Calgary is home to one of the largest metro populations of religious “nones” in the country. Over a 1/3 of the population would check the box, “no religious affiliation” when asked. The contemporary church, rooted in Christendom, struggles to connect with the emerging majority demographic. It’s here where we decided to immerse a church with intention knowing full well we had few answers coming in.

First off, who’s we?

Located in Calgary, AB, the idea behind Cypher Church sat dormant for two years as both Connie and I (Rohadi) considered the options. We knew the problem and the calling: living out the gospel to those who’d never connect with contemporary church. What we couldn’t figure out was how to turn the idea real.

Two years of prayer gatherings and vague ideas culminated in December 2016, when Connie suggested an event. An event? I asked. Not interested. Doing something cool sounded like the band-aid approach churches try in an effort to reach lapsed churchgoers. Let’s do deeper, I said. Let’s do a church plant.

Two months later, on a budget of $300, we launched our first monthly event (our worship service). Neither of us had high expectations, nor did we plan to be around for very long. Nonetheless, we committed to the attempt with no sending team, no direct supporting organizations, no budget, only the call to go.

The results have been outstanding.

For one, Cypher Church is still around 1.5 years later! That’s a big achievement when you have no guarantee what kind of community will emerge. We’ve seen….

  • Spiritual transformations, healings, a baptism, and the generation of an inclusive community.
  • Every single event has boasted new people we’ve never seen before, drawn in usually by the non-believing community.
  • Every event also has had someone who’s never heard the gospel before encounter renewal.
  • From the first event Cypher Church has emerged as a multi-racial community (no one group comprises more than 30% of the community).
  • A leadership crew emerged out of nowhere (existing relationship was there, but half were brand new).
  • The community embodies inclusion, rather than talking about it in creed alone. We break down divding walls of sexuality, gender, race, and religion. That means people across those spectrums are included in our community.

Why it works

There are some key attributes that I think are vital to our existence.

  • For one, Connie and I knew each other for years before we planted together.
  • The events relied heavily on existing relationship. We’re talking 1-5 years of work and trust in the urban scene in Calgary. Had we parachuted in with an event, this thing would’ve died long ago.
  • The cost is extremely low. We have raised faithful giving in the church and it contributes to our minute expenses and about 4-8 days a month shared between us in salary. Bi-vocational is a necessity.
  • We’re not trying to convert anyone, but we’re unashamed with the Gospel. In fact, it’s an expectation that coming to Cypher means you’re going to experience faith in a fresh vibe.
  • We translate gospel to the outsiders, rather than having them do the cross-cultural work to fit into a church world.

But to be honest, we still struggle with many of the same things your church struggles with. Namely, discipleship and mission.

Why this might fail

  • Our leadership group was built from Christians with one foot in the door, and another back in their home church. This pits a tension of knowing they can’t live out the fulness of their faith in a post-Christian culture back home, but all they’ve known is church services every Sunday. It becomes difficult to build commitment to the vision.
  • Discipleship is a long process. Do we have the longevity to seek the discipleship process out? Life on life is hard and it takes a LONG time. Longer than most contemporary church plants survive. Will we be patient enough to both give discipleship and relationships time to grow, and will our leaders adopt a value of discipleship.
  • Will the mission be adopted by the few or the many? It’s nice if one person “gets it”, but if we don’t have participation rooted in an identity of mission we’re toast. We’ll just be the cool dancing church that people show up to once a month versus the community that shares life together and ignites the city to Jesus.

How does our experience apply to your context?
Launching a church expression to a post-Christian culture as local missionaries is nothing new.
We’re not particularly unique in this regard.
You can’t create a Cypher copy in your context, but you can do something.
The Canadian church lacks a competency in the emerging dominant culture.
To address this need we need a multitude of expressions seeking out kingdom in the places the church has no expertise.
We need more missionaries doing crazy things.
These ideas are considered fringe because they don’t fit in the controlled box of Christendom.

Which is why moving forward we need better mechanisms to build and release more kingdom expressions–even if they’re just attempts–in a Canadian culture that’s quickly forgetting what the gospel even looks like.

Also check out New Leaf Project Podcast episode #43, a conversation with Rohadi about Cypher Church.