New Leaf Network Reflections
One of my favourite things about New Leaf, in it’s start-up phase, is how much and how fast things change. When we gathered our tiny little group together on December 8th, 2015, to start New Leaf (on January 1st, 2016) we had no road map of how to get here from there – and yet here we are.
We started 2016 with a committed core group of planters and denominational leaders looking to flesh out some very modest plans; we didn’t know what the future would hold. By 2017 we had a staff of two; we were putting on conferences like “In the Company of Women” and “The Nones and Dones”; we assembled a large repository of stories of Canadian starters and planters in our new podcast “The New Leaf Project”; we began the New Leaf blog, and we had begun seeing ourselves as an actual organization.
In 2018 we are taking our “Nones and Dones” event on the road, our blog is starting to gain real traction, we’re working on rebuilding planter assessments from the ground up, we’ve just started a national multi-denominational research project on bi-vocational ministry in Canada, and we are widening our circle of partnerships. I write all this not as a chance to brag, but as an encouragement to you.
If you’re a starter or a planter and you’re reading this, here is my first encouragement to you: Start now. Start today. Don’t wait until it’s perfect. Don’t wait until you have it all mapped out. Nothing this side of heaven is perfect, and there are no maps for where the church in Canada is going. Please start now. We need your courage. We need your new ideas to begin. Succeed or fail, nothing will be wasted by starting now. I promise you.
This probably doesn’t need saying, but just in case you don’t know me very well – I’m no captain of industry. New Leaf isn’t following some secret playbook I devised. Here’s what happened: I surrounded myself with a team of fearless people and we got started. Some of these fearless people have raised their own money just for the privilege of doing this work. Some are volunteering their time. All are taking immense personal financial risks just to be here. It’s amazing. Some days it honestly takes my breath away. So there follows my second encouragement to you: find yourself a good team. With a good team in place you’ll have (in each other) all you need for the journey ahead.
The third encouragement would be to commit yourselves to these three things: 1) Listening to God, 2) Paying attention to what the Spirit seems to be doing, and 3) Trying something based on what you hear and notice. This is our master plan.
Listening to God
I know what you’re thinking… it’s a cliche to say listen to God. But I really mean it, and it often happens in community. Some of my most powerful experiences of God have been during my meetings with New Leafers. Courageous people bring out my courage and faithful people bring out my faith. New Leaf started because someone prayed for me. New Leaf continues because we listen to God together. I am also deadly serious when I say we are doing our best to pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is up to in Canada. It is no trivial thing when God begins to act. God moving changes the course of history. God moving changes the lives of people that join Him.
Paying Attention to the Spirit
Here is what people at New Leaf know: right now, in this country, God’s people are getting inspired and they are living out that inspiration. You might not be aware of this. You might not see it in the town you live in but trust us. God is up to something. I get it, we live in a big country and, comparatively speaking, there aren’t a lot of people around. So seeing each other takes work. To make matters worse, it seems to be part of the Canadian personality to never see the amazing wonder of other Canadians. We have a national inferiority complex that is both kinda cute and kinda deadly all in the same breath. Friends, we have to push past our need to be chronically unimpressed with each other and see the wonder; see the amazing wonder of God’s people in action. Once we take note we must elevate and amplify each other’s voice. We need to celebrate what we see. We must insist that we hear from each other whenever we gather.
We have something to offer the global church as well. It’s time to stop importing our ideas and start paying attention to what is going on right here in Canada. The fact that God is alive and well and already working among us is all we’ll need to know before we step into the future.It’s time to stop importing our ideas and start paying attention to what is going on right here in Canada. Click To Tweet
The third step in our master plan is to commit ourselves to trying stuff. Some of what we have tried hasn’t worked. Some of it has occurred in some completely unintended and beautifully surprising ways. Here’s our recipe for trying stuff. Step 1: Write it down. It’s amazing the authority that a google doc or a printed piece of paper can have. Step 2: Put it in the calendar. Where documents may fail calendars tend to succeed. Step 3: Ask someone to take responsibility. If all else fails make it someone’s job to care that this gets done.
I see a lot of exciting things in the future for the church in Canada. I see a lot of exciting things for the future of New Leaf. As a network we are committed to telling the Canadian story. To watch and respond to what we see. If you are out there and you’re trying something new, let us know. We want to celebrate with you. We want to see you. We want to tell other people about you. Join the conversation and let’s get this party started.