In this week’s episode, Ryan welcomes special guest Jon Hawes. Jon is the Pastor for the young adults ministry, Ethos, at CA Church. Ryan and Jon take the time to discuss the importance of community in today’s culture. It’s far too easy to become independent of community and instead view the church as a place where you receive something and choose whether you like it or not. Rather than seeing church, or community in general, as something that we can consume, it should be seen as an opportunity to grow as God has placed, in each of our hearts, an eternal longing for community. Yes, there can be hurt and brokenness in community, but that’s because we’re all humans who still make mistakes. Even then, there is room for us to grow and to forgive, and God is sanctifying us through it. So, take a step back and evaluate where you’re at: Are you fully opening yourself up to the depth and growth that community provides? Or, are you trying to do life on your own?
Who's our guest?
Jon Hawes serves as the pastor of Ethos, a ministry of CA Church that exists to inspire young adults to know Jesus and make Him known. He moved in 2010 from his homeland England to pursue a degree in biblical studies and has been pastoring in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia ever since. He lives in Pitt Meadows with his wife Leanne and their son Peter. Jon is also a musician & worship leader and is passionate about writing congregational songs for the local church that magnify the greatness of God in Jesus.
Hey, everyone. This week on the show, Ryan welcomes special guest Jon Hawes, and they ask the questions, why did God design us to be in community and what is He teaching us through it?
We kind of have this view sometimes of community being this consumable thing which we’re in control of. We kind of set when we want to be a part of it, how much we open ourself up to it. But when you look at what Jesus calls us to, there’s really this call to truly experience the life-changing, beautiful, sanctifying work of what community does. There’s a part where you’re saying I’m with these people for better or for worse.
Hey, everyone. So good to be with you. My name is Ryan. I’m really excited about this episode ahead, because we have a good friend of mine named Jon Hawes with us. And he is the Young Adult Pastor at Ethos, which is a ministry of Ethos at Coquitlam Alliance Church. And today we’re asking the question, Why community? Why is community so important? And, Why, more so, is the Christian community of the church even more important? And so we’d love for you to take a listen.
Hey, everyone. Good to be back with you. And I’m really excited for today, because somebody that I would consider a quick and fast friend over the last year or so is here with me today. His name is Jon Hawes. And he is the Young Adults Pastor at Coquitlam Alliance Church. And his young adults group is called Ethos.
Jon, it’s a joy to have you, man.
Ryan, it’s good to be here today. It really is. I’m excited to be with you.
So we would love to hear a little bit more about Jon Hawes. What’s your story? What was your first interaction with Jesus, what was it like for you to be called to ministry, and how did you land up now as the Pastor of Young Adults at Ethos as a part of Coquitlam Alliance?
Sure. I’ll do my best to be concise. I grew up in England. I’m from the southeast of England, near a city called Brighton. And I grew up there for the first 17 years of my life. My parents are both Christians and I grew up in kind of an evangelical Anglican church, so a little bit more liturgical. And then I had a couple of years heading into more of a Pentecostal atmosphere. It was a bit of a jump from the Anglican world, because all my friends left the Anglican Church and went to this other one. And so I joined them.
So I had my toes dipped into the charismatic world for a while. And then … I had always wanted to be pursuing … well, always, I guess, when I was 12 years old I decided I can’t be a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force because that would mean killing people. And I was becoming a bit of a pacifist. And I figured what would happen if I killed someone with a missile who didn’t know Jesus yet? I didn’t think that was okay.
And so I didn’t have the full theology formed yet, but so I decided instead of flying airplanes maybe I should design them. So I was wanting to pursue aerospace engineering. So that was kind of where I was heading and I had my place to study. The only thing was, I had to wait a year. So in that deferred year, I decided, you know what, I think preparing myself for university through spending some time at Bible college would be a good idea.
So I literally Googled, “Canada, one year, Bible college,” and up came Pacific Life Bible College in Surrey, BC. And I came out to Canada for this one year transition period to prepare my heart, kind of get ready for this time heading into Aerospace Engineering. And to cut a very long story short, in that year my life just completely changed. I encountered God, I feel like, in the most personal that I have in my life so far.
And Romans 12 talks about our desires, our minds being renewed. And that was happening for me. New joys and new experiences and things that I was finding satisfaction in just started popping up. And I just felt this whole calling to ministry start to form. And there were people in my life who were speaking things of wisdom and confirming giftings in me and speaking things out. Through a process of discernment over that year, it became clear to me that God was calling me to leave behind the Engineering ambition and to pursue Pastoral Ministry.
