case study: segregated spirituality

[INCARNATIONAL SERIES part 3]Segregate_2

As most of you know, I am the pastor for the young adults who are a part of a growing church across the street from the University of Calgary.  The university reflects the city of Calgary, which is made up of thousands of motivated young engineers, financial specialists and computer scientists benefiting from the wave of financial success from the oil industry.  The young adults in our church are generally well educated, single and very prosperous.  In other words, our church has many self-confident and self-able people between the ages of 18 and 30 who regularly are a part of our community on Sunday mornings.   
    Many young adults also join us on Sunday nights for a new gathering we have chosen to call “the Hub.”  We consider the Hub to be a missional network where this emerging generation can seek spiritual and practical re-routing for our lives.  We intend for the Hub to be a catalytic community where we will become better followers of Jesus not just when we gather but also throughout the rest of week wherever we are and in whatever we are doing.  We commune together in conversational teaching and a time of worship in an environment of warm lighting and round tables over coffee.  We structure the community through small groups (called “stations”), social activities, discipleship-training and service/evangelism opportunities.  We claim that the Hub is geared towards young adults as a networking center of activity where our stories come together, cross with one another, and then go spreading out again.   The priority, in our aim at least, is not the gathering itself but the witness to our community the rest of the week.  Since September of 2007, we have been enjoying this fresh networking and are seeing encouraging growth in numbers.   But even while the weekly teaching and studies have driven deeply into Scripture and our missional identity as followers of Jesus, I have suspected that many of the young adults in our group bow to the temptation to privatize their faith the other six days of the week among their coworkers and roommates. 
    Curious of this, I have surveyed several people who attend either Sunday mornings or the Hub (or both) and have confirmed some alarming avoidances of an outworked evidence of faith.  Many confessed that they acted “spiritual” at "church" and “secular” at their well-paying careers or demanding educational programs.  Though they seemed to sincerely desire integrity of actions, many admitted that their coworkers or fellow students were unaware of their belief in Jesus Christ.  Many confessed that they have never invited another person to any of our activities, let alone mentioned the name of Jesus outwardly in their regular, everyday social settings.  Few of them pray even once a week for those they interact with each week.  Even in the local pubs, where honest conversation can sometimes be elixed, the faith of many in our group remains suppressed and hidden.  Few co-workers or acquaintances on Saturday nights would know that many in our group are attending a seemingly dynamic gathering of young adult “Christians” on Sundays.  In other words, many of those gathering on Sunday mornings or at the Hub are failing to put daily flesh on their Sunday worship and prayers.  And, sadly, wherever that is happening, the witness of our community is feeble.
    It appears that many in our group, despite our specific attempts so far to re-orient perceptions, tend to view “church” as segregated from the rest of “life” (see diagram in last post).   Rather than considering themselves as a vital part of a movement of God’s mission in the context of Calgary, many in our group treat their faith as an inward affair, important privately, but relatively irrelevant outwardly.   The segregation is noted in one comment I recently received from a person in our group when they turned down a midweek ministry opportunity: “Church,” this person summarized, “is what I do on Sundays.  I have to go to work and I want to spend quality time with my friends the rest of the week.”  Sadly, even the concept of “community” fails to be integrated with "church" in this all too common approach to faith.


  1. Hey Jon, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your comment. I wonder sometimes how much these posts impact others… they sure impact me. I felt the same tears as I reflected on the seperation we put between our faith and our actions. I want to be surrounded by others who inspire me to live WHOLE for God. Thanks so much for your post. It really means a lot to me and encourages me to know there are others who long to see the Church be Jesus’ body on earth truly. I’m praying along with you! Merry Christmas my dear friend.

  2. thank you ken.
    thank you for being bold and for not being satisfied with half-assed commitments to our Saviour and our God (perhaps 1/7 would be more accurate than 1/2). I don’t say this to judge anyone or create any division (I pray that it would prompt the opposite). i want anyone that reads this to know that I struggle with making my love of God and desire to do his will be the true motivator and influencing factor in my life. in fact, i’ll admit that i was brought to tears as i read this post. it breaks my heart as i take a look at my own flawed life and as i consider the failures of the corporate church.
    i am writing this on Christmas day at 3:04 in the morning… i haven’t been able to sleep. I’ve been introspectively evaluating my spiritual life and how it reflects OR blurrs Christ’s example. I want to see the world (my friends, my church, the people that just happen to be in my proximity) like Jesus sees them. I have come to the conclusion that my spiritual life, though not abismal by some standards, is not at a level I beleive Jesus wants me to be content with. Have you ever felt that there has to be more… Then, very early on Christmas day i read this post and it is exactly what i need because i need to know that others have a healthy dissatisfaction with the state of “church”.
    I don’t want to be dissatisfied if it doesn’t change anything so I hope that others would pray with me… “God, forgive me for not letting you be master of my WHOLE life. Forgive me for being arrogant and pompous when the correct attitude would be humility and graciousness. Forgive me and your greater church for being your body only SOME of the time. Thank you for your forgiveness. And God, please do what it takes to refine us to be instruments that can be used by you. Thank you God.
    Merry Christmas

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