Good books, whether fiction or non-fiction (and I read a lot of both), 1) keep your attention -- you want to see where the story is going to take you, and 2) they give you pause to reflect on your own story and memories -- you feel the story because it resonates, somehow, with your own. That is what reading Jared Siebert's book, Gutsy: (Mis)Adventures in Canadian Church Planting did for me. I like the front cover picture even -- a kid in a superhero costume diving into the deep end of the pool!
(Disclaimer: Jared is a long-time colleague of mine with whom I have worked on a lot of projects over the years, including him being the denominational overseer for the faith community experiment my wife and I have been involved in for the past 7 years.)
This book kept my attention because Jared gave an update and an analysis of a story that some of us have been following over the past couple decades in Canada. The story of real attempts to birth faith communities that resonate with people living outside Christendom in our Canadian context. I have met a good number of the church planters in his book and know something of their stories. And I have been involved in trying to respond to some of the same concerns they were exploring as they planted.
This book also gave me pause to reflect on my own story -- it resonated as authentic. My wife and I were involved in the successful planting of a missional, multicultural church in urban South Africa in the 1990s. "Successful" in the sense that a continuing congregation was birthed; that we met the goals and intentions of the original vision; and that we both had a positive experience of leading a supportive, encouraging core team. The book also gave me pause to reflect on our second, more recent experience that has been markedly different. A key factor, of course, is that South Africa is still profoundly impacted by Christendom -- doing a few things differently and well, meant that people joined in with us. Canada, on the other hand, and the city we have been living in, has left Christendom behind. We did not attempt to engage with church people, or people with Christian memory, we have been engaged with people having no religious affiliation, perhaps even mildly hostile to the Christian story. And so the stories in Jared's book resonate deeply with me. Our work has largely been an experiment in imagining how different forms and approaches to Christian community will connect. Very similar to the stories in the book.
Chapter 7 in the book, "Do you know what success looks like?" was helpful. He says, "It is most important that church plants have a clear sense of their collective calling... your calling can be found in the reasons you decided to plant in the first place." That prompted my memories back to the first urges my wife and I had in 2009 about what we felt the Lord was calling us to do.
Thanks for your service to the Canadian church and church planters in doing this work, Jared.