And so that was almost 8 years ago now, Ryan. And I’ve been in Canada subsequently 8 years. I completed my Biblical Studies degree and had a wonderful time getting connected with the Coquitlam Alliance. I think it was my third week in Canada, I started attending Ethos, which was the young adults, and still is, ministry of Coquitlam Alliance Church. My friend brought me along. And I was involved in music. And after a few years of serving there I was asked if I wanted to take the Worship Pastor position there. And so that’s how I got into CA Church. And so for the past four, five years, I’ve been doing that role at Ethos, leading up people in worship. And then this summer recently in August, I transitioned over to pastoring the ministry as a whole.
That’s insane. That’s awesome. That’s such a good story. I think what I love most is, you’ve kind of got this idea of, oh yeah, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to go to school for a year and then I’m going to go back to what my plan was, or my plan is. And God’s like, nope. I got something else for you. And He’s leading you … and I think that happens all the time, whether we see it like that or not. But I think that idea of the fact that God sees something in you, calls you out and says, “This is what I have for you…” I think that’s incredible.
So you’ve been the Young Adults Pastor at Ethos for four to five months already. What are you finding right now? Where are you at with your young adults, whether it’s in what you’re teaching or the types of things that you sense are coming up, pastoral issues? I think one of the questions that I have is what is God up to right now? Despite the cultural implications of wherever we live in the world, really, there’s this sense of, God, what are you up to? And a lot of times we look at the New Testament and we see all these letters written to churches, and God was up to something different at different places. But all through the New Testament, Letters from Paul or whoever, there’s central themes, right? And so I think what I’d love to hear from you is just what are some of the things that you and your ministry area are going through. And what do you feel like a lot of young adults are longing for in terms of their relationship with God?
Well, I think one of the things when I came into Ethos that I really wanted to address was coming up with, trying to understand why has God created the church? Why do we do this in community? Why are we not just called to do this on our own and make the best of it? But in terms of when we gather together, why has God designed that? And when we come together as the church, what are the kinds of things that God is wanting to form in us, in community, that couldn’t be formed in us by ourself?
And so in that, you have some really great things, the encouraging things, like we get to come together and we’re reminded, “Hey, we’re not alone.” And we get to sing together and we get to be encouraged and pray with one another. And, you know, it’s a way for us to be encouraged on our Christian journey. But then there’s also the difficult parts of community that are just as God designed.
So one of the things that I see often with young adults is … and I think this is true of all generations, but specifically perhaps for millennials is this, that we’re quite quick to switch our allegiances in our different church groups. And I think we can quickly, when it comes to community, become consumers. And so, often our view of church might be that I’m attending something to receive some religious goods that are being packaged to me, whether it’s a really wonderful worship experience or it’s a really deep teaching that’s feeding me every single week. And we show up and we kind of expect that to be given to us, and then we leave.
And what can happen is, maybe something goes a little bit wrong with the relationship somewhere. Some tension enters the picture, or maybe the sermon isn’t as relevant that particular week, or the music isn’t particularly their style. And what can happen is we can quickly think that church isn’t doing its’ thing for us anymore and we need to go find a new one. And this is a problem with our understanding of what it means to be in church. Because one of the things that’s so important, and I wanted to help Ethos as a community see this, is that even in the difficult parts, so when there’s a relationship that breaks down, or when there’s a song or music style that you don’t like, or perhaps maybe as it doesn’t look exactly like you want it to look, it’s actually in those moments that God is sanctifying you. Which really just means He’s growing you more to look like Jesus.
So it’s not only in the bits that kind of align with, this is exactly what I want from church; but actually as you learn to come and be part of a community where you’re going to have to lay aside some of your preferences. And you’re going to, maybe when there’s a relationship that’s difficult or there’s a group of people that you don’t really get along with, it’s actually in learning to deal with that properly, in a Christ-like way, that God wants to grow you through community.
So there’s growth both ways, through the really great, wonderful easy stuff that we love and is encouraging, but also just as much in that difficult, kind of uncomfortable part of community. It’s actually in that that we gain characteristics and God grows us to experience more of Himself in a way that we wouldn’t otherwise if we hadn’t gone through that.
Yeah. I love that. I think there is so much in there that is worth talking about and getting into. Because when you say that, I think of a lot of the times … this idea of the lone wolf, you know, I can do it on my own. I don’t need the church body. I don’t need people. I can just figure it out on my own. And we’re always inundated with this information, right? You watch a movie and it’s like, there’s the protagonist, and he or she is the hero. And they’re the Lone Ranger; they saved the world all by themselves. “Oh, if we didn’t have that one person.” And if we’re honest, we all want to be that person. But the reality is, we’re not. And Jesus is. And so we actually need community. We need each other. We need to be in relationship for our growth and our maturity. And I talked with a lot of people who, they’re like, “Yeah, I’m a Christian. But I don’t like the church.” And I really push back. And I really question that. I’m like, scripture affirms that Christ died for the church, His bride. And he gave His life up for her and the invitation for us is to walk in that, in community.
