Waterdown’s Living Hope URC: Building a church from the outside in

Rev. Bylsma leads the September 28 service
Rev. Bylsma leads a September service

Over 80 people attended the first service of Living Hope United Reformed Church in Waterdown, ON, on September 14, 2014.

The new venture is a daughter church under the authority of Living Water Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brantford, ON. Living Water’s minister, Rev. Greg Bylsma, preached at the first service from Matthew 11:28-30 on “The Sincere Summons: Come to Christ!”

Attendance at subsequent services has varied between 30 and 80, and Rev. Bylsma says, “People are definitely coming by to see what it is all about.”

To help generate community interest, a “Day in the Park” was held on the Saturday prior to the first Sunday of worship, beside the building where the services were to be held.

The event followed the “min-carnival” pattern Living Water has used successfully for years in various Brantford parks on Saturdays. During the morning, children participate in activities (such as water balloon toss and face painting) to earn tickets, half of which can be redeemed for candy and half for books and tracts on the gospel. Before lunch, organizers share the gospel with those in attendance.

The new church meets in the building of the Optimist Club
The new church meets in the building of the Optimist Club

Rev. Bylsma says, “It’s a great ministry that often sees anywhere from 70-120 community kids receive a taste of the gospel in a single day.”

That “Day in the Park” event demonstrates the new group’s desire to emphasize evangelism within the context of a robust Reformed faith. The focus on these aspects, rather than numbers, differentiates this effort from a previous attempt about 15 years ago.

Since September of 2013, several families from the Burlington/Waterdown/Dundas area have been meeting to study Scripture, as well as discuss and pray about the possibility of a daughter church.

During this time frame, a steering committee has been working toward the establishment of a daughter church. Informational evenings and informal gym nights in the area provided opportunities for families to gather for fun and fellowship while learning more about the church. Organizers have also read books such as How to Plant on OPC and How to Plant a Reformed Church.

“At this point,” says Rev. Bylsma, “we are really just beginning that exploration again, but with a more focused goal. We aim not so much to begin a church only if we have enough families, but to begin a church work if we see a need that families of that area can help fill with the gospel. In other words, we aren’t going to simply start a church based on numbers, but we are conducting this exploration to see if, by God’s grace, we can see another faithful, vibrant, outreaching Reformed church in the Burlington/Waterdown area.”

That aim is expressed in Living Hope’s stated goal of “being conscientiously Reformed and intentionally evangelistic to the glory of our Triune God.”

Rev. Bylsma explains more about the rationale behind the slogan. “When we considered exploring a new Reformed presence, we were mindful that there are currently a significant number of Canadian Reformed churches in that area. So we didn’t want to just start another church, and we didn’t want to start it to steal sheep.”

LivingHopeSept28PM2 (2)“To the contrary, many of the families interested in the work had a strong interest in seeing the church reach out into their community and bring the gospel to those who do not yet know Christ. So our early discussions focused on the idea of beginning a daughter church work that would, from the start, have a strong evangelistic focus. While emphasizing the need to reach out with the gospel, we did not in any way mean to ‘shrink’ that gospel down. Hence we remain conscientiously Reformed even while we are intentionally evangelistic.”

The Living Hope effort already evidences cooperation with local Reformed congregations. Rev. Bill DeJong, pastor of Cornerstone Canadian Reformed Church in Hamilton, preached at the first evening service and has been scheduled to preach again.

Rev. DeJong says, “It’s neat in terms of URC-CanRC relations, to partner with Greg Bylsma in support of this group.”

Rev. Bylsma will preach at one service for each of the initial six Sundays. Living Water’s elders work with the steering committee to secure pulpit supply, and Living Water provides accompanists when necessary.

Living Hope meets at 9:30 am and 4:00 pm at the Optimist Club in Sealey Park, 115 Main St. S in Waterdown. For more information, check the Living Hope page at the Living Waters website.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 11 & 12 of the October 15, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

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