I’m going to try to articulate what God seems to be stirring in Atlantic Canada, for the willing. I know I will not articulate it perfectly. I know God is stirring more. However, I want to try to capture the stirrings and what we see happening, with your input, so we can discern together and join what God is doing in our region and beyond. Will you help?
When I think about what has happened and is happening, I think of the Beaver’s description of Aslan, the lion, in C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Susan and Lucy ask if this lion is safe — to which Beaver answers with, “Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Friends, as we follow God’s stirrings it will not be safe, it will not be easy, but it is good. He is the King. Please give up any ideas of it being comfortable, of things being able to continue the way they are, or just being able to basically go on living your life the way it is, with maybe a few tweaks. The King, God, stirs us to so much more. An adventure of a lifetime awaits - joining Him, everyday, everywhere we go - if we are willing to lose our lives to the King.
This is no time to be tame Atlantic Canada.
This is what I know, thus far, with certainty:
God is at work in Atlantic Canada.
God is stirring something so far beyond you & me, beyond one church, beyond one denomination, beyond one seminary, beyond one region.
The mustard seed of “joining God in our neighbourhoods” is getting bigger and bigger.
This tiny mustard seed, that didn’t even start as a vision…it started on a day a tiny team gathered to try to grasp the current reality of churches & Christianity in our region, particularly in relation to the younger generation. In then turned into a hope and a prayer, as we recognized God was calling us to join Him in transforming neighbourhoods with His Good News. Joining God in changing Atlantic Canada one neighbourhood at a time was a way to articulate the call to be fishers of people again, to be a people that are much more about a movement of God in this era than a moment of God that gets memorialized. It started as a call to three of us on a team to personally remember our mission, our goal, to join God in what He was doing around us and help others do the same.
It was like we recognized we needed to repent that we’d gotten away from the mission right in front of our eyes. We’d forgotten we were to be good news, tangible good news, in word and deed, to our neighbours – as individuals and as churches.
We started to share with others what God was stirring in our little team as a question, “Will you join God in changing Atlantic Canada one neighbourhood at a time?” We shared it over coffee, over runs (that one might just have been me), with our working group (like an advisory team), with leaders in churches, with churches on Sundays, with ordinary people, with the wider CBAC, with youth at youth gatherings, with young adults, with kids….and as we shared, even just shared that one question, people started saying “Yes”, that is what God is calling me, calling us, to refocus on together in this era.
We need to get back into our neighbourhoods!
God is stirring us to go back to our neighbourhoods, to the people He has brought into our path everyday. The people He wants us to SEE in our rhythms.
The mustard seed is still just barely an acorn, but God is still stirring, still inviting, still calling us into our neighbourhoods with the good news.
I stand here in awe of how that mustard seed grew and is helping us at the CBAC align around united hopes and goals for the future – seeing new churches planted, equipping healthy leaders that know how to equip people to join God in our neighbourhoods, seeing more baptisms than ever before and other things that will come as we try to keep up with what God’s Spirit is doing.
God is stirring us to see He is very much still at work in Atlantic Canada.
God is stirring that He’s at work just as much outside the walls of the church as inside, maybe more.
God is stirring that we were made for mission, we were made to fish for people.
God is stirring us to get over ourselves.
God is stirring us to get out of our walls, to give up our cruise ships in exchange for fishing boats (such a great word from Anna at Oasis this summer!)
God is stirring us to join in what HE is doing in our neighbourhoods, schools, community centres, workplaces, coffee shops, and world.
It is getting bigger.
Do you sense it too? (Be honest with me, if it’s just me!)
What is God stirring?
What does this mean I’m actually tangibly see happen that I hadn’t seen before?
Here’s my list. Add to it for me, what are you seeing? #1neighbourhood
- a new willingness of people to take time to learn about their neighbours and be personally engaged in their neighbourhoods (the places where they live, work, study & play)
- all ages, all generations participating in neighbouring month, daily challenging themselves to open their senses to where God is at work around them
- people realizing it is not their clergy’s job to be a good neighbour, they are the one that have got to live out the Gospel in their every day life to the people around them. People are willing, they are not sure how, but willing to learn to be salt and light in their neighbourhoods.
