I was asked to write an article about the need for local churches to be missional for the fall edition of Enrich Magazine... the leadership magazine for the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. They wanted the article also to talk about how to avoid the all-to-common church pitfall of falling into "maintenance mode" instead of progressing. So I wanted to share it with you my blog people...before it comes out!
Freedom House church in Brantford, a church I helped plant, for 10 years now. Moments ago, I took of a cape. And a leotard. And a bright red mask. In fact, around town I’m known as “Captain Kindness.” As I write this article, I’ve just come from hosting the city’s “Movie Night in Harmony Square,” the city civic square where 600 people come weekly and hear me talk about how Brantford can be known as the kindest city in Canada before watching an outdoor movie.
This is the same square where Freedom House hosts a free winter carnival that sees 15,000 people annually flock downtown to celebrate winter in a location that was once derelict, under the banner of kindness. Last year, our mayor declared Frosty Fest,
“The watershed moment in the transformation of Brantford’s downtown”
This is the same square where the city supports and promotes our outdoor “Living Nativity” musical presentation of the gospel at Christmas. This is the same square that we just hosted an outdoor public baptism, supported by 5 churches, attended by 700 that saw nearly 100 people baptized.
Captain Kindness has an almost unfulfillable demand for elementary school assemblies and lights the city
Christmas tree with the mayor and Santa. Pretty amazing stuff really. But what’s more amazing to me, is the Freedom House is a small church of 150 or so. 200 if everyone showed up. Many people are shocked that Freedom House is such a relatively small church yet seems to make a big impact. I actually am too. But allow me to share with you some of the ways we’ve prevented ourselves from getting into “maintenance mode” and instead pressed on into new places.
The primary reason, is that we started the church with with vision of transformation. Brian Beattie, the lead pastor. and I were both inspired by Ed Silvoso’s city transformational victories in South America in the 90’s and we began our quest with the resolve to make our efforts holistically transformative. His vision, that we adopted, was a city where NONE would perish. It was a city with healthy economic structure, the elimination of poverty, the drastic reduction of crime and the acceptance of the message of Christ. This was the reason behind why we started and it remains the reason behind what we do today.
The result? You know the old defeatist (yet often true statement) that “10% of the people do 90% of the work?” At Freedom House, that doesn’t apply. We consider every member a minister and consider marketplace callings just as divine as those within a church context. In fact, those who come and aren’t prepared to work don’t like us for long. But those who tie in get to BUILD together and become unified for the cause of Christ as a city is reconstructed. They become true brothers in arms.
St Thomas More in his "Prayer for Fervor in Thinking of God" wrote this powerful prayer:
"Give us, good Lord, the grace to work for the things we pray for."
When we planted our church, we bought an old bar in downtown Brantford. It was building where drugs were being sold out of the kitchen and sex was being sold in the parking lot. Our neighbors were the dealers of both. One Sunday night in the early days, after church we sat on the street to see what happened out there after we left. We watched a team of 10 year-olds sit on lawn chairs outside a crack house and take turns being drug-runners. We saw husbands and wives put their kids to bed, and then he’d take her out on the street and make sure she got safely in someone else’s car. They were their wife’s pimps. We could barely believe was we were watching but quickly realized a few things about this culture.
- We didn’t understand it.
- We currently had no voice in.
- Jesus desired transformation in it through us… and it was our move.
So we began activating principles that we believed in theory but had never REALLY seen put into practice. Romans 2:4 is a “throw down” to believers. It’s confrontational.
“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
It’s like God saying,
“Listen... I love them more than YOU do. Pray and be kind. Love God and love others. Just do it and watch me do my thing. It’s gonna be amazing!”
The story of the good Samaritan teaches us to care for the felt needs of the lost… because it’s the right thing to do. It’s transformational; body, soul, spirit and communally. Before planting Freedom House, I served as a missionary in Accra Ghana. As I observed a city where at any given time you could see 3 or 4 active churches on any given street on any given Sunday morning. I observed a culture that was extraordinarily mannerly to one another. When you walked down the street, people looked you in the eye and greeted you. You were invited regularly into home and were served feasts, often even as the specter of poverty loomed.
As I soaked it in, it was an inescapable reality that my country… was missing something. I returned to Brantford determined to change it, as unto my God. Not only was kindness a trigger to release the Holy Spirit, but it was also a “felt need” of our culture. And as we soon discovered, it not only dramatically opens hearts on a micro scale, but also (because of the same principles) it’s a big-picture transformational on a macro scale.
We realized that we needed to ALSO help them by giving them a housing respite so as to not be forced to go back to their crack-house to live in. And because we actually loved them as people, we converted our church building into affordable housing. Today, God has provided a better space for our church a few blocks over, and we have a 15 unit low-rental apartment building that has been a culture-transformer for the block.
Our people became HUNGRY for more. “How can we do this MORE? Who can we serve next?” they asked. We began to ask our political, educational, social and community leaders the powerfully transformational question,
“How can I serve you?”... and through honoring, friendship and service it’s led to all the things I wrote about at the beginning of the article.
Freedom House is not special. This is God’s desire for His church. God WANTS His church to impact it’s surroundings by showing His love in practical ways. We’ve butchered the the idea of a “mission field” for too many years, convincing ourselves that it only looked like a far-off land. Each day, God has a mission for us whether our church is large or small. His message has never been about “us.” It’s about ALL of us. Tweet