Rev. JOEL SHERBINO WAS ONCE SITTING IN A CONFERENCE. This is how he tells it: "The whole conference was based around this one question: 'If your church were to disappear tomorrow, would anyone in the community notice or even care?' And I think for me, that is where the rubber met the road."
That's a harsh question, and it led Sherbino to rethink his approach to ministry. "I've been minister at Paris, Ont., for almost nine years. Previous to that I was working with International Ministries overseas in Blantyre, Malawi. For me that was really kind of where I began to get a better working practical theology. We saw people's needs every day. The stories that Jesus taught in the gospels really hit home hard. When someone comes to your door and is literally asking for a glass of water. This is not a theological discourse, this is 'I am thirsty,' 'I need a job,' 'I need some food.'
"And so here in Paris, we've started moving back into the community. We feel that church should be less about making your life busy and more about providing avenues to build your faith in whatever spheres God has placed you. And so one of the things that we've done is to actually pull back from developing programs and specific ministries because we want to free people up to be involved in their daily lives with their families, with their neighbours, with their communities.
"There's an expectation that I'm not in my office, that I'm actually living this out in the community as well. I hesitate to use the word 'organic' because that's just thrown onto popular phrases, but it's just trying to be much more dynamic in terms of living out our faith in Paris, Ont., and figuring out what that looks like for us."
Sherbino also doesn't toss out the phrase "Missional Church" casually, perhaps because of the same caution since it has become a buzzword. But that is why I interviewed him, alongside Rev. Glen Soderholm, to talk about what it means to be a Missional Church.
If you break down what he said above, you'll get a working definition of Missional Church: First, 'Church should be less about making your life busy.' That is, it is not a thing you do on the side, another thing to make you busy. Second, 'Church is more about providing avenues to build your faith in whatever spheres God has placed you.' Yes, that's the key to understanding church; you're doing church at work, at school, at the gym, at the corner store, wherever God has placed you. And so, as Sherbino says, "We want to free people up to be involved in their daily lives..."
Think also of what he said about Malawi--if a person is...