Joyce and Betty–Church Planters: the ongoing story

Since originally posting the amazing stories of Joyce Oxnard and Betty Milne Anderson, we had the joy of hearing from Betty with an update of what they’ve been up to since our blog story ended. We’re honoured to hear these stories and see the incredible faithfulness and humble generosity of these two leaders–loving the Lord with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength by serving and witnessing to the people of Canada. Enjoy this continuation of the story straight from Betty’s keyboard! ~Cailey

When we first became involved with the BUWC (CBWC) the term “Church planting” was new to us and I think to many churches in the denomination.  So many changes and such exciting ones.


While it’s true that Argyle Road Baptist Church was our last assignment in the sense of church planting or Interim ministry, we weren’t done yet! While we were in Regina we were called to serve in Yorkton, SK.  They had been without a pastor for considerable time after the retirement of Rev. Daykin who had ministered there for 24 years. I think there was difficulty finding someone who would follow such a long time of ministry because historically, pastors stayed for a short time following a lengthy ministry.  When we were called, a member of the Search Committee stated that we were the last resort!  We served in Yorkton for five years and felt that the Lord blessed us and the church during that time. After that we spent the next year in Inuvik after which Joyce officially retired.

I wasn’t quite ready for retirement and in 1998 I was called to First Baptist Church in Saskatoon as Part Time Associate Pastor. Blake Anderson was the Senior Pastor who retired early to care for his wife who was dying of cancer.  Joyce assisted me with providing Pastoral care for a few months until our new Senior Pastor, Paul Matheson, arrived in 2000. Official retirement for me was in August, 2003.

A new phase of ministry and service opened up for me when Blake and I were married the next year and we have been involved in the Lord’s work in various ways ever since.

Unfortunately Joyce has been struggling with Alzhiemer’s Disease for the last few years and we have been her Caregivers. Frequently she says, “We have been so blessed. God has provided everything we need.” A true statement of faith even in the midst of memory loss and confusion and one which I agree with completely.

Our lives certainly don’t end at retirement. Even in her confusion and uncertainty with Alzheimers, Joyce frequently says, “I wish there was some way we could still serve the Lord. Do you think the three of us could start a church somewhere?”

I remind her that praying may be what the Lord wants us to do just now. And that might be the most important.




Learning from The Canopy

Everyone likes to read the “success” stories. Successful ministry initiatives, successful church plants, successful events. As a culture we celebrate our “successes” and try to forget our “failures,” or to phrase it in a way more palatable to us, those initiatives that “didn’t meet our expected outcomes.” Notwithstanding that our metric of “success” or “failure” is subjective, we often can miss what we learn from the things that didn’t go the way we hoped.

The irony is that most things that we determine are a success grew out of the collective experience of things that didn’t quite go the way we planned. We have much wisdom to glean from those experiences and today we will look at one such story.

Pastor Eric Brooks is currently a pastor at Strathcona Baptist Church in Edmonton. He and I sat down together for coffee and donuts a while back and among other things talked about his experience as a church planter. He shared with me that though the plant closed after seven years, he came to realize one very important element was missing. ~Shannon Youell



The Canopy Christian Community was an NAB church plant in south Edmonton. We were located on Gateway Boulevard, in the basement of CKER radio (in a space that at one time had been The City Media Club, but had sat vacant for several years). We started in 2001, and closed the doors in 2008.

When we planted the Canopy, I believe we had a very compelling and well articulated vision. In fact, not only did our team feel that way, we had feedback to that effect from several quarters. We were also convinced that if we communicated a compelling vision in a compelling way, people would join us. But three things were missing:

1. What we realized later was that something significant was missing: an effective strategy for facilitating community. While we were calling people to something meaningful, we failed to help them build good relationships with one another. I think in the end we realized that vision will bring people, but community will keep them around.

2. We intentionally established our meeting place outside of a residential community (we had a great meeting space in an industrial area), and in retrospect, it could have been beneficial to have intentionally been in a residential community.

