'A constant presence'

by BSCNC Communications
Tuesday, May 15, 2012 | 2 yrs old

TORONTO – One year after launching a partnership in Toronto, North Carolina Baptists are responding to the need to come alongside church planters and engage in long-term partnerships.

Yet, with a population less than 2.5 percent evangelical and only 40 Southern Baptist churches serving 5.5 million people, a lot more help is needed.

Through its Office of Great Commission Partnerships, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) partnership with the Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC) is focused specifically on the Greater Toronto Area. The partnership encourages North Carolina Baptist churches to plant a church in Toronto, or to join groups of North Carolina churches in partnering with a specific Toronto church plant.

Dan Collison, director of Toronto Church Planting and southern Ontario lead church planting catalyst for CNBC and the North American Mission Board, has learned that building relationships and serving the community are the best ways to create opportunities to share the gospel.

“Canada has always been secular. No one gives a second thought to what the church may say about a particular topic or issue,” he said. “This forces us to begin understanding, on a much deeper level, how to be people of faith and how we communicate the gospel. You develop a stronger, practical understanding of how the church represents the gospel to the community.”

Effective partners
Toronto church planters need partner churches in order to serve their community and reach people for Jesus Christ.

However, Collison urged potential partners to remember that church planting in Canada can be very different than in the United States.

“In Canada, it usually takes 8-10 years for a church plant to become fairly self-sustaining. The American statistic is 3-5 years, at most,” he said.

This reality makes long-term partnerships all the more critical. If churches pull out too soon, after a couple of years, they leave the planter just as he really begins to hit his stride.

Collison said an effective mission team moves a church plant forward three to six months down the road.

“An effective mission team is a team that comes back. When mission teams come to a location only once, they drain more energy out of the field than they contribute,” he said.

The second year a team comes they help push momentum forward, by the third year things are falling into place, and after that “it’s friends helping more than a project being accomplished,” Collison said.

Churches are encouraged to help the church plant until it has planted a church of its own.

Effective mission teams are also teams that serve with the right “posture.”  “They come and fit themselves into the strategy of the church planter,” Collison said.

Hometown ministry
Jason McGibbon is a Toronto church planter ready to partner with North Carolina churches. McGibbon grew up in Hamilton, near the western end of the Niagara Peninsula and Lake Ontario, and for the past year has been working with The Hamilton Fellowships church plant.

About a quarter of the 550,000 people in Hamilton live below the poverty line. Hamilton includes many refugees and Muslim residents. Although once a “blue collar” town centered on steel mills, Hamilton now has a growing arts community and many young families and new residents.

Before serving as church planters in Hamilton, the McGibbons attended The Sanctuary Church in Oakville, which is about 30 minutes north of Hamilton.  

When The Sanctuary decided to plant a church in Milton, the McGibbons went to Milton to help with the plant. And when that congregation knew God was leading them to plant a church, McGibbon knew God was calling him to be the church planter. 

“We heard God clearly say, ‘Who are you waiting for? If you’re going to be a church that plants churches, what are you waiting for?’”

About 12-16 people meet in McGibbon’s home every Tuesday. He is praying for more house fellowships to be established and for the church to love its community and engage it with the gospel.

McGibbon knows church planting requires sacrifice. “Our sending church could have used a children’s minister five years ago. They gave up paychecks to keep church planting going,” he said.

Now is the time
Just as McGibbon answered God’s call to go, so are churches from Rowan Association. Director of Missions Ken Clark went to Toronto last year, and again this year, to learn how to help involve his association in Toronto church planting.

“Our plan as an association is to become a global impact network. We want to get to the point where we will have teams come up at least quarterly, so we have a constant presence there,” Clark said. “If I can help tie smaller churches with larger churches, they can make an impact as well. The excitement will then spread.”

Through the Office of Great Commission Partnerships, global impact networks are being established across the state. A local church or association that serves as a global impact network serves as a missional center, helping connect other local churches and associations with partnering churches.

Three churches in Rowan are already committed to partnering in Toronto with Scott Rourk and Rendezvous Church. Rourk is on his third church plant in Toronto, all in very different and diverse settings.  

The Rendezvous church plant in midtown, in the Forest Hill neighborhood, is an area with affluent, working professionals who are mostly unchurched. The Rendezvous plant in the Parkdale neighborhood, however, will reach mostly immigrants of various religious backgrounds. 

“Our goal as a church plant is not just to plant a church, but to reach a city. Our hope is to plant 10 Rendezvous churches within the next 10-15 years in Toronto. In order for us to do that we need church planters for each and every one of those church plants,” Rourk said.

Clark is praying for partnerships to also lead to revitalization among North Carolina churches. “I have a lot of churches that think they are missional because they give to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and support the Cooperative Program, and have a missions speaker. But they are not living missionally,” he said.

“I’m hoping they will see the difference between talking about missions and giving to missions, and committing themselves physically to doing missions. And I hope that will make a difference in their own personal lives with Christ.”

Clark encouraged North Carolina Baptists to waste no time in doing what God has called them to do.

“We’ve got to get beyond waiting on someone else to do it. If God has impressed on you to do it, there’s no reason to sit back.”

To learn more about opportunities in Toronto, visit www.ncbaptist.org/toronto, www.necpcoalition.com or contact Michael Sowers: (800) 395-5102 ext. 5654, msowers@ncbaptist.org.