A summary of Snapshots of Faith – part 2
by Peter Biggs
The big picture…
In March 2017, The Light magazine embarked on a major study of Christianity in each of the municipal/cities in the lower mainland from West Vancouver to Chilliwack. These 16 monthly 3-4 page articles were entitled ‘snapshots of faith’. They revealed striking differences.
What follows is part two of an ‘OP-ED’ by Peter Biggs’ of his overall impressions.
Having been a local church pastor for 20 years, I had always longed to see a unified and missional Body of Christ impacting areas multi-congregationally. The opportunity to spend a whole month of investigative journalism in a municipality, and then be given the centre four pages was remarkable! We began with Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows and finished with the Langleys.
The presence and health of a city-wide ministerial is a measure of inter-church connection and collaboration. Our municipalities have striking differences in every area; this is one. Some municipalities have warm cadres of pastors who meet monthly – the majority of whom are ‘evangelical’.
Many ministerials report a de-emphasis on large city-wide events (although many still happen) in favour of loving and supporting each other and praying for their cities.
A few cities have changed the ministerial from a pastor’s gathering to a Christian Leaders’ Network. That is widening to welcome leaders in business, education and ministry as well as pastors. This appears to result in fewer pastors attending. Reasons for this are not clear.
Although hard to measure, it appears municipalities with a weak or non-exisitent ministerial have less impact on their area. Another observation of lower mainland ministerials is the lack of participation by leaders of larger churches.
The rise of mega-churches
There are now about ten evangelical churches that have thousands in weekly attendance. They include The Village in Surrey & Langley, Northview in Abbotsford, Westside Church, Tenth Church, Broadway in Vancouver and Willingdon in Burnaby. There are numbers of other thriving churches that are growing to over a thousand and planting second and third new campuses.
Why are these churches so apparently successful? On a human level, they all operate with a level of excellence in all areas: welcoming & aesthetically pleasing, the giftedness of public ministry is top notch, the worship engaging and the preaching powerful.
The ‘message’ in all these churches is conservative, and uncompromisingly biblical – the preaching is often expositional (teaching tied closely to the biblical passages). Preachers are excellent orators who are very authentic and ‘wear their hearts on their sleeves’. Although the message is counter-cultural, its application is challenging, uncompromising and seemingly very effective.
Muliti-ethnic neighbourhoods and churches
Broadway Church’s (Vancouver) Senior Pastor Darin Lathem encapsulated this, “We have been known as a ‘destination church’, but now 50 percent of our congregation is local, and very multi-ethnic” he says.
These ‘neighbourhood churches’ have come to reflect the neighbourhood demographic (multi-ethnic). Bigger churches offer translation services. Buildings are rented to two or more other ethnic congregations who meet Sunday afternoons. Most schools are rented in neighbourhoods to small, often, ethnic churches.
An exception to this is ECBC Church, situated in south Burnaby, off Marine Way, where there are no residential communities nearby. A mostly Mandarin-speaking church, Senior Pastor George Wong shares, ”People attend from all over the lower mainland.” The church saw 180 people converted in 2017.
Social need ministries
Monthly, in every city, pastors report the increase of social need. Homelessness, which includes the sad spectacle of sidewalk tents and shopping carts full of junk, poverty and drug use are present in most lower mainland cities. Christian ministries along with churches are playing a pivotal role in helping the marginalized with an impressive range of services.
Nowhere is this so starkly seen than the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver (UGM, Salvation Army and a host of smaller organizations). It is incredible what is done in the name of Jesus!
On a personal level, there have been many! I met, interviewed and caught the heart of dozens of key Christian pastors and ministry leaders. They are faithful, real, humble and hardly any take themselves too seriously.
One such young ministry leader (a Regent College grad) stood out to me. She had chosen to live near the squalour of the DTES to effectively and authentically serve in her storefront ministry… sacrificial.
To read individual city snapshops of faith, go to: lightmagazine.ca/snap