Losing Our Location

I knew the day would come. I had just arrived at a conference when I got a phone call with some bad news. It was the owner of the dance studio, the spot where we rent space for our new church plant. Due to some changes, we would no longer be able to use the studio, she said. We would lose the space within a matter of weeks, or even a matter of days.

This isn't the phone call I wanted to get right before Easter.

Church plants aren't about buildings. Still, having a space has been useful to us. While we could continue to function if we lost our building, I also believe it would have set us back in our efforts to plant a church in our community.

We began to look at options. We're committed to Liberty Village, and I quickly discovered that some had space they wouldn't rent; some had space they would rent but that wouldn't work, and that some had space that they would rent but that would barely work and was astronomically expensive.

We did find one location. It's a former restaurant in the community. We looked at it and began to get excited. It was the right combination: good space in a visible location at what seemed like a fair price, and the owner seemed willing to rent to us.

We made an offer. Days went by, and we heard nothing.

On the Thursday before Good Friday, our church gathered for a potluck and prayer. As people arrived I told them we still hadn’t found a place. Now that it was Easter weekend, I didn't expect to hear back until the next week.

While we prayed, I finally received the email that hadn't come all week. “We are interested in moving ahead and would love for you to be a part of our building,” it said.

I signed the lease last Tuesday. We got the keys last Friday. We moved in and cleaned the place on Saturday. We held our first service there on Sunday.

I've been reminded of a few things over the past few weeks:

  • People are praying for us. I'm encouraged that so many prayed for us from all over Canada and the world.
  • People in our community helped us. I was also encouraged by the people in Liberty Village who aren't part of our church, but cared and offered their support.
  • Models are important, but they're not everything. I found it useful to rethink why we think we need a building, and to evaluate why we do what we do. The occasional crisis may actually be helpful.
  • Finally, I find it interesting that God answered our prayer in the middle of our praying. Maybe I needed to learn something about prayer.

Please pray for us. You can even sign up to get our email updates so you'll be reminded to pray at least once a month. Who knows what adventures will be coming next?

Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

Telling an Alternative Story

A future with hope is one we can build together intentionally, while the future of fear is one from which we can only run haphazardly. The difference is the story we decide to tell.

7 Critical Abilities of Senior Leaders

Here are 7 critical abilities of senior leaders.

A God? That’s Complicated

Canadians hanging on to personal faith as organized religion declines: poll

5 Integral Reasons Mature Disciples Sleep

So why should mature disciples sleep? Here are five integral reasons.

Five Steps to Digital Hygiene

Each habit is hard to swallow and easy to maintain. Worth it.

The Dead End of Sexual Sin

John Owen’s understanding of indwelling sin is the missing link in our current cultural confusion about what sexual sin is — and what to do about it.

Tired of Yourself? Jesus Will Never Tire of You

What better reason to start getting honest about our lives—that we are incomplete works in progress on the way to being made complete—without fear of being rejected or dismissed?

Take heart. In Jesus, you are loved.

Honest Church Planting

Although all the chapters in Rico Tice’s new book Honest Evangelism are good, one chapter in particular stood out to me. It’s chapter 7, called “Getting started (or re-started).” It outlines the changes that have taken place in culture over the past few decades, and how this affects the way we evangelize.

Tice writes in the context of the United Kingdom. He argues — correctly, I think — that the U.K. is a couple of decades ahead of the United States in these trends.

In the 1950s, people generally believed “in a Creator God, the notion of sin, and in the truth that Jesus is God’s Son.” When people heard the gospel, many were ready to respond.

By the 1990s, people were hardening against Christianity. It was harder to get them to come to a special service, or to hear a visiting evangelist. Some blocks (objections to Christianity) had to be removed first before the gospel could gain a hearing. In particular, Tice describes four: Christians are weird; Christianity is untrue; Christianity is irrelevant; and Christianity is intolerant.

When people met Christians, saw the way that they lived, and heard answers to their intellectual issues, trust would build. People would then sometimes be willing to give the gospel a hearing.

Twenty years later, Tice says, “people are on a totally different road.” Our culture is now defined by tolerance and permissiveness. People no longer engage with faith in order to accept or reject it. They simply dismiss it out of hand.

