June 1

Yesterday was June 1, 2017.

On that day last year, I officially began my work toward a new community of faith in North Oshawa.

I remember that morning well. I was so excited to start. This was the first day of a grand adventure that I felt God had been leading me towards for years. So, I woke up, got everyone ready for the day, and went down to my newly-finished home office in my basement.

I sat down at my desk. And then I stood up. I went back upstairs and stood in front of my husband and said, “What am I supposed to do?”

Sometimes big ideas have very small beginnings.

 What most of life looked like in June of last year.

What most of life looked like in June of last year.

When I think about that day, I’m amazed at what God has done in the last twelve months. Exactly one year after we packed up all our belongings onto a moving truck and left Seattle, we had our first Core Team meeting. We now have a team of seven incredibly gifted, passionate people who are saying “yes” to God’s call together. Our church has a name - Ecclesia, which is the Greek word Jesus used in the Bible for the church and literally means “the called out ones.” And, together, we have some big dreams and goals for how Ecclesia might embody God’s Kingdom and showcase His love to our neighbours in North Oshawa - and now we’re putting some concrete action plans in place to help meet those goals.

All just twelve months after that first day, when I had no idea what to do.

 I think we all were a little unsure where to begin...

I think we all were a little unsure where to begin...

I remember what I did do that day, though. I sat down and made a list. I wrote down a full page of ideas of where to begin. I wrote down things like neighbourhood block parties, Little Free Libraries, people to invite for coffee, the types of people I hoped to meet. I read Scripture, I prayed. And then I think I unpacked a few more boxes in our new house.

In Luke 10:27, Jesus agrees to a summary of all of Scripture with these words: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.” That first day, I wanted to take those words seriously. I wanted to pour myself into them. And now, we who are part of the very beginnings of Ecclesia want to pour ourselves into those words - together. I can’t say that I’ve always done this well, and that I haven’t made mistakes. And I guarantee that our little church won’t always do this well, either. But, my prayer is that as we live our lives together as God’s Ecclesia, we will continue to strive to love God and love our neighbour with everything we are.

Even on the days when we’re not sure what to do.

 

May Prayer Update

Here's how you can pray for our new church this week:

1. Tomorrow we meet for the first time with our Core Team! I'm so excited to have a team of 8 men and women to join us in planning, strategizing, and executing our vision for a new church in North Oshawa. We're beginning our time together with an 8-week discipleship series, going through the book Don't Invite Them to Church by Karen Wilk together. Please pray that we'll be open to God's presence and work in and through us, and that - together - we'll become a beautiful picture of God's Kingdom here in North Oshawa.

2. This week marks one year since we left Seattle to move to Oshawa. This makes me both miss our old home, and feel grateful for our new home. Yesterday, while preaching in another church and sharing with others what we're up to here, I had the profound sense that I'm right where God wants me to be, and I'm so grateful for that. Praise God!

3. As we head into the next phase of life for our new community, I have finances on the brain. While we're meeting our fundraising goals so far, as our rhythm of life changes in our new church, our resourcing needs will change with it - and that's a good thing! But, join me in praying for God's continued provision for us as we enter into next steps in our adventure, with upcoming dreams of opening a community space, leaning into more regular worship, and equipping all of us to love and serve our neighbours.

Thanks for supporting God's work in our neighbourhood!

Prayer Update

Here's how you can pray for Ecclesia in North Oshawa this week!

1. Jeremy and I are currently in the process of asking a number of people to join our Core Team. We're asking people we've met through church connections and through our involvement in our community; some of the people we're inviting onto our team have been Christians for a long time, and some are new to the faith. We're hoping to begin with 8-10 people, and currently we're at six, with a few more thinking and praying about whether this is where God is leading them and a few more folks to ask. Pray that the Spirit would be at work, leading the right people to join us in this next chapter of life together!

2. Next week, I have the opportunity to spend a couple days in beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake with a few other church planters and denominational leaders, praying and planning and strategizing for how we can encourage and continue to recruit and train new church planters in southern Ontario. I'm excited to be part of the conversation, and would love prayer for this time as a bunch of us gather to dream and plan about the future of the church together.

3. I recently got in trouble with my coach for not taking enough time off. And, to be honest, ever since he brought it up, I've realized I do feel tired and could use some time to relax and be with my family. So, in a couple weeks, I'm taking a week off to rest and breathe and recharge and swim in the pool with my daughter. So, praise God for people around me who see what I need even before I do, for work that's both fulfilling and allows me to make space for refreshment, and, of course, for time away with family!

Thanks for following along, and for praying with us along the journey!

 

Also, if you haven't already, you can follow along on Instagram, too - at @ecclesiaoshawa
PLUS - if you feel led to give to what we're doing in our new church, check out the "Donate" page on the side bar.

In Summary

Last week, I finished up a five-week series about our core values: Gathering, Scattering, Place, and Grace. Today, I thought I'd wrap things up with a quick summary of all four values.

If you're interested, you can download a PDF "cheat sheet" for these values here.

So, to sum it all up, here are the nutshell versions of our four core values:

Ecclesia GATHER Blog Header.jpg

Gathering: Worship and community will be a vital part of the life of our church, rooting us in the truth of our faith and consistently reminding us of God's faithfulness.

