Interview with Pernell Goodyear

Another interview here at and this time it is Pernell Goodyear. Pernell is the pastor of the Freeway, an emerging community in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. As they put it on their website…

The Freeway is part of an international movement known as The Salvation Army. That’s right, now the folks who bring you quality vintage clothing at a reasonable price, also bring you church–done differently.

We began in 2002 with the simple desire to be a healthy, innovative church community that reaches a new culture of people searching for truth in their lives with THE truth, Jesus Christ.

In addition to bringing church done differently, Pernell is a part of Resonate and the publisher of what I think is the best designed blog on the web right now. I speak highly of his blog to compensate for the fact that I never linked to it for many months and am feeling convicted by either Pernell or the Holy Spirit for not linking to it.

Enough about me and some more about Pernell.

1) The Freeway is a non-traditional church in a denomination (The Salvation Army) that is rightly or wrongly known for being a church that asks for conformity. Does that create tension and how do you deal with that?

Good question. It has created some tension within our tribe, which has, for the most part, become pretty cookie-cutter in a lot of ways for the past number of decades. Although, perhaps surprisingly for us, for the most part our leaders are pretty excited about what we’re doing. Besides, The Salvation Army has a long history of reaching those who may be unreached by many other churches. The Freeway has had some “success” reaching a demographic of people that are generally missing from many other churches. And when push comes to shove, accomplishing mission and bringing the Kingdom is what we’re all about.

What makes The Freeway different from the bazillion other “contemporary” churches in North America?

I don’t really know, I have never been to most of those churches… and I don’t think we’re “contemporary”. But from what I have seen, we tend to be fairly organic, creativity-focused, eclectic, relational, missional and less hierarchical and structured than the average church. But I would also say we’re less sure about what we know and who we really are, we’re more chaotic, and harder to explain or put on a flow chart than many churches… actually, we’re kind of a mess most of the time.

3) If you could go back and change any decision being made while planting The Freeway, is there any that you wish you could change and “do-over”? What would you change?
I would have hired Jordon Cooper to give me back massages after the long, tough days. Just kidding. We have made so many mistakes, I would have a hard time picking just one. I guess I would say that we started out with many constructs of the modern, church growth focused model, even though that didn’t fit us at all… because that was the only way we knew, and had to fumble into what really resonated for us… explore and experiment and “try it on”. If it’s possible to paint broad, judgemental strokes, we started out as a hyper-modern church wanting desperately to reach people in the emerging culture. We have had to shed much of our comfy terminology, structure, focus, etc. in order to become the community that we are (and we will likely need to shed much more to become the community God wants us to be in this new, emerging culture).

4) Does having a permanent building change community life for FRWY? If it has changed, how?

We don’t know yet. We just got possession of our space at the beginning of February and are currently renovating it into a cafe / music / art / worship space. We likely won’t be in there until May. I hope it does change things for us though. In that, I hope it allows us to meet up with people we wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet and journey with and do some stuff we wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do.

5) What’s the biggest obstacle (or opportunity) for FRWY as a community in the near future?

The biggest obstacle and the biggest opportunity could be the same thing… getting a funky, innovative non-profit cafe off the ground. We want to love our community – no strings attached. We want to live with them. We want to follow God. We want to change the world by bringing the message and experience of Christ in a way that people can understand and embrace. That’s a lofty enough goal, I would say.

6) So much of the Canadian discussion about church growth through the 1970’s until now has been dominated by the American church. How does the context in Canada differ?

Radically. We live in a very different culture.You (and likely many of your readers) have read Fire & Ice by Michael Adams. I think that he’s dead on as far as the differences between the two countries goes. “Emerging” here and “emerging” there can look very different. This would also be true to some extent from one community to another within Canada. I think the major difference is the fact that we are in a post-Christian culture and I’m not sure that the US is yet. Also, mega church mentality doesn’t sit well here, generally. Although there are certainly enough American (you know who) ripoff, wanna-be’s in churches in Canada too.

7) What’s been the impact of on your community. Is the web making a difference in the life of your church? What about that blog you publish?

For one thing, the web is really our only form of “advertising” to people outside our community (well, except the lives of community members themselves… and the billboard pictures of me naked plastered all over Hamilton). People around here work, study, volunteer and play on crazy conflicting schedules… busy, busy, busy… so getting together is tough alot of times. We have found that blogging (a bunch of Freewayers blog), our discussion forum, and e-mail has really increased the amount of community we can do. We keep up on each other this way and dialogue about tons of stuff. We have even recently started an e-Living Room – an online community group. Actually, all the “keeping up on each other” is kind of creepy when I really think about it… that’s it, I’m shutting down the web.

8) Who have been some of the most influential thinkers along your spiritual journey?

My six year old daughter, Samantha. My friend, Mark Jefferson. My mom. My community at FRWY. Douglas Coupland. Leonard Sweet. Brian McLaren. Henri Nouwen. C.S. Lewis. Homer Simpson.

9) When our kids look back at the start of the postmodern world and our efforts to lead churches in it, what do you think they are going to see that we got right? What do think they will say we got wrong?

Right: Finally choosing me as Lord Sultan of the Canadian Emerging Church movement. Joking… sort of. I hope they’ll see that we at least were courageous enough to question and wrestle with the status quo. I hope they’ll see that we really loved Jesus and his truth, enough to try and look past our cultural view of him and to live for him at all cost. I hope they’ll see that we made an effort to really love our neighbours.

Wrong: My fear is that they may see that we took too long making the necessary changes, taking the necessary risks, adjusting the way we live missionally to really have the kind of Kingdom impact we could have. And I think that they’ll see that we took ourselves far too seriously too much of the time.

2 thoughts on “Interview with Pernell Goodyear”

  1. I’ve seen the billboards in Hamilton that he’s talking about. They are a nasty piece of business.

    Great interview. Pernell is a great guy. It’s good to have the interviews back.

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