August 2012 Forge Canada Missional Training Network
In this Issue: Cultivating a Community of Witnesses by Ryan Cochran Taking His Breath Away by Cam Roxburgh Marketing Community and the Life of the Church by Scott Hagley A Conversation withâ€Ś Alan Hirsch and David Fitch
Taking His Breath Away
by Cam Roxburgh, National Director of Forge Canada A few years ago, I officiated the wedding of a close friend. I suggested he would turn to jelly when she walked down the aisle. He was a cool customer. an elite athlete fazed by nothing. But I knew he would melt at the sight of his bride the next day.The time came, the music played, the doors opened and his bride began to make her way down the aisle. I heard a deep gasp from his mouth and his knees buckle. He had his breath taken away.We can all identify with those types of moments, where a vision of beauty comes as a surprise and a gift.
MISSIONAL VOICE Newsletter August 2012
One of the metaphors for the Church in Scripture is “the bride of Christ.” I wonder, does the Church today take away anyone's breath? Because of Christ’s work, the answer is “yes-of course!” On her own, of course, the church is not so beautiful. I love the Church, the bride of Christ, and long for her to become a people whose beauty takes away the breath of my neighbors, of whom the Lord will say “well done.” Is it possible to love the church too much? One cannot love the bride without loving the groom… and vice-versa.We are living in a day when there is not too much danger of loving the church too much.
work and hear Him speak in the midst of the clamor of all the other voices.
So what do we do? We try hard with new models or new approaches to paint the church in a favorable light so that others will embrace her again.This approach works with those who know God’s story, but falls short for others.
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What else might we do? There is no formula.We must stop looking for the magic bullet that will produce successful models and return to theologically grounded practices as a people who desire to bear witness to who he is. It is in following the groom, that we will renew the bride. Here are a few suggestions to present the church in such a way as to take the breath away from of our neighbors… Develop a Local Set of Spiritual Practices The move from striving for success to become a faithful people involves discerning a set of spiritual practices where each person will be able to begin to see God at
Use Forge Resources Forge resources available to you include The Missional Voice Newsletter (Sept. – Heart, November – Mind), Forge Webinars (October – Community Transformation with Glenn Smith) and a Preaching Series called, “Everyday Church” (Spring of 2013). Other groups have resources as well.We draw creative thoughts from engaging in different material.
Forge has Hubs in Canada and the US. Local pastors and leaders are helped to become missional, and to move towards multiplication.This fall a number of specific online communities that will meet monthly in order to participate in a missional movement. God will bring renewal to His bride in North America. It is His plan. Our joy will be in participating with him so that the bride will once again take people’s breath away. Cam Roxburgh is the National Director for Forge Canada, the VP of Missional Initiatives for the North American Baptists, and the Team Leader at Southside Community Church in Vancouver, Canada. He lives in Surrey, British Columbia with his wife and four children. email@example.com
The Forge Journey The movement from awareness to transformation. The Forge experience has been designed to capture the essence of missional transformation and create an environment in which leaders can realize the extent of the issues, discover a new approach, gain clarity on ways forward, be challenged to an extended period of growth and change and then to move forward in a life of transformation. Visit forgecanada.ca to learn more.
MISSIONAL VOICE Newsletter August 2012
VitaLibera Cultivating a Community of Witnesses by Ryan Cochran Focusing on the local neighourhood and deep discipleship Ryan is the Senior Pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Vancouver; a church that is celebrating it's 85th year of bearing witness to Jesus in Vancouver's South Hill Neighborhood. Ryan lives in Vancouver with his wife Katie and his two daughters, Gloria and Joy. Daughter #3 will be arriving right around the time that you are reading this article. At the age of 33, Ryan has just recently given up his childhood dream of playing baseball for the Detroit Tigers.