Scattering: Our gathering will send us out into our scattering, where we venture out beyond the walls of our church into our neighbourhood where we live, work, and play. As individuals and as a community, we are committed to loving and serving our neighbours in both big and small ways.

Place: Following the model of Christ's incarnation, we will take our place seriously, seeking out ways in which we can root ourselves in our community of North Oshawa. Because of our presence, we want our neighbourhood to be transformed by the love of Christ.

Grace: We will be a community that both receives and reflects God's grace in our gathering, in our scattering, and throughout our place. We will hold a posture of grace toward each other and toward our neighbours, just as this is God's posture toward us.

 

Grace

As you may or may not know, over the last few weeks, I've been introducing four core values for our new community of faith: Gathering, Scattering, Place, and Grace. Today, we've made it to our fourth and final one - Grace!

The very basis of our faith is grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not fro yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." And grace is all over scripture (check out this list of Bible verses, just for a start!).

But what, exactly, is grace? Grace is how we receive God's "never stopping, never giving up, in breaking, always and forever love" - whether we feel we've earned it or not. In his book, What's So Amazing About Grace?, Philip Yancey describes it this way: "Grace means there is nothing I can do to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make God love me less. It means that I, even I who deserve the opposite, am invited to take my place at the table in God’s family.” 

Grace is God's posture towards us, at all times and in all places.

We want to be a community that both receives and reflects God's grace. We want to echo the blessing found in 2 Peter 3:18, that we "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour." And we want to grow in grace together, through worship, discipleship, and serving together in our neighbourhood. We want to be a people who recognize God's work of grace in our lives, each and every day.

And we want to reflect God's grace in our lives. As we scatter, as we venture out into our neighbourhood and seek to bring Life into all the places we live, work, and play, we will seek to embody grace in our interactions with our neighbours. As we find our roots in our place, we will build those roots with a posture of grace.

This doesn't mean that we won't hold each other accountable. If we are to grow as we gather and scatter in our place of North Oshawa, we need to hold each other accountable and keep each other on track as God's people. But - this needs to be done with grace.

In our new community of faith, we will both receive and reflect God's grace. Just as grace is God's posture towards us, we will do all we can to hold that same posture toward each other and toward our neighbourhood.

So - will you join us?

Place

If you’ve been around these parts these last few weeks, you know that I’ve jumped into a series, digging into our four core values: Gathering, Scattering, Place, and Grace.

We’ve looked at Gathering and Scattering, which I’d encourage you to read if you haven’t already. Up today: Place.

At first glance, this may be a strange word to use for a core value of a new church. Why would Place be an important value of any church? Well, because our place has a lot to say about how and why we scatter - how we love our neighbours in real, tangible ways.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but where we are matters. When we are, matters. The fact that Ecclesia is being planted in the North Oshawa, Ontario in 2017 has a lot to say about how we “do church.” We can’t engage with Oshawa the way that a church might engage with New York City or Vancouver or Uzbekistan or Uganda. We have to respond to our neighbourhood, to our community - and we have to recognize the beauty and the difficulty of the place where God has put us.

And what’s more, the incarnation is an essential part of our Christian faith. The Incarnation - God Himself putting on flesh and coming to live with and among and for people - is what we base our whole worldview around. The idea of the God of the Universe humbling himself to become human is inconceivable in many other religions, even blasphemous. But this is who Jesus was. And it’s a beautiful example of how we are to live. Jesus intentionally became a person and rooted himself among us. And now we can follow His example, rooting ourselves among our neighbours right where God has placed us. But this is a difficult undertaking. As Michael Frost wrote in his book, Incarnate, our world has become increasingly disconnected. Technology has changed the way we think and engage with each other. Advances in travel and connectivity has made the world smaller, making it easier to leave our homes and see the world - bringing with it both a beautiful availability of the rest of the world, as well as a lessened connection with our own homes. Our online personas make it all-too-easy to disengage with those who don’t agree with us, to objectify other people and other places, to experiment in virtual realities that don’t connect with our actual lives. Frost calls all of these realities “excarnate living.” The remedy? The incarnation. Recognizing God’s example of John 1:1 (The Message) - “The Word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood” - and finding ways to follow suit. To move into our neighbourhoods in the most profound sense, and truly, deeply connect within our own context. Our own place.

I was listening recently to The RePlacing Church Podcast, put together by my friend Ben Katt, in which he interviewed Ron Ruthruff, author of Closer to the Edge: Walking with Jesus for the World’s Sake. In the interview, Ron had the most beautiful insight on this idea of responding to our place, suggesting that our place informs how we understand our current realities. For example, if I say, “It’s raining,” we can all understand the basic meaning of those words. We all know what rain is. But, our place informs the real meaning of those words. If I’m in Seattle and say, “It’s raining,” you might say, “So what?” If I’m in New Orleans and I say, “It’s raining,” you might say, “Oh no.” If I’m in the Sudan and say, “It’s raining,” you might say, “Thank God.” Our place makes a huge difference in how we understand the realities around us.

