Ministry Initiatives

Scott Frederickson says,

The question is never whether a congregation can offer a specialized ministry of one kind or another, but whether a congregation offers those ministries out of the core of who God has created it to be in its particular context.[1]

 

Our church has begun two initiatives to serve our neighborhood.  We have entered into dialogue with our neighbors living in the condominiums and through these conversations we have begun a community garden on the property of the church.  The garden boxes have been built and are waiting for the topsoil to be delivered.  The second initiative involves working with the public school in our neighborhood.  In conversations with the school we learned about too many kids going hungry everyday and so we started making lunches.  Each week our church makes 32 sandwiches and the school is responsible for giving hungry kids these lunches. 

 

These initiatives are certainly specialized to some degree and have arisen out of conversations with the neighborhood.  Yet I sometimes question whether or not we are involved in these ministry initiatives for the mere fact that we hope our church will grow numerically.  Should we not instead be involved in these ministries because God has created us to be his presence in this world?  Should we not instead be involved in these ministries because God has commissioned us to be participants with him extending his redemption to the broken?  Should we not instead be involved in these ministries because God has created us to be his hands and feet?

 

Right now I am thinking that I don’t want to be part of a ministry initiative for the mere reason that this will grow us numerically.  Instead I want to be a part of a ministry initiative because I have this deep understanding that what I/we are doing is rooted in what God is doing in and through us and what God is creating us to be.


[1] Scott Frederickson, “The Missional Congregation In Context,” in The Missional Church in Context, ed., Craig Van Gelder (Eerdmans, 2007), 60.

Published in: on April 23, 2008 at 1:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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What Kind of Church . . . A Welcoming Church

It is Thanksgiving weekend here in Ontario and the trees are turning their colours (not colors for you Americans).  With the coming of this season most people are enjoying the weather.  It has been warm during the day and cools off in the evening.  We know that after fall comes the snow and winter so we soak in this time of year as much as we can. 

Our mission team for the past three years has put together various Thanksgiving baskets that always include a turkey and the regular Thanksgiving dishes.  These boxes are than delivered to families (mostly in our neighborhood) who need help over the holiday.  This program has been well received by the people in the church and those receiving the baskets.  I think, however, that it is time we took a different approach.

Several of the families we help are what I would call regulars.  We have delivered them a basket every year and we see them on the street enough to say hello and have a conversation.  Now instead of giving them a basket what would happen if we invited them into our homes for a meal?

This idea would be a completely different approach to serving people.  As it stands now we simply give them a basket and wish them luck over the season.  If we invited them into our homes and treated them like family these strangers/friends would recognize that we are not treating them as a recipients of our program, but rather are loving them for who they are. 

 Dare we invite the stranger into our midst?

Published in: on October 5, 2007 at 11:18 am  Leave a Comment  

What Kind of Church . . . A Very Different Looking Church

 Sorry, I said that I was going to write every week, how about every two weeks? 

We are exploring the question, What kind of church does God want us to be in the neighborhood?  As I have been leading the church down this road I believe that we are going to have a very bumpy road to travel because we continue to have the mindset that people must come to us.

 As I write this I am sitting in a local coffeeshop watching people and asking myself, How do we proclaim Christ to these people?  The people I am surrounded around are businessmen dressed in business casual clothes, single mothers pushing their strollers, a few students working on some school projects and a few retired individuals. As I look at these people sitting and drinking their outrageously overpriced latte’s and organic coffee (yes, I am one of them) I think that our current church culture and environment would be/is foreign to them.  We sing hymns that were written 200 years ago and use words and language I still don’t understand.  We sit in pews and look at the back of each other’s heads.  We don’t foster an environment where community is expected but rather we foster an environment where the individual matters.  I have a feeling that if we are going to be a neighborhood church we are going to have to develop a very different “church environment.”

Here is what I envision.  I envision entering into the low-income neighborhood across the street and creating an environment where Christ is preached, disciples are made and all this is done outside the church building.  For example, in the midst of this neighborhood there is a Grades 1-8 school. What would happen if we rented this school and opened the gymnasium to the kids in the neighborhood?  We have organized games of basketball and floor hockey and volleyball.  After an hour of playing we have some drinks and maybe some pizza for the kids.  During this time we have a few individuals give a skit – a skit telling a story from scripture.  After this time we tell the kids that we will do the same thing next week at the same time.  After we gain respect and credibility in the neighborhood we invite the parents to have coffee while the kids are playing and again we use this time to foster relationships with the people.  Maybe after several months of being the presence of Christ in the neighborhood we advertise that we are going to have a worship service on Sunday morning with food for everyone afterwards.  At this worship service we sing some songs, have a prayer, tell the stories of Jesus, and than eat a meal together, but also include sharing the bread and wine together as we eat with one another.

