FAMILY MEETING - SUNDAY, JUNE 24
Hey everyone! Really excited to be together today. I just wanted to say from the bottom of my heart how much I love you guys and how thankful I am for this family.
Here’s the plan for today. It’s going to be a little different this morning. Instead of teaching from the scripture this morning, I am going to take a few minutes and share a few things that have been on my heart as we move forward as a church.
If you’re like, “Man. I wanted to learn something from the bible this morning!” Here’s the thing, just go to www.cityview.cc/teaching. There’s something like seven years worth of teaching there that you can engage.
For this morning, we are heading into summer and I just want to share a few things with you all as we head into this season together.
Like any community, City View has a story.
In March 2011 a small group of us were sent out by Royal View Church on the east side to start a new expression of church in the central part of London. Heather and I had sensed for years that we would start something new and with the blessing of Royal View and its leaders, we partnered together to see City View birth.
Some of you were there for our first gathering on March 13, 2011. Our first Sunday was at Central High School, just a few blocks over from where we meet today. Funny thing is—and we didn’t realize this at the time—our first gathering was actually on daylight savings time change (And if you know, the Spring time change is not the good one—you loose an hour of sleep. Really great planning on our end!)
It was a crazy, yet beautiful morning as we joined in worshipping together. It was a little scary—not knowing who was going to show up or what the community would look like in the future. There was a lot of unknown, but there was a lot of joy in those early days and an expectancy that God was going to move. London didn’t have a large evangelical presence in the central part of the city and our community was right in the midst of it all.
Fast forward five years. Palm Sunday, 2016.
Our Sunday gatherings by this point had moved from Central High School to the Wolf Performance Hall at the central branch of the London Public Library. You can almost see it out the window here as you look into the city. The Wolf Hall was an amazing, state of the art venue, but Palm Sunday that year was interesting to say the least. I still have this day etched in my memory.
I remember the band preparing. They sounded so, so good. The lights and sound were perfect. Our 25 foot HD screen had church news and other media elements ready to go! The kids lessons were set. Everything was in order. We were ready to go.
There was one problem. Hardly anyone showed up.
Myself, the band, and a small group of people gathered in, what felt like on this particular day, an enormous building. I have a friend apart of our church who still recalls this day. She puts one word on it. It was “odd” and I agree.
It was this really strange moment. Not only was it discouraging it was a little disorienting. It’s not like City View was small. It’s just the reality that six people of that small group that Sunday was my family and over 80% of our church had decided to do other things.
The interesting thing is that the next week we had our Easter gathering and then two Thursdays after Easter I got a phone call. It was John from the Wolf Hall letting me know that the Wolf Hall and Central library had a power transformer blow and that it may take a few weeks to get fixed. This left us scrambling a bit to find a venue. I mean, what were we going to do? We were a few days out and needed a place to meet.
The only place I could think of was this space that I had seen at Goodwill Industries a few months earlier. It was a beautiful glass building—this open area that overlooked the city. I strategically had lunch at Edgar and Joe’s that Thursday afternoon and while I was eating there I asked if they could let me know who was responsible for the venue bookings. I met a really nice lady named Shea who let me know that they didn’t do too many Sunday bookings but could let us use the space until things got fixed at the Hall.
We met in this space at Goodwill for a few weeks in the interim and it was a lot of fun. The open space made our gatherings really feel like family. We did acoustic music and enjoyed doing church in the round as a community.
Over those few weeks we built some good relationships with the staff at Edgar and Joe’s.
Then, as I was eating lunch again on one of those weeks (the common theme is eating lunch here), a lady named Janice, the manager of the cafe at the time, came up to me and said, “I have something to tell you!”
She was stern, so I thought, “Oh no. Something happened. Maybe we broke something or maybe a few fishy crackers (which we use to use for communion) got smeared in the carpet that we missed cleaning up."
Her stern demeanour turned to a big smile. She was joking with me. She eventually turned to and said, “You are the best group that has ever used our facilities here!”
