One of the top three things you should know about Compassion is that we love the local church. Out of that, we love investing in local church leaders.
That’s why we’re so thankful for pastors like Jeff Lockyer, Lead Pastor at Southridge Community Church, a long-time partner of Compassion Canada. He recently wrote a book called Finding Our Way: Reclaiming the First-Century Church in the Twenty-First Century and launched Leaders’ Village, which Jeff shares is “a home base for leaders to connect and grow in navigating the daily challenges and complexities of local church life.”
We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Jeff on the Compassion Canada blog today to hear more about these new resources for local church leaders and why partnering with Compassion means so much to him and his church.
Compassion Canada: For those that don’t know you, give us a short introduction to Jeff Lockyer. (Other than the basics, we love to hear things like your favourite book or TV show from the past year, or the best snack you discovered during work-from-home life!)
Jeff Lockyer: I’m a former competitive long-distance runner, which, aside from continuing to define some of the hours of most of my days (although not competitive anymore), probably gives you a good window into my personality. On the upside, I’m focused, consistent, and faithful—kind of like The Little Engine That Could, in human form. The shadow side of that means I’m quite introverted, and rigid to embrace new things—what my wife would call “boring.” While not much a TV-watcher pre-pandemic (other than my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada), there were a few shows I really enjoyed over the past year or so—probably Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Morning Show as my favourites.
CC: You recently wrote a book called Finding Our Way: Reclaiming the First-Century Church in the Twenty-First Century. Give us the elevator pitch for the book. Who did you write this book for?
JL: First things first, initially I didn’t “write a book”. The chapters that became Finding Our Way started off as journaling exercises early in the pandemic. Coming out of Easter 2020, we were inviting our church community to experiment with spiritual practices (since helping people experience God at home was really all we could do back then!), so I committed to a season of experimenting with the spiritual practice of writing. Once I did, though, I was surprised at how freely things flowed. While I wouldn’t profess to be a writer, capturing how God had worked in my life and our church for the past quarter century quickly became a passion project.
Once I could see the book it was becoming, I essentially wrote with two people in mind. One was pastor, author and seminary professor Mark Buchanan. We’ve been friends over the years, and I respect him immensely. Knowing he worked as a professor at Ambrose University, specifically to help aspiring church leaders take their “head knowledge” and apply it to the real-world, I wanted my writing to be legit enough that a guy like that would recommend it as a resource to his students. The other target audience was my sister-in-law, Karen. She doesn’t serve in any official leadership role in her local church, but is very passionate about it and committed to it, so I wanted to write in a way that was everyday-readable enough for someone like her to track with it.
With that in mind—sophisticated enough that a seminary grad would benefit from it, but everyday enough that a garden-variety local church member would track with it—I sought to share the story, heart and approach to ministry of Southridge Community Church that could help other local church leaders more effectively foster Jesus’ Way of life among their people in order to collectively reveal Jesus more clearly to their surrounding communities.
CC: Finding Our Way is a really courageous and I would say compassionate take on what it means to follow Jesus and be the Church in the twenty-first century. When you think of the word “compassion” in the context of following Jesus today, what comes to mind and what do you think that looks like?
JL: In Matthew 9, it says that Jesus looked on the crowds “with compassion”, and uses a word that represents a deep, pit-of-your gut heart for people and a longing for things to be better in their lives. So, to me, compassion is simply a deep desire to see the full potential of others and actively invest yourself to their flourishing in Christ—experiencing all that Jesus intended and enabled them to be.
CC: You are Lead Pastor at Southridge Community Church in St. Catharines, a church that has had a longstanding and incredibly impactful partnership with Compassion. Before we talk about that partnership, tell us a little bit about your church—what is Southridge all about and why do you love leading that community?
JL: More than loving leading our community, I just plain love our community. Relevant information: this is the local church I’ve been a part of since I was ten years old. So, appreciate then, that leading Southridge isn’t a job, so much as it’s an extension of my compassion (or, probably more accurately, Jesus compassion in me) for the people of our community. When the people of your church are actually “your people” and not just people you’re paid to serve, it’s a completely different pastoral dynamic.
Southridge is what we call a “multi-site, missional church.” Each of our three locations is defined less by where and when it gathers on Sundays and far more by the core difference it seeks to make in each of its respective communities. Over 15 years ago, our original location in St. Catharines, Ontario, opened a 24-7, 365-days/year homeless shelter within our church building. And when we became multi-site, we launched “shelter equivalents” for each of our other locations, which we eventually called our “Anchor Causes.” Today, our Southridge locations are focused on Anchor Causes of homelessness, migrant farm workers and low-income families.
