North America

City to City Projects Update

City to City Projects Update

Every month CTC sends you news, videos, blogs, photos, and tweets about new churches. In response, you gave over $80,000 to help 14 new churches get started in global cities. Thank you!

Atheism Helps My Faith

Atheism Helps My Faith

One evening, my friend said “You Christians think that God wrote the Bible, right?” to which I said “That’s a rather blunt way of stating it, but sure.” He went on “Here’s what I don’t understand. I ask Christians all the time if they read their Bible and they often say ‘No.’ Seriously? If I believed I had a book written by God I would read the s**t out of that book!

Laboring that Vancouver Might Reflect the Beauty of Christ

This post by Alastair Sterne was originally posted on The Gospel Coalition Blog

I was once asked, “The city, the ocean, or the mountains? Pick one.”

I tried to conceal a conceited smirk as I said, “I don’t have to. I live in Vancouver.”

The city of Vancouver, British Columbia, has all these things and then some. Downtown Vancouver boasts close to the same population density as Manhattan, with a stunning skyline. It is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and mountains to the north and east. Unsurprisingly Vancouver has consistently been rated as one of the top ten cities to live in the entire world. It is a city of profound beauty and prestige, brimming with both influence and affluence. It’s no wonder most Vancouverites carry a subtle conceit about their home. Yet Vancouver’s brilliance and beauty can often mask what’s going on in its heart.

'Key Gaps'

A study by the Vancouver Foundation discovered “key gaps” in the city’s shared life. It concluded that metro Vancouver can be a hard place to make friends. One-third say it’s straight-up difficult, and one in four say they are alone more often than they would like to be. The study also identified that Vancouver’s neighborhood connections are cordial but weak. Most people can only identify the names of two neighbors, and the connection typically stops there. Vancouver is a city of smiles and pleasantries, but not much more. It gets worse still. Many people in metro Vancouver are retreating from community life. More than one-third of Vancouverites have no close friends outside their own ethnicity. This is a deeply problematic issue in a vastly pluralistic and multicultural city.

Vancouver is globally perceived as the city that has everything, but for many, life within the city is lonely, isolating, and connectionless. These “key gaps” are more like gaping holes that are in desperate need of attention.

Crying for Renewal

The city is crying out for renewal, yet it is also becoming more and more irreligious. Statistics Canada projects that by 2031, almost 33 percent of people living in Vancouver will not align themselves with any religion. And those who currently checkmark “no religion” in Vancouver already exceed any other metropolitan area in Canada. Religion, and Christianity in particular, has been relegated to the corridors of personal opinion. Religion is seen as deludedly useful for self-help but useless for anything else. People are welcome to believe whatever they wish, but they should not be so mistaken as to think their beliefs have any usefulness in the public sphere, or accuracy about how things really operate in the universe. This is deeply problematic because the issues that plague Vancouver find their ultimate resolution in the very place they’ve determined to be deluded and useless.

The shared life of the early church is described as a multigenerational, multiethnic community that met consistently with a socially conscious outlook, providing not only for one another’s needs but also for the need of the cities they inhabited. Isn’t this the sum of Vancouver’s “key gaps”? The New Testament calls this expression of sharing life together koinonia. We translate it often as fellowship or participation. The church’s shared life took this expression because it flowed from their fellowship/participation (koinonia) in Christ.

Vancouver is a beautiful city. But if it wants to be a flourishing city, it needs to be loved to life by the koinonia found in Christ and expressed through his church. I desperately want to see the spiritual, social, and cultural renewal of our city, but it can only happen through communities transformed by the gospel. That’s why we’ve planted a church in the heart of the city: that God might use us, if even in some small way, to bring his renewal to this great but broken city. What we’re finding, so far, is that some of the skeptical, increasingly irreligious Vancouverites are coming to faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ because they’ve encountered the koinonia of the church. They’re discovering that the beauty of koinonia exceeds the beauty of Vancouver, because the beautiful thing about koinonia is that it’s only a small reflection of the beauty of Christ.

You can partner with Alastair and St. Peter's Fireside and help them reach their goal of $5,000. 100% of your gift goes to this project.

