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Adventures in Doing the Ridiculous — Helping Pigs Fly or Planting a Church
He came to church just once, but heard God. That's all he needed. Now he's helping with ministry in this new upper middle class artsy Ottawa neighbourhood church plant.

One recent Sunday morning at 11:07 in the Glebe of Ottawa (an upscale artistic neighbourhood), a man in his mid 20s approached me after our version of a contemporary worship service. He never went to church, never read the Bible. In fact he did not believe in God. Here is what he said to me that morning: "I don't believe in God, but I can hear God in this place!" He received Christ on the spot. Took a new Bible from me. Has been discipled for several weeks and is now sharing the Gospel with his many friends who were in the same boat as he was. He is helping with ministry at our church. He came to Ecclesiax just once and heard God!

Ecclesiax—a new kind of church in the heart of Ottawa, where God sightings are occurring regularly. How do we spot God? In His many activities as He moves around our community and in our people. We see people meeting Jesus. We are upper middle class artsy urban Ottawa, where Ed Broadbent was elected as M.P. with quite a majority from what I understand. And yes, we are even compelled to love those NDPers. Go figure, this is our mission field. So yeah, we have to believe that pigs can fly, to quote a good friend of mine.

Let me share a brief background. Ecclesiax (Greek for: called out people of Christ), was birthed over a year ago now. Was given space in the old 5th Avenue building in the Glebe. Our mission, reach people in the Glebe with the Gospel of Christ. Strategy? Prayer and fasting. Begin developing a core team from scratch. Exegesis of the community. Renovating a portion of the building into an art gallery. Begin networking with people in the Glebe and develop relationships. Result: a slow but steady growth of community with the majority of the people coming from no-church situations.

Last week we had another God sighting. A woman who had attended Ecclesiax a handful of times and seemed quite aloof, slipped me a note after Sunday morning. What did the note say? "I need God in my life!" On Monday she showed up with her occult material and ouija board in her arms requesting that she be allowed to burn it in our fireplace. I asked her if she was doing this because she wanted to or because she felt some kind of pressure? She adamantly stated that this was her deepest desire. She proceeded to light the stuff on fire and then made a profession of faith. Prayers were said against evil spirits breaking off any bondage they may have had her in. Her face changed to one of brightness. Light, really. Here's a note she sent me: "Thank you for being there for me the other day when we burned the ouija board and book. Your welcome to me at Ecclesiax means so much and I am excited to learn and experience more with God and everyone at Ecclesiax; so far everyone is so amazing and special. Thanks again. See you Sunday (signed)."

She is now entering a discipling relationship with one of our more mature Christian women.

Numbers you say? Well, we don't have Willow Creek type numbers to give you, but I can tell you this. Started with three. Grew to eight. Shrank to five. Grew to nine. Grew to ten. Grew to fourteen. Shrank to nine. Grew to eighteen. Grew to twenty one. Grew to thirty two. Now at thirty eight.

Each step of the way has been brutally hard. Each step of the way has been delightfully pleasant. Hmm, that sounds contradictory! Actually no—we prefer the term paradoxical. Sort of like: God-man, or die to live (both concepts are found in the Bible). Growth has been something that we have surrendered to God. Now as I type that, I know it sounds very nice and spiritual and every Evangelical church says the exact same thing: it is all about Jesus and prayer and God and the Bible and reaching the lost and … ad infinitum. But when you start with three people and say, how do we plant a church from scratch? What matters? What does not? Things get a bit more clear. Honestly! I am not making this up or trying to sound like I have it all figured out. In fact, I do not have it figured out at all. But ohhh, thank my Heavenly Father that this piece of flawed humanity can go running to Him and ask for help … for wisdom … for encouragement to stay the course. The incredible thing is that He truly desires to help His children out when we obey Him. Disobey Him and He will bypass you. If we think we have the perfect plan, He will let us go and do our own thing minus His presence. Sure, we can do some pretty incredible things with tithes and a group of like minded people. I mean we can actually shoot for the stars … tower of Babel— ring a bell anyone?

Planting a church [is] … hard, if it is up to me and my dusty brain alone. Easy, if it is a God directed dream …

Planting a church designed to reach out to a different kind of culture that has pretty much given up on institutional religion is the hardest thing in the world to do and it is the easiest thing in the world to do (oh-oh, there is that nasty paradox again). Hard, if it is up to me and my dusty brain alone. Easy, if it is a God directed dream and people are obeying what He says.

Some final God sightings

  • A French UN worker living in the Glebe enters our gallery and asks what she can do for us? She is spreading the word about us around the neighbourhood.

  • A famous Canadian sculptor hears about us and comes down to see if there really is an art gallery inside a church. He and his wife have now become patrons and are helping us get the word out about who we are and what we believe. He is 70 years old and walked away from the church when he was 15 because his pastor said, "artists are not that important to God." He now sees that there is a church that says artists are loved by God. He is giving us one of his artworks (he commands $3000 to $85,000 in art commissions and has been producing fine art for 35 years).

  • A medical doctor on a one year sabbatical to pursue her true dream of being a painter has expressed an interest in Ecclesiax and asked if we could highlight her paintings of Baffin Island? She lives just a two-minute walk from our building. She is coming to our house for a BBQ so her kids can play with our kids.

  • Our next door neighbours across the street on 5th Avenue in the Glebe enrol their children in anything we do for kids in the community. They have spread the word to other families with kids in the Glebe. Our kids' programs are now packed out and we have the problem of not having enough children's workers.

  • We have many, many connections with people in our community who are now ready to come and see what Ecclesiax is about. The good problem we have is space to fit them all in.

How can you help Ecclesiax? Can you pray about calling me? If you get the urging from God to call me and talk, here is the number: (613) 797-3161.

I have a funny feeling God wants to say something to you about church planting.

Rev. Joseph Moreau is Church Planter at Ecclesiax in Ottawa, ON

Originally published in Mosaic, August 2004.




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