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Going Missional

Inspiration and innovation are found in Canadian congregations that minister to the hungry, the broken and the marginalized

By Orville James

Going Missional: Conversations with 13 Canadian Churches Who Have Embraced Missional Life
By Karen Stiller and Willard Metzger
(Word Alive Press) 15.99

Would it make any noticeable difference in your community if your church ceased to exist? That’s the premise behind Going Missional, a new book that offers 13 examples of Canadian congregations who are attempting to make a noticeable difference.

Co-author and Observer columnist Karen Stiller investigated congregations from across Canada, looking for inspiration and innovation. What is a “missional” church? In its simplest form, to be missional is to equip the church to hear the voice ignored by others. To be missional is to ask the question, Is there something wrong here?

Missional churches look for the places of hunger, pain, brokenness and separation in their community. Then they try to align their church activity with the ways in which Jesus would minister to those needs. The book highlights church people stretching far outside their comfort zones, risking big for God’s purposes.

Take the Ontario congregation who sold their rural building and moved into an abandoned school in the city so they could set up a 40-bed homeless shelter just down the hall from their worship space. Or the Halifax congregation who went on the road with a program for kids that is “loud, noisy, messy, hands-on fun.” The street ministry “is staffed by folk from nine different congregations for a relationally based, sidewalk Sunday school that delivers the program to the street, and then visits the families during the week.” Brilliant.

Being missional is not about survival for dying churches or even growth for viable ones. Rather, it’s about responding to what breaks the heart of God in your own neighbourhood. “Instead of asking how we can attract people here, and how can we tend to the body of the congregation better, we’ve started to ask questions like: What are the relationships God wants us to develop in our community and the world so God’s justice and peace can flourish? And how can we share the story of Jesus with people who haven’t heard?” says Rev. Judy Paulsen of Christ Church (Anglican) in Oshawa, Ont., one of the congregations profiled in the book. 

At the end of each chapter is a bonus section outlining what each congregation learned along the way, as well as a series of probing questions for discussion groups.

I confess that my denominational pride was hurt that no United churches were included. Then I realized there is a positive and encouraging message for us. With so many examples of social justice in action, this book shows that the gap between mainline and evangelical Christianity is not as broad as once perceived. More and more, all of us are engaged in the same great task. And clearly, we are learning from each other.

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
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