It’s been more than a week since I visited Church of All Nations (CAN) in Minneapolis, MN. While it’s true every church is unique in some way, I think it’s fair to say some are more unique than others. I went to CAN thinking that its lack of a dominant culture/race was what made it unique. I was surprised to discover a church that was unique for another reason entirely. Yes, they have a good mixture of whites, blacks and Asians worshipping together at CAN, but even more unusual is that this churn is almost entirely composed of millennials! I arrived early for the service and was warmly welcomed by one of the staff. Pastor Jin arrived about 10 minutes prior to the service, welcomed me with a hug and told me to sit wherever I wanted. The service began with singing and people continued to trickle in. By the time I turned around for the passing of the peace, there were about 170 people in the church and most of them were quite young… between the ages of 20-40! This is precisely the group that is missing from my church and from so many mainline congregations today. The sermon took the form of a group sharing of a recent mission trip. This church community has a relationship with an Indian reserve at Pine Ridge ND, and a group of 17 had just returned from a week there. I was impressed with the depth of reflection they offered. They didn’t share itinerary so much as spiritual insights gained along the trip. Their remarks proved to be a true blessing to the congregation. The pastor was one of the last to share and did so briefly. He said he’s been to about 40 different countries/cultures around the world and all these trips have now and they have helped him see his own culture more clearly. He said that the dominant North American culture which objectifies people and values them only as a commodity. is bankrupt. The church claims a greater value of the person and is embracing a deeper spirituality. later, at lunch later Pastor Jin told me that his ministry is primarily to millennials and that it grew out of his counseling of them. Through his counseling he learned how disenchanted this age group is with the dominant culture. They have stacked up extensive educational debt and yet they are unable to find significant employment. They do not share the baby boomer’s love of independence and materialism… they are looking for something more to life. He says they come to CAN because they hear words that articulate how they’ve been feeling and what needs to be embraced. CAN has integrated its hospitality to millennials within its mission. They operate about 8 homes for millennials who can’t afford the rent of a single apartment. Their rent is significantly reduced and they promise to live in community with each other following certain lifestyle agreements. He also has plans to start an ‘Underground Seminary’ this fall which will provide students with a debt-free seminary education (non credentialed). These students will also live together in an intentional community and their education will prepare them to do ministry simply, sustainably and intelligently among the people. It’s all part of preparing the church for the future where ministry must be done differently than it has in the past. CAN is unlike any church I have seen, but it’s real and it’s working. It is a community where hospitality is not just a program but a way of life. It is integrated into the very life of its people. It is a place that cares for damaged souls, provides shelter for those in need of a home, community for those without enough family, and a message decidedly counter to the dehumanizing aspects of the dominant culture of our day. It’s hard to categorize this congregation or its pastor. It’s not liberal or conservative…it’s other. It’s spiritual yes, but also deeply theological. It’s a mid-sized church but it operates like a family-sized congregation. It feels like camp but it’s most definitely church. It’s decidedly Presbyterian but it’s on a track that most of the denomination hasn’t even discovered yet. I’ve learned that welcoming and hospitality are not the same thing. Welcoming is simply being friendly to strangers. Hospitality is actually taking them in and letting them change you. Church of All Nations could write a book on what hospitality has done to them!
Church of All Nations – post reflections
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