I was relieved to say the least, but in some ways this is what I expected. We’ve always, from the very beginning of our little community, purposed to leave the venues that we use cleaner than when we get them. This led the crew at Goodwill to offer us a rental agreement for our Sunday gatherings if we wanted!
But what do we do?
We have the Wolf Hall and that place is amazing! (The Wolf Hall by the way, has an amazing team, led by now by one of our own here, Catherine Coreno!). I had always dreamed of having a church in that space. And the relationship with the hall and the library was really, really good. We were just faced with the fact that people were not gathering regularly and many weeks the space felt empty.
The funny thing is I was somewhat worried to tell John at the Wolf Hall that we were thinking of transitioning to Goodwill, while he was worried to tell me that between the power issues they were experiencing and the renovation that the library and hall was about to do, it may mean us not being able to use the facilities for a few months.
So in the end, it all worked out and we ended up hugging via e-mail and we made the move to Goodwill!
Now. Fast forward to Palm Sunday 2018—just 11 weeks ago.
This place was full. The atmosphere was electric. We had to add chairs to the room. We sang out hearts out. While we were worshipping together I turned to Heather and said, “Some of the hard work is paying off!” People were engaged. On that morning we talked about The Drama of God and how at Easter we are drawn into the story of God—Jesus' death, his burial, his resurrection.
The next week we gathered for Easter—our best Easter so far as a church. We baptized three people and celebrated new life in Jesus! It was amazing.
So let me just say this. “We love City View!” Our family has a deep and sincere love for the people and what we do week in and week out here. Our theme verse when we started was 1 Thessalonians 2:8. Paul says to this church in Greece, “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”
When we started we didn’t want to just share the epic news of the kingdom of God. We wanted that, but we also wanted to do that as we shared our lives with each other. And we’ve seen this happen. Our family loves the church.
I don’t know if you remember but on April 15th of this year we had planned to do a pot luck in the evening as a church together. This evening was eventually cancelled because of an ice storm. (Yes. An Ice storm in April. Welcome to Canada.)
You should have been at my house as we communicated this news to our kids. They were devastated. Actually, in all reality, they were mad at us and wouldn’t even believe us at first that it was cancelled. It was kind of funny actually, as they would not even consider that we were not getting together with the church family that evening.
As parents this brings us joy! Our kids love the church. We love the church. And we believe City View would be a community we would be apart of even if we were not in pastoral leadership. First, it’s a church where community and relationships are important. Second, it’s charismatic. We believe the Spirit of God is alive and the gifts can be experienced today! Third, we love the narrative theology of this community—where we are drawn into a bigger story. Also, if we were looking for a church we would look for a church that is rooted in liturgy and coming to the Eucharist table weekly. Heather and I have grown weary of pop Christianity—the idea of spinning lights, fog machines and really catchy sermon series’ don’t quite do much for us. We believe the contemporary church should still be rooted in the tradition of the church. Normally churches are either contemporary or liturgical. What we love about City View, though we are not perfect, is that it is trying to blend these things.
It’s not typically hard for Heather and our family to get out the door early on Sundays to come and help set up and prepare for our gatherings. We don’t watch the clock. This is our lives and to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
And we’ve seen some really beautiful things over the last seven years or so. People have experienced Jesus through community. Others have been baptized. Babies have been dedicated to Jesus. Our emphasis on the spiritual disciplines this year has been so good. Honestly, I didn’t know who would step out and practice these disciplines, but I’ve had a ton of conversations where people are practicing in the Year of The Dojo. Tuesday, a bunch of ladies had an amazing time coming around a first time to be mom (While Spence and I and the boys watched the Incredibles in the basement). Even last week, at our community meal on Wednesday, we had a fantastic conversation about Sabbath, what it means, how people are practicing this, and what we’re learning. I was really encouraged that little by little many of us are growing deep in God.
With all of this said, I’ve done a ton of self reflection over the last year or so. It’s no secret that the Enneagram has been a huge help in this process along with some other tools.
When talking about leadership in the Scripture, Paul describes five primary gifts or roles of leadership that help the church be all that it can be. He says, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:11).