 

See the difference?  We are not expecting people to come to us and join us in our form and method of worship.  We are gaining friendships, developing relationships and inviting them to a worship service that is on their turf and is something that would not be foreign to them. 

We have to dissolve the mindset that people must come to us and join us in our church culture and environment.  We must begin to think like missionaries and join the people in their culture and environment.  We must go to the people and be the presence of Jesus.

Published in: on September 24, 2007 at 7:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

What Kind of Church . . .

We as a church are beginning a dangerous, yet exciting journey.  It is a journey that is exploring the question, “What kind of church does God want us to be in this neighborhood?

For the past two Sunday’s I have introduced this journey while laying down the biblical warrant for this journey.  We as a church (all churches) are called by God.  We are not called by God to sit in a building and hide, we are not called by God to serve only club members; rather we are called to be the body of Christ.  A look at Jesus reveals that he was very much a part of people’s lives (not just the religious folks who showed up at the synagogue on Sunday morning). As Matthew says he lived and walked among the diseased, the broken, the hurting, the sick and demon possessed.  It is high time that the church became the true body of Christ to the world and not our own club members!

As we have begun the beginning stages of our journey living with the question, “What kind of church does God want us to be in this neighborhood?” several responses are coming to the table.  First I am seeing people say that this is a great question to ask and they are anxiously and more than willing to explore this question.  I see others sitting in the pew wondering why this young preacher is asking this question.  It’s almost as if these people are sitting with their arms crossed waiting for this series of lessons to be over so that we can get back to serving the club members!  What a shock it will be to everyone when this series never ends!

Some Implications
As I have been preparing myself spiritually, physically and mentally for this journey several implications are being realized.  First, the idea that this will translate into numerical growth is flawed.  Our goal in this journey is to serve the neighborhood in the name of Jesus and than invite people to be disciples of Jesus as we live beside them and mentor them.  Sure this means that numerical growth will be achieved, but it is not our first priority!

A second implication is that we are going to have to change.  We have developed a mentality that the minister and all church programs or activities are designed for “club members.”  As a church we have strung ourselves too thinly and so we are going to have to rethink our time, energy, programs, activities, etc.  This means we are going to be rethinking our Sunday activities, our Wednesday activities and everything else that falls in between.

 Will We Survive?
I don’t think I have realized the full implications of this journey and I don’t believe I will.  One question I keep asking myself is will the church survive this journey?  I feel that this journey has the potential to push those desiring for club member benefits to another church down the road.  I feel that this is going to push some marginal individuals and families away because they possibly don’t realize that we, the body of Christ, is called to serve the world.  Yet I also feel and believe that if this journey is not taken our community of faith is dead!  If we don’t discover the kind of church God is calling us to be in the neighborhood we will continue to serve ourselves and when our matriarchs and patriarchs of the major families in our community die off the children will be left to take the reigns, and when they die off the church will close its doors!

My Writings (Blog)
Over the next couple of months I am going to try to write weekly about my journey with the Newmarket Church of Christ and our desire to live with the question, “What kind of church does God want us to be in this neighborhood?”

Here is what you can look forward too:

  1. What I am teaching – there will be attachments of my sermons and classes.
  2. Interviewing the neighborhood
  3. Struggles along the journey
  4. Where is God in the midst of this journey?
  5. Changes we as a church are facing

 

 

Published in: on September 11, 2007 at 10:11 am  Comments (1)  

Acting Our Way Into A New Way of Thinking

I love canoeing.  There is just something about paddling down a quiet river with only the mosquitoes and black flies disturbing the quietness of the moment.  As I paddle down the river the beavers slap their tales as a warning, the ducks and birds fly away and I see the odd fish become startled from my moving shadow.  The river seems as if it will never end, but then to my horror around the bend a log jam blocks the path and I can’t get through.

This is how ministry is sometimes.  The church is moving in one direction.  The leadership teams, the volunteers, the staff and even the lay people are moving as one but then to our horror a log jam is blocking the road.

I feel that this is also a picture of my ministry thus far.  For awhile when I had an eldership we seemed to be paddling, but in different directions.  Once we all got turned the right way and were heading in the same direction it seemed that all would work out.  Unfortunately what I didn’t realize was a log jam was forming that would block the path.

