The past few weeks since our problems began with the Toronto District School Board have been pretty hectic. On top of all the usual work that needs to be done in the life of a church, Paul McDonald and I have been busy appealing the decision, speaking out about the issue as God gives opportunity, praying, and searching for a new meeting place for our congregation.
There’s a very real sense in which someone could ask with all of this, ‘Why?’ In the middle of all of this, the question of ‘What is God doing here?’ is pressing.
Perhaps the coolest thing through all of this situation is that we have never had opportunity to doubt, even for a moment, that God is at work. For the sake of God’s glory, today and tomorrow I want to highlight a few ways we’ve seen God at work lately. Today I’ll write about the ways we’ve seen God working through the troubles with the TDSB. Tomorrow I’ll write about how we’ve seen God work despite the situation.
What is God Doing Through This Situation?
An Unexpected Audience
When the situation first broke and I knew we would need to end our relationship with the school one of my first thoughts was to approach the caretaker who has served us at our school. I wanted him to be informed and to know that we still love him and are not leaving because of anything he’s done.
When I went in to speak with him I actually ended up meeting the school’s other caretaker. Over the course of the conversation it came out that he had actually been listening to some of our church’s sermons online! How amazing is that? Just because our church had been meeting in that particular school that particular caretaker was moved to go online and hear the preaching of God’s word!
I talked with him for some time and covered a number of topics. While I was unable to convince him to come to our church for a worship service, I was able to engage him with the gospel.
Some Unexpected Conversations with Neighbours
While we have good relationships with the neighbours in our community already, the Toronto Star article in particular gave some neighbours and some old friends from other stages of life an opportunity to reach out and talk to us about our church situation. That’s amazing! To have unbelievers asking me about my church is not something I’m used to — but I’m thankful for it!
A Surprising Gospel Opportunity
Just the other day while I was studying in my local Starbucks I had a conversation with a gentleman from our neighbourhood about our church’s situation. Interestingly enough, since we were at a large table we had an audience of other people listening in on our conversation as well.
Somehow as the conversation turned it ended up being one of the most remarkable opportunities I’ve had in some time to share the full gospel with a ‘stranger’. The Lord gave special grace in that conversation and I’m confident he had me there for a purpose and one of the things he did in advance to create that opportunity was bring about our permit crisis.
An Increased Awareness of the Pervasiveness of Local Churches
When we first began looking for a new place to meet I thought it would be easy to get into a Catholic school in our neighbourhood. Unfortunately, it has proven to be quite difficult. But the reason why it has been difficult is a great thing: there are too many protestant churches / church plants already using those Catholic schools! Most of the schools in our area are already permitted out for worship services on Sundays.
God has used our situation to show us that there are, in fact, way more churches in our city than I could ever have been aware of. And while many of them are small, the whole situation has become to me evidence of the truth of Jesus’ words that the kingdom is like a mustard seed. It will grow and it is growing… even if we don’t always see it.
Some New Partnerships
Because the situation we’re in has received some publicity, I’ve been overwhelmed to receive notes and offers of help from Christians all around the city and beyond. In particular, there are churches that we’ve never had any dealings with in the past offering us space to rent, telling us they’re praying for us, and asking if there are ways they can be of assistance.
What an encouragement! I pray that some of these turn into more long-term, gospel-advancing partnerships for the sake of the lost in our city.
An Unexpected Sermon Improvement
This past Sunday morning we were thrilled to have the Toronto District School Board Trustee for our Ward visit our church and join us for our worship service. What a blessing to be able have him hear us praying for him and for our School Board! And what a blessing to be able to preach the gospel with him there!
Amazingly, I had a great conversation with him after the service. In our conversation he showed me that he had really been hearing by improving one of the key illustrations that I had used!
So What Is God Doing?
He is causing his word to go forward, increase, and multiply. And we’re full of joy and praising him for it.