Knowing every local church seeks to reach out and serve its community, I’d want people to appreciate the significance of this shift among us. When I started in ministry, we invested virtually no resources into compassion and justice-related activity, and now over 70 per cent of our annual budget is invested into our local and global Anchor Causes. And part of that—which makes us such kindred spirits with Compassion Canada—is because fostering these kinds of unlikely friendships doesn’t just make a difference in others; it’s the primary way Jesus transforms us into His image as well. They say, “Experience is the best teacher.” And it’s been amazing to see the ways Jesus has revealed His heart to us through actively engaging in His mission, in ways a sermon or small group never could.
At the end of the day, that’s why I love Southridge—because, as one pastor once said, “When all’s been said and done, a lot more’s been said than done.” We’re a church that’s actively committed to incarnating Jesus in our community, not just to gatherings that talk about how we should.
CC: Tell us about Southridge’s partnership with Compassion. Why does Southridge choose to partner with Compassion and what’s one of your favourite things that’s come out of this partnership?
JL: Shameless plug: I wrote an entire chapter on this in Finding Our Way, so I’ll try to summarize things here. Every pastor I know wants one thing when it comes to their global missions’ engagement: they want to maximize their impact.
Digging a little deeper, though, “impact” seems to be the product of two somewhat separate variables. First, maximizing impact requires you maximize stewardship—whatever people or financial resources you invest, you’re accountable (in a Luke 19-way) to optimize the return on that investment. Second, maximizing impact requires you maximize discipleship—regardless of how much you’re able to invest into global missions, you want as many of your people as possible living like global missionaries to a greater degree.
After literally years of reflection and research, we landed on a partnership with Compassion Canada because they not only shared those two values, but they wanted to actively—and reciprocally—support our experience of those two values as we supported them in their ministry as well. And since their heart and model of ministry focuses on the local church, we’re approaching ministry from such a unified place.
At a practical level, we’re able to maximize stewardship by investing in Compassion’s Survival initiatives [serving moms and babies living in poverty] all around the world. For far less than it would cost to send one western missionary overseas, you’re empowering locals to serve and develop locals in ministry-multiplying ways. Then, we’re able to maximize discipleship as Compassion helps us grow our own people in their global missionary lifestyles through a variety of workshops, short-term groups, curricula, experiences and Sunday morning supports.
The linchpin to all of this, then, is Compassion’s child sponsorship program. Babies who “graduate” from Survival become sponsor kids that people and families from our community sponsor. Which, on the other hand, then becomes one of the most practical, experiential applications of their discipleship. In a family like mine, for example, we’ve visited our Compassion sponsor children in Guatemala eight times, and it’s made an indelible difference in the values and psyche of our family. Partnering with Compassion makes us more like Jesus and allows us to better do the work of Jesus—together!
CC: Tell us about Leaders’ Village. If you were to share one story or experience you’ve had that sums up the needs you are hoping to meet with Leaders’ Village, what would it be?
JL: We all know it takes a village to raise a family, but so often there doesn’t seem to be any sort of “village” to support the leaders of spiritual families. So, Leaders’ Village simply seeks to be a home base for leaders to connect and grow in navigating the daily challenges and complexities of local church life.
The key to Leaders’ Village is that it’s driven by local church practitioners, for local church practitioners. We don’t want to muse about how the church should be better, we want to share in-the-trenches learning and experiences with each other as to how we can do that more effectively.
So, whether it’s connecting with our website—for weekly podcasts or monthly webinars—or going deeper with the book, or getting serious and leveraging our consultants, Leaders’ Village provides people for you to journey together with in reclaiming Jesus’ Way among your people and church community.
CC: What’s your hope for the Church (in Canada and beyond)? When you dream about what the Church could look like 10 or 20 years from now, what do you see?
JL: Right now, I see dissonance in the Church in Canada. For the most part, it feels like leaders of local churches feel the church (or, maybe specifically, their church) is doing “well”, even though a growing number of Canadians are disengaged in church and disinterested in pursuing faith in Jesus.
To me, this speaks to what we’re calling the “Gandhi Gap.” Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I think most church leaders feel their programs are reasonably effective—or, at least, reasonably well-attended—without really considering the degree of Jesus the watching world is seeing through their community as a result of their participation in those programs.
To me, that’s the reckoning that’s coming. We’re going to have to honestly evaluate the degree to which our methods and models really result in revealing more of Jesus to our surrounding societies, and get back to the basics of incarnating Jesus in the parts of the country where God’s placed us. Attracting a crowd is easy—all it requires is leveraging the values of consumerism. Forming Jesus in people, in ways that collectively incarnate Jesus in society, is a whole different ballgame. I hope, over the next 10 to 20 years, we become clearer about the difference and, as a result, more committed to and effective in fostering the Way of Jesus among our people.
CC: What kind of leader should be seeking to engage with Leaders’ Village, and how could someone who is reading this engage?
JL: Leaders’ Village is for anyone seeking to foster Jesus’ Way of life in their church or ministry to a greater degree. Visit our website, leadersvillage.ca, or follow us on social @leadersvillage. Personally, I’m not much of a social media monger, but you could certainly say hello @jefflockyer on Twitter if you are!