- churches sponsoring refugees, often churches partnering with community groups to make sure they are caring for the refugee
- a fresh willingness to take down “my banner” to work with another church or leader
- a fresh willingness of denominations to work together for the sake of our joint mission
- youth groups joining together in a community for the sake of the youth
- Christians and churches building friendships with First Nation neighbours
- kids and youth ministries that invite the young generations to serve and lead now E.g. kids planting gardens to give away the produce, youth creating videos, youth preaching, youth leading service projects etc.
- some fresh expression of how to do church E.g. making radical community at the centre, gathering regularly to do mission together not just hear about our mission, young adult led church….
- some churches sharing resources with other churches e.g. ideas, resources, programs, materials
- kids’ ministry taking place in the community, or at the school, instead of in the church
- leaders willing to equip people to know HOW to show & tell the Gospel in their neighbourhoods and leading the way
- a willingness to learn about today’s culture, so that we start from a place of humility and understanding e.g. we’ve seen a willingness to learn more about social media, LGBTQ culture, The Truth and Reconciliation Report etc.
- leaders willing to engage themselves with their own neighbours, instead of just talk about it to others on Sunday
- new partnerships with others, including with community groups, if it aligns with the church’s mission at points
- youth groups leading the way in neighbouring month
- fresh interest and new churches signing-up for Tidal Impact, a week of youth groups and churches joining forces to serve a neighbourhood
- an acknowledgment that real change is necessary if we are going to show & tell the Gospel to our neighbours
This is what I’m seeing that shows me God is the one who causes the growth.
The mustard seed, the acorn, is growing.
Do you perceive it?
How can you join in cultivating its growth?
God is in our neighbourhoods – and where are we?
Stuck in our church, our safe huddles? Or joining God in our neighbourhoods?
Have we still got a lot of work to do? A tonne.
I feel like we have barely started.
BUT, I do sense God stirring and uniting us in this realization that we need to get back to showing and telling the Gospel to the people we meet, see and connect with every day.
We need to join God in our neighbourhoods.
I don’t mean just church leaders. I mean, every day Christians, showing & telling the Gospel.
I mean leaders training, encouraging and supporting Christians to do this. Training people to be sensitive to God’s Holy Spirit nudges throughout the day and having the courage to follow them, every day.
Are their those who are not doing this, are stuck, or refuse to turn outward to their neighbours?
Absolutely. I meet them (people, groups & churches) regularly in my travels too.
But I don’t want to miss what God is stirring and doing in our era because of a few nay-sayers or rear-view mirror glancers. Do you?
We have neighbours and neighbourhoods where God is at work, if we perceive it.
God is transforming neighbourhoods, as we join Him in showing and telling the good news.
Here is some of what I’m still praying we’ll see happen that, to be honest, I haven’t seen yet:
- repentance for how we’ve made our churches about us and what we like
- repentance that we have forgotten our neighbours and don’t even know our neighbours
- repentance that we care more about our buildings than our mission. We don’t exist to perpetuate our church, we exist because of a mission, a movement
- a greater willingness to combine forces with other churches/organizations if it means the mission going forward
- churches being willing to close their doors if they have not made any disciples recently nor have any plans to do so
- Holy mergers: churches being willing to combine forces, for the sake of the kingdom, with another church
- churches that would not just acknowledge change is needed to reach new people for Christ, they would make those changes
- youth groups willing to look radically different
- positive disproportionate investment in the younger generation coming to know and experience Christ, recognizing what an opportune time childhood and youth is to come to Christ and grow in Christ
- new experiments of what it means to be the church, to join a movement of God
- former down-and-out neighbourhoods transformed by Christians showing, demonstrating, and telling the Gospel in those neighbourhoods
- community groups coming to churches to ask to partner together because those churches are known for their heart for the neighbourhoods
- de-churched and unchurched people coming to Christ in record numbers
- churches spending more time in their community then in holy huddles
- churches thoughtfully and gracefully engaging cultural issues
- baptisms in record numbers, from among our neighbours
- millennials leading their peers to Christ
- young leaders, in their 20s, given free reign to lead
- people equipped to know how to show & tell the Gospel in this culture
- the hurting, broken, down and out, running to their neighbourhood church/Christian for safety and grace, because they know that church/person is good news
This list could go on and on. What are your hopes as we join God in our neighbourhoods? Please share! #1neighbourhood
Our God is not a tame lion, but He is good.
Don’t expect it to be tame.
Atlantic Canada, we have been tame for a long time.
It is time to not be tame, to be bold, to follow the Spirit of God back into our neighbourhoods.