And in the midst of all that, there’s a lot of reasons why people don’t want to be in community, right? The problem isn’t necessarily the church as an institution. It’s the fact that the church is full of people, right? And it’s a natural consequence of being together that there’s hurt or challenge. But that’s even one of the promises of scripture. As iron sharpens iron. As we go through life together, we are going to sharpen each other. We hope that we sharpen each other; we hope that we bring each other closer and closer to what it means to be a follower of God, an apprentice of the Truth, somebody who walks in the Light.
And this is, I think, a big thing. I think a lot of young people are starting to realize that. That they can’t do it on their own, right? They can’t just have their online forum group or their Reddit page or their Facebook group or their Snapchat friends. It’s not enough. We need deeper community. So you’ve seen this in your own ministry. I’m curious. What are some of the things that you as a pastor are trying to do to help encourage community? Because we need it.
I think what we often do as Christians, as those who want to get to know Jesus more, we want to follow Him, we often see the community piece as another thing for us to consume. So we’re in a place where, you know, I’m going to decide how much entertainment I bring into my life this week so I’m going to have access to that, I’m going to choose it. This week I’m going to choose the people that I want to hang out with. And I’ll have choices and preferences over what I want to eat, what I want to put into my body. Then we think, “Okay, am I in a mood this week for community or not? I think I am. I think I’ll go. Yeah, I kind of feel like it this week.” And we kind of have this view sometimes of community being this consumable thing which we’re in control of. We kind of set when we want to be a part of it, how much we open ourself up to it. But when you look at what Jesus calls us to, and when you even look at some of what we’ve been looking at in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesian Church, there’s really this call to truly experience the life-changing, wonderful, beautiful, sanctifying work of what community does. There’s a part where you’re saying, “I’m with these people for better or for worse.” And we are together committing to one another.
Because I think what often happens, Ryan, is that people go, “Okay, I went to this young adult service once. And it wasn’t really doing it for me. I don’t really connect with anyone. I’m going to go to this one down the street next week.” And they’re there for a few weeks and after that it just doesn’t seem to be clicking so they go somewhere else. What’s happening is that someone’s pursuing something. They’re wanting to be known. They’re wanting to have an experience where they feel like they connect somewhere. But they’re looking to these external things, whether it’s the music or the preaching, whatever it might be, as the markers for where that’s going to happen.
And the reality is the thing that they’re looking for in hopping all of these places, they’re actually only ever going to find it if they stop and stay, and stick through the hard things, and lay aside some personal preferences, and actually open up and become vulnerable with a group of people that you’re going to commit to. And that’s the scary thing about church is that you are committing to opening up your life and doing life with a group of people.
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One of the things that we’re trying to do at Ethos is get back to some of the practices that really helped the early church form community. So one of those things is … you see this throughout the Book of Acts. I mean, if we look at Acts 2 even just as a picture of what the church was doing. This was the post-Ascension, Jesus is headed up to heaven, and this is kind of the first, how is the church forming? And three times we see really clearly, eating together was a big deal for the church.
And so when it comes to community, especially in our culture, where it’s kind of weird now for us to imagine the people who live on our street, if we were to think of our neighbors and invite them over for dinner, we’d kind of think that was weird. Our homes are quite shut off. And I think for many of us, our homes are seen as these retreat centers. Places where we get home and we shut out the world and this is kind of our box where we have our comfort, we have our Netflix, and we can just be here and do our thing.
But that’s not how it was in the early church. Homes and the practice of eating together was so formative for building deep community. Because everyone wants community. Everyone wants to be known. But the thing is, and I know this … I lead a community group and I’m being really honest … there are some nights where it’s an hour before my community group. I’ve been out at work all day and I get home and I’m like, “I just want to be by myself right now.” But when I lay that aside and I allow community to happen and I commit to it, I always leave like, “That was so worthwhile. I’m so encouraged.”
So, one of the things we’re trying to do is encourage this Biblical practice of eating. I love food and I love that the Bible has a theology of food. And so Ryan, we started in September these new nights at Ethos called Family Nights. And they’re really simple. This is nothing revolutionary. We’re simply inviting young adults. Instead of having our regular service which happens … it’s kind of a normal church service geared towards young adults on a Sunday night … The fourth Sunday of every month, instead of that service what we’re doing is these things called Family Nights. So the first component of that is just a massive meal. Just a pot-luck. We get these massive long tables and try to get a group of young adults out. Everyone brings something, kind of thinks intentionally, how can they serve others through the dishes that they’re going to bring. We come together and … it’s amazing. I mean, last time we did this we had I think it was about 25 people from outside our community, who weren’t Christians, that were invited to come. And friends were just able to say, “Hey, we’re having a big meal this weekend. Would love to invite you to meet some of my friends.”
