Author Archives: Tim Heerebout

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Being Missional AND Evangelistic

One of the things I do to make church planting possible is look after my three year old daughter Layla during the day while my wife heads off to work a “banking hours” job. I get some work done during the day amongst her hugs and TV shows and then work more after she goes to bed.


It’s challenging and yet I find that following her around (and yes, sometimes I wonder who leads who) helps me by providing a wealth of illustrations for teaching. Take for instance the teeter-totter. Everyday we go to the park and I watch kids playing on this classic outdoor toy. Most of the time kids have a ton of fun on it – moving back and forth and back and forth, giggling and screaming because of the gentle swaying that they co-create. We’ve all done it and probably loved it as a kid, right? Occasionally though it simply doesn’t work. There is a law at work with the teeter-totter. It’s a law of balance. The two kids on the teeter-totter must be roughly equal in weight otherwise neither of them move and the toy simply doesn’t work, the joy is lost and everyone is left feeling ripped off.

It’s occurred to me lately that something similar might be hindering the functionality of my church planting and perhaps you can identify with it. See at one end of my teeter-totter is the need to be missional. I always take missional to mean that we’re doing practical things to show the love of Jesus to those around us. Acts of service. Radical love expressed in organic community. Things Jesus would do for others if he were here today. I find this latest buzzword helpful because I am constantly running into people whose beef with the church is that we’ve stopped being practical and helpful to others. So being on mission in practical ways is important.

However, I feel the sometimes I let that “kid” get too big and the “other kid” too small. The other kid that brings balance and joy to the motion of the teeter-totter is evangelism. I think we’ve been rightly convicted about how we share the gospel and think of evangelism. Too many of us inside and outside of the church have seen the sharing of the good news of Jesus reduced to a sales pitch and if you’re at all like me it’s made you a bit afraid of giving people the wrong impression of you and your church. You don’t want to be “that guy”. For fear of being lumped into “that” category you have chosen the way of “intentional community” or some other more missional approach.

The problem I’ve seen is that intentional community can become a community intentionally not sharing the Good News of Jesus with anyone. In these cases we let the missional kid become fat and the functionality of our churches breaks down. People hide in our churches because they know they’ll never have to take that step of faith and actually string a sentence together that is both true to the gospel message AND manages to speak to the heart of a person who doesn’t yet follow Jesus.

This is very real for me. The past year of my church planting journey has seen my missional kid get way too fat and, for a while, I think our church was like an out of balance teeter-totter – doomed to zero movement and none of the joy that comes form the ebb and flow of mission and evangelism working together to see people join the Kingdom of Light.

Can you relate? Do you ever feel like you’ve let your evangelism quotient be outweighed by an unhealthy approach to being missional? Do you have any tips for others that might tip the scales and put a church back into balance?

Start with the end in mind

Tim and Melissa Heerebout our native Canadians with a heart for their country’s largest and most influential city – Toronto. They moved into the urban center last summer hoping God would use them to start a new church in and for the city. You can follow their journey at

A little more than two years ago my wife and I had our first child. The best piece of parenting advice we’ve gotten, and you get a lot when you’re pregnant, was this: start with the end in mind. I’ve found this tiny phrase to have huge application in my thought processes in birthing a new faith community.

It seems to me that most church planters want to reach the people around them. They want a church that reflects a culture that is indigenous to their town. However, rather than starting by identifying with and becoming a part of that culture from the outset, the default starting position tends to be to bring church culture to the table. We assume church needs to look like, well, church. It doesn’t seem like we’re starting with the end in mind.

With that on our hearts, our approach has been different. Our first move is not to bring church to Toronto. It’s to bring love; to serve and bring energy into our local culture. We’ve launched an organization called Voxtropolis that seeks only the good of the city and places us squarely in the midst of culture creation as artists and promoters who leverage our talents for social justice. It is not, and I can’t stress this enough, and will never be a church. Even so, it’s doing remarkable good and placing us squarely in the middle of Toronto’s creative community as people of value, impact and influence.

In doing so our web of relationships has grown amazingly. In just four months we were able to organize a team of 11 volunteers and almost a dozen artists to host an event for more than 100 people. We raised $760 for Habitat for Humanity. The majority of the people there weren’t believers.

Starting this way is giving us keen insight into the heart of Toronto. It’s showing us how God is already moving. It’s providing a web of relationships we’d otherwise never have. We’ve started in the culture, for the culture, so that we can plant out of the culture. I look around at our events and think “this is what I want our faith community to feel like”. There was something strangely familiar about that feeling; like I was a proud father holding a newborn again. It will take time, maybe a long time, but I can’t help but believe that starting with the end in mind isn’t giving us an edge towards success.