I’ve been thinking about myself in light of these five different roles a lot. In some ways, I do think we can embody a little bit of all of these gifts, but none of us are superhuman. We are all wired and gifted differently. As I’ve come to this more aware of my own strengths and calling within the church than ever before. So if I were to list these five roles in order of strongest to weakest (I’m not sure you’re even supposed to do that with this text, but I am)—for me it would probably look like this:
You’ll notice the thing that I embody the least is probably the role of prophet. Prophets have always been unique people. They tend to be people that don’t always care what others think (which I am not!). In the church they would have a gift of calling people back to God, or calling the church into a new season or to the next level. While I think there is always a prophetic component to teaching (which would be more my gift), I do believe this is something I can lack.
I have a friend who pastors a church plant and his gifting would be that of a prophet. He’s a great guy, pastoring a small church as well and he is always calling people to the next level. While biblical exegesis, context and cultural analysis wouldn’t be at the top of his list, he is always pushing people to do greater things. Sometimes I will listen to a sermon here or there of his and to be honest I find it at times exhausting—not because it’s not good (it’s great), but because that prophetic gift that he functions in is out of my calling a bit. My gift (in the best sense) is to teach people the ways of Jesus and care for the community. So I haven’t spent a ton of time lobbying you to go to the next level per se. Instead, my goal has been to faithfully lead us through the Scripture and the ways of Jesus and to practice them. (Basically, what I’m saying is that I’m not good at what I’m about to do)l
With that said, I think we do need to address some things in our beautiful, little community. Again, because this isn’t in my wheelhouse some of this will be hard for me as a teacher/shepherd type to communicate and some of it may even be hard to hear.
Since we started back in 2011 City View has technically been under the care of Royal View Church. If you don’t know, I was on staff at Royal View for a number of years before starting City View and since then we have been under the same charity number as them. And though we have a budget, all of our finances are centralized through Royal View’s entity.
Now this has been a tremendous blessing for us. We’ve had a covering and we’ve also had significant financial support. While we had a good financial year last year with Royal View only needing to support us close to $500 a month, there has been years where they have supported us upwards of $20,000 for the year.
But the point of this family chat is to let us you know that becoming a self-sustaining church is not simply something we are going to sit around and hope for; it’s either going to happen or it’s not. Ultimately, we need to become a community that grows up and cares for ourselves. The last seven years have been beautiful, but for all intense of purposes, we need to step up as a community.
Now this is a little bit scary, let’s be honest. If I’m honest personally, leading City View has been the best years of our lives while at the same time it has been very fragile at times and seasons. The reality is that the move to this space (at Goodwill) has been the best for us and yet, even this spring, and especially the last bunch of weeks it feels like we've taken steps backwards, especially in our Sunday gatherings. (The teacher/shepherd within me just wants to put my head down and teach the bible and care for people, but the prophet needs to address this).
We love you guys so much and there’s group of people that are super faithful to the ongoing work of this church (you know who you are), and I know some, including myself at times, ask the question: when will what we do as a church become important?
If feels like, at times, that what we do as a community is the least important thing. Just being honest, sometimes it feels like, for many, that if there’s nothing else going on then you'll come to the gathering and get involved. And the reality is, it is hard to have a self sustaining church when this is the case. It just is.
Sometimes I wonder if we’ve just been seen as this little thing out of Royal View, that gets a bunch of support from them, so we don’t really need to take it seriously. It’s time to move past that!
With this reality, here’s where we need to go. Over the next six months we dramatically need to work to become a self sustaining church. We need to have January 2019 before us.
Do I think this can happen? Yes! Absolutely I do. We’ve seen some incredible things happen over the last couple of years. We can do this.
Is it going to be hard? Heck yes it is! (Nothing that’s good comes easy)
Are some things going to need to change? You bet! Some of us need to join into this community in a deeper way.
SO WHAT DO WE NEED?
We need to gather better.
So from the beginning of our church’s inception our Sunday gatherings, for the most part, have been a grind. We honestly don’t know who’s going to show up from week to week. There’s no secret we are a young church and obviously we live in a much different cultural moment than even a couple of decades ago—Sunday’s are not sacred like they were.