In this new church, we want to respond to our place. We want to get to know the people and the places in North Oshawa, so that we can know what’s good about our place as well as what’s difficult. In order to do this, I’ve been meeting with other church and neighbourhood leaders and hearing their stories of North Oshawa. And, the last few months, I’ve been leading a team in partnership with my calling church, Zion Christian Reformed Church, to do some community mapping, in which we’ve talked to a number of local non-profits, schools, churches, and civic leaders to hear what they do, how they experience Oshawa, and how we might work together. All of this has been an incredible learning experience as I get to know my neighbourhood of North Oshawa and how Ecclesia might weave into the fabric of our community.

 A very very snowy picture of my place - my neighbourhood in North Oshawa.

A very very snowy picture of my place - my neighbourhood in North Oshawa.

God is already at work ahead of us in our neighbourhood. In Genesis 28:16-17, after Jacob dreamed of a ladder stretching from earth to heaven, filled with angels, he woke up and said, “Surely God is in this place and I was not aware of it. How awesome is this place!” God was there ahead of Jacob, and God is here ahead of us. God is already at work in our neighbourhoods, and we have the opportunity to partner with Him in that work. Imagine what a difference it would make in our own lives and in the lives of others if we allowed ourselves to recognize that God is here, already, in this place. 

For us in our new community of faith, one way in which we hope to connect with and respond to our neighbourhood is through a community space. We hope to provide a space where gatherings can happen - whether they are worship gatherings, college and university student study sessions, business meetings, child play groups, yoga and exercise classes, art showcases, brown-bag lunches, etc. We want to open a space that feels and functions like the living room of North Oshawa, where the life of our neighbourhood can happen. This community space will be the heartbeat of our worshipping community - that regular space in which we are consistently gathered and scattered. And, as long as the space itself would hold us, we would hold our regular worship gatherings there, too.

And, it’s in this faithful neighbourhood presence that we can grow as a community of grace. Which brings me to our next and final value of Grace. Stay tuned next week for more!

Scattering

Hebrews 10:23-25:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

A couple weeks ago, I launched into a new series of blog posts looking at the four core values of our new community of faith in North Oshawa - the values of Gathering, Scattering, Place, and Grace. To do this, I'll be focusing on Hebrews 10:23-25 as a template for how these values call us to live. Last week, I wrote about the practice of Gathering - why it's important that we gather together as followers of Christ. And, I hinted that it's our practice of gathering that allows us to engage in all these other values.

So, today, I want to introduce the value of Scattering to you.

I ended my previous post reminding all of us - myself included - that worship matters. Our gathering together as brothers and sisters in Christ matters. And it's only one part of the rhythm of life for God's people. Worship matters, but to fully live into the complete rhythm of Life in Christ, we need more than just the practice of Gathering. We also need to Scatter - to be spurred on to love and good deeds. To love our neighbours and serve them in real, tangible ways. And we need to both Gather and Scatter in the context of a sense of our place, in a community shaped by grace.

But sometimes we in the church so value our gathering times that we forget that there's more to the life God wants for us. I was part of a church once that desperately wanted to see the church grow and flourish, and see people come to know Christ for the first time, or in a new way. The heart of this church was beautiful, and they longed to make an impact in their neighbourhood - an admirable and Biblical goal. However, they just couldn't see past Sunday morning to do so. They so prized their Gathering, that they assumed that if they just made it good enough, everyone else would love it, too. So - in an attempt to reach more people, they decided to shake up their worship time a bit. They changed the arrangement of the room, bringing in new paint colours, creative seating arrangements, and local art to make the space feel more welcoming. They made a concerted effort to make their music skew younger, and make their preaching more relatable. And all of these were good things, and did help the congregation think a little differently about how worship can and should be done in their church.

But, none of the paint colours, seating arrangements, or topical preaching brought in anyone who wasn't already connected to that church community. It changed the mindset of the people of the congregation a bit, serving as a teaching moment about creativity and experimentation and holding loosely to our own preferences and prejudices of how church should be. But, ultimately, rearranging their worship in order to connect to their neighbours was a little bit like saying, "You know, I'd like to make more friends. I think I'll move the furniture in my living room." No matter how beautiful my living room looks, I'll never make more friends unless I leave my living room. I'll never meet new people unless I step outside and go to where people are. A similar dynamic is at work in our churches as well. We can no longer expect to connect with those outside the walls of our church if we never leave the building. We need to go to where people are already, build relationships, and enter into life together outside of the church, rather than wait for them to come to us. Just like you need to be inside my house to know what my living room furniture looks like, you need to be a part of the church already - at least in some capacity - to know what worship looks like.

 Photo by themacx/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by themacx/iStock / Getty Images

And so, we are called to scatter. To step out of the walls of our church and embrace and engage what God is already doing in our neighbourhood and our world. To serve, show kindness, and be partners to other organizations, charities, and community services.  Hebrews 10:24 encourages us to spur each other on to love and good deeds. In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus tells us that all authority belongs to Him, and that now we have the authority and the mission to go - and, as we're going, to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and initiating them into the Church, the body of Christ. And along with all this, Micah 6:8 reminds us that God wants us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.

This is how we Scatter. After we come together in worship to glorify our Creator and be renewed and refreshed and reminded of our purpose in Him, we're sent out into the world. To live in love. To do good deeds. To acts of love and kindness and peacemaking. To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. And, as we're going, to make disciples, inviting them into the Life with a capital L that we experience in Jesus Christ.

