previous post about the current state of the church in Canada, inevitably churches are left asking, “Now what?” And, “How does this look?” Here I explore the second half of the World Vision forum I attended, “Shifting Stats, Shaking the Church.”
Bruxy Cavey, pastor of The Meeting House (Ontario) offered a few of the ways he envisions moving forward. (A bit of an aside, but I find Bruxy Cavey an anomaly within evangelicalism – Anabaptist. Mega church. What!?! Anyway, I think it’s helpful to recognize the context from which he offers his response to the reality of the church in Canada)
Cavey began his response with a foundational theological point: God is all about partnership. To miss this point is to miss how the church is intended to mirror God’s work in the world. As Cavey summarized, “Whenever God ever decides to do something, his next thought is, ‘Now who can I do this with?’” But once the church recognizes its role in God’s mission, how the church participates in this mission is central as well. In the face of a shifting religious culture, the church’s response isn’t about grasping at new strategies to somehow re-ignite waning interest, but rests on the truth that in scripture and in history "God repeatedly values relationality over efficiency." The church needs to stop managing itself and instead engage in being a community of people in relationship to God, to one another, and to the world.
For Cavey and The Meeting House such a perspective means everything they do as a congregation takes on a posture of welcoming. Relational connection is a priority in belonging to their church, not just attending a Sunday gathering. Relationships are practically experienced through house churches (they don’t have small group ministry), team leadership (Cavey is not the senior pastor), and an overall tone of openness to questions and dialogue (every sermon has a “Q & Eh”). And this is not about tweaking certain aspects of traditional church life – e.g. simply putting a stronger emphasis on small groups. “Evangelical Christians are a trendy bunch,” quipped Cavey, and if we expect slogans or programs to inspire authentic community, the church will miss the point. Instead, simplicity should drive community – “The best discipleship program is home church...life together.”
Unfortunately, time constraints shortened Cavey’s conclusion in which he discussed the church’s witness. Key here is recognition that the gospel is not the good news of theological abstraction, but the very reality of Jesus and his lordship in the world. In Cavey’s words, “The gospel is the best news you will ever get – as God has come to us through Christ to show his love, save from sin, share his life, and shutdown religion.” The church’s witness is to this good news – a message of salvation that then determines our allegiance in all of life. It would have been helpful to hear more ways in which The Meeting House lives out this witness, but with Cavey’s forthcoming book on the topic of the gospel, hopefully this will be explored further.
Overall, when I think of our Canadian culture and the changing religious landscape, a church actively practicing welcome and witness places hope in God’s relational work in the world, not our ability as Christians to somehow maintain relevance. As culture continues to change, instead of fear we are left with hope.