We’ve been using one question to challenge leaders, youth groups, camps and churches.That question is: will you join God in changing Atlantic Canada one neighbourhood at a time?
If you don’t live in Atlantic Canada, it still works – how are you joining God in changing your neighbourhood?
We truly believe God is at work all around you. We truly believe God wants you to join Him in His work around you in the neighbourhoods where you go to youth group, go to church, go to work, go to study, go to shop and go to play.
We believe churches and the people that overflow from them are to be hubs of God’s activity in neighbourhoods and communities.

Here are just a few stories I’ve heard in the last two weeks of how people are taking up this challenge:
• A Mom told me how she heard other Mom’s talking about how they wished there was a soccer night for their preschoolers. This Mom thought, “I could do that!” And realized it was an opportunity to be an answer to her prayer to be good news to her neighbourhood and get to know her neighbourhood better.
• A church with a school just across the street from them decided to approach the school and see if they’d let them throw a “School’s Out Party” for all the students and staff on the last day of school. The school was thrilled. So the church partnered with a camp to offer all kinds of fun activities and snacks. In the process they built all kinds of connections and creditability with the school and community.
• A group of high school students told me over this last semester some of their friends, who don’t know much about Christianity, started asking them questions about Jesus and the Bible. So they asked them if they wanted to start meeting once a week, during lunch hour at school, to explore Christianity together. That’s exactly what they’ve been doing!
• A number of groups are finding creative ways to be involved in Tidal Impact. Tidal Impact is a local mission trip where youth groups will be joining forces for the week of July 11 to 18 to impact the cities of Saint John and Moncton with the goodness and good news of Jesus. One creative ministry I’ve heard will be happening is an outdoor mission to bless those struggling in their neighbourhood. Through partnerships they already have this group will be setting up services outside in a low income, struggling part of the city. Together they will prepare food, providing foot care, offer a blood pressure clinic, invite a hair school to offer haircuts, invite a dental school to come, offer a prayer station and simply seeking to be God’s presence to those they meet.

I love hearing these stories! God is changing neighbourhoods in Atlantic Canada! God is living and active here. God is inviting us to be a part of what He is doing in changing Atlantic Canada one neighbourhood at a time.

I am a very firm believer that we need to be involved in local mission.
We are missionaries here and now.
Individual Christians, leaders, youth groups, children’s ministries, camps, churches need to be involved in local mission.

Here are 5 reasons I’m such a firm believer that we need to be involved in local mission:

1. Authentic – Those around us have a right to be skeptical if we talk about our faith, or come and go from the church, but there is little evidence our faith is impacting our lives and world. People, inside and outside the church, need to see Christianity is more than being at youth group for two hours a week or being at church for an hour on Sunday. Christianity, from its very beginning, has been a movement. It is a movement that cannot be contain in walls, it is a movement happening all over the world, as people join God in changing hearts and communities. Christianity is a movement of joining God in renewing all things – of allowing God to renew my heart, my life, but also joining God in renewing others’ lives, communities, churches, camps and systems. This generation of young people in particular long to see a faith that is making a significant difference in the world. It’s got to be more than talk, more than a club and more than an institution.

2. Makes us students of our context and cultural – as we seek to become local missionaries, it invites us to ask all the best missionary questions. Questions like: Where is God already at work in my community? If I were planted here as a new missionary – where would I go, who would I talk to, to learn about the local culture? What are the values of this culture? What do people care about here? Where do people naturally gather? Where can I/we build connections and friendships? What skills and gifts do I/we have to offer this community? Who can I invite to help me? What do I still need to learn about this culture? Who is an insider and friend who can help me as I get to know this particular community? Where do I already have connections and relationships that God wants to use? The best missionaries are learners. Engaging in local mission makes me a better learner and a better student of my culture.

3. We are the best missionaries for our context – you are the locals. You really do know your community best, better than anyone who drops in from the outside. As Mother Teresa (Founder of the Missionaries of Charity) says “Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering, and the lonely right there where you are – in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools. You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society – completely forgotten, completely left alone.”
God uses His people as His missionaries in the places where they already live, work, study and play.

4. Training – engaging in local mission is one of the best training and discipleship tools. As we and our community step out to connect with our community and be the words, hands and feet of Jesus, we stretch our own faith. It wakes up your faith! Rather than it just being a passive faith – where it is mostly about listening to sermons, reading devotionals, it invites you to an active faith, to join God’s work all around you. Stepping out into our community stirs up more questions, reveals our rough edges and challenges us in new ways. Plus, local mission is the best training for global mission. Until we show our missionary heart here, I don’t think we should be trusted to show it in another context. This is where God has planted you and your Christian community, this is where He is at work around you. This is where you are needed. When we join God in more global partnerships, our involvement in local mission has prepared us to better understand how to approach such a global partnership. Hopefully we’ve learned humility, the importance of partnership and gained an understanding that the locals are the ones who really know best how to minister in their context and they are the ones who will continue on in the relationships in their neighbourhood after we are gone.

5. Shows us God’s at work here and now – Unfortunately some folks have gotten the impression from churches and Christians that God only works in other places far away or that God only worked a long time ago. When we join God in what He is doing to change lives and neighbours we start seeing how God is working here and now. We start helping each other to spot God’s activity – places of need where we can join in, places where we see His goodness breaking through and we can join, opportunities to show and tell the Gospel, places where God is still at work inside me… Engaging in local mission shows our faith is living and active today. Our God is living and active today!

If you want to explore this more, here are some resource suggestions…

  • “Neighborhood Mapping – How to Make Your Church Invaluable to the Community” By Dr. John Fuder
  • “When Helping Hurts – How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself” By Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert
  • “Deep Justice In a Broken World” By Chap Clark & Kara E. Powell
  • “Deep Justice Journeys – Moving from Mission Trips to Misisonal Living” – Leader’s Guide & Student Journal By Kara E. Powell and Brad M. Griffin
  • “Missional Youth Ministry – Moving from Gathering Teenagers to Scattering Disciples” By Brian Kirk & Jacob Thorne

Plus, I’d recommend you:

We are excited watching what’s happening as people say yes to joining God in changing Atlantic Canada one neighbourhood at a time. We truly believe we are going to see neighborhoods change as we join in God’s mission here and now.

Comments, stories, and questions are welcomed!

-Renée @r_embree