At Elevation, we’re committed to creating a culture of thoughtful spiritual engagement, fostering a community of authentic belonging, and inspiring and empowering active, generous involvement in the world around us. You can read a detailed overview of what we call Our Key Values below
Faith isn’t something that is meant to be done alone. With this in mind, we accept the call to follow Christ in the company of others. We see great value in coming together to worship Him and in seeking his guidance collectively.
We are committed to deepening relationships within our community of faith, encouraging one another to live transformed lives, as well as really getting to know our neighbours and the people we interact with every day.
We want to be ‘real’ with one another – to live with integrity. As a result, there’s no need to put up fronts or hide our shortcomings. Our challenge is to be honest with ourselves and inspire others to do the same.
We want to be present with people at whatever part of the journey of life they find themselves on, whether they share our faith or not. In the spirit of honest dialogue, we will ask our questions openly and listen for new ideas from others, respecting our different backgrounds and celebrating diversity.
We will invite people to experience the eternal kind of life that Jesus offers, walking with one another through times of questions and struggles, as well as times of answers and celebration.
With the understanding that each one of us will grow in faith at our own pace, we will encourage one another to become true disciples, raising the standards in our lives, always fighting against the urge to slow down in our pursuit of God.
While each of us assumes primary responsibility for our own spiritual growth, we have discovered the significant role the church plays in this process as a rally of support, inspiring and equipping us as we follow Christ together.
We support Elevation and its mission by participating in the life of the community and taking ownership for the corporate aspects of the church. The entire body benefits as we give generously of our time, abilities, and finances, putting the needs of others before ourselves.
We also have an incredible opportunity to make a lasting impact in our city, our nation, and our world. We are committed to acting with compassion and generosity, seeking justice for the oppressed, and extending mercy wherever it is sought.
It’s our desire to lean heavily on the Holy Spirit’s direction as the comforter, teacher, and guide, who goes ahead of us. We pray that God would be involved with everything we do, helping us live naturally supernaturally.
As we plan, prepare, and make decisions, we know that God is working in our midst. Because of this, we are not averse to change, and in fact welcome new challenges with faith that God is with us.
We don’t want to divide life into the spiritual and the non-spiritual and instead prefer to acknowledge that all of life is permeated by the presence of God. This helps us to avoid separating ‘matters of faith’ from ‘ordinary life,’ and frees us to live one life centred in God. It is in God alone that we can experience life in its fullest.
HOW WE BELIEVE
Just because a group of people have chosen to gather around a common purpose doesn’t mean they will always think alike. While doctrinal differences often lead to division, at Elevation, it’s our desire to create a culture where diversity is valued and unity is strengthened. You can read more below.
We have chosen to live with firm but permeable boundaries*, where we clearly articulate our corporate theological commitments, while also allowing for the free flow of ideas. We believe it’s possible to have unity without demanding uniformity.
After all, the life-giving centre for Elevation is not a particular statement or belief, but a trusting way of life rooted in Jesus. Our Key Values articulate what it looks like for someone to follow Jesus as a member of the Elevation community.
While beliefs do not comprise the centre of our faith, they can help give shape and meaning to the centre. We humbly hold on to a number of core faith expressions and the teaching and leadership of the church will draw from this well of understanding. Those who believe differently are still able (and are, in fact, invited) to contribute to the theological vision of the community as a whole.
In light of all of this, and in unity with our broader Jesus Collective family, we acknowledge the formational significance of the following core faith expressions:
Jesus is Lord.
Everything about us starts and ends with Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, the author and finisher of our faith, and the King of our Kingdom. Jesus is God in the flesh, the union of God and humankind, our doorway to knowing, understanding, and experiencing God and our true humanity, and the model and means for our reunion with God. Jesus is the authoritative living Word of God to us, and we submit to him as his lifelong apprentices, Kingdom citizens, commissioned ambassadors, and beloved friends. Through Jesus, we get to know the Father and experience the Spirit.
God is Love.
The essence of the Source and Sustainer of the universe is love. Love is relational energy, within and between persons. God is, by definition, always relating within Godself. God is triune, three-in-one, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Everything God does is an expression of who God is, which is eternal,
The Holy Spirit Empowers.
The Spirit, the breath of God, blows us toward Jesus, grows the fruit of love in our hearts, empowers us for ministry, and distributes gifts among the Church to help build up the Body of Christ. Through the Spirit, we have the mind of Christ, and continue to experience the presence of God at all times for conviction, confirmation, and comfort.
We Are Valuable.
Humans are made in God’s image and likeness, made by Relationship for relationship, by Love for love. As the parables of the lost coin, lost sheep, and lost son affirm, we have lost our way through our own sin and are unable to save ourselves. But Jesus shows us a God who values us enough to pursue us, restore us to who we were made to be, and celebrate with us whenever we come home.
