Today has been a roller coaster of emotions, as I announced publicly at Cityview that I am responding to God’s call to plant a church in the UBC Campus Community. God has blessed my family over the past 16 years with your friendship and partnership in Vancouver. Starting early this morning I replayed the stories of many people who have seen Jesus lifted up and their lives transformed by the Gospel at Cityview. Thank you for praying for us and for being a part of our lives. If you would like to hear more of what I shared, listen to the talk that will be uploaded later in the week at www.cityviewchurch.ca In the meantime, please pray for Cityview and for my family as we go through this transition. Our last Sunday will be July 18 and in September we will give our full attention to the UBC Campus Community.
Sixteen years ago Ellen and I were still two and half days away from Vancouver. We were driving across the continent to plant our lives here because of a vision of people transformed by Jesus Christ loving this city and the world. We were excited, hopeful, and probably a bit proud–even over confident. But, we were warmly welcomed by our new friends in the core of Gladstone, which became Cityview Baptist Church. Over the years I have looked back often at the picture I have of one of our first Sundays together and I have treasured the faith we all had that God was going to do something! I am astonished with the trust they give us as young 25 year old hopefuls!
And God has done something. I rejoice now in the hundreds of people we have been able to share the Gospel and life with in this City. I have been blessed with neighbours and friends who have immensely enriched my life. One of the things that has remained true of Cityview is that we are a people willing to risk and try new things. Confidence is helpful. Trust is essential. And listening to Jesus and discerning His direction is the way. I have always sought for us to individually and corporately wrestle with discerning Jesus’ voice. He is Lord…not me!
This year the Strategic Leadership Team at Cityview has taken another big step in our vision of creating communities of devoted followers in Vancouver and around the world. They have given me time to invest in people in the UBC Campus Community. We are convinced that God loves the students and people who live, work, and play there. And we have heard God’s call to join with other faithful people like Rich Carruthers, Suzanne Perry, and the students in Born for More to plant the Gospel in the diverse communities that together form UBC.
Our vision is to see a network of house churches or simple churches meeting in homes, coffee shops, and community gathering places because of the transforming work of Jesus and His Gospel of grace in our lives. Currently I am spending two and half days a week in the UBC Campus Community getting to know people, their patterns of life, their hopes and dreams, and their spiritual journey stories. As well, I am sharing the Gospel and including people in our community of faith.
This week I was so encouraged by a text from a friend. “Hey Craig…you still making trips out to UBC? I want to encourage you – I think that’s the coolest thing! Reminds me of soldiers that go into foreign area to do recon…” So my response was thanks…and you should come out with me! Now I know that you all can’t come out with me, but do pray for us. Pray the Luke 10:2b prayer…that the Lord of the Harvest will raise up workers for the Harvest. We have seen the Lord answer this and we are looking for new disciples of Jesus who will grow in faith and become part of the team.
After 16 years I have had to ask myself, why do I have to keep complicating my life? I have often done “two things” the whole time we have been here. It’s just the way the Lord has wired me and my family up and the way Jesus has invited me to be a part of what He is doing. I have said all along that our call to Vancouver has really been a call to follow Jesus. I wish that kind of life for every one of you.
“I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24
A few years ago I was confronted with this observation: “Your system is perfectly designed for the results you are getting.”
Ok frustration. What adjustments could we make to see our system, our experience of church actually become part of the movement that Jesus envisioned—making disciples of all nations and teaching them to obey everything He commanded? How can we make reproducing disciples and therefore reproducing communities? What am I missing? What needs to change in me?
These questions set me on a journey and that journey has found an accompanying voice in the writings of Neil Cole. Neil has been a pastor of an organic church movement in California called Awakening Chapels for quite a few years now and he has been coaching house church/simple church planters. In the attempt to convey what he has been learning through actual praxis he has written several books:
Nurturing a Life for God
Search and Rescue
In Church 3.0, published by Jossey-Bass, Neil’s thesis is that the adjustments required for a disciple-making movement is more than a functional or structural shift, it is an internal shift to a different way of thinking, believing and applying Jesus’ teaching from the typical (church 2.0) experience. Anyone familiar with the organic missional church conversation will recognize the shift that is occurring across the world in the way many of us “do church.” However, what is new in this book is that Cole is able to look back now on a variety of ways of applying the common principles accepted by people in the organic church conversation for movements and point to different expressions of them. There is not just one way of doing this!
Some of the things I appreciate about Church 3.0.
Like his friend Alan Hirsh, Neil Cole emphasizes the Lordship of Jesus, the authority and power of God’s Word, the sacrificial engagement of followers of Jesus with people where they live, work, play, and the joy of a church community flexing their gifts for and with each other. In Church 3.0 Neil delivers an insightful walk through Acts and the different multiplication impacts the following “church models” had: Jerusalem, Antioch, Thessalonica, Rome, and finally Ephesus. The move from centralized to decentralized mission networks is most helpful for dispelling the myth of purity in an organic church network. His discussion on the “pragmatic” concerns also opens a window on what his network has been learning about evangelism, the ordinances, kids, heresy concerns, and finances.
My appreciation for Neil’s work has been its consistent emphasis on three areas: 1. working out a mission lifestyle where people live, work, play. 2. His concern for planting the Gospel over planting churches. And 3. Ways for passing on the DNA (Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships, and Apostolic Mission) required for a multiplication of disciples three and four generations out from us.
Campus Church Networks present 6 talks on beginning campus churches. Each talk is about hour long. Jaeson Ma, author of The Blueprint, present the first 5 talks, and Neil Cole author of number of books including Search and Rescue and Church 3.0 presents the talk on Life Transformation Groups.
“Humankind without God cannot solve the very problems it generates. Only a supernatural change of heart, a subsequent change of mind and a transformed life has a chance of truly changing things. Therefore, only those who know how to change hearts and minds, to un-corrupt, detox and deliver humans from the central disease of rebellious independence from God will stand an excellent chance of changing things.” Wolfgang Simpson, The Starfish Manifesto, p. 304
I am making my way through Wolgang Simpson’s latest offering, The Starfish Manifesto. For those of you who were challenged by his book, Houses that Change the World, you will not be disappointed; this new book is a challenge too. Get the book for “free” at The Starfish Foundation portal.