IVP - Online Pulpit - Letters to a Future Church

March 16, 2012

Letters to a Future Church

An introduction from Chris Lewis

I first met Steve, Nathan and Darryl at Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto. We became fast friends and ended up spending a lot of time together; whether studying for exams, hanging out, playing for the school volleyball team or serving together on the student council.

After a year or two of friendship we suddenly realized that we had almost the same experience growing up in church, which is to say that we were learning things in school that we hadn’t while growing up in the church. Like any keen, young, white evangelicals, we decided to start an organization, which we called Epiphaneia (the Greek word for epiphany), and began to plan what became a series of annual events meant to challenge the church. We wanted the church to consider some of the ideas we were learning in school. Things like justice and the kingdom of God and sharing.

However, after a few years of planning those events we felt we’d grown a bit stale. We needed something different to get excited about. After a few hours of conversation the idea came to us—what if, in the tradition of Revelation, we had people write their own letter to the church in North America? We would organize an event called Eighth Letter around this concept and put the question to everyone: In fifteen minutes or less, what is your most pressing message to the church?

Once we launched the initial campaign we had letters rolling in daily. We received submissions from all over the continent, and felt honored to be listening to people’s pleas for the church and catching a glimpse of their joy and their pain.

We took some of the best letters and invited those authors to share at our event. We also invited some more well-known authors to share alongside of these people. The event was filled with remarkable ideas about who we are as the church and what we hope the church will become.

The highlights for me were watching two friends share their own thoughts at Eighth Letter. Janell Anema’s painful journey inside the church seemed to be redeemed before my eyes as it became clear that her story was our story. A standing ovation was the only appropriate response. The second highlight came from a masterful piece of music-as-letter by a lifelong friend whose journey with the church has been a vocational dream at best and vitriolic nightmare at worst. If nothing else were to have come of Eighth Letter, those two moments alone made all the work worthwhile.

Eighth Letter was the event we were waiting to create. With the reading of each passing letter it became increasingly evident that we were eavesdropping on weighted prayers, on the personal hopes and fears that we collectively shared about the church we all care about.

lettersOP.jpgAnd now, just over a year and a half later, Eighth Letter has become Letters to a Future Church. I’m excited to begin the process of releasing these letters to a wider audience, a venture that begin here at the Online Pulpit, where the next few weeks will feature content from some of the letters.

Chris Lewis is cofounder of the Epiphaneia Network, a movement in Canada to equip and inspire Jesus followers in kingdom ministry. They have organized a variety of influential gatherings of thought leaders and ministry activists, including the Evolving Church Conference and the Eighth Letter Conference.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at March 16, 2012 8:41 AM Bookmark and Share

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