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.
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!