Canada: Interview with Pastor Josh Loeve – Lead Pastor, Centre Church

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Pastor Josh Loeve is the Lead Pastor of Centre Church. Here we talk about Christianity, Centre Church, and more about Canadian society and religious faith.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, let’s start on a fundamental issue within Christian doctrine or theology across denominations, what is the truth and the orientation around that within a Christian context for Centre Church and yourself? In other words, what is truth? How does your church live this out?

Pastor Josh Loeve: What is truth? Let’s talk about this in the religious sense, the Christian sense, we see, ultimately, Jesus is embodying Grace and Truth. When I speak about grace in the context of the church, I would speak of the person of Jesus.

In terms of science and all of that, I don’t know if I will touch on all that. In the context of Christianity, it is the death and resurrection of Jesus, and forgiveness of sin. To me, it is the highest truth.

That is what Christianity is, basically, hinging on: Did Jesus die? Did he rise again? If no resurrection, then there is no Christianity. So, really, the truth hinges on that pivotal part of history.

For me, when we speak of truth and the Christian landscape, that is what we are talking about.

Jacobsen: In Centre Church, what are the theological implications of this? What are the implications for community?

Loeve: Wow – those are huge questions [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Loeve: The implications for the community are huge. Our purpose in the community is to lead people into a life centered on Jesus. The implications of that truth is that we believe when a person centers their life on Jesus and are forgiven.

Things like shame go away. There is a community of putting Christ at the center of our lives or first in our lives. We put him first. We model his life. What that means, it affects the relationships that we have; it affects the way we interact with the community around us.

It affects the way that we use our money and lead our homes. It affects every area of our lives. The implication of that truth is that we extend forgiveness, as this is a great gift. So, we are generous to the world around us.

From that position of centering Jesus on our life, we are able to model that out to other people of the grace that He extended and gave to others. It has implications in every area.

I could exhaust that list. For me, it has implications in every area.

Jacobsen: If we are looking at an ordinary Sunday service, how is this fundamental basis of theology and scriptural reading built into the things that are spoken about in an ordinary service? Also, the in-between things and the before and after of a service.

As anyone who has gone to a church or been part of a church community knows.

Loeve: I know there is a high emphasis on Sunday service. But what do the other 6 days of the look like? How that impacts our Sunday service and that truth, it is that everything that we do on weekend service is about Jesus.

Again, it hinges on the death and resurrection of Jesus. So, every Sunday, we give people an opportunity to hear that message. We challenge people to live out that reality. So, Jesus is the central theme of all of our services.

In particular, the sermons on a weekend. He is the central message of the sermons. We have a commitment to connect the Message of Jesus to those who have never heard the Message, or those who are seeking, starting, or returning.

Someone seeking answers for God that we want to get everything out of the way as to what Jesus looks like. Those who are wanting to start again. They are starting a journey with Jesus again. We want to empower them.

Or those who are returning. Those who want to return after 20, 30, 40 years. That is the implication. We want to bring that to as many people as possible.

At Centre Church, the focus is on people who are seeking, starting, or returning.

Jacobsen: Within Centre Church, what are some other derivative fundamentals of the faith for the community and you?

Loeve: Fundamentals, we have some values that we have built. These are biblical values. That we rely on. One of them is authentic community. So, I will work that into the community.

Centre Church is small groups. We meet in homes throughout the week to discuss the weekend’s message or different books about the Bible and contextualizing scripture. Things like that.

Then we have another values intent on discipleship. Discipleship is this process of helping people to grow to be more like Jesus. We need that through our serving teams.

We are a portable church. On a week, we have about 40 to 45 volunteers who do everything from run the kids’ classes to set up the environment as we are a portable church, to leading us in music, or to production teams, and small group leaders.

So, that is our intentional discipleship. Through that, we want people to serve each other, as Jesus served others. Those are 2 of our values out of 5. We live through those values.

Jacobsen: For many churches leaders in North America, they lament the lack of men within the church. How was this manifested in some of the churches that you’ve seen in the Lower Mainland [Ed. British Columbia, Canada]?

Loeve: Personally, I am not looking at those stats. I am not lamenting those things. We have a healthy contingency of both men and women in our church.

We empower both men and women into positions of leadership. So, we’re not trying to – or I am not trying to – be more edgy, cynical, or abrasive to bring more men into the doors of a Sunday service.