This kind of Scattering matters deeply in our neighbourhoods. In fact, our work in and for and among our neighbours can actually give a monetary value to our communities. When the church engages with its neighbourhood - whether through programs, social justice initiatives, work in housing, healing from substance abuse, job training, or safe spaces for children - the whole city benefits. A recent study out of the University of Toronto estimates that for every $1.00 a congregation spends on outwardly-focused ministries, the city receives approximately $4.77 worth of common goods services. Our Scattering adds value to our cities that is so powerful it can even be measured in monetary impact. And if that's true, just think of the transformation that's created that can't be measured!

In our new church, we will deeply value our Gathering. And then, we will send each other out from that gathering so that we can Scatter well, in ways that add real value to our neighbourhood. We will spur each other on to love and good deeds, to live in just, merciful, and humble ways with God. And we will, with God's help, make disciples as we go and live into this Scattering. We will say to God, along with the prophet Isaiah, "Here I am. Send me."

What, exactly, will this look like? While some of this is still growing and forming as we move toward a more structured community, next week's blog will touch on some more details of how this Scattering will play out when I talk about our value of Place. I hope you'll come back and read more!

Gathering

Hebrews 10:23-25:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Over the next four weeks here on the blog, I'll be looking at four core values for the new community of faith growing in North Oshawa. (In case you missed it, read the introduction to the series here!) And don't forget to check our our new Instagram page, with photos to go along with this series!

These four core values are what I hope will guide the shared life of our community, and help shape our culture as we move from these early stages into our next phases of life. These four values are:

  1. Gathering
  2. Scattering
  3. Place
  4. Grace

And all of these values stem from Hebrews 10:23-25. We'll work our way week-by-week through each one of them, and I'll show you what I mean.  So today - let's begin with Gathering.

For most people, perhaps Gathering is what we think of first when we think of the church. The church is the place where you gather for worship - usually on Sunday mornings. It's what I'm most often asked about regarding the new church - where are we located, and what time do we meet on Sundays? (The answers, by the way, are at my house, and we don't...yet. But, we do meet on the 2nd Saturday of the month at 5 pm! Email me for details.)

And you know what? I love those gathering times of the church. I love worship. In fact, at my Christian liberal-arts college, I majored in Music in Worship. I love gathering together God's people to worship the Creator of All Things in scripture and in song.

However, there is a stream of thought - perhaps especially in the world of church planting - that argues that our gathering is of lesser importance in the church today. Some argue that gathering has become the only thing the church values in recent years, and it's time for a shift away from a focus on worship and gathering and toward involvement, relationship, and service in our neighbourhoods.

I empathize with this idea. I've been a part of churches where the whole life of the church was packed into the Sunday morning event. Everything we did to care for one another, to build community together, to worship God, and to learn from Scripture was packed into that hour on Sunday morning. We even relied on our worship times to reach out to our neighbours, thinking - like the movie Field of Dreams - that if we build it, they will come. If we just make our worship good enough, exciting enough, with the right personality and production quality, then people outside of the church will be drawn in. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn't work. We weren't connecting with our larger community, our congregation didn't feel connected as brothers and sisters in Christ, and we weren't growing as deeply into our faith as we would have hoped - all because we tried to pack all these things into one hour on Sunday morning, rather than recognizing that each of these elements are a piece of a larger rhythm of life.

And so I can understand why some might want to downgrade the importance of worship in our churches. And yet - if you look in scripture, worship is still an immensely important part of the life of God's people. Worship matters, and it matters deeply. When we gather for worship - when we come together with other brothers and sisters in Christ and sing songs, read Scripture, pray with and for one another, and hear what God has to say to us from His word, it matters. Our faith is formed and our lives are re-oriented to God. In worship, we make space to glorify the One who created and sustains the world, and in doing so, we are encouraged and reoriented to God's loving will for our lives. We are able to hold onto hope, and remember God's faithfulness to us. When we gather, we strengthen one another, we grow in our faith, and we're shaped into a more faithful people.

 A few friends at our 2nd Saturday of the month worship gathering.

A few friends at our 2nd Saturday of the month worship gathering.

Worship matters, and it's only one part of the rhythm of life for God's people. Worship matters, but to fully live into the full rhythm of Life in Christ, we need more than just the practice of Gathering. We also need to Scatter - to be spurred on to love and good deeds. To love our neighbours and serve them in real, tangible ways. And we need to both Gather and Scatter in the context of a sense of our place, in a community shaped by grace.

So, in our new community of faith in North Oshawa, we will Gather. We will "not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing," as it says in Hebrews 10. We will have regular times together to sing, pray with and for one another, and learn together from God's word. We will encourage each other, holding on to hope and remembering God's faithfulness. We will seek to grow in our faith together, allowing ourselves to be reoriented to the God who loves us and calls us by name. And we will do it all together.

And it's this practice of Gathering that will allow us to live into the rest of our rhythm of life well.

So - stay tuned next week for the next value in our rhythm of life: Scattering.

What were we thinking?

One question I'm frequently asked is "Why would we start a new church?" Oshawa has a number of churches already - and some of them are very large, with space and resources for more and more people. Why would we put so much time and effort into a new church, when other churches already exist?

