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October 2017

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5 Questions with: Owen Juhlke, The Way Community Church

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Faith News Niagara presents another instalment of "5 Questions", the continuing segment where readers can get to know the local ministers of the region a little better.

Today's 5 Questions article with Owen Juhlke is from an interview from September 2017.

1 What is your name, the name of your church ministry, and the length of time you've been at that ministry.

I'm Owen Juhlke, the church's name to The Way Community Church, and we have been here since September 4, 2016, so just over a year. And we always met here at the Upper Deck Youth Centre, in Vineland. We have a good relationship with Youth For Christ (YFC/Youth Unlimited Lincoln).


2 What is your favourite pastime: reading, sports, outdoors, etc.

I do biking a little bit. I love reading too. I'm an avid reader. I do all sorts of different types of reading, too, mostly theology. But at the same time, I like to read psychology books. It helps us understand people. We're not all the same. And that's a problem: I think that a lot of people, when they do something in leadership, they expect everyone to become like them. That's not the way life is. We're all very unique and we need to accept people.

I used to work at a company in Beamsville for many years as a manager. I left there when I was 42, to go to seminary at McMaster (University). My first ministry experience was at the United Mennonite Home. I did a placement in 2004 for eight months, then in 2007, the chaplain retired and I applied for the position. I was still in seminary for another year, they hired me part time, and then I went full-time. So I was there from 2007 until 2010, when I went up to Durham, Ontario to take a church. And it was at the Mennonite Home that I discovered that there were so many different characters that were there, and you could have people with different personalities, and you just love them wherever they were, rather than trying to make everybody fit.

One of the writers that I enjoy reading  is Henri Nouwen. He's a guy I like reading, and CS Lewis. I could be here for an hour, with all the different writers that I like reading! But I'm always trying to come to a deeper relationship with Christ, and in turn, trying to get people to get into that personal relationship with him.

I like doing photography. I also do genealogy. I've done my own, but I've done it for other people too. And after you get used to it, it's pretty easy.

OK, so here's a thing that I promise is the truth: on both my mother's and my father's side, I have traced my ancestry back to Adam. Both of them. Which means that parents are related. (Laughs.) So that explains the way I am.

3 Favourite all time (or current) Bible book, Bible story, or Bible passage, and why.

I'll start with the Bible book. New Testament, I'm going to say Hebrews, and the reason being is that it's such a beautiful book, beautifully written in Greek. And the message, with the whole thing about the priesthood of Christ, which is being pointed to throughout the entire book. Melchizedek is one of my favourite Bible characters. In the Old Testament, my favourite book is definitely Genesis. I like it because it's about "new beginnings". And also, the cool thing about Genesis is that you've got story after story of these characters who have evil intent, but God always turns evil around for his good: "You're gonna do this? I'm gonna modify it so it becomes good." So it can glorify him. Bible story? Luke 15, the story of the Prodigal Son. We are all prodigals, and this receiving back into God's open arms... it's just crazy how powerful that story is. Regardless of how far we've gone, and what we have done, God will always receive us back, which is crazy. Crazy good. Crazy powerful.

4 Briefly describe the series of events that brought you to your church, your current role, ministry in general.

Ministry in general is a crazy big one! Why don't I start there first.

When I was a kid, I grew up in Sunday School. My parents actually had been part of the Lutheran Church in Beamsville. Two of my great-grandfathers founded that church back in the 1870s... or 80s? Anyway, my family was very involved in that church. My grandfather was a very spiritual man. He's one of my heroes of the faith.

When I was 12, I prayed to God... (I was a very spiritual kid, even though my parents took us all out of the church because of a dispute with the pastor. I went back to church after maybe a year; I loved church and Sunday school, and learning about God, the Bible and Christ.)

...I remember praying, and knowing I was going to be a pastor, when I was 12. But I didn't do anything about it. I finished high school. Then I was praying one night, and God actually spoke to me, in a way that I heard it. And he said, "spread my word". But I did the Moses thing and said, "get someone else to do it, 'cause I don't want to. I don't have the gifts." I didn't feel I had the gifts at that time. That was why I went off to work.

When I turned 40, again, God started to talk to me in dreams, telling me to become a pastor and go into the ministry full time. And so out of obedience, I said OK. And I had four teenagers at home, Helga (wife) didn't work at that time -- or she might have worked, but part time, I'm not sure. But I had a very good job, and it paid well, but I said "OK, got to go back to school". So I enrolled at McMaster and that sorta led to where I am today.

What brought us to our current church? God had already been giving me a vision of planting a church four years ago, Because I was becoming very discouraged with the way churches are running. I would think, is this how Jesus would want his church to be? "We need a lightbulb replaced... well, let's form a committee!" Or, "we can't do this because the by-laws says on page number 26-8, subsection two…" you know? It was crazy! And just all the expectations of a traditional pastor, they were very discouraging.

And I found a lot of churches being inwardly focused, a lot of the churches I had actually pastored. I was trying to get people to open up to the community.

So what we're doing here on Friday mornings is called Coffee's On. I've started it in every one of the churches that Helga and I have been part of. Even at the first church up in Durham, I think we did it on Thursdays. We had two people come in from the community. And then they started telling people. That group, when we were there for the first 3 1/2 years, grew to about 80. Today, that group still continues on, and every once in a while Joan, a lady who helped me there, will tell me, "we probably have 120 people who are coming in through the doors, and we're just loving these people." And that was all it was. It wasn't about getting people to come in on Sunday at all, and yet, there were people who came to church on Sunday. And that's the case here too.

In every one of them (past churches), it just became a stronger and stronger (sense) for me, that this is not the model of church that I want to be pastor of. It was already back in Durham, that the seeds were planted to start a church that would be quite different, modelling something like what we're doing here.

And what we're trying to do here, Steve, is to model the first century church. It's interactive. We get to see each other's faces. This is community.

5 Briefly describe how you met Jesus.

I've always known the Lord ever since I was a kid. This is going back to when I was in the Lutheran church. I always knew the Lord there, but I think it's been a gradual thing, as I got older, to see that getting involved with churches should be more spiritually-based than religious-based, if that makes sense. Because being religious means nothing. If someone says, "I go to the bank religiously every Tuesday morning"… you see how that word is used? And that's how a lot of churches are. They come to church on Sunday religiously. But not spiritually.

I'm not trying to slam my peers out there who are preaching the word of God on a Sunday morning. I'm just saying, this is where I was that, and this is why this church was planted.

Owen Juhlke of The Way Community Church.

"So here's a thing that I promise is the truth: on both my mother's and my father's side, I have traced my ancestry back to Adam."


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