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Why Reimagine Church?

Right now in Canada, from coast to coast, church engagement is in decline and it has been for decades now.  As has taken place across Europe, churches across Canada are shutting down and the buildings sold to become condos, restaurants, mosques, and parking lots.

Covid lockdowns only seemed to accelerate this
 process, and many who used to attend church simply didn't come back when lockdowns were lifted.  More and more churches are faced with the reality that when their aging members pass away, the life cycle of their church will be complete as they shut their doors for good.

Didn't Jesus say "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it"?  If Jesus said this, why are we seeing such a decline in the church in Canada?

Believe it or not, according to Matthew, Jesus didn't actually say "I will build my church", but rather "I will build my ekklesia", a Greek word which literally means "gathering", "assembly", or "congregation".

So where on earth did the word "church" come from?  

Turns out that the word was derived in the 5th century from a Cappadocian word in present day Turkey.  The word they used was "Kyriakos Oikos" which means "The Lord's House".  This Cappadocian word had an influence on the translation of "Ekklesia" into the German word "kirche" and the old English word "Kerk".  Eventually, Bible translators translated the word "Ekklesia" to "church".  This translated word became so important to those in power in the church in the 16th century that they burned Bible translator William Tyndale at the stake for having the audacity to translate the word "Ekklesia" into "congregation" instead of "church".

But what does this have to do with why we feel God desires us to re-imagine church?  There are two reasons mainly.

First, the word church, or the Lord's house, misses the point that God no longer resides in a temple or building or place, but rather in the people who have surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ.  In other words, the word "church" was misleading from the start and confused Christians and non-Christians alike about what the church was.  

Second, our 21st century Canadian culture has changed so much that people have little to no interest in attending church.  If they have questions about faith and God, they can ask Pastor Google without all the fuss of giving up their Sunday morning to sit in a seat to listen to music they a
re not familiar with, be preached at, and feel judged for thinking and living differently than what an ancient book they've not read before (or believe in) prescribes .  

Although many of us would object to this perception of church, it really doesn't matter what we think if the masses don't want to attend church and see for themselves.

The question our generation of church leaders faces is this:
Are we going to continue to invest in "The Lord's House" (a place that consumes vast amounts of rent/mortgage payments and salaries) or into Ekklesia (gatherings of Jesus followers that are not dependent on a building and salaries)?

You might rightly point out that the contrast above is arbitrary and that there are in fact many churches across our region and country that have large buildings and a large staff, and are knocking it out of the park in making disciples, developing and deploying leaders, planting new churches, and sending it's congregation out as missionaries to make a difference locally and abroad.  We are thankful to God for these churches and pray for their continued positive impact for the Kingdom of God locally and around the World.

In this post-covid lockdown world however, many churches have been faced with the pressure to choose between maintaining their Sunday service programming or burning out their dwindling volunteer base...between selling off assets and laying off staff or closing down their church.  

Could it be that the example we see in the book of Acts, and the examples of explosive church growth we see in developing nations has been a clue under our noses this whole time as to how we are to adapt to the realities of our 21st century western world?  Could it be that generosity, hospitality and conversations are a better way forward than an unscalable and resource thirsty traditional approach to church? 

At Catalyst, we believe God is calling us to "go all in" building authentic community, and using the time, money, and leadership resources God has blessed us with to bless our communities and love and serve our cities as Jesus would.  It will mean giving up what we have known our whole Christian lives as it pertains to what church looks like, yet we are confident in God's leading us to do so.  We know that where God guides, he provides.  We know that our God is a God who has done "new things" all throughout history.  We take comfort in the reality that God Himself is the one who will build his Ekklesia.  It is our job to prayerfully surrender all we have and are to King Jesus, and to trust where He is leading us.


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