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I stood there amazed as I heard these people with little to no Christian experience articulate an amazingly healthy theology of Christian community. God had created a longing in their hearts for an authentic worshipping community and had given them the words and pictures to describe it.

Now it was their turn to be amazed. These kingdom seekers who were able to articulate the longings of their hearts were dumbfounded to discover the Word of God had already described spiritual community in that same way.

God had already done the work. I invited these friends to join us in building this kind of spiritual community. It was not a difficult sell.

Over the next 12 months we baptized 52 of our new friends.

Over the next nine years, these friends would “give themselves away” nine more times, multiplying themselves into 10 congregations in the Toronto area.

Over the next nine years, these friends would give time and resources and leadership away to start two church planting organizations, which together have started numerous churches within our city.

We experienced the power of God in seeking His kingdom. It transformed a community and is continuing to transform a city. And here’s the thing. This power is not available only in Toronto or only to the select few. This power, first articulated by Christ in Acts 1:8, is given to all of us. The question is whether we’re willing to receive it by obedience to His calling.

My friend Dan experienced this firsthand as he wrestled with leading an existing church in our city.

Dan was pastor of a church with an impressive building strategically located on a busy thoroughfare in Toronto. The building stood as a monument of what had once been. Dan was called as senior pastor in hopes of “righting the ship” and bringing back the glory years. Dan was their dream come true.

Then Dan began to prepare God’s people for the mission. For perhaps the first time in its history, this white, middle-class church was about to reflect and be on mission in its community.

At first blush, it seemed that Dan had struck upon a winning idea—starting new congregations that would speak the heart language of the community. But many questions from significant stakeholders had yet to be answered. The apparent question behind all the other questions was: “How will all of this help us grow our church?”

There may have been a small amount of admiration for his intentions, but the silly plan would never see the light of day. Pastor Dan, who had a huge heart for the kingdom of God, had run face-first into the brick wall of church growth.

Every day he saw the sadness, hopelessness and desperation written on the faces of those with whom his church had no credibility. But his church didn’t budge.

With a deeply saddened heart, Dan tendered his resignation to the elders. It wasn’t a question of pride; it was a question of allegiance.

Nobody was happy. The elders presented Dan with a proposal and request all in one. The proposal was “don’t leave.” The request was “give us more time to sit with the idea of being missional.”

In a written statement to the elders, Dan prescribed the conditions of his continued leadership, which included initiating a first church plant within their community after 12 more months of congregational preparation.

One year later Dan called me and asked, “Would you be interested in having a conversation about starting a new church?” Another year had not adequately prepared the church to look outside its walls, so he’d made the pivotal decision to leave.

16 Summer 2012 •

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