Updated: Oct 7, 2019
Why the need for a local missionary to Ottawa? Apart from the reality that we recently passed 1 million residents, of which only a sliver could be charitably considered born-again, and aside from the fact that as the capital city of our nation, Ottawa is a uniquely situated city in Canada and on the world stage, I have identified the following issues and opportunities in the city, through personal observation and conversations with leaders around the city. In this series, I'll share some of those observations, describe some opportunities that I see facing the church in Ottawa, and describe the mission initiatives I'll be undertaking by God's grace.
Churches: Try to Be All For All, But In Reality Can’t Do It All
I have considered it to be a blessing to have pastored for the past 12 years a relatively healthy small-to-medium-sized congregation in the nation’s capital. Through my own experience and those of friends, I find some issues with our modern assumptions of how we do church ministry in North America. First, we tend to be program-centric, often evaluating our ministries by how many programs we can offer. This overwhelms the pastors, staff, and leaders, and exhausts the congregation. Second, not many churches that I know of have a thought-out plan of discipleship and developing leaders. We assume discipleship is happening, but aren’t planning for it. Even in my own congregation, no matter how much it is repeatedly emphasized, I witness the majority of our own congregation approach discipleship as if it were just another program or optional Sunday School-type class. Third, pastors seem to have to be and do everything, especially in the smaller churches which do not have the budgets to hire specialists. We do not take seriously the diversity of gifts and callings when we expect the hired pastor to be apostle, evangelist, and prophet, as well as pastor and teacher. We have not appreciated the basic bifurcation of ministry callings into the shepherd/elder/overseer calling and the missionary/church-planter/evangelist calling➊, with the result being that many missionary-inclined men are doing pastoral work, and many other elder/shepherd-inclined men are expected to be running programs rather than nurturing souls. Finally, this has all contributed to the consumerism of the church, as prospective patrons search for the churches that are able to offer the most programming - which may be part of a reason for the growth of larger churches. Smaller churches cannot keep up with this fundamental programming mentality.
I believe that greater, healthy partnerships with missionary-led parachurch ministries may be key to offsetting some of the burden on churches, especially smaller churches. This will allow for pastor/shepherds to focus more of their ministry on prayer and feeding their members with the Word of God. For example, a few smaller churches in our city have partnered together to create a joint youth ministry for their churches, with members of each church serving within the ministry. The result was a parachurch ministry led by a missionary-type leader that alleviated some of the programming burden of the churches while still working in close relationship with the churches. However, this is a rare example; in general there seems to be a lack of healthy co-operation with local parachurch organizations. Both sides seem to contribute to this lack of co-operation, as parachurch ministries often are formed out of frustration with local churches and do not include the establishing and strengthening of churches in their vision or execution of the great commission, and church leaders seem to often take a defensive posture toward parachurch ministries, not seeing their scriptural legitimacy and value to the great commission. ➋
➊ Compare Timothy in his role on Paul’s missionary team to the elders he trained and worked with in Ephesus. Members of Paul’s team worked to establish emerging churches and support them in their growth, but then handed the churches off to local elders who would stabilize, nurture and oversee the churches.
➋ See Winters, Ralph “The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission” accessible online at http://frontiermissionfellowship.org/uploads/documents/two-structures.pdf and Snyder, Howard A. “The Community of the King” pp. 147-168.
There is opportunity for a local missionary team to alleviate the burden of pastors and churches by 1) encouraging leaders of local churches to activate their members to be active participants in evangelism by providing training and opportunities for them through parachurch evangelistic partnerships, and 2) forming a para-church network of likeminded churches and organizations around a common vision of discipleship and leadership training.
Mission Initiative: Antioch Initiative, Local Apostolic Leader
The Antioch initiative is a twenty-city urban discipleship initiative supported by BILD International. BILD has built and supported discipleship networks in the Global South for decades and has in the more recent past connected like-minded churches and organizations in North America around its discipleship processes, which are able to train Christians from exploration to eldership and beyond. I have been involved with BILD for over a decade and I know of no other discipleship organization which so fully embodies the principles of the great commission along with possessing a track record of getting movements off the ground. To become a new project in the Antioch Initiative, a local apostolic leader organizes a local network around the discipleship principles of the Initiative, upon which BILD offers its guidance and support of the network. Connecting Streams is interested in learning more about these discipleship processes and my hope is that it may either become itself the face of the Antioch Initiative network in Ottawa, or allow that network to grow out of it. Therefore, at least initially the work that I do toward this project would be done from within my role in Connecting Streams.
Mission Initiative: EFCC, Local Missionary
I have valued my partnership with the EFCC over the past 12 years and hope to be able to continue my joyful service with the denomination. In addition to all of the above, which all fall in line with the EFCC’s mission and ethos, I’ve offered myself to the Free Church movement (the Central District, ANACEFC, and the International Mission) to conduct activities on their behalf as coordinated together with the heads of each corresponding organization. I can imagine helping to increase communication among the central district church in Ontario, being available to churches in ANACEFC going through crisis of transition or needing help communicating between English and Chinese ministries for a few weeks a year, and being open to projects through the international mission board. My hope is that I could do all fundraising through the EFCC and maintain my ordination and health care plan through the denomination.