Making All Things New

St. Peter's Fireside is a new church in Vancouver that aims to join God in the spiritual, social and cultural renewal of Vancouver, through communities transformed by the gospel, all to the glory of God. They want to be a place where broken people are transformed by the gospel of grace in every part of their lives. Some are checking out Christianity for the first time, while others have been in church their whole lives. St. Peter’s Fireside is a place where you can wrestle with the questions you have about Jesus and where you can find out if Jesus really is who he said he was.

You can partner with Alastair and St. Peter's Fireside and help them reach their goal of $5,000. 100% of your gift goes to this project.

Welcome to My Heart

This post appeared originally on Alastair's blog. See more at: www.stpetersfireside.org/blog

There’s a little, somewhat dingy and smokey shop down the street from me that I frequent. It’s called Persian Tea House. I was there recently with a friend, and had the privilege of meeting the owner. He’s the patriarch of this family run business. He’s a tall, white-haired, lovely spirited Persian gentleman. He welcomed us by saying “I love you. Merry Christmas.” Now that is a welcoming. After chatting for a bit, he asked rather abruptly “Where are you from?” We respectively answered “Canada” and “America.” And just when I thought my new Persian friend couldn’t get anymore interesting, he said “Welcome to my heart.”

I have never encountered hospitality like this before. It’s not something you expect to hear while sitting in a hazy room, sipping on Persian tea with Bollywood techno music blaring. But to the owner, it’s not about an environment and business. It’s about welcoming people into his heart.

It is such an unusual readiness to embrace a stranger. It’s more than that. It’s a desire to strip down, unveil, and let someone see you for all you are. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, I don’t know. What I do know is that I struggle to welcome people like this. To freely, unreservedly embrace people into my heart? Allowing a complete stranger to stand in the room of my heart to observe and take in all that is there? The disheveled, gritty and embarrassing parts along with the intimate, honest and beautiful parts? All the false motives I’ve framed and hung on the walls of my heart, and all the brutally painful shortcomings I’ve tried to sweep under the rug? That’s too much to offer. It’s scary. It’s risky. I’d rather retreat back into the familiar, safe, aloof, stand-offish culture of urban Vancouver. “Share the easy parts, hide the hard parts” sounds good to us, doesn’t it?

Yet the foreign invitation to enter into my new friend’s heart was there. Whatever he was actually offering, and whatever he may believe or not, I can’t help but see Christ shining through his welcome.

Jesus is God’s “Welcome to my heart.”

We don’t expect that sort of welcome either. It catches us off guard. We want the concept of God. The idea of God. The theology of God. But the heart of God? Do we want a God of vulnerability and intimacy? A God who invites us into what’s going on inside of him?

Jesus welcomes us into God’s heart. Inside that sacred space, we see his joy and compassion. We see his grief and even his anger. We see his struggle. We even see his tears. We see his spit. We see his sweat. We even see his blood. Most of all, we see his love. Everything is exposed for us to not just observe, but to touch and feel and share. And we don’t deal with it delicately do we? We trample upon it. We neglect it. We even resent it at times. We want the God of tidy answers, not the God caught up in the complexities of human flesh. God says “welcome to my heart” with the nudity of Jesus crucified, his body unraveling, and his heart overflowing with anguish as he absorbs his own wrath for us. But, as another friend of mine says “We can’t bare looking at God’s privates, so we wrap a loin cloth around it.”

We want to censor God’s vulnerability.

Why?

When God welcomes us into his heart and when we accept the invitation, it means that we enter with our own hearts too. There’s an inherent reciprocity. It means we go in there with our collateral damage and our insecurities. We go in there with the stuff we don’t want others to see. In there, in the extravagant unending walls of God’s heart, we see all of ourselves decorating the corridor. There is no way to look at God without it being personal, without it involving us. We mark his hands and his heart, and we leave scars on his body. We see all our ourselves—our own atrocities and even our goodness—hanging on the cross of Christ. We want to censor God because if we don’t we have to see ourselves exposed too.

Yet, it’s in the heart of God that we hear the “welcome” we long for. No stipulations, no show, no need to dress up for the occasion, just a loving embrace. Loved for all that we are without hiding any part or holding anything back. We stain him with our dirtiness and he still doesn’t let go. This really opens up “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you” (Romans 15:7) doesn’t it? Christ has welcomed us into God’s heart, with all of our mess and at great cost to himself. That sort of welcome gives us the audacity to say to others:

“Welcome to my heart.”

You can partner with Alastair and St. Peter's Fireside and help them reach their goal of $5,000. 100% of your gift goes to this project.