Hello all. My name is David Hood. I’m a follower of Jesus, child of God, husband, father, and church planter, and the internet has thoughtfully provided me with a space to tell my story, share my journey, and write about my thoughts and beliefs on Jesus, life, mission, and the church. It makes sense to start this blog with a few posts on church planting, because church planting is sort of consuming our lives right now. It is the newest and by far most exciting and terrifying development in our lives. I’d write about the how, but I’m still figuring out the how. I’ll write those posts in 20 years. For now I’ll write about the why.
My wife, Diana, and I are planting a church. We felt like life was not quite crazy and unpredictable enough, so we decided to throw ourselves into the adventure of starting a new Kingdom outpost in southeast Ottawa. We want to help more and more people discover Jesus and become His disciples. And we want to help more and more Christians live the Kingdom life that Jesus lived, died, and rose to give them. Jesus said “I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10). We want more and more people to have that abundant life, that full life that comes from knowing, loving, living for, and following Jesus. That is what life is all about. So we’re planting a church.
When we tell people we are planting a church in Ottawa most people are really excited at the prospect of a new faith community taking root in our nation’s capital, or at least they are really excited for us that we are following the call of God on our lives and are taking risks as a family for the sake of Jesus’ fame in our city. However, some people are a little confused as to why someone would feel called to plant a church in Ottawa. Or even Canada. We already have enough churches do we not? We do not need any more churches, we need the churches we already have to step up and get active in their communities and the world. 100%. I totally agree. We need gospel renewal, for existing churches that are stagnating to come alive again and embrace their identity as the family of God, indwelt and empowered by God, and sent by God to love our neighbours as ourselves (Mark 12:31), to be a blessing (Genesis 12:2), to pray for and seek the welfare of our cities (Jeremiah 29:7), to seek justice (Micah 6:8), to fill all places with Jesus (Ephesians 1:23), and to make disciples (apprentices of Jesus) of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded us to do (Matthew 28:19-20). And indeed there are many churches that are doing just that, they are not stagnating, they are embracing their identity and call. For instance, I am doing my church planting apprenticeship at Sequoia Community Church in Barrhaven, and they are alive! They are praying for, striving for, strategizing for, stewarding for, and equipping and unleashing their people for Kingdom impact in Ottawa and beyond. We need churches like that to keep going! But I would argue we still need new churches, new expressions of our faith.
We need churches that are more contextualized to the culture because they are being built from the ground up with the culture in mind; churches that have mission in their DNA from day one; and churches that embrace the reality that we live in a post-Christian nation. Christendom is dead, and we are not going back, nor perhaps should we go back, and ministry and disciple-making will need to be done differently now than they were fifty years ago. It is easier for new churches to embrace this reality and minister innovatively in it, because they do not have history, entrenched traditions, and ways of doing things. So yes, we need healthy missional (mission as an adjective) churches to keep fighting the good fight. We need gospel renewal for churches that have forgotten who they are and why they are here, AND we need new churches. Indeed, the planting of new churches helps revitalize existing churches, and church planting is a catalyst for gospel movements in cities, but I will explore all of that in a later post. All I want to do here is address the assumption that often underlies the question “why plant churches in Canada, and why plant churches in Ottawa?” When people ask that question, they are assuming that Canada and Ottawa are sufficiently reached. But are they? According to Impact Ministry Group:
In Canada there are close to 24 million people who do not have a personal relationship with Christ (out of a population of 35 million).
Nearly 82% of all Canadians have no meaningful church relationship.
According to Outreach Canada demographic research, only 18% of Canadians attend church regularly.
No single city or province in Canada has a greater percentage of churched people today than a decade ago.
Among existing churches in Canada, 80% are characterized as plateaued, declining, or disintegrating.
Evangelical churches have failed to gain an additional 2% of the Canadian population in the past 50 years. In other words, we are not even reaching our own children.
North America is the ONLY continent where Christianity is not growing.
How about Ottawa?
This will probably come as a surprise to many, it did to me, but Ottawa is the least-reached English speaking city in Canada, after St. John’s, Newfoundland. Ottawa, with its population of 1.1 million, is an educated, prosperous, and cultured city, but it is also an increasingly secular city with a growing number of people who are non-churched and de-churched. 23% of Ottawa residents claim to have no religious affiliation whatsoever. Less than 5% are evangelical Christians, probably only about 2-3%. Do we need revitalized churches? Yes. And do we need new churches; churches that can contextualize more easily, have a missional DNA from day one, and that are ready, willing, and able to innovate to make disciples in an increasingly secular culture? Yes. We do.
So why plant churches in Ottawa? Because Ottawa needs Jesus, and it is the church that has been sent by God to tell the world about Jesus, to help people discover and become disciples, apprentices, followers of Jesus. The more missional churches there are, the more people get to have an encounter with Jesus through the words and deeds of His people.