Is your church making a difference?
QUOTED ABOVE: SoulTsunami is the first in a 1999 trilogy
of resources for leaders struggling to come to terms with postmodern culture.
The second and third installments are titled AquaChurch and SoulSalsa. Each book has its own Website and
multimedia components. For biographical information about Dr. Leonard I. Sweet
go to www.leonardsweet.com
Young adults are spiritually hungry. And on mission Christians are asking
themselves, What are we doing to meet that hunger? For some the answer is
something called W3 ministry: W-cubed ministry, a term coined by Leonard Sweet,
means doing whatever, wherever and whenever it takes to reach a generation.
The 18-34 generation would be beyond the reach of the church if Christianity
were not a missionary religion, says David Reed, a specialist in religion and
society who teaches at the University of Torontos Wycliffe College. The church
just needs to reorder its message.
On these pages On Mission will introduce you to two churches in Arlington,
Texas, and Montreal, Quebec, that have reordered their message to meet the
needs of a postmodern generation. In culture, language, history, geography and
religion, these cities vastly differ. But when it comes to reaching young
adults, church planters in both cities adopt an almost identical approach.
LEglise Impact Church
1 Impact means the same thing in French and English.
LEglise Impact Church was named to comply with Quebecs language law that states
the French title must appear first and to illustrate the dual mission of the
church to reach both language groups.
Chantal Valee, 26, had never heard of Southern Baptists until she went
looking for someone to help her start a church.
Chantal was raised by an evangelical father and Roman Catholic mother in
Jolliette, Quebec, a city of 60,000 one hour northeast of Montreal. Her father
found salvation during a brief stint working in British Columbia when she was a
Upon his return to Quebec, his 10 siblings regarded him as a cult follower
when he spoke of his conversion. With no church fellowship or discipleship,
Chantals father read his Bible, prayed for revival in Quebec, and raised his
daughter with missionary zeal.
PHOTO BY Phil Carpenter
Chantal was 18 when she attended her first evangelical service while at
junior college. She was amazed at the warmth she experienced from the people
she had heard about from her father but had never met.
Chantal serves as the assistant coach of the womens basketball team at
McGill University (28,000 sutdents) in Montreal where she is earning her
During her first year at McGill, Chantal gathered 30 people for Bible study
and fellowship. But she noticed a troubling trendnone of them could find a
church that suited them. She happened to meet Ruth Blackaby, 26, from British
Columbia, who was a missionary in Montreal, serving with Team Quebec, a
Canadian Southern Baptist church-planting group. Led by Pastor Robert Pinkston
they launched Leglise Impact Church in 2000.
Impact meets in an upper room of the Salvation Army building four blocks
from the McGill campus. Since most of the congregation is composed of athletes,
the Sunday 5 p.m. meeting time is convenient; weekend sporting commitments are
usually over by then.
A typical service lasts 60 minutes. An ever-changing format that includes
drama, interactive discussion, storytelling, prayer, live music and multimedia
presentations keeps people coming back week after week. Worshipers sit at round
tables and enjoy a bottomless coffee pot and snacks. Impact, which began with
30 students, more than doubled in a few months.
Impact is already looking to the future. We have to keep starting student
churches that will be relevant, Ruth says. Eventually todays Impacters will get
married, get jobs and have kids, and the format will change along with them, no
longer appealing to the college crowd.
What does W3 ministry look like?
Postmodern people are not post-Christian, they are pre-Christian:
They are skeptical of institutions, so they meet in a building not
identified as a church. Members of both Impact churches dont go to church, they
meet at the Warehouse or go to Impact.
Postmoderns are totally unfamiliar with the lingo, rituals and beliefs of
the traditional church. The gospel must be communicated in a completely new way
without changing the content.
Modernism, which began with the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries,
saw science usurp Christian authority: truth was discovered by reason as
opposed to divine revelation. Any truth that couldnt be rationally observed and
quantified through rational empiricism could not be trusted.
Somewhere during the 1960s we shifted to postmodernism. Terrified by
the Bomb, horrified by the Holocaust, more and more people began to suspect
that science might not have all the answers and that people might contain an
evil so deep that no amount of education could fix it.
Postmodern thinking holds that no truth is absolute; instead truth
is subjectively grounded in ones experience, rather than in Gods revelation.
Literature, history and even religion are being deconstructed which means that
people are challenging everything society used to believe about the old stories
and heroes and God. Diversity and tolerance have replaced traditional authority
and moral judgments.