We want our church to bear witness to Jesus Christ. 8. If you are willing to be a witness call…” I mused about Whether through the shared work of our church in the what the conversation would be like if I called the neighborhood or in the individual life of a believer in the number and told the Unfortunate Motorist that I was marketplace, we want God’s people to speak about willing to be a witness. Jesus’ work in their lives.We know, Unfortunate Motorist: Hello? however, that our confidence to bear “After that generation witness to Jesus is waning in our postdied, another generation Me: I saw the sign under the Cambie Street Christian and pluralistic culture. As Bridge and I’m calling to let you know that grew up who did not leaders, how do we respond to this lack acknowledge the Lord or I’m willing to be a witness for the accident of confidence and equip God’s people that took place on June 8th. remember the mighty for witness? We must begin by things he had done for Unfortunate Motorist: Oh, that’s great! considering the language that we use Israel.” Judges 2:10 What did you see? about bearing witness and whether it is true to our Biblical calling and robust Me: Well, I didn’t see anything. My family enough to meet our present challenge. was in Oregon on vacation on June 8th, but I’m willing to be a witness if you need me to be. While driving through Vancouver recently, I saw a sign on the side of the road that said, “Needed! A witness for an Unfortunate Motorist: Excuse me? Are you a crazy person? accident between a red truck and a motorcycle on June
MISSIONAL VOICE Newsletter August 2012
Often when we speak about bearing witness to Christ, we think about that act of verbally telling others, usually those who are not yet Christians, a Gospel message.This is, of course, a vital part of what it means to be a witness for Christ. But, in order to be a witness, something else must happen first before a verbal proclamation is possible. A witness is someone who saw or experienced an event and is given an opportunity to tell about it.The authority of a witness comes from her experience. A witness in a court room is given time to speak before the court only about what she saw, but is immediately called out of order if she begins speaking about her own opinion about the guilt or innocence of the accused.The authority of a witness comes from her experience. In a culture filled with people who are tired of being sold one thing or another, “witness” absent an experience with God lacks the authority to be convincing. Perhaps it even leads to people asking, “Are you a crazy person?” Our churches need practices that cultivate a community of witnesses. A community of witnesses is a people who see God’s action in their life, are encouraged to remember it, and who are given opportunities to tell about it. These are the actions of a witness: seeing, remembering, and telling. I suggest that we need to practice this within the church body as a way for God’s people to be trained to see God at work, to be encouraged to remember it, and given an opportunity to tell about it. Below is a list of practices that we have begun experimenting with in my congregation (Ebenezer Baptist in Vancouver).These are only a start as we continue to cultivate a community of witnesses who speak of their experience with God to those within the church as well as to those who are in need of a true witness to Jesus. Bearing Witness in Worship Creating space in our worship services for people to speak about moments where they experienced God’s presence is one way to cultivate a community of
MISSIONAL VOICE Newsletter August 2012
witnesses.The corporate worship of the church is one of the means that God uses to shape his people to think and love rightly. As we bring this practice into our corporate worship and regular liturgy we give voice to God’s activity in our life, not only in worship, but in our daily lives. In particular, these times of sharing should be connected to our corporate prayer times as these stories lead us to thanksgiving for God’s work, and meaningful petition for one another. Ignatius’ Prayer of Examen This ancient spiritual discipline encourages us to daily remember the presence of God in our moment by moment existence. An excellent description of this spiritual discipline can be found at: http://marshill.org/pdf/ sp/PrayerOfExamenLong.pdf Children’s Ministry: “God sightings” Our Children’s Ministry curriculum is excellent at telling children how God showed up in the lives of David, Daniel, Peter, and Paul. But, what about their own lives? During our annual VBS at Ebenezer, the children are encouraged each day to spend time talking in their groups about “God sightings.” These stories are excellent opportunities for guiding our children to see, remember, and tell about God’s work. Practices like these have the potential to cultivate a community of witnesses; a people who see, remember, and tell about our experience with God. As we act out these practices within the church, the people of God are equipped and given language to speak about their experience with the risen Christ in their lives. As we are equipped within the body to bear witness, we can then be more confident in our witness to others that we encounter in our neighborhoods and in the marketplace. An integral aspect of the life of God’s people from the Exodus until today is acknowledging, remembering, and retelling the stories of God’s activity in the life of his people.The Sabbath Day and the festivals of Israel all
incorporated these activities of witnessing to the work of God among his people. In the Book of Judges, the “next generation’s” inability to acknowledge the Lord or remember what God did among them, was the very thing that led them into disobedience and unfaithfulness. Acknowledging, remembering, and retelling the stories of God’s activity in our lives is a work that we are still called to do as God’s people.The ability to do these this does
not simply happen to us, we must be trained to do it. We must be taught to see God at work and we need to be given language to speak about what we have experienced.This is vital for the health of our church community and essential to meet the task of being witnesses to Jesus Christ in our present cultural situation.
