Failures in Disguise

By Shannon Youell

The North American church is filled with passionate Jesus-following people. These people desire to join God at work in revealing the Kingdom among us through the message of Jesus our Savior AND our Lord–to realize the redemptive, restoration of community relationships: God to human and humans to humans.

Because we are humans, our best attempts can fail. And sometimes, our successes are failures in disguise when it comes to reproducible practices of disciples who make disciples who make disciples.

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We all love the success stories because we want to be one, but the reality is that because mission is contextual and cultural, methodologies are only replicable in like contexts and cultures.  Often, though, it is the stories of those who tried and failed that help us the most when it comes to our own missional work in our own communities.

For the next three weeks we will be re-posting a series aptly titled Killing Missional Culture. 

In reading this blog we were impressed with the honesty and insight that these leaders demonstrate. Each post is applicable to our ongoing discussions about creating a discipleship culture both within our existing congregations and our new expressions of gathered community.

3 Ways We Killed a Missional Culture 

  1. First, We Assumed the Gospel
  2. Second, We Cast Vision without Practices
  3. Third, We Didn’t Love Consumers

Read the introduction here so you have the context. Then, check out the first way they killed a missional culture here.

 

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Understanding Today’s Missional Landscape Part 1

By Shannon Youell

When we start thinking more missionally, there is a lot of hard work involved! We must relearn what it means to be missionaries in our own culture and contexts. It may seem strange to suggest that we don’t understand our own culture and contexts, but that is often the case since we all approach life through a lens of embedded views through which we see, discern and make sense of the world. Many churches in the evangelical world still view the world around them through the lens of Christendom, a worldview that suggests everyone has some understanding of God, church, and the story of Jesus. But that is no longer the case in the Western World.

Therefore we are deeply appreciative of folk like Dr. Joel Thiessen and the many sociologists, missiologists, researchers and scholars who continue to study, analyze and give us current perspectives on how our society shapes itself and the influences around them.

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New Leaf Network/Forge Canada Event on May 29 in Surrey, BC.

Recently New Leaf Network in partnership with CBWC (in Victoria) and Forge Canada (in Surrey) presented a collated conversation on the growing front of Nones and Dones in Canada (Nones being those who have had no church experience and would tick “no religious affiliation” on their census forms, and Dones being those who had some church experience but still choose to tick that same box). Joel was one of the presenters and has very important things to say to the church.

Read his blog below on our Contemporary Missional Landscape in Canada.  This are crucial conversations for us as churches to be engaging in as we wrestle with what it means to be faithfully present to the world around us.


 

The Contemporary Missional Landscape

By Dr Joel Theissen (Reposted with permission. Find the original article here.)

Aspects of the “Missional Landscape” in Contemporary North America

I am currently involved in three collaborative projects: an interdisciplinary study on flourishing congregations in Canada; a book comparing “religious nones” in Canada and the United States; and another book, on millennial attitudes, experiences, and behaviors in Canada. (For my American friends, know that I also waded through the American literature on each of these topics). I want to pull strands from each project to help us think carefully about a few aspects of the “missional landscape” in contemporary North America.

Clear Self-Identity

Congregations that flourish know who they are and are not.  They know where they have come from, where they currently are, and where they are going. When North American church planters, for example, consider the “missional landscape” today, it is critical to grapple early and often with the purpose and mission for starting a new church and then filter all decisions and activities toward such ends. Congregations cannot be all things to all people. Thus, be clear on your mission and purpose; develop the structures and processes to help you toward such things, and evaluate your effectiveness against these values.

missional landscapeWhat is your church’s reason for existing? What would you like to see happen in and through your church? What demographics are you trying to engage and why – sociologically, theologically, and practically? Do you aspire to grow primarily from disenfranchised religious folk, “religious nones,” transfer growth, or another group?

How you tackle these queries will shape what questions you ask about the missional landscape, the conversations you have, and the steps you take in your ministry. Having a clear identity does not mean you will flourish; yet rarely do churches flourish without a clear self-identity.

