“But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight
Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight
When you’re lovers in a dangerous time.” – Bruce Cockburn, “Lovers In A Dangerous Time.”
These words of Bruce Cockburn acknowledge that there is darkness. This present darkness in which we walk can be characterized by fear, deprivation, danger, psychological and spiritual stress, and relational conflict. Cockburn’s words also acknowledge the need to challenge the darkness and create space for the light to splash into and obliterate the darkness. Indeed, these are the times in which we live.
It has often been noted that no matter how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise, few of us will change our lives, our work, or our organizations without the pressure of significant pain (or as Bruce Cockburn might describe it, darkness). The pain may come from a business that is not sustainable, a lifestyle that is destructive, a career that is waning, or a significant health issue that causes us distress, but it takes a large shove to propel us into change mode. Since March 13th in Canada, the Church (and many other aspects of life) has experienced discomfort and a big push in a particular direction. Many are reeling from the impact, even as they adjust to new realities.
In 2003, a group of friends joined my wife and I in creating a network of house churches in the city of Calgary. The story of how this came to be is a story of difficulties that built to a change point all of its own, but what I want to focus on today is the fact that once we had made the leap and changed the way we organized a church, we soon found that there were further pressure points involved in the transition. It wasn’t enough to shrink a mega-church or even a midi-church into a living room and kitchen, we had to blast away at the build-up of our collective traditions to find the foundations of our newfound structures.
Jeff Christopherson, in a recent two-part article in Christianity Today, address the topic of the new church planter in an article entitled, “The Road Ahead: 10 Characteristics of a Future Church Planter.” It is an article aimed at church planters and those who oversee the development of new congregations in Canada and the USA, but beyond that, it can be seen as a call to new kinds of churches, new ways of doing ancient traditions, and new ways of being the body of Christ. I will leave it to the reader to search out and read the article and will only list the ten characteristics before extrapolating further thoughts beyond the strict text of the article. The ten transitions that must be made as enumerated by Christopherson are as follows.
1. From Entrepreneurial Übermensch to Apostolic Catalyst
2. From Sunday-centric to Christ’s Body
3. From Ecclesiastical Supremacy to Kingdom Submission
4. From Drafting Free-Agents to Developing Disciple-Makers
5. From Replication to Multiplication
6. From SoloClerics to Co-Vocational Teams
7. From Christendom to Secularity
8. From Doctrinal Precision to Spiritual Authority
9. From Prominent Church to Transformed City
10. From Underserved Communities to Overlapping Gospel Movements
Back to Cockburn, “nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.” A vibrant Canadian church that creates meaning for people’s lives, strengthens them in times of darkness, and shares hope for the future is definitely something worth having. In my opinion, Christopherson has identified an accurate set of transitions for which the church is primed. Who will step up, kick at the darkness, and lead toward change? For those who are attentive, the present pain of the church can be a catalyst for transition and increased health. Who wants to talk about the present pain of the church? Who is ready to look toward these transitions? Who wants to see a healthier church and a healthier Canada on the other side of this present crisis? There are many of us who are available to talk more about these things and coach others toward change. Let’s help each other stay on mission.
 “The Road Ahead: 10 Characteristics of a Future Church Planter,” Jeff Christopherson, Christianity Today, October 29, 2019 and November 4, 2019, https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/november/road-ahead-10-characteristics-future-church-planter-part-2.html