The Edge family of Home Churches and intentional communities didn’t start with the concept of Home Church at all. It began with a desire for more. More of what Jesus taught. More of what the disciples seen and heard and couldn’t stop talking about. More relationship and less corporation. More exploration and less risk management. More experience and less talk. More power and less excuses. In short, I guess we just wanted more of what Jesus promised and modeled for us.
We began as “East Edge”, one of the regional ministries of Centre Street Church. We would have started on our own, but the Lord opened the door to work together with an established church, and we interpreted it as the Lords will, and his provision for a strong start. We dreamed and discerned and prayed for a number of months, and officially began in September of 2006.
This was a time of great excitement, as four small tribes of about 15 people each began gathering in homes in the communities of Rundle, Marlborough Park, Taradale, and Harvest Hills around the city of Calgary. Living rooms came alive, and tables were often brimming with fantastic potlucks and conversations. Joy and a strong sense of family were experienced in these gatherings as people congregated, lifting their voices in worship over the music of many instruments, and deeply felt led by the Spirit in the movement they were beginning. During the journey, the Lord used authors such as Neil Cole, Alan Hirsch, Michael Frost, and Hugh Halter to guide and inspire us.
In the years that followed, East Edge would experience several challenges with the experience of loss due to those moving away, death, and various emotional challenges. However, the movement was also growing, and spreading. The “East” in the name had to be dropped because “The Edge” was moving out. New Home Churches were started, but existing Home Churches and communities were also embraced and adopted, such as Expressions in the SE of Calgary in 2012. In 2013, the first Home Church outside of Calgary was started in Medicine Hat by original “East Edgers”, Dave and Angie Noelle, and a major thrust was initiated into the South Asian community led by David Benjamin. In the last couple of years, The Edge has found partnership with House Churches in Vancouver, Vernon, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and a movement of HC’s in Cuba.
Throughout the movement we felt a sense of spiritual growth and expression. There has always been a feeling of continuity as we gathered in our leadership retreats, which is where a lot of the inspiration and vision has been developed. The Edge has really begun to embrace a culture of discipleship and investing in people. With our own publishing of ‘Imitating Jesus’, we are beginning to embrace the rhythms of Investing, Involving, and Inspiring those we are connected with. The Edge has always desired to be a community built on the foundation of loving God, loving people, and making disciples – by simply living Jesus’ life within the lives of others. This has been our dream and vision from the beginning.
Written with the understanding of mission in word and life, Bevans and Schroeder state, “If to be church is to be in mission, to be in mission is to be responsive to the demands of the gospel in particular contexts, to be continually ‘reinventing’ itself as it struggles with and approaches new situations, new peoples, new cultures and new questions. The existence of Christianity seems always to be linked to its expansion beyond itself, across generational and cultural boundaries.”
The house church movement is not anything new in the landscape of church models. I remember sitting with a good friend as he told me of his time in missional house tribes during the 1970’s and ‘80’s. Yet, the expression of these small intimate tribes must still find renewal as time passes and the context in which the gospel lives transforms with the present culture.
As Paul shares, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28) What the early church movement teaches the followers of Jesus today is that Christ-like discipleship is not about finding unity in what doctrine you clench, or in what denomination you find membership, or what church you belong. Christ-like discipleship is about letting go of any preconceived identity you might have of yourself, dying that he might live in you, being reborn into the complete wonder of an adventure that will unit you to the mission of reconciling all things (2 Cor. 5:16-21) to the reign of almighty God and his Kingdom. Using Bevans and Schroeder’s words, “In this way Christianity offers the world nothing less than a new conception of humanity.” A humanity we can call, the Church.
 Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004). Pg. #31.
 Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004). Pg. #98.
Before turning to what measures of success the early church had I think it wise to also recognize maybe some of its failures as David Bosch articulated; the first of which being that, “Jesus had no intention of founding a new religion.” It wasn’t until several centuries later that Christianity would become an officially recognized institution or religion. Jesus was more interested in creating a movement that transcended all institutions from the sacred to the secular parts of every believer’s life and the community they were a part of.
Although many in our movement still carry the baggage of the institutionalized church, we try to focus ourselves away from these old paradigms, holding our beliefs in openness while reconciling the gospel as we encounter Jesus in the everyday. In this way, we embrace and develop relationships with neighbors and organizations that are not always from a Christian belief and yet are part of our community, neighborhood, and greater parish tribe. This places us in gathering environments such as the Body, Soul, & Spirit Expo, the Calgary Centre for Global Community, and the New Canadian Friendship Centre.
