What happens when an ethnic church develops a second generation who desires to launch out and explore God's calling for themselves?
A parent church has two choices. They can either hold on to them and hope for successors or they can release them and empower co-labourers.
In the case of Risen, this second generation community launched as a co-labouring New Venture on October 1, 2017 in Hamilton, ON.
Supported by the presence of their parent church, Hamilton Vietnamese Alliance, they celebrated together in a bilingual English and Vietnamese service. It was a chance for both communities to worship as an entire church before separating. As DS Stephen Harbridge shared a word of blessing, John Doan was installed as Risen's pastor with his wife Kristen alongside him. There was music and there was food, in keeping with Vietnamese celebrations: members from the Hamilton Vietnamese Alliance choir sang a special song and their parent community even invited a famous artist from Vietnam, Isaac Thai, to sing. The entire celebration ended with a giant potluck and a giant cake.
Releasing the second generation
Often ethnic churches see their second generation as the ones who will inherit the mother church. But when the older generation of Hamilton Vietnamese Alliance Church recognized that their upcoming generation of young adults and youth needed freedom and a chance to grow into their own community, they put together funds to help launch them off and released their second generation to follow God's calling. Leading up to the launch date, the elders of HVA had been helping and preparing Risen to become a New Venture of their own.
John observes: “When I look around at ethnic churches, I see a huge capacity in the second generation if we can begin to partner with the mother-church and work alongside yet individually - we can double our reaching capacity. How do we break off not out of anger or dispute but intentionally?”
He points out two key movements that have marked their intentional leaving and launching: "First, God’s Spirit working in our parent church: There was a willingness and openness to change in our elders; their willingness blessed and freed us to move in a new direction. And second, God's Spirit working in us: There was and is a willingness on our part, as a New Venture, to partner strongly with our mother church; it's easy to see a launch as a reaction to something, to follow the feeling of wanting to push out and away - but we recognized and continue to recognize our need to reach back in in order to grow and mature healthily.”
The delicate balance that he describes here is like the one that the apostle Peter outlines when he speaks about relations between the elders and the up-and-coming: To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder...Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers -- not because you must but because you are willing...not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock...Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:1-5).
The fruit of mutual submission is sweet.
A growing community
And it continues to grow: Risen has become a group of around 30 young professionals and additional young people who are empowered to find out what it is that God wants them to do. And though initially it was presumed that their immediate reach would be second generation Vietnamese, demographics continue to shift and rearrange and they find their immediate community and peers increasingly diverse.
Currently they are discerning God’s purpose further by revisiting the gospel as a community, asking God to refocus them and give them a specific burden. And they have begun praying together: “Lord, open up a people group or a part of the city that You want us to focus on."
We pray for Risen what Peter prayed for the early church at the beginning of his first letter: Grace and peace be theirs in abundance!