3. We had good financial support: we were being supported by 5 churches. We also had good formal support in the form of church planting training, a coach, etc. What was missing was a sense of personal connection to another church: prayer support, personal connection and mentoring for our planting team… while we received invaluable financial support, that was the extent of the connection that we had.

As I write these three things, the common thread of missing significant community connections seems obvious. The irony that we were “The Canopy Christian Community” is pretty thick.


There is much for us all the consider in Eric’s reflection on his time with The Canopy. He highlights the crucial aspect of building rich relational equity–within our worship and discipling community, within the surrounding community and with other partners, supporters and mentors.

The Canopy had all the criteria to be a successful plant based on a particular metric and model: a compelling vision, a great space to gather, excellent coaching, training, financial and prayer support. And yet, the community felt a sense of disconnect from one another, from their surrounding neighborhood and even from those who were enthusiastic supporters of the ministry they envisioned.

What can we learn about our own context from Eric’s story? Are there ways we might re-imagine the shaping of what a successful plant requires? What about in our existing congregations? Is our relational equity formed solely around our weekly gathering in the building we meet in? Or is there a richness of relational discipleship happening outside of those times? What about in the area in which our meeting place is located? And the places where the congregants spend their everyday time? Are we intentionally building relational equity in our communities beyond ourselves in a manner where trust is built with those who do not yet know Christ as their Lord and Saviour?

These are some of the pieces that come to my mind as I consider Eric’s message. Let us know what comes to your mind too! In this way we can build relationship here–listening and hearing from one another, sharing our places where we experience success and the wisdom we’ve gained where we experience failures–both in our initiatives and in our vision of flourishing and renewal in our existing congregations. ~ Shannon

Stillwaters Counselling

Our next story comes from Summerland, BC, where church and marketplace meet to provide important care for the community. As Tracey says below, “With the changing culture in which we live, it is important to think outside of the ‘church box.'” How can your congregation think outside the box to bring hope into the lives of a new demographic in your neighbourhood? ~Cailey Morgan

Stillwaters Counselling
by Tracey Bennett

Stillwaters Counselling is a faith based counselling centre located in the heart of Summerland, BC. It was created in response to the expressed needs of individuals who resided in the local area.

After delivering a seminar on grief, a local Christian counselor identified a gap in service provision, with a particular focus on faith based counselling.

After much prayer and some initial research, Summerland Baptist Church was approached and consulted with as it was identified as one of the main active churches involved in the community. Counselling had indeed been on their agenda for a period of time, so with the vision and expressed need, a process of consultation began.

The senior pastors, deacons and church community were unanimous in their support of a faith-based counselling centre. A steering committee was formed. Prayer was core and collaboration with other agencies took place, as well as with members of the community. A successful pioneering model was taken and molded to suit the community in which the counselling centre was to be based. The steering committee discussed and formulated a business plan, identifying an empty business property on the local high street to rent. Summerland Baptist raised the core finances to fund the refurbishment of the counselling centre and created a subsidy fund to enable counselling to be accessible to all who were not covered by insurance companies or who could not financially afford it. A team of part-time master’s level counselors were recruited and a Clinical Director was appointed.

The counselling centre was advertised and launched in March 2017, and by the end of the year, many people had accessed care. The financial model was sustainable and a much needed service was being accessed by all. Christians and non-Christians were referred and self-referred by Pastors and various health care providers.

Stillwaters is an example of pioneer mission. With the changing culture in which we live, it is important to think outside of the “church box.” Using the leading of the Lord through prayer and scripture, the skill and expertise of various individuals, a low cost, self-sustaining ministry has been created.

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).


Joyce Oxnard and Betty Milne Anderson – Church planters: Part 2

Our previous post told the story of Betty Milne Anderson and Joyce Oxnard, two faithful women who were called to church planting. We hear of their faithful, difficult work in the far north. Their ministry didn’t end when leaving Inuvik, however. This part of the story shares how Joyce and Betty served in many places on behalf of our denomination—sometimes drawn by passion, other times by need. ~Cailey

Fort Mac
After Inuvik, Joyce and Betty went to Fort McMurray as interim pastors for 9 months. There had been a church split and they came to work with the remnant. Betty and Joyce held them together and did a lot of healing during that time. The church didn’t really grow, though there were some encouraging things.