Religious Nones

Those who say they have “no religion” are the fastest growing “religious” group in North America. They represent 20-25% of adults and around 30% of teens and millennials, depending on the region. As I outline in The Meaning of Sunday, religious nones are a diverse group, with a range of beliefs and practices regarding the supernatural, the afterlife, prayer, meaning and purpose, and so forth. Many “nones” in North America were raised in Christian families, though increasingly “nones” are raised by unaffiliated parents. Few “nones” say they are open to greater involvement in a religious group.

I hear of many church planters launching new initiatives for religious nones. Unfortunately, we lack good empirical data to track the effectiveness of such efforts. The best (and limited) data suggest most initiatives grow mainly due to transfer growth from other churches. I’m not here to dissuade such efforts. Rather, I want to pose a few candid observations and suggestions for reflection.

  • Like any good missionary, it is essential to study the culture and know your audience. If your core mission is to “reach” religious nones, then read social scientific research on religious nones to know how they actually think and behave in the world (not how you think or wish they view the world).
  • Form long-lasting and meaningful personal relationships with religious nones. Sociological evidence is clear that a lead reason for someone joining a religious group is because someone they know and trust invites them. Rarely do unaffiliated individuals “randomly” show up to church, regardless of a church’s best “outreach” intentions.
  • Be honest with yourself and others. If you want to be a church for religious nones, then anchor and measure your ministry effectiveness in this direction. If your congregation grows, be truthful about the source of that growth … and if religious nones are not filling your church, consider ways to pivot around this core identity in your church’s life.

Millennials and Adult Influences

Millennials (a third of whom are religious nones) today confront an interesting paradox: they are raised to embrace a wide array of choices in most aspects of their lives without being equipped in how to make good choices. Social scientific research reveals that the more choice a person has, the more likely they are to question their decisions.

missional landscapePerhaps more than ever before, the opportunity is ripe for intergenerational mentorship of young people. Research on millennials in religious groups reveals that they want adult influences to speak into their lives. One concept I have come to appreciate in the book, Growing Young, is “keychain leadership” – leaders who hand the keys over to younger leaders, and who equip and empower them in the process.

Are there ways for you to foster sustained and meaningful intergenerational interaction in your church? How might you strengthen and mobilize longstanding members to invest in younger members in your church? Are there areas where you can and should train and develop young leaders, to give them a seat at the table and a set of keys? What are the risks of not taking such steps, now and in the future?

Clear self-identity. Religious nones. Millennials. Distinct topics to be sure. Yet I believe these subjects coalesce in important ways as church leaders grapple with the missional context of North America in 2018 and beyond.

Dr. Joel Thiessen is Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Flourishing Congregations Institute at Ambrose University, in Calgary, Alberta. In addition to publishing several articles, he has written two books: The Sociology of Religion: A Canadian Perspective (co-authored with Lorne L. Dawson) (Oxford University Press, 2014) and The Meaning of Sunday: The Practice of Belief in a Secular Age (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015). More information can be located on his website, http://www.joelthiessen.ca.

 

 

Engaging in Mission: Practical Ideas for Summertime

By Cailey Morgan

As Canada Day approaches each year, I get the urge to remind us all about the opportunities we have in warm-weather-months to take Jesus’ words about loving our neighbours literally and seriously. And as we do, we will find out what fun it actually is to engage in mission on a very small and relational level (I would venture even “mustard seed” small!)

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artofneighboring.com recommends starting small: get to know the names of your literal neighbors.

Although our shared ministry priority of “Engaging in Mission” can mean big things like multiplying churches, those big things only happen as a culmination of a whole bunch of these tiny things coming together.

So, whether you already spend your mornings on your front porch like Heartland Regional Minister Mark Doerksen does, or don’t tend to show your face in your neighbourhood other than through the window of your car, here are a few simple musings and practical ways we can engage in mission in our own homes or on our own streets.

And speaking of Brad, check out Lance Ford and Brad Brisco’s Next Door as it is in Heaven. Leave a comment on the blog or shoot me a note if you’re willing to write a short review of the book for this blog. The first person to respond will get a free copy of the book sent to you!

What else are you doing this summer to bring the Good News of the Kingdom of God to your contexts? What are you reading? Share your ideas and resources with us by commenting here or shooting me an email: cmorgan@cbwc.ca.