Something is Wrong.
The Bible teaches, history demonstrates, and experience affirms that something is wrong with everything. This world is filled with both beauty and horror, and humans amplify experiences of both. The Bible calls the corrosive force that separates us from God, from each other, and from our better selves, “sin”. Jesus came to heal our hearts, save us from sin, and show us a better way.
Saved By Grace.
Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God brought an end to his own religion (the Old Covenant), inaugurated the New Covenant (a new way of being in relationship with God and one another), and offers us eternal and abundant life now, all as a gift. In this New Covenant, God gives all believers a new heart, a new spirit, and God’s own Spirit to change us from the inside out. This is pure grace, which we receive by simple faith, expressed in following Jesus.
Faith is Following.
To believe in Jesus is to trust Jesus, which is to follow Jesus. Biblical “faith” includes “faithfulness”. Jesus calls us to follow him, through death, to life. Christians pledge their allegiance to King Jesus as Lord, Leader, Messiah, and Master. We are not just believers, but disciples, apprentices of Jesus, learning together how to obey everything he commands. Baptism is not only about our death to and cleansing from sin, but also about us rising again into a new life of faithfulness to and intimacy with Christ.
Scripture is Inspired.
Like John the Baptist and the star of Bethlehem, the Bible points people to Jesus. The Bible, Old and New Testaments, is our God-given window to see Jesus most clearly, and is useful to equip us for living as his disciples. We believe in the divine inspiration and delegated authority of all Scripture and we read and interpret the Bible together, with Jesus at the centre. Most importantly, the Bible helps us know Jesus, and Jesus helps us interpret, understand, and apply the Bible. (Note: In practice, while many Christians speak of the “inerrancy” and “authority” of the Bible as the “Word of God”, we tend to reserve this language for speaking of Jesus.)
Peace is the Way.
Because we see Jesus’ life and teaching as God’s authoritative Word to us, we take his teachings about all things – including non-violent enemy-love, active peacemaking, relational reconciliation, and the priority of receiving and offering forgiveness – very seriously. We seek to live peaceful, reconciled lives, to encourage other believers to do the same, and to actively extend the peace of Jesus to the world. We especially desire to be peacemakers within the fractured body of Christ as we make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Citizens and Ambassadors.
Jesus came to establish his Kingdom and he invites us to live in it now. This isn’t a Kingdom of land and laws, but one of our hearts and relationships. This Kingdom defines for us a new culture and identity that stand in sweeping contrast to the kingdoms of this world. Christ-followers are ambassadors on behalf of the Jesus Nation to the people of all nations, with church communities functioning as embassies to experience a taste of the Christ Country. Our purpose every day is to experience, express, and extend the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
* Miroslav Volf, A Public Faith
UNITY IN DIVERSITY
Describing Our Posture
In 2018, our Elevation community engaged in significant conversations about the intersection of same-sex attraction and Christian faith. To help explain this part of our church’s journey, we have created a summary with links to the most relevant sermons and updates shared along the way. You can find this summary here.
While we hope people will continue to engage deeply with this important theme, we have come up with a number of guiding principles that describe our church’s posture and frame the nuanced way we are moving forward as a community:
- We cling strongly to the core of our shared Christian faith.
- We have diverse beliefs about a variety of matters and we live out our faith in different ways.
- We believe that sexual orientation has nothing to do with the righteousness of a person before God. A Christian is accepted because of what Jesus Christ has done (and is doing) in that person’s life and not because of any moral performance.
- We believe that faithful people can and will interpret Scripture differently. In light of this, we believe there is room for differing opinions on the place of same-sex relationships in the life of the church and that Christians can disagree but remain in communion with one another.
- We adopt a posture of openness and humility toward one another, accepting our diversity on this issue, building relationships across our differences, and journeying in the spirit of Christian unity with those who hold a different view from our own.
- We acknowledge the Church’s history of violence, discrimination, and abuse towards gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. We stand against all forms of hateful speech, harassment, shaming, and sexual reorientation efforts.
- We trust the decisions of fellow Christians to Jesus’ care. This includes gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals who choose a path of celibacy, and those who, in good faith, enter a same-sex relationship in keeping with a Christian vision for healthy relationships and sexuality.
- We invite all members of our community to exercise freedom of conscience on this matter, including those who serve in a pastoral role. A pastor who is ordained or otherwise licensed to conduct wedding ceremonies is free to act according to his or her own conviction and reserves the right to perform or withhold from performing any wedding at his or her discretion.
- We invite all people to grow in life and faith, worshipping and serving at Elevation. We will not create barriers to leadership or involvement in the life of the church for those in same-sex relationships, but will encourage everyone to bring the best of who God has created them to be to our community of faith.
