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.
Church-Planting: Disciple-Making the Goal, Church Planting the Outcome
Over the past ten years or more, I have been encouraged to witness the rise of an urban church planting movement in North America. I have many friends in Ottawa who have discerned the call to plant churches here in the nation’s capital. Ottawa is home to a church-planting cadre who are being organized according to best practices of the North American church-planting movement. Thanks be to God, a number of healthy, well-organized churches have come out of this movement, many of which have been planted by my good friends.
However, for all of the good within the modern North American church-planting movement, I see a few issues arising within it. First, it is my observation that the goal and the outcome of the great commission have been reversed. Rather than the goal of the great commission being to make disciples with the establishment of churches as the outcome, within the modern church-planting movement it seems that the establishment of a new church becomes the goal with disciple-making assumed to be a given, which may or may not actually occur (see above). Second, it seems generally assumed that that the church-planter will become the pastor of the church he has planted. Again, this seems to confuse the bifurcation of ministry callings that were understood by Paul and his team. Paul and his team members were not called to be elders, but missionaries, and I believe that many church-planters with a missionary calling will find it a difficult transition to pastor the church they plant. Third, I’ve seen financial pressures limit creativity and sphere of outreach. Since the goal is to create a self-supporting church in a short period of time, this limits creativity and outreach to marginalized, and has led to the establishment of churches that look much like the already established churches in our community: relatively middle-to-upperclass, young professionals, young families, etc. Fourth, the modern-church planting model seems to be set on the shoulders of a solo, charismatic leader, rather than distributed leadership through a team of missionaries. The superhero model of pastoral ministry has led to the superhero church-planter. Though Paul was an apostolic leader who coordinated his missionary team, he never operated as a solo leader; we always see him working together with a team of like-minded missionaries. I have heard stories of the loneliness and isolation of church-planters that rival the stories of loneliness and isolation of missionaries of a previous generation, before it was generally accepted that missionaries should operate in teams. Finally, given the growing cultural resistance to Christianity, we do not know how much longer the current environment of religious freedom and tax incentives for ministry workers will be our reality. There is a call from many cultural observers for churches to become more financially solvent, less dependent upon holding property, and more adaptable to the changing times.
There is opportunity for a local missionary to create a responsive team of bi-vocational or independently supported missionaries for the city, keeping the goal of disciple-making at the forefront, with financially minimal and organizationally flexible churches established as the outcome of the disciple-making movement, led by shepherd/pastors equipped by the missionaries to stabilize and care for the churches.
Mission Initiative: CityChurch Movement, Local Apostolic Leader
The CityChurch Movement is also an initiative supported by BILD International. CityChurch movements are local church-planting networks organized around the principles of disciple-making and church-planting as practiced on the mission field, rather than according to the dominant North American model. As a local apostolic leader, I would organize a team of bi-vocational and self-supported missionaries to form a new movement of emerging financially minimal, organizationally flexible house churches, initially established by the missionary team but ultimately to be led by pastors trained through the movement. Our team would be supported and guided by the BILD CityChurch Network and seek best practices as learned through BILD, Francis Chan’s “We Are Church” Movement (of which I participated in their pastoral intensive training in September), and the EFCC’s emerging missionary churches. This is the part of the vision that I intend to be most cautious and patient about, asking the Holy Spirit to provide great discernment and guiding. I am very cautious about not "poaching" members from other churches, but seeking people who are not yet Christian, in transition or who have been burnt out - the NONES and the DONES.