It was close to two years ago that an experienced pastor friend of mine took me aside for a brief moment and suggested he had some advice for me and for Forge Canada.
“Cam, your experience at Southside Community Church in the early days caught the attention of both Church Planting Canada and many others who were convinced that there needed to be a change in the church in our country. We were no longer at the centre of things in our culture, and we needed to reimagine what it looked like to live as the people of God in a post-Christian context. Many have seen your example and heard you speak… and much good has come of it. But we have all caught up to some of the initial creative things you were doing. What we now need you to do is to go back into the local church (fully – for I was never out of the local church) and begin to learn of the next steps. We all know the conversation, but practically living it out is proving difficult.”
Wow. I listened carefully and have valued his words. I love teaching, coaching and leading pastors’ groups in various cities – it gives me front row seats to what God is doing in our country. But I am also keenly aware that there is so much I do not know, and that I am learning from new voices to the conversation. And I am thrilled.
Forge Canada is reimagining ourselves. Or better said we are reimagining the church in the 21st century. Or even better said, we are seeking to discern what God is saying to the church across our land about serving with Him on mission as He reveals His universal reign – His kingdom – in our midst. We believe that it will be crucial to continue developing a network of people, leaders and churches who are deeply committed to joining God on mission, and believing that He has sent us as His people into specific places or neighbourhoods to bear witness to who He is in every aspect of our lives. This is much different than growing big churches, or even planting new churches (although it may include some of both). It is rather about becoming a faithful presence of His people in neighbourhoods all across our land.
We remain firmly committed to our vision statement: “To establish multiplying missional Christian communities in neighbourhoods across Canada.” As we kick off this next chapter of life in the Forge Network, let us expand a little on what this means to us.
When we say establishing, this does not mean we (Forge) have to start these communities of God’s people, but that we want to see communities of God’s people with specific characteristics in each neighbourhood across the country. Our desire is to partner with others in this endeavor.
God is at work in His people, multiplying disciples and communities of disciples. We join in by being intentional. We are called to make disciples, and live out the good news of Jesus and His kingdom so others will join and these communities will multiply into other neighbourhoods. Our goal is not to grow large churches purely as defined by attendance on Sunday mornings, but by impact an increasing number of neighbours and neighbourhoods.
What it means to be missional has been watered down. Being a missional church means that, as a community of God’s people, we bear witness to the missionary nature of God in everything that we do. For Forge, this means that we pay attention to loving Him with our hearts, minds and strength, and through loving our neighbours as ourselves. To be missional means “A renewed theological vision of the church on mission with God, serving as a sign, servant and foretaste of the kingdom of God.”
Although there are many wonderful communities of people in our country, we want to be distinguished by the reality that we have decided to follow the person and the way of Jesus in all that we do.
We believe that it is in a community of Christ followers that we bear witness to the nature of God. Although each person makes a personal profession of faith, life to the fullest as God intended is best lived in the reality that we belong to God’s family and live in community.
Although many today are networked into relationships, we all live in a neighbourhood of some kind. As missionaries of the kingdom of God, we have all been sent to bear witness to God in the very places where we live. For Forge Canada, these places are of utmost importance and we believe that Christians are called to live together in these places in a way that bears witness to our missionary God. We have been called, and called to place and proximity.
This seems obvious. Our call is to the country of Canada. We love this place and its people. But we wanted to add that we are part of an international movement, and in many ways, God has used us to help lead a growing number of Forge Networks in countries around the globe. We love being part of this expanding network of those who are committed to following Christ in their neighbourhoods.
We would welcome your participation. Stay tuned for upcoming details on events and the expanding network of Christ-followers and churches committed to participating on mission with Christ. Feel free to be in touch. We would love to hear your story.