WHO WE ARE
Our Staff Team
A large number of gifted people give generously of their time and abilities to help make Elevation the community it is. Among these, we have a dedicated team of pastors and support staff who serve the community, each with a specific portfolio and corresponding areas of responsibility.
Pastoral Team: Worship, Justice, and Community
Pastoral Team: Interim Teaching and Transition
Jonathon & Heidi Sawatzky
Support Staff: Youth Coordinators
Support Staff: Digital Content
Support Staff: Administrative Assistant
Our Steering Committee
In addition to our Staff team, Elevation is led by a Steering Committee, which is also known as our Board of Directors. To contact the Steering Committee, please send an email to email@example.com.
The current members of this senior leadership team pictured below:
Steering Committee Chair
Eli has attended Elevation with his family since its beginning in 2001. He has worked for 20 plus years for the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) supporting students with behavioural concerns. Much of his experience at WRDSB has involved adventure based programming focused on team building and communication. Besides serving on the SC, Eli was the youth director for Elevation for a number of years and was responsible for setup and take down in the early years of the church. In his free time, you can find Eli fiddling with technology, playing board games or spending time outdoors.
Annette has attended Elevation since 2011. In the business world, Annette is passionate about organizational health and has more than 20 years of corporate experience in managerial and executive positions. She is currently the financial controller for a waste management company and also owns a local interior design resource centre. In addition to being a member of the SC, Annette has led the greeting team of Elevation for several years, was part of the baking team, and also served in the children’s ministry. Annette always told her parents that she would never teach or travel...She taught in China for a year and has traveled to more than 20 countries.
Steering Committee Member
Brenda has attended Elevation with her family since 2012. She has been involved in various aspects of the community, particularly in children’s ministry. She has been on the Vacation Bible School planning committee since Elevation began offering it and has been a teacher in the Kids Quest programs and nursery for many years. She works as a Nurse Practitioner in the Inpatient Cardiology unit at St Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener. Brenda loves to read, try new recipes in the kitchen and to camp and hike with her husband and 3 children.
Steering Committee Member
Christian has attended Elevation with his family since 2013. He is the Head of Human Resources at the Canadian Centre for Christian Charities and works alongside ministries across Canada to help them be healthy and effective in many areas, such as recruitment, training, policy creation, employment law, employee engagement, and more. He served on Elevation’s Staff Partnership Committee for four years prior to joining the SC and continues to work on both teams. Christian eats more candy than he should, and loves to run tabletop roleplaying games with kids and adults alike.
Our Transition Team
This team has joined our leadership community, focusing attention and energy toward an effort to help us reimagine Elevation, all while our current Board maintains our fiduciary responsibilities as well as finishing any outstanding restorative work they have begun. Together, our hope is that we will grow into the kind of church God is calling us to be.
Steve Van Bruwaene
In September of 1998, a student church called The Embassy was founded by Brandon and Melissa Malo with a desire to connect with our city’s student population. Over the years, as students began to graduate and establish families, we continued to develop our student church, but also launched a second ‘family’ church which was named Elevation.
In the fall of 2008, as a result of longstanding friendships and many conversations about serving the broader community, another congregation by the name of New Hope merged with us. Our experience in the years that followed proved that we could, in fact, be ‘better together.’
A few years later, in the fall of 2012, Elevation entered into a facility-sharing partnership with St. John’s (now Trillium) Lutheran Church. Both congregations now call 22 Willow home and this move has created even more opportunities for us to be a blessing to our community as we strive to represent God well in our neighbourhood.
In the past, Elevation had formal ties to both Pentecostal and Brethren networks. Today, Elevation is a Jesus Collective Partner Church.
Jesus Collective is a relational network of churches, ministries, and leaders who believe the time is right to unite, equip, and amplify a movement that is all about Jesus. We join together to create spaces of belonging and collaboration, to develop and support future-ready leaders, and to equip more churches to make more disciples in a post-Christian context. We want to give greater voice and visibility to this Jesus-centred, third-way movement God is raising up around the world.
A number of resources are available for you to get to know this network better, so please take some time to review the following documents:
Membership. The word has so many connotations, which is precisely why we avoided using it at Elevation for so long. But we’re using it now – why?
Well, the Steering Committee of Elevation has put a paper together to spell out the vision we have for membership in our local context. Once you’ve read it over, if you find you are ready to take the next step, we will look forward to connecting with you to see where this act of faith takes you!
You will also find a link here to our By-Law #1, a lengthy legal document developed when Elevation was incorporated in 2011. Prospective members are required to read this document and agree to the expectations outlined in the ‘Membership’ section.
If you have any questions, please contact our one of our Pastoral Team members, or a member of our Steering Committee.