Would John or Glenn be interested in becoming a Christian? This week Mark talks about how he met a couple of new neighbours on his street and asked himself from their shoes, "Would I be interested in 'becoming a Christian?' How about 'considering following-Jesus?'" If the latter, how would it even happen? Having recently encountered the Engel Scale, Mark discusses the hole in our habits: Jesus-followers may do Christian life well, and we play nice with the neighbours, but when and how often have we asked a friend how Jesus' teaching might have implications for their lives? It's time for a life of way more "-5 to 0."
Then Mark sits down again 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. In Part 2 of their conversation, Mark and Graham talk about how Graham came to Lakeside from England through friendship and how Lakeside Downtown came to be - through a progressive vision by a suburban church. Graham talks about everything from how churches can be key partners in developing social infrastructure, how he made his faith his own, what questions people are bringing to church, and the importance of a theology of embrace.
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Notable Quotes from Graham Singh
"I think as the church goes back to minority culture, we rediscover a lot of our biblical roots. Everything we read of in the Bible is where either the people of Israel or the church are the minority culture surrounded by those who are attacking it. And to take on a position of feeling attacked – I hope we remember our battle is not against flesh and blood, right? – but if we could realize that we are all in a minority position rather than say, 'Hey we're the Catholics! We're the real denomination!' 'We're the Anglicans! We're the real denomination!' – and the Baptists do it, and Brethren do it…. So as we move away into minority positions, we become friends as minorities."
"They caught onto a trend that's uniquely Canadian, which is to say we love the American church, but there's something about the British church that is almost more accessible to us as Canadians. We kind of think of ourselves as North American but a little bit more European."
"I had said to Dave [Ralph], 'Dave, this is going to happen in Canada. These churches are going to be closing by the hundreds and the thousands. And you guys who have got like 2,500 people, you've got to get ready for this. And you may not think that you need to buy these buildings, but you do.' So Dave took that to heart, and he went back and prayed over it and over the course of time the building came up.... The church council of this United Church building where I'm sitting, they approached Lakeside and they said, 'Hey we're about to close down here. We're wondering if you guys want to talk. So that stirred something back up, and Dave was thinking, 'I kind of saw this one coming.'"
"[The United Church council] listened, and they made a great decision to say, and 'We're gonna sell this building well, and we're gonna enjoy the fruits of our decision by going to another church.' So what happened is $1 million changed hands. That was the price that was agreed. And on the one hand it was a lot of money; on the other hand this is a 30,000 ft.² site in the downtown of Guelph. And that was a fair number as far as I'm concerned. And that is a theme that I'd love to see happen more: a fair number of value to sell from one church to another church. So Dave went back to the people of Lakeside and he said, 'Look, we are 1000 families as a church. If we could each raise $1000 per family, we can buy this church and make sure there's not a ghost town in our own downtown.' And that was the congregational vote and the fundraising in one Sunday. So Dave cast the vision that we would create a care center and we would plant a church in the site.... He passed the hat around, and the money came in a couple of weekends, and the building was bought."
"'Social infrastructure;'When you think about other infrastructure, if we build roads and sewers and power lines, we know what that's like we know how they serve things we know what they cost we know what they give. Social infrastructure is harder to measure, but it's usually important. And again if we look at the change from the church being a majority culture - even now there's a little taste of it; certainly in the US, you would never think about running for politics if you couldn't name the church also attended even if you only went there once a year. There's a little bit of those vestiges left in Canada still. But back in those days, it was just clear that the church ran a lot of social infrastructure just naturally – it was always the way it was. Whereas now we can look at different social programs. We can look at, What do social workers do? What do housing programs run by local counties and municipalities do? Will they add social infrastructure, but there's a lot that they can't do. If you take all the king's horses, all the king's men, all the teachers, all the emergency services, all the social services, housing people - they still can't help. take one of the biggest problems. What about the number of children growing up with no father? Just even focus on boys. The number of boys who grow up with no dad physically present. I read recently something like 25% of children in North America are born without even a father named on their birth certificate. so you look at all the other social infrastructure that we pay for out of our tax system; it cannot help that issue."
"Churches, if they're doing well, bring people together. And I think we can argue more and more for the social infrastructure about the church creates."
"How do you deal with urban development and economic development, as well as caring for the poor? How do you hold those things together? And again, the church actually is a great place to bring those guys together.... Of course, the business owners, as people, they want to help; as businesses they gotta tend to their needs of their business as well. So, those are again tensions to be managed."
"In terms of evangelism and outreach and mission, I cannot understand why so much of the church doesn't see the division in the church as the primary obstacle to evangelism. People coming to the church, they're like, 'You guys are so divided among yourselves; why should I bother?' And the converse is also true; when we overcome that, man are people ever attracted! They say, 'Hey, you're running the Alpha course with the Catholics? Okay, alright, we'll come and check you out. You may be crazy, but it almost seems like you believe what you're saying. So we'll come and check it out.'"
"The whole 'Does God exist? Does it matter that we know him? Would God be in a personal form?' I find people are like, 'Yeah of course! Of course I need God. Of course I need to know why I'm here. Of course if God does exist, he would appear to us in some kind of relational form. But you people just hate a lot of people, so prove to me that you really love people and then we'll go to the next stage.'"
"You know the idea of the belong, believe, behave; if we're genuinely allowing people to belong first, that's what Alpha does. Then they can have an environment where they could choose to believe. Then their behavior will change. Whereas if we say, 'We expect your behavior to have changed before you walk in the door, then once you show the correct behavior, we'll invite you into our belief system, then once we're sure of all that, then you can belong.' People are actually saying, 'Actually, I want to test out your openness.'"
"Other questions that people ask… The other one, the real kind of interesting one, is they want to know that the church could make a difference to the world. They want to know that what happens in this place matters to society. And that if they come and hang out, that actually society would become a better place."
"[Deb Hirsch] says, 'We cannot allow our theology of embrace to be interrupted by any other theology because if we do, we become a little bit less like Jesus.' So all those theologies are important, but if it means we don't embrace people the way Jesus did, then we become a little bit less like him. And I think that happens when we're so firm on our theology - which is right and we should defend it - but it's actually interrupted our embrace. So we're trying to live in that tension."
Next Week's Episode 32
Guest (Part 1): Jake Aikenhead - Director of Salvation Army Gateway