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The Kingdom of God in your community
By Jeff Christopherson

I really began to grow in my understanding of God’s kingdom in 2001 in Oakville, a suburb of Toronto, when we began to plant The Sanctuary church. We had a core team of four committed families and, learning from previous experiences in church planting, we had made the commitment to concentrate on building a launch team that reflected our audience—the lost of Oakville.

We began to initiate relationships with people through natural channels of business and neighborhood. We engaged in numerous ministry projects that put us face-to-face in relationship with other men and women who were curious about this “thing” we were starting. We spent six months cultivating relationships with people in order to develop the beginnings of trust.

Six months in we had a lot of friendships we’d developed at varying levels, who we believed trusted us—or at least trusted our intentions. We made our first withdrawal from that trust account when we asked if they would gather in a community center on a weekday evening. We explained that two things would take place. First, we would have a meal together. Second, I was going to ask one simple question. No one would be embarrassed or put on the spot. We valued and needed their thoughts.

We thought if everyone came whom we had spoken to we’d have around 60 adults that evening.

The evening came. Together we prepared a meal of lasagna, salad, bread, tea and coffee. We’d arranged eight round tables and prepared place settings. The investments of friendship and trust became evident as we watched single moms, divorced men, married couples, neighbors, our insurance broker, our realtor, our lawyer, people we had first met in ministry projects—all walk into the room. Sixty unchurched friends and acquaintances showed up.

They were all connected to one of our four core families but not to one another, so the conversation at tables was stilted in the beginning. That was about to change. It was now time for the second part of the evening—the question.

I stood and interrupted the various conversations, thanked them for coming and thanked them in advance for their valuable input. I explained that I was about to ask a question and would like each table to discuss the question and elect a spokesman to share their response.

Here was the question: “How would you describe your ideal spiritual community? What is important? What is not? What is significant? What is irrelevant? What does it do? What doesn’t it do? Paint a picture.”

It was pretty quiet in that room for the first seconds. Then one brave soul at a table ventured out, and then another. In no time at all the room was buzzing with animated conversation.

About 15 minutes into this exercise, I once again stood up and interrupted. It was time to report. I was nervous and excited all at once. I expected to gain some knowledge that would help us shape our future, but I was not expecting to hear what I was about to hear.

Unchurched person after unchurched person stood up and shared a picture of the ideal spiritual community. These were the three common themes:
• God would be important every day, not just one day.
• It would be a spiritual community that cared for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of one another.
• It would be a spiritual community that met the needs of the greater community.

ON MISSION • Summer 2012 15

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