Thursday, January 22, 2015

Twenty-Two Reasons Not to Give Up on My Church

I’ve read plenty of Internet stories lately that explain why fewer and fewer people--including one-time Evangelicals--go to church. In response, I offer a few reasons why you ought to consider going to (liberal!) Lawrence Park Community Church (LPCC) before you give up on religion altogether. 
  • Yes, we think there is a gay agenda, and we’re for it. Gay—or trans, or bi, or whatever—all sexual orientations are definitely welcome at our shop.
  • Not married? Living together? Nice. Welcome. 
  • Evolution is a theory like gravity is a theory. Get over it.
  • Neither Eve nor Adam committed an original sin. And I am not guilty or condemned before God on account of any such mythic sin. This is as theologically dense as I’m going to get in this post.
  • Most LPCC members believe in God. But all members of LPCC are deeply impressed by Jesus' life and example. We don’t know how God and Jesus are related, exactly. We do enjoy wondering about that question, however. 
  • We don’t play any of that faux rock music known as Christian Contemporary Music. We do traditional church music with organ, piano, and an incredible choir. We mix in jazz, real rock and roll, folk, and even country and western occasionally. (Okay, country and western just once). 
  • A lot of people at LPCC are pretty well-to-do. I don’t criticize them for being capitalists and then go ask them for money when we need it. Our well-to-do members, after all, are trying to figure out how to be authentically Christian just like everyone else. They merely have their own unique challenges. No need to scapegoat them for that.
  • A lot of people at LPCC are barely getting by from paycheque to paycheque. Life in Toronto is expensive. We don't hound such people about tithing or anything like that. We do encourage everyone to be generous with both time and resources when they can afford it.
  • Sermons are short. Twenty minutes max. You’re in at 10:30 and out by 11:30—maybe 11:35. Why? Because I never met anyone at the door, after church, who said, “I wish you had gone on longer."
  • Still, lots of people come before 10:30, and stay long after 11:30. The coffee is good and the company is even better.
  • We don’t insist that members attend every Sunday. We have a saying at LPCC that goes like this: “We’re glad to see you when you come. We bless you when you’re away.” 
  • A lot of my preaching is about inspiring people to love their neighbours, doing social justice, and imitating Jesus. I’d love to see everyone plant a bit of Shalom whatever they do, wherever they go. At the same time, I try not to guilt members into it. 
  • We’re curious about theology, and like to hear occasional sermons that explore the great themes of Christianity. We don’t shove doctrine down anyone’s throat. Theology should be fun, like a playground.
  • We think the Bible is pretty neat. The Bible also makes us, at turns, angry, incredulous, happy, and confused. 
  • Not all sermons are from or about the Bible. We have four coming up this spring based on Les Miz, for example. The choir will be singing the texts, too!
  • Last Halloween about half the congregation came to church wearing costumes. The sermon was about death. I won't even get started on the Sunday we decorated the sanctuary as Oz, and I wore red slippers. Aunt Em's potluck, after, was delicious.
  • Hockey hero and Evangelical Paul Henderson, who most certainly doesn’t agree with most of what passes for theology in our church, preached here last year. So did Maria Toorpakai, a world-class Muslim athlete. Both preached during a four-week series on Sports and Spirituality. This year we’re doing a January series on Social Media and Spirituality.
  • Our motto is “United, Unlimited, Unorthodox.” We’re not really sure what “unlimited” is supposed to mean, anymore, but we’re having too much fun to worry much about changing our motto. Ambiguity can be good.
  • The pope suggested this past week that birth control is really bad. At LPCC we don’t think so. And I’ve never warned members not to breed like rabbits. 
  • The Youth Group is studying the Spirituality of Star Wars this semester. They go on retreats. Lots of pizza and fun.
  • We support community causes with generous gifts and volunteer hours: Out of the Cold, New Circles, and Camp Lake Scugog come to mind. We encourage people to give time and money to other causes than just church.
  • We had a three-day art show this past year that included a worship interview with one of the artists.  
And I’ve only just started. If you’re wondering about what you believe, if you want to be with other people similarly curious, if you admire the example of Jesus, if you want community, if you want great music, if you want people trying hard to be honest and good rather than hypocrites, if you want to go to a cool church, you ought to check out Lawrence Park Community Church, a United Church of Canada congregation that meets at 10:30 am on Sundays at 2180 Bayview Ave. in Toronto.


  1. Love your stimulating and thought provokers!

  2. Replies
    1. Why what? Can you articulate the question more clearly?

  3. An excellent summation of LPCC. Simply put, I enjoy a better week after Sunday mornings at church.

  4. Wow!
    Love your perspective and the basic values you put out there. Raised in the CR system. Looking for alternatives. Wish we lived in TO [but only for proximity to yer church...]
    Best wishes to you all! Refreshing and in line with our thoughts/beliefs. May God bless your ministry!

    T and J Venema

    1. Actually, I can think of lots of reasons to live in Toronto! But LPCC is clearly one of the best. Thanks for your note.


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