PHOTO: abeL baLuyOT
“Where the nations
Meet” is a fitting tag-
line for a church that
gathers 70 nations
into a congregation of
1,200, reflecting the
demographics of their
neighbourhood on the
east side of Toronto.
rather than pointing community people to the church, morningstar wanted to
point people to a home already in the community that works like a church, caring for its neighbours, offering free gardening, free Freezies and free bbQs.
in the early 1980s when Churchill Heights Baptist Church relocated to a new neighbourhood, they set about to be- come intentionally intercultural. About five years ago the
name changed to Morningstar Christian Fellowship (
morning-starfellowship.ca), reflecting what they have become.
Robert (Bob) MacGregor arrived as senior pastor in 2000
with a brewing conviction for a multi-site ministry. The leadership encouraged this vision through traditional cell groups,
which began focusing more on outreach in their Bible studies and prayer. Many cell groups chose to adopt a missionary.
“Connection Groups were redefined to become more focused
on reaching the community,” he says.
Love your neighbour
Mario Villanueva, a missionary in Spain, returned in 2005
to strengthen Morningstar’s outreach ministries. The church
had regularly hosted Operation Mobilization’s Summer Toronto Challenge – a great opportunity to establish visibility in
the neighbourhood. But Villaneuva and his team encouraged
a new idea. “Instead of pointing community people to the
church, what if we point to a home already in the community
– a home that works like a church, caring for its neighbours?
What if we had lighthouses all over our city shining as beacons
of the truth?” They sensed the need for a lifestyle shift within
the whole congregation.
A ten-day Bridge Builders’ training module equipped Con-
nection Groups to erect relational bridges from a Community
Lighthouse to its neighbours. Each group wrestled with the
question “How can we join God on mission in our neighbour-
hood?” They toured local mosques and temples, learning how
to share Christ with the world’s major religions right on their
doorstep. Five Lighthouse Communities, bathed in prayer,
were commissioned by the church as mission centres within
In July 2011, preceded by the distribution of flyers, 250 congregants – families, college youth, seniors and singles – took to the
streets wearing yellow t-shirts. “We represent your neighbours
(name of identified Lighthouse household) and want to offer
acts of kindness in your community,” they said as they introduced themselves.
As people dropped their guard conversations were stimulated. Work orders were accepted such as street or yard cleaning
and planting gardens. Invitations were extended to a free community BBQ at the Lighthouse in their neighbourhood. “Our
desire is to bless you and bless your community,” they explained.
Not only were community relationships initiated, interaction
among congregants was strengthened. Each host Lighthouse
was now exposed to its missional purpose. In fact, a small sign
on the lawn identified each Community Lighthouse. Neighbours’ expectations soared as follow-up events led to fall corn