By Shannon Youell
Earlier this summer, during an interview with Pastor Tim Dickau for the Church Planting Blog, Tim asked me how the new church plants were managing with all the current challenges. I answered that, surprisingly, most of the plants seem to be finding, even within the same difficulties, deeper discipleship, relationships and new faith.
Tim asked why I thought that was. I concluded that a significant part was that young churches still seem to have a sense of adventure, of excitement. Church plants can pivot faster as they are less embedded in how they do things as they are still discerning and growing in who they are as disciples and as local missionaries. They see God at work in the new believers that they are engaged with and are more fluid in the things they do. Thus, church plants may be less reactive against change because change is a normal part of their reality.
GCF Winnipeg-East has found that starting a church plant in a season where we can’t eat and party together (in true Filipino style) has been challenging! The food fellowship is integral to how this group evangelizes, yet they are finding their way and are thrilled to recently be able to gather on a Sunday within the Manitoba restrictions. Despite the COVID restrictions, this group has grown to about 50 regular disciples, including 80% participation in the Life Groups, which now meet via Zoom! PRAY with them as they plan to officially launch in November of this year. As well, the building they meet in for services is undergoing renovations for the next six months, so pray for a suitable temporary location for the church.
Hope Church of Calgary is struggling with not meeting together, some pushing to meet anyways. The people, who are Arabic, are finding the same difficulties as GCF W-E: community is paramount for how they share the gospel with one another. The group is small but committed and there is some good potential leadership to continue the church if Pastor Mouner ends up training missionaries overseas as he is feeling called towards. PRAY that the Spirit of God will encourage this church in the midst of all the challenges and changes of the present and future.
Emmanuel Baptist Church Fellowship of Calgary is a flourishing Spanish-speaking community. Formally doing ministry under the umbrella of First Baptist Calgary, they discerned it was time to launch out on their own. One of the main reasons was the realization that almost their entire congregation and the community they were reaching out to live within a five-minute drive of one another, across town from the FBC campus! Connections were made and partnership has been established with Bonavista Baptist Church, which brings the church facility much closer to their neighbourhoods. They are currently working on affiliating as a new church with CBWC. PRAY for a speedy acceptance of their Charitable Status and that their faithful presence in their neighbourhood continues to bear much fruit that lasts.
In the midst of COVID-19, Emmanuel Iranian Church (North Vancouver & Coquitlam) brought on board a new co-pastor, Ali Hosseinzaden, to share the immense work alongside Pastor Arash Azad in the discipleship of hundreds of new believers in Jesus Christ. EIC has been meeting in the restricted groups of 50, which means Pastor Arash is preaching 3 or 4 times each Sunday as well as his continued discipleship of several churches in Turkey. PRAY for more leaders/pastors for EIC to augment and share the teaching, discipleship and preaching with Arash and Ali. Pray for times of refreshment for them both. Pray for creative ways to engage their young people virtually.
Makarios Evangelical Church (New Westminster) has four young adults from their college ministry, and one adult, preparing for baptism. Intentional discipleship and formation are central to the ministry and Pastor Jessica notes that during this time of challenge, more people are being brave and willing to talk about deep things in their lives. The church had several outreach ministries that were just beginning or soon to launch at the time of the shutdown. However, the church has pivoted quickly to adapt to doing outreach differently and is seeing God’s goodness shine through. PRAY for increased creativity and innovation on how to serve both the MEC congregation and the college students to whom they are building relationships with. Pray for creativity as today’s plans have to adjust to tomorrow’s new reality.
Our plants and planters are finding both fruit and joy in their ministry as well as experiencing the same challenges our established churches have around our new reality in a pandemic world.
I wonder whether this has something to say to all our churches in this time. Barna research has shown that more than one third of church attenders have stopped attending, now that services have been online for several months. My first thought was that those who are challenged with using computers may be part of that one third. However, the research shows that, “Among millennials, it’s even higher: Half of those who used to go to church have stopped since the pandemic started.”
As restrictions continue or become even more stringent, how might our churches re-mission to both create community and reconnect community that is used to being community in a church building? How might they continue to minister to one another but also to those who, not in “church life,” are feeling all the same angst, anxiety and uncertainty in their own places and spaces? How might we engage Gospel in a time such as this? What might it look like to utilize house-church-type meeting that still honors the health authority restrictions? How do we continue to establish new communities of faith? What might it look like if some of our churches become “church plants?”
These are questions worthy of wrestling with as CBWC continues to care for and support our plants and our long-established church communities. These are also good questions for all of us who are CBWC.