Joy Fellowship in Vancouver, BC, is a church that provides an exciting,
refreshing example of what it looks like to be a missional church in its
ministry vision, identity as the people of God, and its strategies for
living out its vision and identity.
Every body of Jesus Christ exists with a purpose in this world; Joy
Fellowship is not any different. Indeed there are special needs, but the
church still stands with a living vision: a two-fold purpose. The first
is "to help people with disabilities and their families to believe in
Jesus as their Saviour and Lord and to help those who are, or become
Christians to grow to their fullest possible maturity in Christ."
With the hopes to fulfill this part of the vision, Joy Fellowship
focuses on the Scripture. "The Bible is central," says Joy Gregory in
the interview, "even if most of the people can’t read, they know it’s
important." This was evident when the presider asked for volunteers to
read the scripture reading during the Sunday service. Three or four
people immediately rushed up to the front. And while they needed
assistance reading each verse, the passion for the Word of God was clear
without a doubt.
The second half of the vision states: "It is also our goal to
stimulate and help individuals and churches to reach out to neighbours
with mental and physical disabilities, and not only to accept them
spiritually, but also help them to discover and to contribute the
special gifts of the Spirit God has given them…" The word gift
seems to beat closely in the hearts of the members of Joy Fellowship.
When visiting the church’s website at www.joyfellowship.bc.ca, 1
Cor. 12:4-6 cannot go unnoticed. And the phrase, "The weaker are
indispensable" is the ethos of this community. Joy Gregory responded
immediately and fervently to my utterance of this sentence. This
transitions us into their identity.
Joy Fellowship view themselves to be "disciples, followers, sheep,
and God’s team." But one characteristic distinguishes them from all
others: their giftedness in their weakness. They see themselves as
people that have been individually gifted to nurture the body. It might
seem ironic at first. They are physically and mentally disabled and may
be limited in many ways. But I want to contest this presumption, for
there is no irony here. In fact, from my observation, I believe Joy
Fellowship understands more fully of what it means to be "a body with
many parts…with varieties of gifts…varieties of ministries…and varieties
of effects…but with the same Spirit" (1 Cor. 12).
For example, we were immediately welcomed by their ushers and their
greeter even before we entered into the church building. The warmth
cannot be compared to that of any other church. It was different. These
people were truly gifted in this area. Lezlee was one of the greeters,
and it was quite difficult to make out the words she was saying, yet
immediately we were engaged with her by trying to converse with her,
unlike the many churches we walk into as newcomers to say a few generic
"hellos" and proceed into the sanctuary.
Another gift this body posses is the gift of intercession. Every
month a prayer calendar is composed and for each day of the month the
church is praying together for the issue or person/people designated for
that day. Much of their intercession goes out to missionaries. For
example, when we visited Joy Fellowship, a missionary family, the
Janzen’s, from Brazil were invited to share so that the church might
support them in prayer.
They are also indeed people without fronts. There is nothing to hide,
they are as authentic as can be. They are who they are and they truly
come as they are, yet each are still accepted. Joy Fellowship is an
accepting community that receives all types of people.
Part Two of this article
will be featured in the Fall Newsletter