation? To offer your feedback or to learn more about how you can read and review a book for us, email Cailey at cmorgan@cbwc.ca.