And they came along. And I had these people coming up to me and saying, “So you’re the pastor? I just kind of was wondering, what are you guys celebrating today? What’s this about? What’s the occasion?” There is no occasion. This is just, like, don’t you want to do life like this, with a bunch of people who are supporting and loving and doing life together? So we’re trying to get people once a month around a table as a way to build community, as a way to think intentionally about how we invite other people into our community. And then to get us thinking, how would it look if our homes were no longer just these retreat places but what if we had our own Family Nights in our own homes? Where we were looking to those people, whether it’s at our universities or colleges or our workplaces … and we know they’re lonely. We know they’re looking for human comfort. Everyone wants to be known. And what if we were to invite them over and start allowing food and our dinner tables to be a place for mission in our own homes? So that’s something, when it comes to the community piece, in a culture, especially in the Lower Mainland here in Vancouver, of isolation where everyone is so far apart. Bringing people together through simple things like food I think is a really powerful tool for the church.
Oh, yeah. And it’s easy, right?
Food is so easy. Somebody might be like, “Oh, I can’t do this, I can’t do that. There’s so many things that I can’t do.” You know what you can do? You can order pizza online.
Pick up some nuggets.
You can pick up some nuggets, man. You can go to McDonald’s, get the dipping sauce tray and just go wild. Look, getting people around food is really easy. But it’s actually something that invites us all into a depth of openness. And I think one of the things that I’m hearing you say that really is sticking out is, we all need food, so let’s do it together. But another one is, we all have a need for genuine community and interaction with one another. And not just the superficial, not just through the lens of a camera on an iPhone or whatever. We actually need human interaction. And we are going to be stirred up and challenged and encouraged in this. And I think that need is a symbol of an even deeper need for our relationship and longing with God.
In the Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, it’s written that God has put eternity in the hearts of humans. And there’s this eternal longing that we all have, and I would say it’s an internal longing for union with God. And He invites us into that. And based on the fact that we even need relationship with others is step toward stepping out of ourselves and saying, “Hey, maybe this whole life that I’ve grown up in and maybe this whole world that I’ve perceived is actually not about me. Maybe it’s about what I can contribute to the table. What I bring to the community.”
I used to go to a church and when I was there there was this lady … one of my friend’s moms. And I remember sitting downstairs during the service and she would always sit across the sanctuary in the balcony to the left. Always she would be there. And I remember one Sunday being just discouraged or frustrated with the community that I had or the community I was in. And I remember looking up at her and we were in the middle of worship, and she was just up there sitting by herself with her hands raised worshiping Jesus. And I thought to myself for the first time, just her being there together with me is an encouragement to my faith.
And I think this idea of community is also … we can recognize that there’s purpose in it. We need people, but other people need us. And showing up to a dinner is actually part of living out the gospel in everyday lives. And I think sometimes we’ve been inundated with the last maybe 15-20 years of church life, or how church goes, that it’s a platform with a speaker with their Bible open. Or it’s a arena with a huge massive 40,000 people listening. We think of Billy Graham. But really when the church gets lit on fire, it’s because everyday ordinary people are saying, “Okay, God, I want you to use me.” And being in community is a place where that happens so easily.
And anyone can do it, whether you’re successful in terms of the world with finance or comfort or whatever. Or you feel like you don’t bring anything to the table. You feeling like you don’t bring anything to the table actually brings something to the table that others learn in and grow in how to love and how to love people who are different than us. And I think that’s something we see in the Gospels. Jesus opening up the table. Sitting with prostitutes, sitting with tax collectors. I love that line where he goes to eat with Zacchaeus, and it’s like, “You’re going to go to his house? That guy’s a tax collector.” Jesus is like, “Yeah. I’m going to go to his house.”
It’s so easy, yet it’s almost like it’s so profound. Where have we been? We’ve been asleep through this whole idea of community for the last 30 years. I don’t know. What do you think about that?
I think that’s so true. That the power of people … and I think this is where the church starts to come alive missionally, when you have a group of people who realize that their identity is not based on what they have to offer in terms of their gifts or how wealthy they are or how much social status they have. But their worth and value is in who Christ says they are. When you have a group of people who are like that, whose identity is based solely on the fact that they are in Jesus, that Jesus says, “You are beloved sons. You are beloved daughters.”