Marketing Community and the Life of the Church: A Review Essay by Scott Hagley Did you know that an inmate in a Santa Ana prison can buy a cell-upgrade for only $82 a night? Or that New Zealand Air will buy advertising space on your forehead for $777? Nearly everything, it seems, is up for sale.We live in the age of the market, and so do our churches.The popularity of a book like Skye Jethani’s The Divine Commodity suggests a growing awareness of the ways in which religious participation becomes the product of one more market exchange. But awareness of a commodified Christianity does not always disclose a faithful response. Aren’t markets neutral, a tool for the efficient distribution of goods? Shouldn’t churches use the tools of the age for the propagation of the gospel? What alternative do we have in the age of the market? Two recent books – What Money Can’t Buy and The Abundant Community – provide a framework for considering these questions. In What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets philosopher Michael J. Sandel argues that we must “rethink the role that markets MISSIONAL VOICE Newsletter August 2012
should play in our society” by reconsidering what money should and should not buy (7). Sandel identifies two inherent problems with putting everything up for sale. The first problem is the growing inequality gap. Sandel notes that when money can buy more things, life becomes harder for those with moderate means.The second problem Sandel identifies concerns the “corrosive tendency” of markets, that certain elements of our society such as votes, children, or spirituality are degraded when turned into commodities, for “putting a price on the good things in life” can corrupt or degrade them (8). It is this corrosive nature of markets that should cause churches to take notice. Churches should be careful in utilizing this tool of the age, for it is certainly not valueneutral.When we use the logic and practices of branding to communicate the content and shape of discipleship (think:WWJD), when we market different Bibles for the sake of making the Scriptures accessible (think:The Bible
for Single Men in Dead-End Jobs Who Prefer Country Music – or one of its spin-offs), or when we assume the normalcy of our “religious marketplace” by thinking of our services and programs as a product or tool to get people in the door, Sandel encourages us to think critically about how it is that the market corrupts or degrades our message and practice as the church of Jesus Christ. So how do we make decisions about where and when the market functions? For Sandel, this is a question of awareness and public debate.We must become aware of the ways in which markets change the goods that they touch, and then discern through debate what kind of society we want to live in, to decide on some vision of the good life that protects spirituality, relationships, family life, health, civic participation, and other non-market goods from the corrosive influence of the market. Sandel’s book clarifies, in many ways, the helplessness we feel in North America over an allencompassing encroachment of ‘consumerism’ or ‘commercialism.’ However, despite the fact that Sandel gives language and a framework for naming what we intuit to be wrong with our consumer society, he leaves the reader with a nagging question.Where? Where will such public debate regarding the good life take place? Where can we carve out social space to be formed in non-market virtues such as altruism and generosity? This question leads to our second book and, I think, a call for congregational mission in North America. Rather than using the market for the sake of reaching people, perhaps the church is meant to be an intentional counter-community in the presence of our consumer culture.
MISSIONAL VOICE Newsletter August 2012
In The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods, John McKnight and Peter Block write about the possibility of local associations and networks to create non-commercial communities for human flourishing.They turn our attention away from economics and to the neighbourhood in a way that ought to inspire our collective ecclesial imagination. They organize the book in three different sections.The first section describes a shift in the North American identity from “citizen to consumer.” Although they sound a warning similar to Sandel’s, they focus on the loss of community in the face of consumerism.They argue that consumerism promises that the good life is for sale, while the “citizen way” views the good life in relationship to competent communities (15). Consumerism erodes community bonds because its essential promise – that safety or security can be purchased – creates an incentive for outsourcing tasks and services that used to be the province of families, churches, community groups, and neighbourhoods to professionals and consumer products.The result is that neighbourhoods and communities have lost capacity to forge fruitful and enriching lives together.Vital and important tasks that require community cooperation such as education, community health, and security are now ‘purchased’ from the state or a private corporation. The second and third sections outline their vision of a competent community.They contend that the path toward healthy communities begins with a sense of abundance rather than scarcity. McKnight and Block invite neighbourhoods to consider and focus on the various gifts of those in the community, while also nurturing associational life and welcoming strangers. An
