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GUEST BLOGGER: Summer Missionary to Canada - Ashley Tarkington

Go to the ends of the earth?

Well I headed north, to Ontario, Canada. Maybe not the far ends of the earth, but definitely a good jaunt for a girl from Florida.

For the next two months I will be hanging out with the people of Starting Point Church. This church plant just celebrated their two-year anniversary in February. The church currently meets in a community center each Sunday morning at 10:30am. They focus on those who do not consider themselves to be “church people.”

What does that look like?

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When you order a refill to your water at Montana's Restaurant, this is what they bring you.

It’s a church, right? Don’t the people know what they are getting into when they show up? Well, maybe. I presume they understand the word "church" and what that all entails, but this strategy is working. Starting Point is reaching the “unchurched.”

The service looks and feels like church as we know it. They have greeters that hand attenders programs as they enter. They have refreshments and coffee in the back. They begin the service with a welcome from staff and a few songs, a video, announcements, offering, a few more songs, and then the pastor stands (or sits) behind a table and talks for about 30 to 45 minutes. There's even time following the service to talk with the pastor or ask him questions.

It looks like church, sounds like church, smells like church, and feels like church. So, how does this church reach unchurched people? It doesn’t make sense.

I mean, that’s how church has always looked to me. Maybe there were a few differences in the past - like the offering being at the close of the service rather than the beginning and there was that historically awkward time at the close of the services where we stood together, held hands and sang a song together. Sometimes we even had prayer together while holding hands and then at the "Amen" we squeezed each others hands as the cue that we were done.

So how do you look like a church and reach people who don’t like church?

Well, here is my answer (just my opinion.)I think it has to all do with the people. As some may know, the church is not a building. The church is (or should that be "are"?) the people of God. News Flash… The Christians!! We are in a world, like it or not, where relationships are key. There are no more Tuesday night visitation nights, no more handing out light bulbs door to door in an attempt to advertise the church programs, going door to door handing out pictures from your churches fall festival photo op.

It’s all about the coffee dates and small groups.

It’s about you.

It’s about me.

We cannot just invite people to church and think that will do the job. Church is church, regardless where you are. We reach the unchurched by going to them. We must love people. We must be friends with others, even others who are not followers of Christ. It sounds so simple, but it's still a challenge. We are to love God and love people. . .and love people enough to introduce them to God.

Regarding church here in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is that if people do go to church, they more than likely attend a Catholic church. There are very few evangelicals or Baptists, particularly. Many here grew up in the Catholic church. There are many Catholic schools in the area as well. So, Starting Point Church is a church for people who do not go to church. Though it may still looks like church to me, it looks very different to those who have never been to church or only have traditional, orthodox religious services in their history. 

Regardless the look of the service and/or the style of music, the church is people coming together as one in Christ, to grow in Christ, to serve Christ, and to engage with others for the sake of Christ and His kingdom.

Please pray for the Starting Point Church family and our leaders (Pastor Mike & Tanya Hauser and  leaders Neil & Kaytee Jimenez.) Though it is an exciting adventure of new beginnings it also can be quite stressful. God is and has been doing amazing things through this church plant in Burlington, Ontario. We know the best is yet to come, eh? 

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