It's a fair question. You don't have to look too hard to find information about how the church is struggling. Young people are leaving the church in droves, church attendance is falling, and the newest major religious group in the world (and this is especially true in Canada) is called the "nones" and the "dones" - people who have no religious affiliation and/or have actively, intentionally left the church. Research and scary new stories are everywhere, predicting the demise of the church.

And here, my family and I packed up everything we own, said goodbye to our home and friends, and moved across North America and over the border.

What in the world were we thinking?

Well - call me crazy, but all these statistics and research and news stories don't necessarily fill me with fear and dread. Rather, they're a reality check, and a call to action. In my experience, as I've talked with and made friends with people who would fall in those "nones" and "dones" categories (and, I admit, a decade or so, I would have counted myself among the "dones") - people are leaving the church because of the church. Not because of Jesus or because of what Scripture actually calls us to. But because of the ways we as Christians have perverted that call. Because of the ways Christians and the church as an institution have been hurtful, judgmental, and aloof in important issues of justice in our world.

So, what if there was a different way?

What if there was a way to do church that would faithfully showcase what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ? Yes, the church has been thrust into the margins of society, but perhaps that's not such a bad thing. Perhaps we as God's people just have to learn a new way of being, a way to live in which we allow ourselves to begin in the margins, rather than lament our new position? It's like one of my favourite authors, Anne Lamott, said, "The margins are where so many juicy moments of life and spirit and friendship can be found."

So let's find them.

There's research to back up this crazy hope in me, too. Tim Keller, a pastor and church planter in New York City, wrote a helpful summary of this in his article called "Why Plant Churches?" Starting new churches is an important and Biblical way to follow Jesus' command to go and make disciples in Matthew 28. New churches are best at reaching young people and new believers, at least in part because they're forced to think and act differently than an established, institutional church simply for survival. And new churches even have a tendency to renew the whole Church with a capital C, becoming a source of new inspiration, ideas, and leaders for other churches in the area. 

So, why a new church? Because I want to step into the hopeful side of all these recent statistics of the church. Because I want to find a new way of being the church that can speak love and grace into today's changing culture. Because I want to be faithful to God's calling to go. I want to find those juicy moments of life and spirit and friendship in the margins.

Will you join me?

Over the next few weeks, right here on the blog, I want to dig into what this might look like for us as we establish this new community of faith in North Oshawa. Hebrews 10:23-25 says:
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

In the next 4 weeks, I'll be using these verses to explore how God is calling us to live as His people in this new and changing landscape of the church. And I'll be sharing some of the things we plan to do as a new community of faith in North Oshawa, as we seek out those juicy moments on the margins. I hope you'll come back each Monday and see what God is doing!

PLUS - we have a new Instagram account! Another place for you to follow along with what's happening in North Oshawa. Check it out on Instagram - our username is @ecclesiaoshawa .

30-30-30 Challenge

Hooray! We have 10 donors for our 30-30-30 Challenge!

A HUGE thank you to all those who have given toward what God is doing in North Oshawa. I cannot put into words how humbled and how grateful I am to have you as my partners!

So, we need 20 more people to jump in and join us for the 30-30-30 Challenge! All together, we’re looking for 30 people to commit to giving $30 per month for 30 months to support the new community of faith God is establishing in North Oshawa.

You can read up on our vision for this new church here, but here's how your support would help us make an impact:

  1. Rather than a traditional church building or worship space, we are dreaming of a community space where friends and neighbours can gather for meals, classes, craft nights, game nights, book clubs, a play area for kids, and other activities. This would be a space that would allow us to get to know neighbours who might never step foot in a Sunday morning worship service, and would help us establish a consistent presence in our neighbourhood where we can actively live out God's love. For a great example of another church doing this, check out The Hub in Niagara Falls
  2. With your support, we can continue to have access to resources for spiritual growth and discipleship as we grow as a community.
  3. Your funding would help make possible our monthly worship gatherings and neighbourhood outreach and service initiatives.

To give online, click here - and be sure to choose "Jana Koh" in the drop-down menu.
If you'd prefer to send a cheque, please make cheques out to Zion Christian Reformed Church, designating the North Oshawa Church Plant on the memo line. Cheque said can be sent to:
Zion Christian Reformed Church
409 Adelaide Ave E
Oshawa, ON L1G 2A2

Thank you for considering joining our 30-30-30 Challenge!

 

The Beauty of Failure

I recently asked my 2-year-old daughter what she wanted to be when she grows up. I've asked her before, and she usually comes up with something like, "A cow." Or "A sleepy doggy like Charlie," (our sleep-all-day basset hound). But this day, she looked at me very thoughtfully and said, "A scientist? A....rocket scientist?"

I love this answer for lots of reasons (we can talk another time about the role of women in traditionally male-dominated fields) - but one reason was because it reflected some books we'd been reading lately. A couple of favourite stories have been Rosie Revere, Engineer and Ada Twist, Scientist. Both books tell the story of a little girl who was filled with curiosity, and who wanted to do or make or discover something big. And they worked hard and tried and tried...and then it didn't work. 

 image from  amazon.ca

image from amazon.ca

In both stories, their experiments fail. Rosie Revere tried to engineer a cheese-copter that only flew for a few seconds, and Ada Twist couldn't find what made the terrible smell in her house. But, as both girls learned - what was important was their trying. The experiment was the important thing - the failure was the important thing - because it got them one step closer to their end goal. Because they were willing to try, and even fail, they were able to learn something new that would launch them to the next steps in solving the problem.

