By Cam Roxburgh
Who are we and what are we about?
It was 1999. I had been a planter/pastor for almost 7 years and had learned so much… mostly about what I did not know, and how the world was changing.
I started to build a core team for Southside Community Church in 1992. We made a number of decisions that were ahead of their time, almost by accident. We moved into the neighbourhood. We structured ourselves around life together in Mission Groups. We began to reflect on how we presented the Gospel… and God blessed us. We planted a second congregation in 1997 and were on the verge of the third and fourth by 2000. But the further we went, the more we realized that the church in Canada was becoming marginalized.
As I came into contact with some emerging church leaders, I felt conflicted. Much of what they were teaching brought a new energy, I sensed a drift in theology that concerned me. During this time, the Gospel and our Culture Network began to write on and teach a more “Missional” perspective. My uncle, Alan Roxburgh, began to teach a number of interns at our church—young leaders who were convinced there was a different path forward: one that didn’t necessitate making compromises in our theology or forcing the church back into the centre of society. His teaching brought life as he cast a vision of church in neighbourhood that we all resonated with. He put language and theory to what we were discovering in practice: theological reflection, neighbourhood impact, intentional leadership.
Between 1999 and 2007, this internship training existed as The Missional Training Network. We began to work with leaders in cities across the country to train the next generation for missional leadership. Focusing on neighbourhoods as mission fields, we helped people to make decisions to join our missionary God at work in their context. By 2007, my friendship with Alan Hirsch of Forge Australia had grown. He had also moved to the States and we began Forge International, with The Missional Training Network becoming Forge Canada. During these last ten years as part of the Forge movement, we are delighted at how God has used us.
We have spent time evoking the missional conversation through writing The Missional Voice and hosting A Day With… training events with leaders such as Craig van Gelder, Alan Hirsch, Michael Frost, Hugh Halter and Brad Brisco. We have had a multitude of webinars and weekends that served local churches, denominations and cities. We have worked with several Baptist groups, Mennonites, Christian Reformed, and the Church of God as denominations and many others through more localized involvement.
We have also sought to equip churches to move from a Christendom model of ministry, to a more missional approach that helps us to live faithfully at the margins. We equip neighbourhood leaders to develop neighbourhood-based communities of people who seek to join God on mission in that place.
All of which brings us to today, and the direction we are heading in the future.
The Forge Canada vision will continue to be “To equip planters, leaders, denominations to establish multiplying missional Christian communities in neighbourhoods across Canada.” Our strategy will be to accomplish this work “through evoking conversation, equipping churches and neighbourhood leaders, to establish new missional communities.”
Our task will not be to plant new communities of Christians as much as to help others to do that in this present context. We believe other groups such as New Leaf Network are doing a wonderful job here in Canada at keeping our post-Christian context in front of us and we want to be a support to them.
We will continue to seek to be faithful to our understanding of God as missionary. Our foundation has always been that we understand God through the lens of the Missio Dei. He has always been a God who seeks relationship with the world through the sending of His Word. He is present and active in the world in a number of ways: first through the work of Jesus, and second through His people empowered by the Spirit of God. Our task—as people who are made in His image, as individuals and as a community, which is His body—is to discern where God is at work in the world and then to participate in the good news that the Kingdom of God is present. It is to this end that we want to equip local communities of faith to join God at work in their neighbourhoods.
We will continue to be a part of the missional movement in Canada, and indeed to work with Forge International to partner with what God is doing around the globe. We invite you to join this growing movement in Canada with us.