Innovation gives the excluded access to Christ

Published June 15, 2011

The Rev. Beth Fellinger, senior pastor of Destination Church, a church plant in St. Thomas, Ont., baptizes a new Christian in her hot tub.

Warning delegates to a conference on church planting that “we cannot sacrifice the next generation on the altar of our preferences,” the Rev. Beth Fellinger said that new approaches to church are giving access to the whole gospel of grace to people who otherwise would remain ignorant of it. “I would term these people ‘ignostic’ rather than agnostic. They don’t have access to all the facts and until they do they can’t make a choice,” said Fellinger, senior pastor at Destination Church, a new plant in St. Thomas, Ont.

Rev. Fellinger was a keynote speaker at the Vital Church Planting conference held in Toronto May 31 to June 2.

Borrowing the term “disruptive innovation,” a phrase coined in 2003 and widely used in the business and health-care sectors, she said that new forms of church that go beyond existing norms allow whole new populations to access services formerly open to restricted groups. “Cellphones and laptops are examples of disruptive innovation. These were historically accessible only to those with lots of money or skills, and now we can never go back.”

Also disruptively innovative are the burgeoning customized church planting, which, like Destination, are springing up around the country to meet the needs of the un- and the de-churched in a “one size does NOT fit all manner” (illustrated by Fellinger with an apt stage prop–an assortment of shoes of every shape, size and state of repair.

“Our churches are like these shoes. They all have the designation ‘church,’ with Christ in the middle, but they may look very different from each other, and that’s okay,” she said, adding that many need major reconstruction or outright replacement. “Sometimes we churches get too comfortable with what we have. You have to think outside the parameters of what is normal for you.”

Destination started with a core team of 17 and now stands at more than 200 members, two-thirds of whom are under age 27. “We held our first service at the end of January and we’ve now completed 34 services,” Fellinger said. “We have business people and social assistance people and single moms sharing meals together, and 60 per cent of our members come from outside the church community. “It’s been an incredible journey and it makes me want to get up in the morning, which can be a rare thing sometimes if you’ve been in the ministry for a while,” she said.

New church plants, she added, “allow a whole new population of people to access Jesus Christ who might not otherwise have had the opportunity because we restrict access to those who belong, believe and act as we do. We’ve so been tied to our structures for so long that we forgot to think for ourselves what it looks like from the other side.”


  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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