The failure could be celebrated, because they tried and they learned. And now they could move on to what's next.

In my grown-up reading, I came across a great article by Dr. Karen Wilk, a pastor and church planter in Edmonton, Alberta, entitled "Experimental Discipleship." Here, Wilk suggests that - especially in new churches or new initiatives in churches - experimentation is hugely important not only as a program-focus, but as a means of discipleship. When we as followers of Christ step out into our neighbourhoods and communities and try something new in the name of Jesus, we allow ourselves to experiment. Because it's new, it may or may not work - just like Rosie Revere's cheese-copter. Any new ministry or initiative or plan may connect with our neighbours or it may not. But, Wilk argued, we can rejoice even in our failures because it helps launch us to the next level of what God wants us to do. In our experimentation, we open ourselves up to the work of the Spirit to grow us closer to who God wants us to be.

 image from  amazon.ca

image from amazon.ca

You might remember me writing about our neighbourhood ice cream party that my family and I hosted on our street in the summer. This ice cream party was a HUGE success - we had 15 households join us on our front yard for a bowl of ice cream and great conversation, allowing us space to get to know each other in simple but deeply meaningful ways. Jeremy and I have committed together to do this kind of thing on a fairly regular basis in an attempt to get to know our neighbours and enact the love of Christ with and for them. So, in December, we hosted a Christmas party. We sort of co-opted our monthly worship gathering on the 2nd Saturday of December and made it a Christmas party. We invited our usual gathering folks, plus some friends from other walks of life, plus our entire street. And, when that night came, a bunch of our friends came, a few of our gathering folks came...and one neighbour.

Just one.

There is so much to celebrate about that evening. We had a great time with our friends from both within and outside of the church. Our home was full of 25 people, from babies to empty-nesters to everywhere in between. We sang Christmas carols, we shared a meal, we drank some wine - it was wonderful.

And at the end of the night, I was so disappointed that only one neighbour came. 

Yes, our house was full and the evening was wonderful, but I had pinned so much hope on our neighbours coming and joining us for the evening again - just like we did in the summer. 

And then, that night, I read Ada Twist, Scientist to my daughter for the 800,000th time. And little Ada Twist taught me - again - that experiments are important. Failure is important. Things not going exactly as we hoped are important. Because then we can learn from them and regroup and reframe our questions and refocus our efforts and let ourselves be launched into next steps. And Karen Wilk reminded me that experimentation is, in fact, discipleship. I had opened up my home and my heart not just to my friends, but to the Holy Spirit to work in and through me by having this great experiment of a Christmas party. And there was so much beauty on that night, as well as a little bit of failure - and God could use all of it to bring me to the next level of what He has for me and who He wants me to become.

So, friends. Go out and fail. Go out and be bold and do something experimental in the name of Jesus Christ. And then celebrate both what went well and what totally bombed. Because both of them are part of God's work of discipleship in you, of making you more and more into the person He wants you to become. The important thing is that you go.

Prayer Update

As we enter into the new year, I'm grateful and astounded at how God has moved in my life and the life of our little family. At this time last year, I was just beginning to talk with the team working towards a North Oshawa church plant, and I had no idea that I would actually say "yes" to this unique calling. And now, six months later, here we are, living and working in Canada, falling in love with this new little city of ours, meeting people and making friends, and watching God pave the way for a new community of faith in Oshawa.

Normally, in my prayer updates, I give three specific ways in which you can pray for God's work in North Oshawa. Today, I just want to step back and give thanks.

I give thanks for how God has been at work in North Oshawa these last six months. I've seen Him answer prayers in very specific ways. I've seen Him bring important people into my life as both friends and potential teammates. I've seen Him give my family and me a beautiful place for us to live, with space to invite and include others into our lives. I've seen Him provide financially for my family and for my ministry. And I've seen Him guide me, Jeremy, and Norah through the large and sometimes-difficult processes of making important decisions, moving across the continent and over the boarder, and making space for profound changes in our lives and hearts through it all.

God is faithful, and I have every confidence and trust that His faithfulness will continue. And, as I look ahead into this new year, I'm excited about continuing to build into relationships, to start putting some real structure and vision to the ministry we're beginning here, and seeing where God brings us in these next phases of life. And I'm grateful for each of you who have been praying with us along the way - I hope you can give thanks along with me today!

And as it says in Ephesians 3:20-21, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen!"

Second Saturdays

Each Second Saturday of the month, Jeremy and I host a worship gathering in our home. 

We’ve done this four gatherings so far. We meet in our home, and invite a whole bunch of different people. Some we’ve met in churches, some are from the neighbourhood, some are friends we’ve met through different activities and groups we’ve joined since we moved here. Some gatherings have six or seven of us, some have had 13-20. And, no matter how many people are there, we know that God is with us.

 My 2-year-old daughter likes to be in the middle of all the action. You'll often find her in the middle of our circle, joining right in the fun!

My 2-year-old daughter likes to be in the middle of all the action. You'll often find her in the middle of our circle, joining right in the fun!

