I’ve been attending Redemption Church since September 2001, back when it was called Point Grey Community Church, after I had moved Vancouver that summer to finish University. The practice of finding a new church was something at which I procrastinated, not just because I can be a procrastinator in general, but because of concern of my ignorance of the urban church, and how to find a good church. I’d only ever regularly attended my home church in the Okanagan, and only been there for about three years since coming to faith at a camp retreat. My friend Craig, whom I met at the camp, invited me to both the church and UCM where he’d been attending since the previous year, so I figured if he was there, it was probably a pretty good place. In 2004, I graduated with a degree in Journalism, and have continued to work as a Journalist in print media, specializing in Automotive Journalism. As I pursued God, within the context of community, he’s lead me to serve both within and outside the church, and given me the provision to peruse those promptings. By honouring God, trusting and perusing him before my own interest, I’ve gained faith greater than I had before, and seen God move in the city. These days at Redemption, you’ll see me leading the sound team, and coordinating Facilities, which for the most part helping keep the old building standing, which is interesting because it’s completely different from my day job.
I recently attended a Pastors and Leaders Conference at Regent College, with a group from our church, and it was quite a step outside the norm to be a part of something like this, as well as appreciate where I’d benefit. I don’t always do well in conferences, as they tend to be long, I tend to get bored or have trouble paying attention after a while, so I can walk away not knowing what the benefit was. Ray Bakke, one of the keynote speakers, spoke on the Theology of the City, which opened my eyes to how God brings people to the cities to dwell in, and how God loves and wants to bless the city. As a pastor in Chicago in the 60s and 70s, he had some great experience within the cultural revolution of the time, and how that played out in the urban church context. The bible is a rural book, which has caused the church to inject an anti-urban mindset without knowing it. We’ve seen this in western culture as we suburbanize, moving further apart from each other, losing the church’s place and community in the cities along the way. The church has even sometimes referred to the “evil” of the cities, and we’ve failed to enact biblical mission. Suffice it to me to tell you how to enact biblical mission, but I can tell you how God has lead me to in the city, as point of inspiration and encouragement to seek God, and be present in the place where he has you.
I experienced great community at my time in UCM, getting a lot better sense and experience of how to live my life in biblical community, to the point that when I finished University, the natural transition seemed to be how to then start doing that in my local church. God provided a sense that this is where I was supposed to be, along with provision of work and affordable housing. In 2008, I had a sense from God that I was supposed to be working for him, and while I didn’t know what it was, I thought it would have something do with writing. This would eventually lead to planting team for a church, which was being started by Jeff Wong, who was then the worship pastor at Point Grey. It felt bizarre because I never had any inclination towards pastoral ministry or theology, so had no idea how God was going to use me. The vision was urban, multi-cultural, with a strong sense of reaching out to those who were spiritually seeking, along with bridge building to pull people back into community who’d been hurt by the church. For someone who’d come to faith towards the end of my teens, with no previous experience in church culture, this was appealing, since I could see where the mainline church struggled to communicate with people outside the church.
One of the things we had to do was outline the vision into a coherent document called a ministry plan, which is kind of like outlying a business plan, in order to help the leaders of the local church and the local District office understand the vision so they can better discern and support it. The document had been written by Jeff, a couple of the other planting team members, was disjointed, even incomplete in sections, so my task became to try to understand the vision, complete what was needed, and make the rest sound like a unified voice. One might wonder what does redrafting a document have to do with starting an urban church, which it doesn’t directly, but much like you need a bookkeeper to balance the money and keep the lights on, it’s one of those organizational necessities. From there we promoted the church through a website, social media, and printed handbills. Jeff and I developed a good working relationship, because he had vision for what we wanted to see on the website and in our printed material, which I could then articulate into meaningful and impactful language which spoke to the people we were trying to reach.
That experience grew my faith, both in terms of hearing and responding to God’s call, but also how he might use me in ways which I’m not necessarily thinking about. It also helped hone a greater sense of place, which I hope this is encouraging for anyone seeking their place in the city.
Raised in Calgary, Alberta, Ian spent his teens in the Okanagan where he had a misspent youth in the family winery before coming to Vancouver to study Journalism. Specializing in Automotive Journalism, he thought this was a good idea since three years old when his nursery school teacher’s car wouldn’t start. He told her something might be wrong with the carburetor. When he’s not writing about cars, he has an interest in computers, history, politics, audio production, plus he likes to ski, cook, enjoy the outdoors, and spend time with friends. He’s been a part of Redemption Church longer than it was in existence when he first attended, and is involved in various aspects from leading the sound team to helping keep the building standing.