A second failure Bosch notes is, “[The Church] ceased to be a movement and turned into an institution.” While recognizing the need for a skeleton in which the body can grow around, the church cannot become bonded to the institutional legalism of its doctrine. A Christian movement is defined when the members of such beliefs can transcend them into the whole of creation and maintain a centered focus to the reign of Christ. The Edge, while fostering its tribal communities, works at recognizing their placements within the neighborhoods they are a part of as the localities and neighborhoods to which they are called to serve. We are blessed to be a blessing to our neighbors and live the life of Jesus amidst the greater community around them!
Bosch’s last failure that he identified with is that, “[The Church] proved unable, in the long run, to make Jews feel at home.” Within The Edge, I see this in two ways; on the one hand, we embrace ethnic and cultural diversity extremely well with First Nation, Indian, Bhutanese, and Chinese tribes within our movement. But, much like the first century church, we struggle to find a constructive relationship with traditional and/or large church models. We need to work at reconciling our understandings of God’s work being in all forms of church, including those in large and traditional settings. The quantification of numbers is not what is important, big or small, and yet the quality and/or weight of voice speaking from such communities must be held in equity between each other. Still, I wonder if success has a quantifying difference between the two?
Secondly even in the midst of our diversity in contextual, cultural, and affiliational demographics; we must not let these diversities dichotomize or polarize our movement so that each solely views itself at the exclusion of all others and/or is unable to permeate the crossing into and overlapping of each others relational movements. The Edge must work at the unification of each other’s movements as part of the mission of living the life of Jesus in the lives of others.
As we consider the measures in which the early church considered marks of success, Bevans and Schroeder seemed to identify three particular signs. The first is, “There number was increasing daily (Acts 2:47)”. While as a house church movement, The Edge does not consider numbers to be a full measure and expression of success, we recognize a desire to see people coming to know Jesus for the first time while entering a deep and life long relationship with him in discipleship. However, we are more concerned with a more quality-focused commitment then we are with mass quantity of followers committing. This does not dismiss however, the need to grow through investing, involving, and inspiring new disciples who will also be living the life of Jesus within the lives of others.
Secondly they identify that, “they enjoyed an intense and happy community life (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35)”. As I shared earlier in the introduction, many in our tribes consider each other as brothers and sisters while recognizing the church as a family unit. We often meet and talk outside of the planned gatherings. Intimacy and developing a communal culture of joy amidst tribal living is second nature to The Edge movement! We naturally become an organic unit for inclusivity.
Lastly, they observe that, “they enjoyed the esteem of many in Jerusalem (Acts 5:12-16).” It is difficult out of humility to speak of the affirmations to our tribes’ presence but, in many neighborhoods, our friends and neighbors deeply appreciate the ways we have served and connected with them. Often as we enter community spaces we are greeted by name and even embraced with hugs and appreciations for our being there. We take the understanding seriously that if our tribes were to disappear in our respective community’s, our neighbors should miss us.
 Bosch, David Jacobus. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1991). Pg. #51.
 Ibid. Pg. #52.
 Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004). Pg. #17.
Reflections on the Early Church and The Edge Home Churches Today – Pt. #4 – Catechisms and Schools of Discipleship
“Election needs to be seen as a doctrine of mission, not a calculus for the arithmetic of salvation. If we are to speak of being chosen, of being among God’s elect, it is to say that, like Abraham, we are chosen for the sake of God’s plan that the nations of the world come to enjoy the blessing of Abraham (which is exactly how Paul describes the effect of God’s redemption of Israel through Christ in Gal. 3:14).” ~ Christopher Wright
It is this focus on discipleship that distinctly sets the early church apart from many other eras in its history. Learning from Jesus and the way he disciples, the early church recognized that, “people matter more than rules and rituals.” The catechism to which the church was to pass on, according to Jesus’ words in Matt. 28:18-20, was not meant to be simply a head knowledge or academic exercise, but a life transformational experience. As David Bosch states, “Again the difference between the disciples of Jesus and the talmidim of the Jewish teachers is striking. To follow Jesus does not mean passing on his teachings or becoming the faithful custodians of his insights, but to be his ‘witnesses.’” This was often expressed through a personal exclusively committed covenant between the believer and God.