We believe God calls people into church through invitations to our church. I don’t think that I am lamenting. As a matter of fact, I think we see mostly men who are coming through the doors looking for purpose, looking for meaning, and addressing the truths about who God is.

Since day 1, we are a 4-and-a-half-year-old church. Not once have I thought, “Gosh, I wish we had more men here.”

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Loeve: But we are having a healthy contingency of men and women. It is really exciting. It is really on God and on us. He has brought the right people through the door to connect with us.

I cannot speak to other churches. I do not really hear that discourse happening amongst other pastors. I think there is a lot of pastors who have seen an influx in Cloverdale into their churches. They are having to lead and pastor them.

Not once have I said, “Are they men? Or are they women?” [Laughing]

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Loeve: I felt people are coming through the doors looking for meaning and purpose and wondering who God is. I think there is a lot of people in process who belong to different churches.

Jacobsen: There are a lot of different definitions of God. There are many, many gods on offer. What definition of a god or God makes most sense to you – either emotional appeal or philosophical solidity to you?

Loeve: I believe in the Trinitarian God of the Bible. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, one God in three persons. I hold to the biblical text in terms of my view of who God is, and, in terms of the emotional appeal, when I was 17-years-old; I had a profound about something we spoke about in our earlier [Ed. pre-interview] conversation.

I had a transcendent experience with God. That was in a much more charismatic church than we are today. There was emotion attached to that. But, for me, I look at the biblical text, “Who is God defined there?”

A lot of my perspectives of who God is and the fleshing out of who God is, is defined by the biblical text, which is, as I said, the Trinitarian God.

Jacobsen: What have been atheist and theist counters to those? How do you respond to them?

Loeve: I think in terms of an atheistic response to that. I have heard a lot of criticism against my beliefs. But one of the things, too, is that part of the Christian perspective is that God is the one who opens up the eyes and ears of those around us while we carry the Message.

Our responsibility is to carry the Message. Yes, there are many different countering messages against the person of Jesus or against the death & the resurrection, against the validity of the Bible, and the list goes on, and on, and on.

So, we can wrestle with them and Christians still wrestle with those questions. To me, though, it rests on the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. When it comes to criticism against the Bible, I bring it back, “What about the resurrection of Jesus?”

We can take a historical perspective and in Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John if the New Testament. To me, if a critique outside of that, as a first conversation, typically, I start here because Christianity hinges on the Resurrection.

I focus on it, as Christianity hinges on it. That is the “truth” that we talked about in the beginning of this. It affects all of our churches. It is the truth that Christianity hinges on. Again, I, generally, field criticism around that.

I think that’s what people really should be having conversations around.

Jacobsen: How do you make a split between sacred and secular values in Canada now?

Loeve: A lot of the Christian worldview was a part of Canada, as it was formed as a nation. So, yes, the lines are, definitely, blurred. I think what I can say about that. We love the benefits of the Judeo-Christian worldview, but just don’t love all the things about it.

I think there is still a lot of benefits. Some of those benefits are focused on the family, the sovereignty of the individual. These are Christian values that come out of that worldview. I think that’s, maybe, one of those sacred values that had become one of the benefits for the secular community.

Where I think there is a great contrast between the secular and the sacred is in general belief in God, often, I see this in the idea of hope for the future, where people place their hope. Seculars tend to place hope in science and human determination.

The sacred is placing their hope in a God who controls the universe. So, it is where we place our hope, where we place our trust, it is one of the areas. The idea of hope with competing values of sacred and secular.

There are a lot of different areas where relationally. I see this often. There is a separation between sacred and secular, whether divorce and remarriage, or views around sexual orientation. This is where we see secular and sacred competing with each other as well.

Jacobsen: Within the domain of the sacred, there are the formally or the anti-divine within most Christian theologies. Those have to do with things like angels and fallen angels, and demons, and the Devil, and so on.

How does this fit into your general framework for understanding the world? For example, if you’re taking into account a God who controls the world, maintains and manifests the world, what of these other forces more or less counter to that?

Loeve: First of all, I would say, “Yes.” You are, in some ways, explaining a supernatural world that interacts with our world. I don’t know all specific examples in how that plays out. I think C.S. Lewis tried to play a little bit with that in The Screwtape Letters.

In terms of “hell,” for instance, a lot of people question whether hell is a literal place. I think for most of us as human beings; hell is a real place of suffering, cancer, relational separation. So, I would say that we see some of that evil itself. We see the effects of evil.

