Monday, September 17, 2012

AXE 21 and Canadian Christianity

The historical theater was crowded. The room was dark but you could still make out the shapes of the stone wall figures. The stage was dimly lit with colored lights and the fog machine jetted a steady stream of smoke.  The people in the crowd all stood up when the band walked out. The drummer began his steady beat and the bass and electric guitar picked up. The acoustic guitar player began to sing as the two back-up singers held harmony. A trumpet player in the background kept time with the pianist. Everyone was swaying in time to the music and sang harmoniously as the words were displayed with a projector on the background behind the band. Some hands were lifted with enthusiasm as more people filed into the theater to enjoy the music. English or French, the words are the same: allĂ©luia (Hallelujah)!
AXE 21 is a local "Urban Church" in an area known for being uninterested in anything Christian. This church stands out with their ability to introduce Christ to people of all ages. When I look around, I can see elderly people lining up for communion as well as teens. Their children's program is so popular, some have to wait in line or can't even get a spot because there are not enough teachers (for insurance purposes, the children's ministry must follow the same guidelines as a daycare allowing only a certain number of children per adult). The Children's program is a few buildings down the street housed in an old bank that has been remolded for the cause (the vault is still there, and no they don't use it to keep the unruly children... Kevin asked).
In the services, we can make out words here and there, and with a little help from the other MAF family, we can understand the general idea of the sermon. At the same time though, we feel very comfortable here. We have spent time with believers in several different countries but typically in a multi-cultural context. This was the first time that we were in a service not performed bilingually. For some reason Philippians 2:10-11 really hit home:

"At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

There are very few churches in this area, and even fewer that are not Catholic. We heard one story from several years back of a minister being imprisoned for preaching the Word! Really?!? In North America?!?!? Some have even said the area was over-saturated with certain religious traditions and that some words used in those traditions have become derogatory. Evangelical Christians are only 0.5% of the population - half of one percentage point!!! There does seem to be some movement though with church plants like AXE 21, with most of the believers being brand new converts. 

Our school Parole de Vie Bethel is working to strengthen and encourage a new generation of Christians. Many of these students (typically 17 and 18 years old) came here against there parents wishes. They postponed their academic studies for a year to instead spend time in the Word. The language school students (the majority of whom are missionaries) are paired with bible school students. We get together and just read the bible, allowing the bible students an opportunity to help us with our French. Ministry does not start once we African soil - ministry began when we first became followers of Christ. 

With this in mind, what is your ministry?

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