Ministry Priority 3: Engaging in Mission

By Shannon Youell

Over the past couple weeks we’ve been sharing our excitement over CBWC’s new ministry priorities that came out of an intentional season of discernment by our churches, Board and Staff. There are so many good things we could be doing as a family of churches in support of each other and in pursuit of God’s mission on earth, so we asked God to show us how we should focus our time, energy and resources in the coming years, and He responded by clarifying goals we already had and renewing passions for deeply rooted values of joining God at work around us.

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Engaging in Mission
Along with Cultivating Leadership and Investing in Relationship, Engaging in Mission will also be a priority for us as a body of churches in the coming years. We as CBWC see this as “Growing our CBWC family through fresh expressions and intentional implementation of the gospel.” And while it may be third on our list of ministry priorities, Engaging in Mission is absolutely core to our identity as God’s kids.

We are missionaries! Every one of us. Jesus invites us to join Him in the family business of making disciples of all peoples. We’ve written here often about engaging in the places and spaces we occupy in our everyday lives, building relationships, sharing life and stories and faith with those around us. When we gather in our churches we pray that we may be witnesses to our family, friends and co-workers. This is missionary work.

The good news is that God’s Kingdom of justice-making, oppression breaking, reconciliatory, restoration of humans-to-God and humans-to-one-another Shalom is among us.  The Kingdom is unfolding and Jesus is the King who—rather than reigning from a palace representing the power regimes of humans—chooses to be placed upon the cross, revealing God’s sacrifice for this restoration.

Moving Forward Practically
So how do we intentionally implement this gospel? How do we foster God’s love of the world among ourselves—the love that compels us to join Him on His mission to witness to the Father’s goodness wherever God has placed us? Here’s some of what we’re doing and planning towards:

  • Developing resources for congregational renewal, including re-planting. Are you revisiting your vision and mission statements? Are you asking the hard questions of what Jesus calls us to as missionaries in our own context and then evaluating if you are engaging in ways that help to foster missional work around you? We gather and share ideas for engaging our congregations in this conversation. This includes Sam Breakey’s work in Church Health Assessments, which helps a church down a path of self-discovery towards a place of “where-to-from-here.”
  • The call to discipleship is the formation of who we are as followers of Jesus.  We are gathering and developing tools to help our churches reimagine discipleship that makes disciples who make disciples—the mandate the early church ran with! Watch for upcoming learning events on discipleship, or check out some of our articles here.
  • Speaking of articles, our blog is one of our best resources for sparking conversation in your churches! Though it’s named the Church Planting Blog, we post many different perspectives, ideas and thought-provoking articles on discipleship, vision, and missional thinking. The purpose of this blog is to get us thinking, hopefully enough that we ask good questions of ourselves and our churches when it comes to engaging in church life from a missional perspective. We’ve gathered and shared—and will share again the stories and ideas of others who have stepped into the “missionary in our neighbourhoods” conversation. These practitioners help us to understand how to engage those who will likely never just wake up one Sunday and say to themselves, “I think I’ll go to a church today.” Our society is increasingly unchurched, so, like the missionaries we send overseas, we must also relearn how to be a missional people, which causes me to consider that perhaps God is in the shift all along to inspire us to reengage in local missionary work.
  • Providing resources for church planters and for churches looking to multiply. The reality is that churches plant churches and we help them!  There are many expressions of church planting but the mandate is always the same:  to multiply those who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior and join in the mission of God!
    • Multiplication:  churches that make disciples who can make disciples grow into new expressions of church in their neighbourhoods, towns and cities. The healthiest thing a flourishing church can do is send teams of leaders/lay leaders well-equipped and trained to reproduce the good work of the mother church.
    • CBWC comes alongside to help you be your most successful selves in this endeavour, including the current development of a Canadian Baptist training/coaching program for teams, not just for planters.
  • Encouraging active participation in the national Canadian Baptist Church Planting initiatives. This is where we tie it all together.  Canadian Baptists are working on a national initiative for sharing even more resources, coaches, mentors and trainers to walk with planters and teams.  This Training Center will be fundamental in creating a dynamic church planting culture to support teams in developing healthy projects, and is developed by Canadians for our Canadian landscape. This is the basic training that includes Assessment, Coaching and Discernment in an culture of teamwork. It does not promote any one model but rather every team comes to discover together what their church plant should be and what they are capable of planting, what makes sense for them and the people they want to serve. Daughter, sister, missional, fresh expression, satellite, attractional, house: all models are open to consideration.