We see the effects of good. However specifically each one of those interacts with the world around us, I am not really sure. However, that is one of the effects of evil on the world. I do see the effects of good in the world.

I can share story after story of the effects Jesus has had on people in our church. That would be the divine interacting with the natural world. I don’t know, specifically when and how all those moments happen.

I do know good exists. I do know evil exists. I do see them interacting with our world. In terms of how, I know we talked earlier in our conversation about if this is just a figment of our imaginations as human beings. I would say, “Human beings can be quite evil, quite malicious, to one another. But I do think there is a driving force behind evil and a driving force behind the good.”

I think that’s what we are obsessed with as a culture. I think that’s why Avengers, Marvel comics, and Star Wars, and all this stuff.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Loeve: We are so fascinated by it because we love that story. We love and we hate it at the same time.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Loeve: I always find that fascinating. Why do we want the good to win? I do think that these ideas are not just constructs of the human imagination. They seem to have permeated – the ideas of good and evil – thought, and have permeated cultural norms.

I think there is a cause for that. That morality was placed in human beings, which is a Christian perspective. God created the world and created human beings with that type of moral compass, and gave option and allowance to evil.

Jacobsen: What one or two examples, as a closer to the conversation today, come to mind in terms of this, as per the argument, of the intervention of the divine or the supernatural into the natural, or the anti-divine or the demonic into the natural?

Loeve: [Laughing] an example that comes to mind is a couple that came to our church a few years back. He was struggling with addiction. Their marriage was done. She came to church. Her friend invited her. It happened to be the church in an elementary school.

She was a teacher at the elementary school and felt comfortable enough to come. She was, as far as I know, not an agnostic and would probably identify as an atheist. She connected with Canada Service with the sermon preached on the Sunday morning, and felt the love and support of the community.

She said, “I have not met people who have loved and supported me this way before.” We began to mention the Message of Jesus to her. Her husband came a couple weeks later. She was mad about it. Because this was her thing.

But when you’re going through a separation, [Laughing] you’re not always wanting to see the other person.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Loeve: But he heard the Message and began to get over some of his addictions. They did begin to move back together. They have been part of the community for 2 years. They are part of a small group and serve on a team.

I am going to have the privilege of marrying them.

Jacobsen: Congratulations.

Loeve: When I look at all these events that had to happen, and all the different components, the right timing and the church being in a school that had to be comfortable for her to come. I look at all these events.

It is hard for me to say, “I cannot deny God having a hand in that.” I can hardly pick a Netflix show.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Loeve: Yet, I see this relationship rise from the dead. This is where I see the effects of the divine and Jesus working in our church, and in the people or the lives of the people within our church.

Jacobsen: Any recommended authors, speakers, or organizations?

Loeve: Yes, I really enjoy Ravi Zacharias. I appreciate his choice to what we call Apologetics and Christianity. He is answering the questions rather than debating or speaking at people. Ravi Zacharias is one of those people.

There is a local pastor in the area who wrote The Problem of God named Mark Clark. I think he is a very smart guy. He grew up in an atheist home and had a radical transformation with Jesus. Village Church is the name of that church.

Jacobsen: It is a fast growing one.

Loeve: He is abrasive. He’s solid in his doctrine, but he just loves people as well. I think that’s just a great guy. I would probably recommend some of his resources. Those two guys in terms of Apologetics and talking about atheists, what we’re talking about right now, too.

There are a lot of others, like William Lane Craig [Laughing]. He is another guy out there. He is a pretty interesting guy. But that is just within the Apologetics landscape.

Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts in conclusion based on the conversation today?

Loeve: If someone is reading this, and if they are truly searching for answers, I think there are places to wrestle with competing opinions and beliefs. There are churches that can be places of refuge, and not just places of opposition.

I think it is really important in these conversations. I don’t think the church is as closed to conversations and questions as they are pegged as. I work at Centre Church. I know a lot of other churches, where there is a lot of good dialogue and pastors willing to step up to answer the questions.

I would encourage people reading this or listening to it. To know that there are places that pastors are willing to have conversations like this, to hear different and competing opinions and ideas, there’s also just places where we would love to pray and walk alongside people.

I think more than being right and wrong. There’s also an element of being human together. We can find solidarity together. I want people to know that there are places where they can come and wrestle with life’s big questions.

There are a lot of pastors wrestling with these.

Jacobsen: Thank you very much for the opportunity and your time, Pastor Josh.

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

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