Toronto church plants focused on multiplicationby BSCNC Communications
TORONTO – Robin* has never been afraid to share the gospel, not even when his faith nearly cost him his life.
About two years ago death threats forced him to leave his home in Pakistan. At the time Robin was working with Campus Crusade for Christ and sharing the gospel with many of his Muslim friends.
Robin left his family and moved to the Canadian city of Mississauga located in Southern Ontario; he has not seen his family in two years.
Although away from family and his church family, Robin remains focused on the work God has called him to in Canada’s fifth largest city. “My utmost desire is to establish a Muslim background church in the Greater Toronto Area,” he said.
Robin is praying he can start eight house churches by the end of the year.
His ability to speak several languages – especially Urdu, Tagalog and Punjabi – uniquely equips him for ministry in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). After English, these three languages are among the top 10 mother tongues spoken in the GTA. Tagalog is spoken in the Philippines, and Urdu and Punjabi in India and Pakistan.
More than 140 languages and dialects are spoken in the GTA, and more than 30 percent of residents speak a language other than English or French at home.
During a vision tour to Toronto, Robin asked North Carolina pastors and leaders to pray for him and other believers who are trying to reach Muslims in the GTA with the gospel.
“It is not easy to stay away from family,” Robin said. But he knows his mission. “The Great Commission is to go to all nations.”
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) Office of Great Commission Partnerships and the North American Mission Board sponsored the vision tour. The BSCNC began its partnership with the Canadian National Baptist Convention last year (read related article).
Kingdom Harvest Missional Church
Rudy Geronimo is from the Philippines and is another Toronto church planter trying to reach people from other nations with the gospel. In 2009, Geronimo joined with three other families to start Kingdom Harvest Missional Church.
Geronimo wants to reach Filipinos, but he also wants to reach the multicultural community.
His vision is for 20 reproducing churches by 2020, to result in 1,000 baptized believers and 300 church members sent as missionaries by 2020.
“Even though we are small, God wants us to multiply,” Geronimo said.
Geronimo wants to start many house churches and bring them together monthly for corporate worship. He has already identified four areas in Scarborough where he hopes to soon plant a new church.
Last year during a mission trip to Toronto, Stony Point Baptist Church in Stony Point, N.C., helped Geronimo conduct a community needs survey in two of these areas. Stony Point has committed to a long-term partnership with Geronimo that will include financial and prayer support, as well as sending mission teams.
The congregation is part of Alexander Association, which has committed to a 10-year partnership with Toronto church planting.
The vast lostness in Toronto and need for church planting partners got Phil Addison’s attention. Addison is pastor of Stony Point.
“I’d never been anywhere like that before,” he said. “It is very hard ground.”
Addison and other church members are going to Toronto this summer to lead a self-defense, martial arts sports camp. The team will lead Bible studies every day after the camp and will also lead in a martial arts demonstration and gospel presentation during a community festival.
The festival is expected to draw nearly 2,000 people in an area with many Hindus and Muslims.
Engaged at ground level
A small group Bible study is now getting underway in one of the areas where Stony Point members served last year. Geronimo is working with Sebastian Vazquez and university students to help with this group.
Vazquez is an International Mission Board missionary serving at the University of Toronto Scarborough. About 200 of the 13,000 students on campus are Christians, and 75 percent of the 200 Christians are first generation immigrants.
Vazquez works with university students who feel called by God to be church planters in their community. He is also helping model for students how to serve their community and how to engage people with the gospel.
“We are constantly getting the students involved on the ground level,” he said.
This year Vazquez is also working with several students to minister in a high-rise public housing complex down the street from campus. About 43 percent of Toronto’s population lives in buildings that are five stories or taller.
“The hardest part is the first step, is how to break through,” Vazquez said.
The students are seeking to build relationships as they meet the residents through tutoring, English as a Second Language classes, financial classes and other ministry efforts. Vazquez is praying for a small group Bible study to begin in this housing complex by the end of the year.
Larry Doyle, director of missions for Piedmont Association, and church leaders in the association are praying about how they can engage long-term in Toronto. Earlier this month Doyle and several other leaders met with church planters to explore partnership opportunities.
Doyle is looking forward to learning as well as partnering.
“Where Canada is now, the shifting in the culture and growing lostness, that is perhaps where we will be in 10 years,” Doyle said. “We can learn as well as help them. It’s a learning experience as well as a partnership.”
Doyle is praying that churches in the association will partner with church plants in Toronto, and that the association can help encourage and facilitate churches to develop these relationships.
“We want to be the catalyst for getting churches connected to church plants.”
*Last name withheld.