Many Christian leaders, rather than seeing this shift in worldview
as a sign of the end of the church as we know it, are interpreting
postmodernism in a positive light. Amazingly, this postmodern generation in
North America may be more akin to the first century under which Jesus launched
the mission of the New Testament church than any other generation since that
time. Rather than equating post-modernism with post-Christianity, the
on mission Christian needs to see
it as pre-Christianity.
A Website is a must for a postmodern church:
North Americans in the future will communicate mostly with a computer. The
Internet will be the key source for relationships in the 21st Century.
The key to postmodern ministry is adaptability and flexibility:
They provide several ongoing Bible studies at various times and places for
discipleship and outreach.
Church must be EPIC (an acronym coined by Leonard
Postmoderns are hungry for real experiences. Worshipers nail their sins to a
real cross or write them in real sand.
Symbolism appeals to them, so immersion baptism is used as a powerful
Worship is more than music and singing. Young people want to encounter
Predictability is the unforgivable sin: the only constant in worship is
change. Impact Fellowships baptistry-on-wheels is in a different place each
time; it can be in the front, back, or middle. LEglise Impact sets up chairs to
face a new direction each week.
For more examples of experiential worship go to www.next-wave.org/jan01/experiential.htm
Worshipers speak up. The preacher uses a conversational tone to tell stories
while seated in a directors chair or on a stool.
A casual coffeehouse atmospherecoffee and donuts are always availableworks
There is emphasis on drama and the arts as well as bold, contemporary music
from a top quality worship band. Impact Fellowships worship band, Eleven, will
soon release their first CD.
Team leadership means everybody talks and when consensus is reached,
bottom-up leadership results.
(Ryan Pitts, 21, plays violin with the worship band at Journey Missional
Community in Dallas, Texas, a church plant of Gaston Oaks Baptist
When I was little I had a blind faith. I believed in everythingthe
tooth fairy, Santa, God, you name it. I would say that God was a very real part
of my consciousness growing up. But I became disillusioned when I was asked to
leave my church for asking too many questions about what they were teaching.
They told my parents I was too much of an existentialist. I was just a kid! Im
an only child and my parents raised me to ask questions so they didnt fault me
for what happened.
I live in the Bible Belt. As a matter of fact, I went to high school
right across the street from the largest Baptist church in our
For years I just floated around checking into everything from
Buddhism to Wicca. I was looking for somethingfor a higher spiritual awareness,
for somewhere that I would fit in. I was trying to find my niche. I now call
this my getting back to God phase.
One night I was playing violin with a band in a club in Dallas and
an old friend showed up. He asked me if I would come and play violin with the
band at his church. I agreed and played with them for the next few
I felt like I finally fit in somewhere. I was in my element. There
was so much energy and so much culture wrapped up in the Journey. One day it
just hit meits time to get back, to have a better relationship with God. I
talked to Pastor Scott Gornto about being baptized and becoming a part of the
community of faith.
Two or three months later, I invited my mom and she just loved it.
Finally there is somewhere my whole family feels comfortable.
I see myself as a more complete person now. Im part of a community
where I am accepted. I no longer have angst over unanswered questions. I always
believed in God, but I never had a good relationship with God. I knew it was
possible, but I didnt know how. I didnt know the route that would take me
there. I found that Journey was it. It was the guiding force. Journey isnt
church to me. I dont go to church, I go to Journey.
The multimedia approach is populara video clip from the movie Mission
Impossible showing a man climbing a vertical rock face was used to introduce a
sermon about taking risks at LEglise Impact Church.
Set design helps create the tone for worshiplast Easter, people entered the
room through a faux closet into a scene from C. S. Lewiss The Chronicles of
Narnia at LEglise Impact Church.
Popular culture is used as a bridge to sharing the gospelduring April 2001,
Impact Fellowships Website showcased a sermon series on the X-Files, a popular
TV show. Each week the pastor used video clips to set the stage for the gospel
No one gets lost in the shuffleI totally love the small churches, Rick
Hewitt of Impact Fellowship says. People know you, they ask you about your
walk, they help keep you accountable.
People are drawn by curiosity and kept by relationships.
Sports are used as a contact point since the church must have a presence on
campus that people can relate to.
The best time to launch a new church is the fallbefore students timetables
Walking distance from the nearest campus is the best place to plant a
Connie Cavanaugh is a writer and
speaker living in Cochrane, Alberta.
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