Now here’s the thing, we’re not the church police, nor do we want to be. You’re going to miss from time to time. I even think of a beautiful family who is not here this morning because they and their two boys are on vacation. Amazing. Please, take vacation! We are an inviting community and do not want to be compulsive, but at the same time we do feel like we need to grow in this area, especially if we want to launch out into the deep.
A small percentage in our community have to work some Sundays. But this percentage is actually really small. People working is not our issue. The greater issue that we need to figure out is if this form of gathering (Sunday morning) is important for people or not. At times, if some of us were honest, it feels like it's not.
This is a little hard as well because we are a directive community. What I mean by that is our liturgy builds on itself from week to week, especially the themes we teach through. We place building blocks on each other each week as we journey together, so this can be really disorienting to the flow of where we’re going as a community when there is inconsistency.
THIS AFFECTS OUR CORPORATE WORSHIP
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned in the teaching that over the last little while I’ve had a few conversations with people who seem to be lamenting some of the shifts that are taking place in the church. There seems to be a bit of disappointment, especially from many who love worship (and deep times of worship at that), that things have changed — people don’t enter into worship gatherings like they once did.
My thinking though, is that we probably have pretty high expectations to assume that significant things are going to happen in our gatherings when we are rarely all together in our church communities for public worship. I think we need to be more honest that we probably won’t experience much of what we did in past days because of our lack of participation.
Sometimes I hear people who will go to a Bethel or Hillsong worship night and be amazed at how people enter in and worship together. The automatic response is wanting this in their local church and I get it. But how does this happen in our context (and please, I love you, and remember this whole prophet thing is hard for me) when people don’t come regularly or some arrive at the gathering when the music is almost done?
I grew up in a church, with all of flaws, where we experienced some pretty unique and life giving things when we were together. Looking back now, as I see the current moment we’re in, it’s pretty simple: these things happened because we were available.
Are we actually available for God to move?
Corporate worship has a rhythm to it. Something significant happens when there is continuity, regularity, and familiarity. We can almost concede that without these things our communities will most likely not engage in worship the way they once did (I’m an eternal optimist, so this is a hard pill to swallow). The fact is, a sports team that never practices together probably won’t be that good. If there is continued disorientation in our corporate gathering together, our expectations should probably be minimized.
FRANCIS CHAN AND THE REVOLUTION OF SHOWING UP
Last summer a guy named Francis Chan (who I love by the way and if you want to talk about prophetic voices in the church today, this is one of them) had the opportunity to share at Facebook headquarters in Silicon Valley. If you know anything about Chan, a number of years ago he grew a little discontent with his megachurch and left to be apart of a house church movement in San Fransisco that is more community driven and discipleship focused. His house church movement reads through the bible together each year and does a number of things that are more integrated than showing up to a big performance on Sunday and then going home.
At Facebook, Chan shared the shift that led him away from his megachurch to his more community based situation that requires little funding and no paid staff. The video of his message and follow up articles of his time at Facebook crossed the inter webs like fire, especially amongst millennial Christians. For a week the video and articles were shared on my Facebook and Twitter feeds by friends and acquaintances cheering on Chan for resisting the tyranny of mega minded ministry for something more simple and organic.
Now here’s the thing...
I love Chan’s approach. At City View we obviously look more like what Chan is proposing than a attractional mega church.
But, let me just say this. It doesn’t matter how big or small, flashy or simple—it doesn’t matter if you sit in rows, around tables or in a living room, whether you meet in a theatre, cathedral or community centre—no matter what the situation looks and feels like, if it’s church—a gathering of people under the rule and reign of God—for it to be meaningful you’ve gotta show up!
The fact is you could plant a church in my basement but I still have to put on pants (aren’t you thankful for that!), show up and be available!
The interesting thing—and maybe I’m being a little judgy here—but the articles of Chan at Facebook were being shared by some people who I know have no regular participation with the Jesus community. They were praising something that they are unwilling to participate in themselves.
How we doing? Hanging in there?