When you think of our CBWC family, what  examples of fresh expressions of the gospel come to mind? Do you have ideas for what God’s good news could look like in your community or a new community in Western Canada?

Where We’ve Been and What’s Ahead

By Shannon Youell

As we look back on the fullness of the work we’ve been involved in this past year, Cailey, Joell and I are keenly aware that as we’ve paused to pray and discern in the 77 Days of Prayer initiative, the daily 10:02 prayer for workers of the harvest, and our several articles and resources on prayer and on neighbourhood prayer walking, God continues to be at work all around us. The challenge in all that He is doing, is for us to continue the discipline of praying and listening to where God invites us to focus and join Him in this season.

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Listening may mean a change of direction or rethinking some of the pillars we’ve been relying on, as God calls us to rely on Him more and more in our changing cultural landscape and increasing population of those who identify as having no religious affiliation whatsoever. Many who identify this way, when surveyed by researchers, report they have deep and meaningful relationships; find purpose and meaning in their life; are generally happy and fulfilled.What does this mean to us, the Church, as we attempt to engage them? How do our own ideas of “what they need” have to change? These are deeper questions to explore in prayer and discernment. God is re-igniting the desire of the Church for those who don’t know Jesus the King, so He’s preparing us as workers for the harvest, but perhaps we need to retool some of our methods as we harvest a different kind of crop.

We are excited and encouraged by where we are seeing God preparing you and me and all our congregations–His workers–for harvest. We have had more folk talk to us about missional innovations, engaging neighbourhoods, replants, new churches and revitalizing existing churches to join God on mission in 2017 than the previous three years! So we’ve been praying and waiting. Praying for God’s kingdom, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Praying for planters, pastors, lay leaders and all the local missionaries in our pews who are discerning the call of God to reimagine evangelism, church and mission. Praying for God’s wisdom and provision as our CBWC tribe partners with these works.

Will you pray? Will you pray and listen to where God is at work? There are several new churches preparing and discerning beginning something new, whether a new location, new plant or renewed vision of local missionaries. Some are brand new initiatives; others are folk who have been meeting together and desire to join our CBWC family; others are new immigrant churches as God brings believers from other nations to establish refuges of faith for new Canadians. Each of these cannot do the work on their own, nor are they meant to. As they pray and discern, we also pray and discern for provision, for trust, for God’s Kingdom to be revealed through each one.

We see in Acts and in Paul’s writings that the churches collected money to send to those churches who were struggling and those who were planting: churches supporting churches as they stepped out in the mission of sharing Jesus with the world God so loves. In John 17, Jesus prays that all of us would have that same love for the world as Jesus has for us and that God has for Jesus. Think about that! We are to love with the same generosity and sacrifice of God, who loves so much so He sent His one and only Son that none may perish and all could find the salvation of God’s Kingdom through the love of God revealed in Jesus.

As this year closes and so does our collective season of making space to pray, listen and discern, the next year opens full of the possibilities of how, then, we shall respond. How then shall the good and faithful folk in our approximately 168 churches respond to the call of the Spirit as we engage our world for Christ? One of my practices as each year closes is to take time to pray and ask God two things: Have I been faithful? And have I been obedient? Faithful means I have given, I have blessed, I have served–it’s something based on my metric of that generosity. But I always then ask the second question as I also need to be obedient to God’s metric in my faithfulness.

A HUGE THANK YOU to the faithful and obedient Joell Haugan, who has worked alongside Cailey and I for the past few years as director in the Heartland Region.  Joell brought with him an understanding and love for church planting, particularly in the rural context, and a huge heart of grace and generosity.  He has often hopped in his car and travelled from Swift Current where he pastors, to the towns and cities dotting the Heartland Region to encourage churches in engaging in and partnering in new and existing plants.  He has joined us in hosting CP initiatives at retreats, Assembly and Banff Pastors Conferences, Celebration Dinners and ministerials.

At church planting we have been praying and discerning the best way to cover this vast territory and Joell has gifted us with his insight based on his experience. Though Joell will no longer be the official director of Heartland Region, he will still share his gifts and insight in what is reshaped in the future.  Please drop Joell a big thank you or buy him a Timmy’s if you see him.  He has been and continues to be a huge blessing to our CBWC family!

