Where Will The Church Start?

When people hear I am leading the planting of a new Anglican church, they’re often quite pleased.  But for all different reasons.

Sometimes they are thrilled that we are going into a new community to serve others, build community and help others follow Jesus.  When people learning to follow Jesus intentionally gather together to practice God’s kingdom, we have a church!  It might even build a building someday.

But others hear “church planting” and immediately picture their favourite church (building, music, programs, worship style, preaching style, etc.), transplanted into the Ajax town boundaries.  They presume that the problem we seek to solve is a geographic one – people simply need the Anglican church to be closer, and more convenient, so they can come.  It certainly was, the last time the Anglican church had a great wave of planting activity – a few decades back as suburban sprawl began.  They love their church, or memories of church, and long for others to share the experience.  And so they ask, Where will it start?  They mean well!  Some even pledge to attend when it’s built.  They are great people!

But the problem isn’t one of convenience or geography!

I read this quote today from Bishop Graham Cray:

It is becoming clear that many of the people for whom Christ died are unlikely to be drawn to our existing churches however spiritually alive, hospitable and attractive they are.

That is our new context.  We have an opportunity here to not just plant another church in the same model we have.  There are dozens of great churches within a 15 minute drive for those who are already inclined to go to church for Sunday services and other programming, and for those whom they might invite.  There are thousands of others who won’t…and it is for those thousands that we are planting a new church.

Even if we gather a launch team from other churches, and work together to build a building or start our favourite style of Sunday worship, we will likely find ourselves with the same struggles to overcome apathy and become more spiritually alive, hospitable and attractive as other churches with that model. We will have solved a small geographic problem, rather than taking on the real, big issues of God’s kingdom!

This is an opportunity to do something new and creative, that begins with listening to discover the real needs of our community.  It’s probably not that the nearest Anglican church is too far away to visit on Sunday mornings.  It’s probably got something to do with family and parenting concerns, financial fears, work stress or crime, and that existing models of church just offer one more way to keep busy.

We’ll start there, serve these needs in Jesus’ name, make friends, and share life together.  As others learn why we do, they’ll learn about Jesus, and I pray, be led to follow and worship him.  We’ll aim to spark a movement of people whose lives have been and are being transformed by Jesus – at work, at home, at school, at church.  It won’t start in a building, patch of land, or school gym – but rather in the hearts of real people, serving one another and building community.