As I am living with the log jam and trying to navigate a path (well, looking for God to navigate a path so that I can follow) I am noticing that something isn’t sitting right with me.  It seems that I have been trained and somehow believed that if I can only teach another class in order to help the congregation think of a new way to navigate the log jam than we will be able to continue on our journey of faith.  What I am trying to do, as Alan Hirsh has said, is “to think our way into a new way of acting.”[1]  I am sitting on the bank of the river teaching the basic and fundamental principles of removing a log jam. 

What would happen if something completely opposite took place?  For example, what would happen if we acted our way into a new way of thinking?  Thus, instead of first teaching the basic and fundamental principles of removing a log jam I/we begin to remove the logs one at a time while learning the basic and fundamental principles.  This is a more hands-on approach.

In my last piece of writing I talked about how we have lost touched with our neighbors.  In order to help the congregation be a better neighbor I could probably could give a class and preach on what it means to be a neighbor.  I could talk with people over a cup of Star Bucks coffee about being a better neighbor and I could probably plead, urge, beg, and get down right nasty with the congregation telling them to be a better neighbor.  If I did this then I would be helping us think into a new way of acting.

Another option arises; I could help us act into a new way of thinking.  Thus I could solicit some key leaders and we can organize a couple of activities, like a strawberry social for the condominiums and lead the congregation into the condominiums, thus helping the congregation act into a new way of thinking.  It is one thing to teach and tell people how to act; it is another to provide tangible opportunities and experiences so that learning can be incorporated into life situations.

This idea of acting our way into a new way of thinking touches all aspects of ministry.  For example, help the congregation act in prayer, giving, reading of scripture, a life of serving, forgiveness, justice, etc., and eventually as they act (and of course hear some teaching) they will eventually begin to think differently. 

If we are going to help our churches become missional in nature and if we are going to help our churches shed the Constantine mindset it is going to take more than just teaching another class and more than allowing the congregation to hear another sermon.  It is going to mean helping the congregation act in a new way and as they act in a new way they will eventually begin to think in a new way.


[1] Alan Hirsh, The Forgotten Ways (Brazos, 2006), 122.

Published in: on May 14, 2007 at 12:54 am  Comments (1)  

Lost Touch?

The internet has done wonders to bring lost family members and friends back together again after years of separation.  How many times have we heard of individuals researching their family history over the internet to discover that they have a brother that lived through the war and is now in Europe?  How many times have we seen brothers and sisters reunited after years of separation because the internet allowed someone to find them?  Even Facebook (if this is the correct spelling) is reuniting people.  One person from the church I serve talked last Sunday how he is being united with grade school friends whom he hasn’t talked with in twenty years.

The internet is doing wonders to unite people together.  At the same time, I wonder if it has allowed us to be separated from one another even further than what we are.  With the internet we can keep a safe distance by not revealing anything “real” about our lives.  We don’t have to get personal and therefore our relationships over the internet can be impersonal.  The internet may bring us together in more ways than one, but I have to wonder if it is also separating and making us loose touch with each other and therefore not allowing us to enter into deeper relationships with people.

As I reflect upon this I am looking out my office window at five high rise condominiums and apartment buildings.  Two events have happened in the last two weeks that have made me look at these apartments and condos in a different way. 

First, we had a break-in.  Very little damage was done to the building, except for a broken window.  At 4:30 in the morning when I’m having coffee with the police they tell me that our church is located in one of the worst parts of town for drugs.  Drug deals are taking place on your property all the time,” they tell me, and I sit there with a look of shock as I have no clue what is happening in the lives of my neighbors surrounding the church building.

Second, a few days ago I had coffee with an older gentleman from one of the apartment buildings.  You know what your problem is?” he asks, “No one knows who you guys are” (speaking of the church).  Again I am reminded that we have lost touch with the lives of our neighbors. 

Looking at the church directory it seems obvious how we have lost touch with our neighbors.  Only two individuals live within walking distance of the building, whereas we have 19 families that commute to church every Sunday from different towns or cities.  No wonder we have lost touch with our neighbors.

How can our churches be better neighbors?  How can our churches impact, not people in a different city, but people around us, who live right beside our building?  I think it is time we become better neighbors!  I think it is time that we learn about the lives of our neighbors and maybe by learning about their lives, then and only then will we be able to share with them the news of Jesus Christ.

Published in: on April 20, 2007 at 10:07 pm  Comments (1)