abundant community begins to address needs and problems by saying “what we have is enough.” This posture allows communities to look for the gifts within a neighborhood and to create associations that connect people and gifts for the common good. “Gifts become useful when they are connected to the gifts of others” (123). Competent communities, then, need “connectors” who see the gifts in people and existing associations in order to bring them together. So what do these books clarify about the role and mission of the church in North America? I think they suggest a whole lot. Sandel provides adequate suspicion regarding the market as a tool for Christian practice, messaging, or spirituality.The corrosive tendency of the market means that we must not be naïve about the ways that advertising, branding, promotion of various Christian products, and even the competition between churches in the “religious marketplace” degrade and distort the gospel and Christian formation.The problem with Sandel is that he provides very little in the way of a constructive proposal for where we might resist the influence of consumerism. If the market pervades everything, then where do we begin creating practices of resistance? Abundant Community provides a partial answer. McKnight and Block root resistance to consumerism in the
establishment of competent local associations organized by a vision of the common good. It is not difficult to see how this particular focus works against the selforiented calculation of the marketplace to create alternative spaces for non-market goods such as generosity, altruism, and spirituality. It seems to me that both books invite churches off the carousel of a commodified faith and back into an intentional engagement in the particular communities in which they are located. Although Abundant Community does not explicitly name churches, McKnight and Block’s gift-centered vision of nurturing community competence is particularly informative for congregations. Good congregational leadership already focuses on the gifts of the members and nurtures associational life both within and beyond the congregation. Showing hospitality to strangers is an ancient Christian practice. Out of our particular Christian resources, we in the church are equipped for serving our neighbourhoods as bridgebuilders or “connectors” in service of the common good. And this is a good that is not for sale, for it requires all that we have in faith, hope, and love. Scott Hagley (Ph.D., Luther Seminary) is the Director of Education for Forge Canada and a Teaching Pastor at Southside Community Church. He lives in Burnaby, British Columbia with his wife and two daughters. firstname.lastname@example.org
The authors of The Abundant Community have created an excellent resource for shaping healthy and vibrant neighbourhoods and families. abundantcommunity.com
MISSIONAL VOICE Newsletter August 2012
Renovation of the Church: What Happens When a Seeker Church Discovers Spiritual Formation By Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011 ISBN: 978-0-8308-3546-1 184 pages, (paperback) Reviewed by Cam Roxburgh We continue to struggle with the direction of local churches and the definition of the missional church. Directionally, we are confused about whether our gatherings should strategically reach to those outside the church.The past two generations have employed “Seeker Targeted” or “Seeker Sensitive” frameworks.Today, we are beginning to see a move away from that approach. Similarly, we tend to truncate “missional” as a new strategy for getting out in the neighborhood. In both cases, we need to reflect more theologically on both the direction and definition in order to move forward today. Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken are leaders at Oak Hills Church in Sacramento. Many books tell local church stories, but this one is well worth the effort. Once chosen as “one of the twelve” churches and leaders to disciple by Bill Hybels because of their prowess in attracting seekers, the leaders of this church had an encounter with the Spirit of God that changed their entire vision.This encounter led them to rediscover the call to make disciples and not consumers. Renovation of the Church:What Happens When a Seeker Church Discovers Spiritual Transformation is not a criticism of the seeker movement, but rather a challenge for churches to not settle for anything less than God intended when he invited us to join him on mission. MISSIONAL VOICE Newsletter August 2012
In the introduction, Dallas Willard describes the book with a question: “How can the cross and self-denial become the central fact in a prosperous, consumer culture?” His question highlights what the reader will find in the pages ahead.This book, through the experience of the people of Oak Hills, describes what so many others are looking for today. So many Pastors and leaders are looking for an authentic experience of Christ in their midst as they are growing weary of the latest programs and strategies to try and grow a church.Through their own story, Kent and Mike drive the reader toward a more deeply rooted description of who we are as the people of God, and they express ways that this has played out for them in their context. This is not a book about spiritual formation for individuals, but rather it is about the formation of a people of God in and through the practices of the local church. As such, engagement in the mission of God is the context and site for spiritual transformation. There are other places to look for scholarly works, but if the reader desires a breath of fresh air, a wonderful example of a people committed to following God into mission, or a picture of hope for the church in the 21st century, this is a great place to start. Readable and understandable, this is a book any leader could give their people to help gain a vision for what God intended the church to be. Cam Roxburgh is the National Director for Forge Canada, the VP of Missional Initiatives for the North American Baptists, and the Team Leader at Southside Community Church in Vancouver, Canada. He lives in Surrey, British Columbia with his wife and four children. email@example.com