When you have a community of people that start to get that, and then outsiders come in, there is this radical ability to love. And the inclusion that someone can feel from the outside to that kind of a loving community … because the beautiful thing about Biblical community when it’s founded on who Jesus says we are, is that it allows for people coming in to be loved for who they are. There’s no ulterior motive. There’s no positioning of, “Oh, I’m going to get close to this person because they’re influential. Or, I hope this person doesn’t find this out of me because then…” No. We are all starting from this point that we a community of broken people.
And I think what’s happened in the past is the church has kind of become known for perhaps being a place where those who have it together or those who somehow think they’re better or holier come together and feel good about themselves. Which I think is so far from the picture of what we see in Jesus, which is bringing together a bunch of fundamentally broken people. And coming together, having who Jesus says that we are radically changing how we see ourselves and how we see others. And then allowing the love that has moved towards us in Jesus, we can then go and extend that to other people in this beautiful, incredible way.
So I often say to Ethos at our pre-service prayer, I always say after we’ve prayed, “Hey guys, we have this opportunity right now. There are people coming in and they are wondering, does anyone care that I’m here. And we can say with absolute confidence, yes, we do. And the love that we’ve received and got to live in of Jesus changes our hearts to be loving and radically accepting to other people who come in.” And I often say this phrase, “That I want people to leave Ethos for the first time going, that was really weird.” “I’ve never experienced that level of connectedness. I’ve never experienced that level of people reaching out into conversation. I’m leaving with three invitations to go over to someone’s house for dinner, and I just met them. That’s the weirdest night of my life, but maybe the best.”
So that’s the kind of community that I think will really start to change things. Because it’s not talking about church based on telling people why they can’t be in or everything that we’re against. But the love of Jesus radically changing our hearts, just, it does something where we now become this instrument of His love to reach out to those who are broken, reach out to those who are lonely, and to then bring them in. So I think that’s something that’s so wonderful about community when it’s operating healthily, when it’s based on a foundation that Jesus is the one that this whole thing is built around. Then it’s His love that we can go and extend and bring other people in. And that’s what our world needs.
When community is operating in that way, it’s a beautiful, wonderful, healthy formative thing. But the reality is that so often it’s not always perfect. And I think many of us would have experiences as we think back from our own life. And we might even have listeners who are hearing this and they’re thinking, “That has never been my experience of church. I’ve only ever experienced the complete opposite.” And when they think of community they think of brokenness, they think of hurt. So one of the things we see in the Bible, even though Jesus has come and He’s radically changing people and there’s all this incredible stuff, yet so much of the writing in the New Testament is bringing up this idea of forgiveness. Because as human beings, as beautiful as the work of Jesus is in our life, we are still sinful. And we still do make mistakes. And as much as He’s doing the work to bring us and move us forward in community, there are those times where we make mistakes and people get it wrong and organizations get it wrong and communities as a whole get it wrong.
I think one of the reasons we see so much of an emphasis in the Bible on learning to forgive is because there’s going to be a lot of opportunities where we have to, because we encounter brokenness. And so I think one of the things we have to learn to do is when we experience those things, and some of them might be really, really deep and some of them might be intensely painful, how do we move forward? How do we develop a theology or an understanding in our relationship with Jesus that would allow us, even with our past broken hurts, to now commit to healthy community.
I think these are some things that I’m walking away with from today, Jon, is this: One, community is so important. Two, community is not perfect. You will likely hurt others and others will likely hurt you. But also, I think, three, and this is something we didn’t talk about but I would love to encourage anyone who’s listening to … like you said, Jon, doesn’t have that place of feeling like their connected. No matter where you are, you can just start. Right? And it takes intentionality and it can take pain and suffering, but to say, “hey, I’m going to love people like Jesus loved people and I’m going to put myself in an environment where they love me back so that we can continue to grow.” And so, Jon, it has been a joy, a pleasure to have you on here today. I’ve loved it.
That was Jon Hawes with us, talking about the need for and necessity of Christian community. And so wherever you’re at, I want to encourage you to be in community and do what it takes to commit to a group of people who are following Jesus. And see what God might do in that time.
If you ever wanted to connect with Jon, you can follow him on Instagram @jondhawes. Or if you want to keep up to date with what Ethos is up to, their Instagram is @weareethos. It was great to have you listening in on this episode. Make sure you tune in next week for another one.
indoubt ministries exists to bring a Biblical perspective in to the relevant issues of life, faith, and culture that young adults face every day. For more information, check out indoubt.ca if you live in Canada and indoubt.com if you live in the US.