We start each time together with singing. Then we read some Scripture together, pray with and for each other - and then, the highlight of the evening. We eat. We share in a potluck dinner and eat and talk and get to know each other in new and deeper ways as we do so.

I love the idea of a potluck after a time of worship and prayer. In the early church, believers would gather for worship, and then have a meal (often called a “love feast”) during which they would revel in God’s provision and presence with them. It was an extension of communion, in a sense - this sacramental meal in which Christ would feel especially present among His people. That’s why we eat together at these monthly gatherings, so that we might see and feel and taste Christ with us as we share together. And, we do a potluck because that way everyone has a stake in the meal. Everyone has a role to play, something they can contribute to the table and to our shared life together.

While the actual ins and outs of these gatherings are still a work in progress, they’re becoming one of my favourite moments in each month. I love seeing the diversity of life stages and needs and dreams and faith journeys that come into our living room each Second Saturday. I love seeing my home full of friends and music and food, and feeling the Spirit’s presence in the middle of it all. I love the beautiful chaos that happens when you bring a group of people together to worship and to just be together for awhile.

 Some friends enjoying food and conversation at our December Christmas gathering.

Some friends enjoying food and conversation at our December Christmas gathering.

Our last gathering was really more of a Christmas party. We had 25 people in our home, from toddlers to empty-nesters (and even a couple of tiny babies thrown in the mix!). Some had deep faith in Christ already, some are asking questions, and some just came for a party. We sang some Christmas carols, ate some food, drank some wine, and had a wonderful time together. And, for me, it really ushered in Christmas. It was a picture of the life and light that Christ was born to give. Of the hope that we have in God’s coming again - when all will be welcome at the table, when peace and joy and grace will reign.

As we head into the new year, I’m excited to see what God will do with these monthly gatherings. Of course I have my own dreams and hopes for where this will go next, but I’m prayerfully looking forward to what God would have us do with this.

And, of course, if you live locally - you’re welcome to join us at 5:00 pm on the Second Saturday of each month! Our next gathering will be January 14th. (Just email me for our address!)

In the meantime, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and blessings in 2017!

 

Merry Christmas!

 And the angel said to them,
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:10-11

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year this year! Thank you for all your prayers, financial gifts, words of encouragement, and moments of friendship since my family and I have been in Oshawa - and I look forward to seeing what God will do in 2017!

Are you up for a challenge?

God is building a new community of faith in North Oshawa. This church will be a place that loves North Oshawa well, and seeks to do so in real, tangible ways. We will be a community that connects people to one another - and, ultimately, to Christ.

We want our church to be the heartbeat of North Oshawa.

Photo by dk_photos/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by dk_photos/iStock / Getty Images

Our hearts are amazing things. These powerful muscles that we depend on completely for us to have life. That steady pulse that allows us to live and work and play. The very heart that is pumping life in your body right now - that’s what I want this new church in North Oshawa to be.

The heart is the muscle that gives life to all parts of our body. It’s the place where our very literal life is gathered and sent. In the heart, the cells that give us life are gathered - at least for a moment. And there they receive oxygen and are renewed and refreshed and made useful again.
And then the heart contracts. It beats. When the heart has the most power and puts out the most energy - that’s when it beats. It sends out those life-giving cells - after their moment of rest and refreshment and renewal - to go out throughout the whole body, to the head and the toes and the fingers and everywhere in between.

Bringing life.

This is the image that resonates with me as I think and pray and dream about the new community of faith that God is building in North Oshawa. I want this new church to be a living, beating thing, bringing life into all parts of our neighbourhood - all the way from head to toe and everything in between.

I want us to live into that regular rhythm of Life, with a capital L. I want all of us in this community of faith to come together and be re-oxygenated with the hope of the Gospel. I want us to gather and worship and glorify our Creator, to be reenergized and renewed and empowered to live our salvation. And then, I want us to see the power and energy of that sending heart beat. I want our church to be a place that sends us out into all the arteries and vessels and capillaries of North Oshawa. To all the places we live, work, and play - to go out and share the Life that we experience when we gather, to invite others to experience that Life with Christ, too. To re-oxygenate our city, bringing Life and life abundantly into all our spheres of influence.

As I've spent these last 6 months listening and learning about North Oshawa and the people who live, work, and play here, I've noticed that there are three circles (so to speak) present here. One circle holds the UOIT & Durham College campus, another holds the suburban-feeling new homes springing up on the north end of the city, and the third circle holds the pocket of poverty around Nonquon Road. I want our church to be the place where those three circles meet - like the shared space in a Venn diagram. Where people from all three circles can connect to what's good about our neighbourhood of North Oshawa, where friends and neighbours can meet, and where all people can enter into the hope of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

To do this, we don't seek a traditional church space; rather, we hope to open a community space in North Oshawa. The dream here is that we can open a space where gatherings can happen - whether they are worship gatherings, college and university student study sessions, business meetings, child play groups, yoga and exercise classes, art showcases, brown-bag lunches, etc. We want to open a space that feels like the living room of North Oshawa, where the life of our neighbourhood can happen.