QUESTIONS AROUND GATHERING TOGETHER
So, with all of this said, there’s a couple things to think through around the gathered church. What I love about Jesus is he wasn’t coercive or manipulative. I hope you hear my heart today. There’s none of that here. But let’s think through a couple of things as far as the future future for us.
One of the questions could be: are our Sunday morning gatherings important enough to engage in on a weekly basis?
I think this is an important question we need to wrestle through over the next six months. I know where we stand as a family (the Fess family that is), but i can’t speak for others. I think most of you would say, “Absolutely yes!” Many of us experience the life and joy of gathering together regularly. We've seen God do some really great things!
For us to answer with a collective “yes!” to this question, a number of us are going to have to reorient our lives. It’s that simple. Like I’ve said, there are times where what we do doesn’t feel overly important. And if it is important it probably means saying “no” once and a while to other things.
I certainly don’t want us to become legalistic about gathering together—I want us to love it, but how are we going to be a self-sustratining community if we can’t gather regularly together?
Again, I know we’re coming into summer and there will be moments where people are coming and going. I don’t want this to turn into everyone looking around every week and going "OMG(oodness)! We’re in trouble!” Chill out everybody! That’s not why I’m saying this.
I’m just asking questions that I hope make us think about the future of our community. If there are weeks where 70% of our community stays home or makes other plans, will we be able to take the next step? That’s what I’m asking.
So we need to gather better, and also:
We need to grow financially!
So we’ve been at this for seven years. We have a fantastic group of people that are committed here financially in significant ways. Thank you! You guys are amazing.
To be honest, I haven’t spoken a ton about money over the years. We’ve taken the simple approach with a really small budget.
I was in a meeting a few weeks ago with a guy apart of a Christian not-for-profit. He asked me how many people were apart of our church. I told him how many were connected, including kids. His response was, “Cool! So you’re budget is between $150,000 and $170,000 annually?” I looked back grinning, knowing that’s what our budget probably should be, but graciously saying, “No. We do everything from top to bottom for $81,500.” He proceeded to fall of his chair.
Ultimately, I have come to the realization that I can’t change people’s hearts. It’s fairly relieving. Over the years we've just tried the model what we think is the best approach—simplicity and transparency.
The fact is this, the last census showed that the average household income in London is $72,000. Some, would make way beyond this, others would make less. But I would imagine City View would reflect this average.
Our budget as a church is just over a household budget—it’s $81,500 for the year.
Now last year we had our best year financially as a church, bringing in $75,000 (Royal View helped us with the other $6,500). This was exciting for us, but we find ourselves once again in a place where we’re more on pace for $65,000 this year. The interesting thing is that I asked the guys at Royal View who do the inputting and tracking of our finances to see why we are on pace to bring in less this year compared to last. Is it because people have left? What’s going on?
They took a list of our community and compared it to the giving households. The reason we are down this year compared to last is not because people have left. It’s simply that money often starts and stops. (This is beauty of the fact that we’re not selling anything for profit eh? We don’t have any control of what comes in).
So, the consensus is that we could easily, with the amount of people apart of City View, meet our budget and beyond each year. But, there is also the sobering reality that we don’t right now.
This leads to a couple of questions to think through around this.
First, do you believe ministry and the church should be funded?
The way you answer this question will determine the course of our church. If you don’t believe it needs to be funded then so be it I guess. I think a lot of people would be heartbroken if City View didn’t exist, but I’m not sure if that necessarily changes the fact that those who don’t contribute will. I know, for the most part, that we live in somewhat of a nanny sate (this is not a political statement by the way), but the church only has at its disposal what is donated. (Rocket science I know!)
The other thing that I wrestle through in my heart and mind a lot is, that when it comes to money, we are not doing anything different then what almost every other church is doing. Ministry is funded and leaders are paid.
If anything, what we are doing different is we don’t have any overhead or debt, we don’t own a big building with astronomical bills, we don’t own or lease offices to keep the cost down, etc. I think, and I know I’m bias, that we’ve done a really thoughtful job of setting this community up.
Second, should a church that can only bring in $75,000 a year be self-sustaining?