Within each tribe’s expression of their rhythms, the practice of covenants varies and has different forms. While some tribes take it more seriously then others, some find there practice both in the verbal and unwritten sense, while others break them down and write personalized covenants with God as a Rule of Life commitment. Expressions (my tribe) practice a (I)Living Covenant following our rhythms of Invitational, Incarnational, and Inspirational Living; yet, recognizing the diversity in each of our personal lives, each of these rhythms are open to the interpretation and level of commitment by each member. As we practice them personally, we also witness to one another communally in our gatherings how we each have experienced them over the week. In this way, discipleship takes on both an individual personal walk as well as a communal tribal movement of accountability.
While feeling greatly challenged by this practice of discipleship, it has impacted us in some great growth and richness in our relationship with God and others. Success in mission is a question to which we ponder and yet we find encouragement by turning to the example of the early church as they experienced in a relational model and not institutional.
 Bosch, David Jacobus. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1991). Pg. #36.
 Ibid. Pg. #39.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” – James 1:19-20
Silence. It is a theme which has filled my life right now. Not the kind of silence where everything around me is quiet but rather the opposite. I have grown silent and for me, it is becoming stifling. It is difficult to write, to dream, to share my thoughts with others, and to speak in public spaces.
As a boy I can remember it being told to me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then you shouldn’t say anything at all.” In a lot of ways I can agree but at what point does it become unhealthy for a person? When is silence no longer good for me; even if I am struggling with the inner wrestlings of unease, frustration, anguish and that which is considered not good?
No; silence is not working out for me any longer. It is over taking me, drowning me in its deafening noise, and killing my spirit. I need to get it out. I need to expel it from my thoughts so that I might better defeat its grasps.
The things you read here may not always be right and they certainly may not always sound good. I just hope you can extend me some grace as I try to put this out so that I can possibly leave it behind.
Vision Casting and the Things of Dreams
“For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words… For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.” – Ecclesiastes 5:3, 7
Not long after graduating from Alberta Bible College with my Bachelors Degree in Theology I began asking myself the question; what is my mission in ministry and how can I tie a number of our past projects around an actual vision? I found myself drawn to the story in Matthew 16:13-20 when Jesus and his disciples where passing through Caesarea Philippi.
Jesus, while passing by the shops in the streets, turns to his disciples and says, “Who do the people say that I am?” Their answers vary from a teacher, a moralist, a prophet, and a healer. But he then turns the question around to being very personal in nature as he says again to them, “Who do you say that I am?” What a fascinating and telling question for Jesus to ask! I imagine the surprise as his disciples are taken back by the question. Jesus doesn’t care so much what the people think of him. He wants to know what his followers think of him, and more I think to the point; what they personally think of him. Peter’s answer hits the nail right on the head, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.“
Meditating on that crux in the question it seemed to me that Jesus’ words were transcendent over time. It wasn’t just a question for his followers in Caesarea Philippi. It is a question he continues to ask me and each one of us here today. Who do we say Jesus is? The expressions and answers which we give being worked out not only in our statements and words, but also the actions and lives we live out day to day.
This was a vision I could follow; this was a dream which took over my heart. Seeking expressions of Jesus as Lord in Life and Community. The birth of Expressions.
It was my hope that Expressions could be a community of groups which not only found and built bridges between our culture and the gospel through unique and dynamic ways but that it could also be a place where everyone could grow in leadership through the distinctive callings and gifts Christ’s Spirit placed in each of our lives. The movement of Expressions would not be confined by the traditional avenues of Sunday morning church practices alone but also find new ways to revealing the gospel and the Kingdom of God in all things and in all places.
I shared this vision with our home church community and with the elders. In discussion they seemed concerned over a few issues with Missional Theology but were intrigued and wanted to see more in the way of these groups taking shape.
Over the next two years I developed a number of groups including Re:Genesis, God at the Movies, Expressions of Compassion, Conversations in ESL, Mars Hill Adventure, Adorations, H2O: A Journey of Faith, and a number of community events such as the Grey Cup of Coffee Event and the Super Bowl of Chili. It’s not an exhaustive list of everything we did over the next few years as there were other events but, it is the staple of who we were. I loved every minute of it and felt as though I was living a dream!
Supporting these ministries solely on our own though, I soon realized that I could not keep up this pace while supporting my family and looking after my own personal health. I needed the support of other leadership and those who would dream, aid, advocate, be a voice, build along, and journey with me. So I again turned to the elders in our home community.
A bombshell was dropped. They explained they could not support us as we were seen as an “outside identity” and not really a part of the church.
