My latest column at Christian Week:
Resonate began as an online network of Canadian Christians, “a network of people seeking out Jesus Christ in a world and country that is transitioning from the modern to the postmodern era. It is a group of people who are looking at new ways of living out the faith in holistic ways.”
The most active part of Resonate has been its email list, which has connected participants across Canada in online discussions. Some participants have also organized meetings, called Greenhouses, for “for church planters and those interested in creating new forms of church.”
A couple of years ago, some participants wondered if Resonate should do more. “We’ve had this list going for three or four years,” says Len Hjalmarson, a pastor and student living in Kelowna, B.C. “We’ve had this open conversation. But there wasn’t a lot that was concrete. We began to think, what about a book?”
Participants began to talk, and Hjalmarson, along with Winnipeg writer Brent Toderash, took charge. The result is Fresh & Re:Fresh, a book that’s recently been released by Allelon Publishing. The book includes reflections from five church planters, three churches in transition, and four mentors of church planters. It also includes reflections from Hjalmarson, theologian and pastor David Fitch, Ottawa pastor Frank Emmanuel, and Alan Roxburgh from Allelon. (Full disclosure: I contributed a chapter on a church in transition.)
“We wanted to generate some learning out of church planters and churches in transition,” says Hjalmarson. “We have a good cross section of the diversity that exists in Canada.”
Hjalmarson was disappointed that they were unable to enlist a contributor from Atlantic Canada. “We found one,” he says, “but they didn’t have the time or energy.” But he is encouraged by the contributions he received, and hopes the book will accomplish its goal. “We’ve been pleased by the energy of the contributors. We want to generate some conversation.”
Alan Roxburgh writes that the essays in this book are important for the church in Canada. Our context, he explains, “is so unlike our neighbours to the south or anything the church has experienced before in North America – although it has become more and more the case in Europe.” Nevertheless, we often try to import solutions from south of the border.
“We are in a space where the call of God is to risk in experiments that are rooted in this Canadian imagination, not borrowed from leaders in the U.S. or gurus from some other part of the world. That’s why this set of essays is so important. The stories represent young leaders who find themselves in this clearing where there are few answers, embarking on experiments.”
Roxburgh appreciates that the contributors simply told their stories. “I want to resist the temptation of squeezing from them principles and themes that can then be applied across the board in other places,” he writes. “In this clearing where we find ourselves, we don’t have this option. We are all pioneers, there are no experts. What we need right now are more and more stories like the ones in this collection.”
Hjalmarson agrees. “You find both diversity and commonality in these stories,” he says. This allows the reader to reflect and discern what he or she can learn from each of the contributors. Each contributor comes from a different setting and a different denominational background, including Pentecostal, Free Methodist, Vineyard, Baptist, and Anglican.
You will probably not agree with everything in this book: the stories are diverse, and the theologies differ. You may be struck by some of the views expressed about post-Christendom ministry, especially if you are used to older models of ministry. Neither will you find a set of principles or lessons to apply. But I am grateful for Fresh and Re:Fresh, because it allows us to see what is happening in circles outside our own. It also offers opportunity for reflection and discernment. We may not need gurus as much as we need to see what God is doing around us.