The church in North America is shrinking. We see signs of it everywhere. God is pruning back his church. We have a choice to frantically hold on to all that is dying or to pay attention to what Jesus is doing and join in with his new growth initiatives.
It is difficult to remember that Jesus is responsible for his church, not us. In Acts 2, the church was a half-million times smaller than it is today, and God celebrated with tongues of fire instead of being mad at the low-attendance records.
Equally difficult to accept is that pruning, as painful as it is, always yields healthy growth. Acts 2 encourages us because it shows that the first fruits of the church were extremely creative; tongues of fire and speaking in other languages were completely outside the scope of expectations for those who attended. Being followers of the-God-who-prunes means we, too, need to start celebrating the creativity of Jesus.
At Mennonite Church British Columbia we are finding that God’s pruning is yielding fresh new initiatives:
- Chinatown Peace Church had to sell its building, but it is now looking for a storefront building to be used as a community ministry centre. Imagine walking into an internet café and ordering a coffee, only to find out it is a church! “We know that Jesus is the answer,” Pastor Tim Kuepfer says, “and we communicate this best by living in the neighbourhood and loving our neighbours in creative ways.”
- Bethel Mennonite Church in Langley hosts an event called “David’s Tent” every Thursday night. Linda Hoock, one of the organizers, says, “We try to create an open space where people are free to pray, stand, use worship flags, journal or paint. We encourage people to connect with God in the interest in which God has created them. There have been physical healings, emotional healings and people growing in faith. A number of people have accepted Jesus as their saviour.”
- Crossroads Community Church in Chilliwack has no building but has found that having no building is actually a huge blessing, as both the church and the school cross-promote each other. Pastor Rob Ayer says, “It feels like when the Spirit of God moved the king of Cyrus in the Bible to cross-promote the return of the Jews back to Jerusalem. We are receiving green lights everywhere. They have us in the school four out of seven days. This is a shift for us toward the neighbourhood because of what God has done.”
These initiatives are all risks. They could all fail tomorrow or they could all yield fruit a thousand times tomorrow. We do not know, but what we do know is that we are embracing the truth that Jesus is in charge of the church, and if he is moving in new and creative ways that are outside the scope of our expectations, then perhaps we are right on track with the crew from Acts 2.
Kevin Barkowsky is MC B.C.’s church engagement staffer, communications coordinator and administrative assistant.