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Joell roadtripping last year.

We have the wonderful privilege of joining God where He is working and expanding His Kingdom around us. May our prayer and our response in 2018 be “Your Kingdom come and Your will be done” in us and through us as we are faithful and obedient to God’s missional calling to our CBWC family.

Gone Fishing

By Shannon Youell

I like my space.

My comfortable space. The place where I feel sure that everything is as it should be and where it should be. It’s safe. It’s predictable. I don’t have to do contortions to fit into it. I know what to wear and how to act; I know the best place to sit and that the food in the fridge is something I like.

My space is just…there. It doesn’t do much; not really. But I easily fall into it when I’m tired or challenged; bored or unimaginative; scared or unsure. It’s black and white familiarity without the uncertainties of those grey areas.

Problem is, God’s good world isn’t primarily black or white or even grey. God’s good world is full of colour, wonder, adventure and challenges. Yes, it’s also a fallen place, with a despiser of all that is good, true, pure and lovely; where there are traps and snares and enticements. But when life is spent avoiding anything that might disturb us, it is at the expense of the colour, wonders and adventure. I find in those moments that I have also avoided joining God in the goodness of His redemptive, restorative, reconciliatory work. And I miss the joy and beauty of witnessing God’s good gospel alive and at work. These, in retrospect are my deepest moments of grief. When I recognize that my fear of stepping out of my comfort zone also caused me to avoid stepping into what God was doing around me.

Out of the Zone
So I made a decision some time ago not to be haphazard or frivolous, but to be prayerful and attentive. And when fear wells up from some long-rooted source, to examine the benefits of plunging instead of being sidelined. So choosing not to be sidelined yet again by fear and past experiences, I went fishing.

A few weeks ago, staff gathered at Gull Lake in Alberta for meetings, prayers and reflections.

During a few hours off for recreation, I was invited to go fishing. Now I’m not a fishing person. Never really held much interest for me. And even more so, I am not a boat person—at least not when that boat is floating in deep water, and especially when it is smaller than a BC Ferry. So initially I gave all my pat reasons for not going, including the two goliaths: one, that the boat is quite small and two, Dennis Stone folds it up flat like a surfboard when he’s transporting it. It has bendable seams and a super soaker to suck up the water that leaks into those seams! But, sensing God was doing something here with me I plunged ahead.

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Dennis’ boat FOLDED UP ON A TRUCK!

I swallowed my fear and allowed God’s good creation to woo me. And there I saw God at work all around us. And I reeled in a wall-eyed pike. And I held it. And I kissed it…well I posed that I kissed it. It was amazing and fun and I wasn’t afraid or nervous because I was too in awe of how God had a hold on all my fears and excuses, while He unfolded His wonders around us.

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My new friend Pike.

So what has all this to do with church planting and being missionaries in our neighbourhoods?

Staying in our comfort zones causes us to miss out on what God is already doing. We have all sorts of excuses for why something that doesn’t look like it always has won’t work, couldn’t work and surely isn’t what God might have in mind.

Yet, in our purpose as God’s missionaries in the places we live, work, play, and pray in, we will be faced over and over again with our own uncomfortableness. Because stepping into our uncomfortableness demonstrates our willingness to live among and amidst the brokenness and bruising of our shared human experiences. We begin to see the big scary things as lovely things that God has waiting for us to unwrap and discover, hold and kiss.

I believe our biggest challenge to sharing the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, of seeing God’s redemptive work all around us is our retreat to our comfort zones. The zone may look different for each us and for each of our collective selves gathered on any given Sunday, but those comfort zones can be barriers that make our faith sure of what we’ve already determined and certain of what we see rather than a faith where we are sure of what we hope for (the reality of God’s in-breaking Kingdom on earth), and a certainty in what we do not yet see.

We are praying this year for breaking out of our comfort zones, of looking at God’s goodness in the world and joining there. Will you pray that too? Can we step out and discover, that indeed we are the missionaries, the harvesters, the fishers, in our everyday spaces and places and there is nothing more wondrous and beautiful and exhilarating than seeing God transform hearts—ours included.

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