A Conversation with… Alan Hirsch and David Fitch
We at Forge are privileged to have the opportunity to connect with many thinkers, pastors, and theologians around the world who share in our concern to see neighborhoods and congregations transformed by the gospel.We at Missional Voice have learned a great deal from both Alan Hirsch and David Fitch.We recently “sat down” with them (via the internet, of course) to ask a few questions about what they see in their travels, writing, teaching, and pastoring. Alan Hirsch is a founder and the director of the Forge Missional Training Network. His most recent book is A Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church (co-authored with Tim Catchim, JosseyBass, 2012). David Fitch is the Betty R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary in Chicago, IL. He also serves as a pastor at Life on the Vine Church in metro Chicago. His most recent book is The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission: Towards an Evangelical Political Theology (Cascade, 2011). MV:What two cultural issues would you say face the church in the next 5-10 years in North America? Alan Hirsch:We need to adjust to a new paradigm… that of apostolic, or missional, movement and Learn to operate according to its lights.This is a paradigmatic shift and should not be taken for granted.This will involve adjusting our ministry, leadership, and resources to suit. Also, Christianity as a whole will have to learn to
MISSIONAL VOICE Newsletter August 2012
operate as a marginal religion. We can no longer assume the privileged status that we have had for centuries. David Fitch: On a broad basis, the church in N.A. continues to face the massive shift out of Christendom into a secularity that gives the church little room to operate.The church can only survive therefore by learning new languages and by inhabiting a local humble posture in the context. As far as more specific issues are concerned, it is incumbent that we engage the cultural issues of sexual confusion and pluralistic tolerance as people faithful to the gospel in both word and deed. MV:What internal issue do you think the church most needs to address? Alan Hirsch:We must Allow the missional agenda to readjust our priorities.This means that we allow the missional function to organize and inform other aspects of our life together, such as community, discipleship, and worship. David Fitch: Leadership.The predominant hierarchical ways of leadership of the past may have been efficient, but they centralize the church out of context instead of dispersing it into the world.The business approaches are just as unhelpful.We need to learn how to model teambased mutual leadership that relies on the authority of Christ as manifest in the gifts by the Holy Spirit.Then the Kingdom shall break loose and the gospel go forth where we live. MV: Many are talking about a deeper level of discipleship these days - desiring to help their people follow Christ more completely.What encouragement would you give to local Pastors and leaders who want to see their people grow in their relationship with Christ in the midst of a world that has so many competing voices? Alan Hirsch: Discipleship is absolutely strategic. If we fail here, we will fail. Make sure we have a clear understanding of what is involved, and a clear process to achieve it. Pay the price to do it, and do not relent!
David Fitch: My advice is don’t fight too hard to call the “well entrenched” into the discipleship of the Kingdom. Of course we offer discipleship to all but don’t be discouraged if few actually come and commit to this way of life – following Jesus as Lord into the world. Instead, start with those who are not entrenched in society’s commitments.They have not yet been “entrenched.” This is where Jesus says discipleship will be blessed (blessed are the poor … unless they come as children … ). So look among the young, look among the poor. Start with small numbers, 6-12 at a time. Cultivate over time.The harvest shall be great! MV:Where have you seen signs of "the church" being faithful in your travels in the last few months? What were they doing that made them faithful? Do you have any websites or you tube clips you could point us to?
Missional Voice August 2012
Alan Hirsch: I love what we are seeing in and through the many churches in the Future Travelers process. Soma (Tacoma WA), Community Christian and New Thing Network (Chicago and USA), the Austin Stone and the Verge Network, Granger Community Church (In) Sea Coast (SC), etc. David Fitch: I see over and over again tiny communities forming in neighborhoods who seek God and the salvation he is doing in Christ for their neighborhoods.They are not on the radar of the media because they don’t sell books or keep statistics. But they are crossing boundaries, inhabiting neighborhoods, proclaiming the gospel. My prayer is we see more and more of this in the years to come, regardless of size or denomination of our churches.
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MISSIONAL VOICE Newsletter August 2012