As a result, Tice says, two things are true. First, witnessing takes time and effort:

Research suggests that when people put their faith in Christ, on average it’s taken two years from the point when they came into meaningful contact with a Christian who witnessed to them — and that time period is growing. Witnessing is a long-term commitment to invest in a relationship, to pray tirelessly, and to speak the gospel over and over again, patiently and persistently. It is a journey of gospel conversations. It really does take effort.

Second, it takes us bringing the gospel to them. “It’s harder and harder to take people to hear the Bible taught; you need to take the Bible to them…Evangelism takes time, and evangelism takes friendship.”

These are great insights, and they make a lot of sense to me. I would add an additional note, though. How do you plant a new church in light of these realities? You plant relationally, and you plant patiently.

  • Plant relationally — Many will not come to a church event. Relationships are key in sharing the gospel.
  • Plant patiently — Growth will probably not be rapid. Our expectations need to be realistic. We need to be in it for the long haul.

We need to be honest about how evangelism and church planting are changing. Both are still important; in fact, they are more important than ever. But they will both look different than they did even a few years ago.

Honest Evangelism: How to Talk about Jesus Even When It’s Tough

“I find evangelism hard,” says Rico Tice in his new book Honest Evangelism: How to Talk about Jesus Even When It’s Tough. That just may be the best opening line in a book about sharing your faith. If you’re looking for a book about easy evangelism, this isn’t the one for you.

“I want to be honest,”  if you tell non-Christians about Jesus, it will be painful. That’s what the books (other than the Bible) don’t tend to tell you.” On the other hand, there is an increasing hunger for the gospel today as well. We need to be honest about the hostility we’ll face, and also excited about the hunger that's out there. This will keep us both realistic and motivated at the same time.

Tice covers a lot of content in this book. He shares the theological truths that will keep us motivated to evangelize. He examines the single reason why we still won’t evangelize: idolatry. “So for as long as Jesus is not my greatest love, I will keep quiet about him in order to serve my greatest love, my idol.” He gives us a clear outline of the truths we must remember to articulate when we evangelize, and teaches two skills that are essential: to ask questions, and to chat our faith.

Not gifted to be an evangelist? God can still use you. “God wants to harness what he has made you to be in order to reach a messed-up world with the unique combination of characteristics that you are.” Tice explains the different approaches to evangelism based on our personalities, and the strengths of each approach. He also includes a list of useful resources on evangelism, apologetics, and one-to-one Bible study at the end of the book.

Helpfully, Rice concludes the book with a survey of the changes in society over the past few decades, and how this changes our approach to evangelism. This was my favorite chapter. Culture has hardened against Christianity, and we must face the blocks in the way of people coming to faith in Christ that never existed before, including the beliefs that:

  1. Christians are weird.
  2. Christianity is untrue.
  3. Christianity is irrelevant.

We're increasingly seeing a fourth objection: “Christianity is intolerant.”

Today, he writes, “Jesus simply isn’t on the agenda; he isn’t even an option to be considered.” Tice explains the implications of these changes on how we evangelize. This chapter alone made the book for me.

I have not read a short book on evangelism that covers so much ground. It not only covers the necessary theological content, but it also confronts the realities we face as we look at the challenge of evangelism today. It also does a great job of equipping and motivating us to actually evangelize.

Evangelism is hard, and our culture makes it even harder. Honest Evangelism gives theological and practical advice on how to evangelize even in our context and with all our fears. I’m preparing a series on evangelism, and I plan on using this book heavily. I highly recommend it.

More from Amazon.com

Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

He Descended into Hell?

What happened after Jesus died? We know that his body was laid in Joseph’s tomb, but what about his human soul?

Peddlers vs. Pastors

Are you a peddler of God’s word or a pastor of the Word? Here’s how you can tell.

Church Planting vs. Church Revitalization

Planting and revitalization are apples and oranges. Don’t mix them. You create confusion in the Church when you do. Just look around in North America.

The Idolization of Entrepreneurialism

We love the notion of running our own lives from tip to tail, including vocationally. But that notion is a pipeline of dissatisfaction for many. It corrodes our contentment in the work God has given us, and that’s a problem.

Respect Your Audience

How will I communicate in such a way to respect my audience and treat them as my peers instead of like marginally intelligent preschoolers?

7 Small Changes That Produce Huge Results

Small changes repeated over time. Huge results.