Pastor Jonathan Chan is a Master of Worldview Studies graduate (2003), serving since 2014 as General Director of 105 Gibson Centre, a ministry of the Toronto Christian Community Church (105gibson.wordpress.com). He is happy to be described as an “undercover” or “subversive” evangelist, seeking to “rebrand” Christianity as Christ’s gracious rule over all things, not merely the “religious” in a restrictive sense. Jonathan kindly shares his story with us:
105 Gibson Centre seeks to respond to the needs of the community while bringing the spiritual experience of the Kingdom to those who come to us. Our mission is to serve the locals and those in need, and to share with them the compassion and hope of Jesus. Two verses constantly remind us of our calling: Micah 6: 8 and Luke 4: 18-19. It is a Christian philosophical/theological exercise and in mission terms, we are doing practical local mission theology first and foremost. We now have five ministries – Sports, Youth, Cultural Café, Community Needs and Community Classrooms.
My journey toward this vocational point began with an undergraduate degree in Economics at the University of Toronto, and then returning to Hong Kong for seminary training. Instead of going into church work, I taught at a local high school. I then moved into Christian student work with the intention of bringing the gospel into the context of education, with an emphasis on the student’s spiritual wellbeing. In order to better understand how the educational structure put its faith content into the secular curriculum to fulfill the expectations of both the church and the government, I later took a Master of Education degree. However, that research was purely through a sociological lens, and it was only later when I came to ICS for the Master of Worldview Studies (they even had a special emphasis on education!) that I realized the integration of faith and any discipline has a long history in the Reformed tradition. It was at ICS I finally learned how to see things from a Christian worldview – putting the gospel central and relating to all things from that vantage point.
I learned first of all to think Christian philosophically, instead of just theologically – a powerful way of relating to the different spheres of life. It is thought that simply gaining enough biblical knowledge is enough for a Christian to be able to speak directly to a wide range of issues. However, I found the results often ended up being too narrowly ‘religious’ because there was no dialogue between the biblical world and the secular world. Secondly, I discovered the Reformed tradition of seeing the world for its original intent to be the world of God, as a Christian mission field. All spheres are God’s and there is not an inch that Christ can’t claim for his lordship. Redemption now has a new meaning for me; that is, to take the whole world and connect it back to God. Thirdly, the subsequently developed theories of worldview studies became tools for engagement and ways of making that missional endeavor for me. From my one year of study at ICS, modal theory is but one of many such tools I tried to incorporate into my teaching in Hong Kong.
I was given two opportunities to do this when I returned to Hong Kong. The first was a project to rewrite the religious education curriculum for a Christian high school which we named Life Education. In a lesson developed to teach the integrality of reality, we used a bottle of water, then used modal theory to educate even the teachers about the totality of reality. We asked students what do they see, and then we elaborated on the many possibilities and dimensions, the numerical in mathematics by counting, physics, chemistry, aesthetics, history (of manufacturing), economics, sociality…and the like. Students begin to see how one object of reality could be differentiated into modes (dimensions) and that in order to capture the total reality, we must embrace all the dimensions.
Of course, that is a low level usage of the theory but the effect to a seventh grader is to rescue them from the compartmentalization of the older curriculum and start to appreciate the reality manifested in multiple dimensions.
The second opportunity came in the development of discussion material for a worldview tutorial class at Hong Kong University. A group of Christian professors and lecturers came together to create a general education elective, Christianity and Society. Teachers reflected on the relationship between their disciplines and Christianity, and these reflections were then developed into lectures such as Christianity and Law, Chemistry, Psychology, Language, Social Work and so on. I used the Christian worldview as the backbone for the tutorial material, rather than depicting Christianity as a religion. In this way, students get to know and discuss the Christian faith on the worldview platform with such elements as creation, fallen-ness, redemption, and the future of society. Dialogue between worldviews goes on during the tutorials as well.
Now many years later, one of my major roles at 105 Gibson Centre is program development. I consciously ask questions related to the philosophy of each ministry my staff creates. We talk about the Christian understanding of the nature of their ‘sector’ before making it a ‘ministry’ and before the ‘what’ and ‘how’ to offer it. For instance, Sports is about the coordination of the body following certain rules to achieve excellence. It is about values, like beauty, honesty, persistence, discipline, cooperation and community building. The ministry then becomes about raising persons to a higher level under the influence of the gospel. The Centre champions five operational principles: initiating movement (of care and spiritual excitement), platform, neighbourhood sensitive, Shalom future and mentoring (holistic care). In the way I lead the Centre, I see the shadow of the holistic approach I learned from ICS and the approach to life ICS advocates.
I thank God for giving me a chance to come and learn from ICS. It has not just been a blessing but a life-changing experience because it transfers my faith onto a higher level. , There will be much fruit in the future when I contemplate more of what the Bible teaches, and even the work I would take up.