If you were being "missional" towards me, would you admit it? It would feel pretty imposing, wouldn't it? This week Mark thinks out loud a bit about some important components of starting a new Jesus-following community, namely: needing to be church as engaging neighbours where he lives, needing to bring people together for support and friendships, and needing every person who comes to see their own neighbourhoods as places and people to intentionally engage in shalom. These 3 components stem from 2 core convictions: that Jesus-followers need to come together to practice enriching and distinctly Christian rituals (prayer, Eucharist, meditation), and that Jesus-followers need to be "mindfully neighbouring" the people closest to us and be open to being mindfully neighboured by them in return.
Then Mark sits down with Rev. Graham Singh, a church planter and minister at Lakeside Downtown in Guelph. Graham grew up in Guelph, then moved to London, Ontario and then London, England and back again. Weaved into his story are insights about the decline of denominations in Canada, how we might bring life into old church buildings, and how to bring vitality into lives and neighbourhoods through church work. In Part 1 of their conversation, Mark and Graham talk about different models of Christian gatherings, contrasting models of social support, and how Lakeside Church stepped out from Guelph's suburbs and into the downtown core through a very intentional vision.
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Notable Quotes from Rev. Graham Singh
"Many traditional churches in this country are closing; in the United Church for instance we now know that up to 1000 churches will close in Canada in the next five years.... And Anglican, Presbyterian, and Catholic are not far behind."
"We run two organizations out of this building. One is the church side that I lead called Lakeside Downtown – we'll talk more about that – and the other is Hope House which is our care centre for all kinds of areas of urban poverty."
"The soup kitchen: where you have a big long line of tables and a bunch of well-dressed elderly ladies doling out soup to the great unwashed - a lot of people have been helped by that model, and amazing things have happened. And that model has roots in a time where society had more clear social structures, and there's other reasons why there's good roots to that. But the bad roots are that you basically say, 'We as the church are the saved and we are going to serve you – the great unwashed - totally different from you.' The high dignity model says, 'You and me are the same. Actually, underneath the lines are 'we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.' So we are all sinners in search of the Savior and the saved life. But we maybe don't know exactly what that is. And we will journey with you as you find out what true salvation in Christ really is. But we will do that alongside you. We won't put something between you and us; we will do that here together.'"
"I often ask, 'How many pre-conversion disciples did Jesus have?' And I think actually kind of most of his disciples were pre-conversion, in the classic conservative Evangelical sense."
"I love these three or four hundred seater buildings that have got a lot of history in the place. It's my favorite type of church. I love how engaged people naturally are, because you can see the whites of their eyes there, right? You can get them engaged. I love church planting because you say, 'Hey, we're planting a church; if you're here, you're a church planter now. Which means: I'm gonna ask you to do something.' So the kind of 80/20 rule where 80% are sitting on their bums and 20% are actually doing all the work - church planting in small buildings or normal church buildings, let's call them that: normal traditional buildings – it gets around a lot of that stuff. I love it."
"I think the main choice in churches is between pews and rows of chairs. And we think that is a big difference – it's not really a big difference, rows of chairs in arcs versus straight chairs. To me the big difference is chairs in rows or pews versus chairs in circles. And I call this… the shift from an instructional form of worship where, 'here's your pulpit, here's your preacher. You sit and listen because you ought to listen to that preacher,' right? You believe already that that person has authority and the Scriptures have authority. You contrast that to a participative form of worship where you say, 'Hold on! The person teaching, nobody necessarily believes in him or what he's teaching about in the Bible.' And so changing shares to chairs in circles? That kind of thing, I think, there is a more significant change in."
"I think that if we in the more Evangelical churches or backgrounds – if we could see the pain and struggle, the remorse in the mainline churches as well as the battling with issues. There's some issues that they've wrestled with that I think we've dismissed so quickly. You know, like the number of pastors who are like, 'This is our view on homosexuality.' I think, 'Okay, I probably agree with that view, but how much have you actually really thought about that?'"
"A lot of the younger generation I think as they approach the church, as they approach us, they say, 'Hey, we already think you're crazy. You guys are nuts, man! You guys believe this guy 2000 years ago is actually God. But, like, just tell us what you believe. Just tell us. Because we're not freaked out by it.'"
Next Week's Episode 31
Guest (Part 2): Graham Singh - minster, church-planter