Now this one kinda hurts, but I do think it needs to be asked. We are actually on pace for $65,000 this year. Can we sustain from year to year on this? Quite honestly, and I know you’re intelligent enough to get this, probably not. This is why we need to grow in the area over the next six months.
If you look at the history of the church that planted us—Royal View Church—it is true that the early pioneers of that church literally mortgaged their homes so that they could buy land for the new work in the east end. The passion to see a church established was evident.
Now, we’re obviously not asking you to mortgage your home, but is there a level of seriousness in the financial vision of our community?
So here’s the thing: our family is in it to win it. We are doing everything we can to keep costs down and see this thing move forward.
Please hear me, I don’t say this for any self-glorification, but I think it’s important to be transparent. I have taken a pay cut to try our absolute best to fit in the budget. More recently, we are in the process of cancelling our family’s health benefits to save in the overall budget. (So please be careful around my children, especially their teeth for the time being).
We are doing the best we can
You may be sitting here thinking, “Whoa! It sounds like we’re getting serious here and I don’t know what to think about this!”
This is exactly the point!
If it doesn’t sit well, there’s no pressure to be apart of this. As I’ve said, this isn’t easy stuff for me to talk about. I want to put my head down and teach the gospel of Mark. But honestly, there are some of us that are very serious about this community, seeing it move forward, and seeing the gospel come to bare in London as it is in heaven. We need to grow in these areas!
You may also be thinking, “All this guy cares about is buts in the seats and money in the bank!” I understand it could come across like this, but I will say this, if you’re thinking that, you don’t know me. And I hope we can get to know each other. That’s my hope.
If you’re brand new, or newer to the community—I hope you’ll give a little grace to us today. This obviously isn’t a normal morning. We’ve had a couple of family talks along the way, but noting like this. This is the first time we have talked about this stuff in depth in the close to (something like) 340 Sundays we’ve beeb together. So 1 in 340 or so is pretty good I think. If you are new, or newer, I also hope you’ll see that we’re serious about our future.
So there’s a lot of things that are out of my control. The one thing that is in my control is how my family and I participate. Listen, I do believe that we can move forward in 2019 as an autonomous church! I do believe that if we gather better and we grow financially as a community, the sky's the limit for us. It just has to be the work of the people.
Do you want this? That’s what we’re looking to determine over the next six months!
So for the next six months we are going to work hard to cultivate this community into autonomy. We are going to take it month by month. We will be transparent and continually bring you up to speed. You may receive a survey once and a while, just so we can get feedback from you. (For example, with so many missing week to week, is Sunday morning the best time for us to gather moving forwards? I think it’s better than Wednesday at noon, though I could be wrong).
We are going to work on five specific things over the next six month:
1. Seeing more households participate on Sundays.
2. Seeing more households participate in the financial vision of City View.
3. Working towards solidifying our leadership/eldership.
4. Working towards having a partnership (membership) in place by 2019.
5. Launching out in 2019.
Everything will go under the microscope. And if in the end changes aren’t embraced, things may look different six months from now. We will take this in stride.
Obviously Community has been a big part of our DNA. We have two amazing smaller communities that meet throughout the week—one on Sunday evenings and one at our house around our dinner table on Wednesdays. We feel compelled as we look to the future, to actually put those communities on hold for the summer and instead join in together in prayer over the summer.
Prayer is the most important part of this whole thing and we need people to join in with us and intercede for the future. We need to contend for the future!
So, we are going to put our two communities on hold for the next bunch of weeks, and instead we are going to join in and pray together every other Tuesday evening, starting this Tuesday, July 10 throughout the summer. We are going to meet at Heather and I’s place at 6.15pm for a potluck together (so bring something to share) and then we will pray and intercede together. (We will relaunch our small communities in the fall).
So that’s every other Tuesday starting Tuesday, July 10 at 6.15pm. We will post the dates in City View Weekly and on the website.
I know for some of you, what we have talked about this morning will conjure up questions. I think that’s amazing. I will be available, starting in a couple minutes, for as long as it takes. Seriously, I have time if you want to chat. I probably have some questions to ask back, because I believe this is the best way to dialogue.
Others of you may simply want to shoot me an e-mail! Do that too!