Feeling Sold Into Slavery
“Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver” – Gen. 37:26-28
An outside identity. I felt so alone and unwanted by the elders and leadership in the church. We had been a part of the church community for over 8 years and yet we were still considered an outside identity. Still, the words seemed foreign to me and stung deeply. I found it harder and harder to sit in the back during worship and hold back the tears from filling my eyes, and rolling down my checks. I couldn’t do it any longer and turning to Bonnie I said, “I can’t go back to that church anymore and simply sit in the seats while passing in tithes. There has to be something more.“
I felt as though I was being sold into slavery by my brothers. We left. It hurt doing so as we have so many friends and spiritual family there. We still do. I just couldn’t seem to go anymore without the pain of those words cutting deeper and deeper into my heart. I only hope they can understand and find forgiveness.
Exposing the Elephant in the Room
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” – James 5:16
Over the last year and a half we have continued with a number of our groups in Expressions on our own while struggling to maintain a balance with health, time, and finances. In trying to support a number of our groups as well as our own needs; a few years back I took up a job in the local Home Depot. It wasn’t meant to be a long term job as I had hoped to find a place soon on staff in a church community and it wasn’t much in the way of financial support but, it helped with things and enabled me to continue with some of our groups in the house. It has been hard though as it leaves little time for personal health needs and times for rest or family gatherings.
In the last few months I have taken a few personal leadership classes as well as evaluational courses. They’ve been difficult. Not in the intellectual sense but rather because their forcing me to look internally at some things which are glaringly confronting me. They always seem to start with the question, “If you can sum up who you are in one brief sentence, who are you?” Searching for an answer this small voice I’ve been hearing over the last year creeps up inside of me:
- “You are a joke!“
- “You are not a pastor nor will you ever be one.“
- “You are useless and pathetic.“
- “You are the running joke of the pastor community.“
- “All the times that people have said that you are great at speaking, teaching, leading, ect… They are only being polite and don’t really mean it.“
They are statements which leave me with the questions:
- What is wrong with me?
- Is it because I am in a wheelchair?
- Is it because Bonnie and I do not have any or cannot bear any children?
- Is it because I do not have enough education or a Seminary Masters Degree?
Call it burn out, a broken heart, or call it something else; I don’t know. What ever it is; it has robbed me of my self confidence entirely. The more I wrestle with this elephant which has invaded the space I call my personal identity; the more I realize that I am facing a deep depression within myself and I don’t know how to defeat it. This depression has slowly eroded my ability to dream and find hope for the future. I don’t know if I have any meaning in my life and if I am of any significance or for any purpose.
This must change…
Repentance and a Desire for Reconstitution
“In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!“
This must change. I honestly do not know how, but I know it must.
“We need to learn the difference between the convictions of the Holy Spirit and the accusations of Satan!” Those where the words Scott Weatherford spoke from the front of a church Bonnie and I had gone to after I felt a deep need to be in worship with a community we had not been a part of before. I’m not sure why the words stuck with me but I just seemed to keep playing them over and over in my head. Perhaps God was speaking to me.
Looking back I can realize that this voice that has been speaking to me seems far more accusational in nature then it does a convictional calling to walk in righteousness. I don’t think this excuses the impact of the failure in human leadership within my story and yet I realize my struggle is one which is internally a true battle not against flesh and blood, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) I only pray God might restore my strength, redeem my confidence, and reconstitute the person he wants me to be in leadership and life.
Over the past few weeks I’ve felt called to commit to some personal steps. I don’t know where they might take me but, I’d like to share them with you.
- I’ve begun reading through the Psalms. David was a man after God’s own heart and I pray for nothing less then that for myself.
- I have a deep desire to find a home church which would encourage and help me grow not only spiritually but in leadership and ministry. This might redefine Expressions, and it may not. I leave that in God’s hands as it is in His Kingdom that I serve.
- I have cut my hours back at work in the Home Depot. This will make things a little tighter in the budget but, I need the time to focus on my personal health and to search out where God may be leading me.
As I mentioned earlier, I realize that things must change and I’m not quite entirely sure how. I only hope that these steps might help and as I take them, Jesus might show me and guide me to the next steps in the journey he wants me to take. If I can borrow Thomas Merton’s prayer, “My Lord God, I have no idea where I’m going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.”
I thank you all for your prayers and for the words you might share with me.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at Canyon Creek Christian Fellowship on Sunday January 2nd, 2011 about Living for Potential while focusing on Matthew 5:48. Although feeling a little rusty, here is what I shared…