And, we want this space to be accessible and welcoming to all three circles of North Oshawa - including our neighbours near Nonquon Road. We recognize that for all people to have access, we need to lean toward those who have the most difficulty gaining access into the neighbourhood: those who are struggling in all the isolation and difficulty of a poverty-stricken area of our city. 

This community space will be the heartbeat of our worshipping community - that regular space in which we are consistently gathered and scattered. And, as long as the space itself would hold us, we would hold our regular worship gatherings there, too.

This is what God is laying on my heart for this new community of faith in North Oshawa. I hope you'll join me for the ride. We need faithful partners on the journey - and so we're launching what we're calling a 30-30-30 Challenge.

We're looking for 30 people to commit to giving $30 per month for 30 months to help us toward these goals. I'm working toward building a team of committed men and women to join me in this adventure that God is leading, and we'll need your financial support to help make this happen. Your contributions will enable us to gain access to resources to equip and train our growing team, help my family and I continue to grow relationships and connections in our community through monthly worship gatherings and weekly relational connections, and help us plan and strategize the establishment of our church and our neighbourhood space to bring Life to North Oshawa.

If you feel led to give, please consider taking the 30-30-30 Challenge. Such a simple but generous gift would help us take necessary and exciting steps toward becoming the church that God is establishing. To give, visit https://crhm.org/abovegrant and designate your gift for the North Oshawa Church Plant (found under Jana Koh in the drop-down menu).

Please join us!

In Christ,
Jana Koh

jana.koh@gmail.com

Love Deeply

Some thoughts from my devotions the other day:

1 Peter 4:8 says:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.

So much comes down to love.

IMG_0022.JPG

So many times in Scripture, we're given a list of dos and don't dos - but more often than not, they're summed up in a call to love.

Love.

Not because we have to. Not because we agree. Not because someone loved us so they deserve it. Love. Because.

Love deeply - simply because we are.

I was reading the end of 1 Peter in the Bible, and I was struck with this sort of job description section in chapters 4-5. How we are to live and be as God's people. How elders are to shepherd. 1 Peter 5:2-3 says this:

Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them - not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

Not because we have to, but because we are willing. That's how God wants us to be.

But who are we willing to love? And not just love - but love deeply?

As I write, I keep hearing the word "Nonquon" in my head and in my heart. I've written about this before - but when many people think of North Oshawa, they think of the university or the beautiful new homes that are constantly being built on our northern horizon. But in the middle of all this is the area around Nonquon Road, this forgotten little pocket of poverty. And I can't shake the sense that God has something beautiful in store for North Oshawa - and that our neighbours on Nonquon Road need to be included.

Are we in North Oshawa willing to love - and love deeply - our neighbours along Nonquon?

It's part of the reality of our larger neighbourhood. How can we as a church shepherd our brothers and sisters throughout our community, including our brothers and sisters on Nonquon Road? How can we love each other deeply?

Are we willing?

Amen.

P.S. It's Giving Tuesday! It would mean the world to me and to those on my team if you would consider supporting us today. Click on the "Donate" link at the top of the page to give or visit www.crhm.org/abovegrant - just designate the North Oshawa Church Plant Above Grant, and sign up for either a one-time gift or become a partner with a monthly gift. Thanks for supporting what God is doing in North Oshawa!

Three Circles

One of the questions I'm most often asked is, "When you say North Oshawa, what do you mean?"

Some people hear "North Oshawa" and picture the new, large, beautiful homes being built over acres and acres of land on the north end.

Many people hear "North Oshawa" and think of the campus that's shared by both the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Durham College.  In fact, the most common misconception I hear of this new community of faith is that it is (or will be) a new campus ministry - which isn't actually the case.

And relatively few people hear North Oshawa and picture high-rise apartment buildings full of families under serious financial pressure, or facing a variety of issues of poverty, drug use, and desperation. But, in reality, that's there, too.

My family and I are coming up on six months of living in Oshawa, and I've very intentionally used these six months - and likely more months to come - as a season of listening and learning. Hearing stories and meeting people and exploring this new city of mine. And what I've been learning is that North Oshawa encompasses all of these things. There's the very suburban-feeling new development on the north end of the city, right across the street from the large and growing UOIT and Durham College campus, and there are also a couple of pockets of poverty, which are consistently forgotten and buried under all the excitement of the growth happening in Oshawa.

All these things are true of North Oshawa. When I think about it, I think of these three distinct demographics as three different circles. And when I picture what I want our new church to be, it's in the point where those circles meet - bringing together the diversity of Oshawa into a beautiful community of grace.

I want our church to be accessible to all three circles, on some level. Especially when I dream about a community space where friends and neighbours can easily and meaningfully connect, I dream about it as a space where all our neighbours in North Oshawa have access and can engage in meaningful and grace-filled community. When I picture our community of faith gathering for worship, it's a diverse and beautiful community, bringing together people from all three circles in North Oshawa.

It's like a Venn diagram in my mind. There are three circles - the new homes, the campus, and the pockets of poverty - and then where they meet, that's Ecclesia. 

That's us. Together.

So, no, I'm not working on a campus ministry. I'm not creating a church that caters exclusively to the middle-to-upper-class residents in the new developments on the north end. And I'm not going to forget the pockets of poverty and isolation in the middle. 

And, yes, you are absolutely invited to join in God's mission here in North Oshawa!