Happy New Year to you from Vancouver.
Linked In reminded me this last weekend that it has been 20 years since God birthed Forge in Canada. Linked In actually congratulated me on it being 21 years, but at this stage who is counting. I think it is likely we are entering our 21st year, but as I get to this stage of life, I find it hard to remember my kids’ names let alone how many years I have had the privilege of serving God in Canada. It has been a wonderful journey, and I trust that there is even more ahead.
Thanks to all of you who have been such a big part of faithfully serving the Lord in Canada over these years, and seeing both the renewal of existing churches in neighbourhoods across the country, as well as the planting of new Christian Communities in many more neighbourhoods.
Forge was birthed out of my own church, Southside Community Church, and grew through the generosity of Canadian Baptist Ministries. From there partnerships with Church Planting Canada, Seminaries and Bible Schools and many denominations (CRC, Vision, NAB, CBWC, CBOQ, Church of God, MCBC, MCEC, Anglicans, Nazarene… and more) have offered opportunity to see God at work in increasing number of neighbourhoods across our land.
As we begin a new decade of seeking to join God at work in our neighbourhoods, I wonder if you would allow me a few lines to let you reflect on what I think will be important for me (us) in the years ahead. I am certainly not like my uncle (Alan) who seems to always be correct about what is to come, but occasionally I think of one or two things that stick. Here are 7 in no particular order.
The Local Church – it wasn’t long ago that a mature pastor (read – even older than I am now), told me to spend more time in my local church. His comment was that God has used Southside and Forge in the past as an R and D department. Now, he felt, many had also had those experiences and he was encouraging me to re-focus on the local in the hopes that there would be some fresh cutting edge learning that would occur yet again. It has taken me a little while to get there, but as I look forward I am more and more convinced that we need an increasing number of local churches across the country that act out the very things we have been talking about for the past 20 years. The local church needs a new R and D department.
Forge as a Network – I believe Forge will become more of a network of leaders and churches who are putting missional things into practice. Forge has had the privilege of stirring up wonderful conversation in the past, but we are increasingly in need of people who are putting these things into practice and will share what their learnings with one another. Although I think Forge still has much to offer, my bet is that we become as much facilitators and networkers as we have ever been.
Partnerships – I am thrilled that we have had an increasing number of groups express interest in partnering. Great, we need it. And Canada needs it. When I served as the lead of Church Planting Canada, it was obvious that one of the great benefits to the church in Canada was the way that a variety of groups learned to work together. We at Forge will increasingly look to find good partnerships. Groups such as New Leaf, Fresh Expressions, TMN, CPC, Vision and others are already beginning to have more dialogue together. Who cares who gets the credit as long as we become a faithful presence in our land.
International – it was an honour to be asked late last year to consider leading Forge International. Forge is now in 10 countries and that number could grow. I have already learned that while God was teaching us a number of things here in Canada, He was also at work in many other places. It is not that we have much to export to other countries, but rather that we have much to import from what God has taught them. Forge Canada will embark this year in a relationship with a denomination in Wales. What a gift to us – we have so much to learn from a people who are so humble and gracious and have experienced revival in their land generations ago. May some of them rub off on some of us. 🙂
Personal Growth – I am sure you have all heard the Willardism, “The greatest gift you can give to your church, is the person you are becoming.” Never, have I felt the importance of this more personally and for so many others in ministry. These are tough days for ministry. Good days – but tough days. Tough days both inside the church as well as outside. The older I get, the more I am convinced that I can do nothing that brings about great change. At least not in my own strength. But I have a deepening sense within that if I focus more on who I am becoming, and less on what I think I can accomplish, I may actually bring about greater good. But even that is not the point. Why has this taken so long? So I think this will be true for me, and hope true for the Forge network as well.
Reverse Mentoring – I read a book years ago by Earl Creps called Reverse Mentoring. I thought it was a good book at the time and worthy of some thought. Now I am 100% convinced it needs to happen in my life now. I am way behind in learning about how to best relate to the wonderful leaders that God is raising up across our land. I need them. I need them to teach me how to relate to their generation and to encourage and inspire them towards a deeper love for Christ and His Kingdom. No question – they need my generation also. Mine is a generation that has a wonderful foundation, rooted in the work of Christ that many of their generation do not have, but I am increasingly aware of my need to be mentored by a millennial who wants to see the church thrive because it is the bride of Christ. I am not suggesting that it can stay in its current form, but nor can we capitulate on some of the very foundational elements of our Fatih. There must be a “third” way that I will only discover through this kind of mentoring.
Neighbourhoods – lastly, I am excited about the next decade as well in terms of my neighbourhood. I suspect that Shelley and I have a move ahead of us, back into the neighbourhood where we first planted Southside Community Church those years ago. The conversation about Neighbourhoods is firmly fixed on the map of being missional, but many who speak of it, end up travelling and teaching about it so much that they are never in it. I am top of that list, and this is about to change. I am excited that the conversation is recognized and validated, but so deeply believe that the forerunners such as Bob Lupton in the United States and people like Tim Dickau and Karen Wilk (Forge) here in Canada, were on the right track and have so much to teach us.
As you head into this next decade, what is it that you believe that God is saying to you and to the church across our land. I would love to hear your convictions, and to find ways to partner together as we seek to “establish multiplying missional Christian communities in neighbours across Canada.”
May God fill you with a knowledge of His presence and Peace,