A building was built while they were there, but that was the downfall of the church because they built too soon, too small, and too cheaply—it wasn’t a place that was appealing or functional. They were not allowed to have any input into that decision or design, because some capable people in the congregation took over but lacked the needed vision of what would grow a congregation.

Starting from the Ground Up
In 1979 they were moved to Grand Center to start a new congregation from scratch. They were given an initial salary that was weaned off as the church got stronger. They began by visiting house-to-house, sending out invitations in community and started with a Sunday school. Some Baptist families came on board fairly quickly. They joined “The Concerned Citizen for the Community” group in order to get to know people.


Photo credit: Heartland Regional Minister Mark Doerksen.

One woman asked if there was a women’s Bible study, and so they said they would start one. They started with the three of them, then a fourth joined who was from Cherry Grove (outside of Grand Center). She said there are families there where kids had nothing to do and no activities, and so Joyce and Betty started a Sunday school in Cherry Grove that really thrived.

Some of those people started coming to the church, which met in the town hall. They also drew families from the forces base at Cold Lake, but that also meant a transient congregation. This was the most successful work they were involved with, in establishing a church that has continued on.

Betty only had schooling in Bible from BLTS, but they took some courses and went to the Billy Graham school of evangelism and received Stephen’s Ministry training. Joyce and Betty alternated preaching unless they took a series. The one who didn’t preach cooked the Sunday meal and did Sunday school. They were in Grand Center for five years.


Serving Across the Prairies
From there, they went to Medicine Hat to an established church that needed a “blood transfusion.” The pastor at the time lacked some people skills and he needed some support in his ministry. The denomination still supplemented their salary because it was a very discouraged church. There wouldn’t be a lot of male pastors that would accept such help from two women, but this pastor accepted their help for a year which brought some warmth and healing.

The BUWC felt there needed to be another church in Edmonton, and so some demographic studies were done and Castle Downs was identified as the area, so after a year in Medicine Hat, Joyce and Betty followed the call to Castle Downs. Unfortunately, the other BUWC (CBWC) churches were not involved in the planning and seemed to feel that a new work wasn’t needed. There wasn’t a mother church—it was a cold plant. The work was especially difficult without much support from other area churches, and Joyce and Betty would never recommend that strategy again.

“We tried to develop a partner approach with the churches and to have teams from each church come out and offer music, child care, to add to the numbers involved, but it wasn’t what they felt equipped for in that situation.”

They tried for three years but it never really got off the ground.

After Edmonton, they were encouraged to rebirth a church in Swift Current after our BUWC church had closed its doors. Jim Wells, pastor of Westhill Park in Regina, had a vision for that community and urged them on. It was a hard city to find a place to meet that was suitable.

It was the one calling that Betty and Joyce really questioned whether God was really leading them to for ministry. They felt more pushed into it rather than a true sense of calling—the BUWC was desperate and they were it! However, the plant had support of other churches from the Baptist Union, and has continued on since that time:

“Though our time there was not overly successful, Ricky Williams followed up our fledgling start and there is a thriving church there today.”

Argyle Road in Regina was Joyce and Betty’s last posting. They came to serve there because the pastor was ill, and they stayed 16 months until the church called a new pastor, Ron Phillips.

Final Thoughts
Joyce and Betty were asked and encouraged to be ordained if they would take a year of seminary, but they never wanted to stop the ministry they were doing in order to go to school. It was financially challenging since they shared one salary the whole time.

They never really experienced face-to-face opposition or were challenged about being women, or untrained. Once, however, they were called to a small northern community in Ontario and were excited to go—everything was arranged and their bags were packed. But in a meeting the night before an influential man that said he didn’t want any women leading his church, and though the Regional Minister still wanted them to come, they decided not to go.

Thanks again to Faye Reynolds for sharing these stories, and to Betty and Joyce for their inspiring lives of ministry! There are many lessons we could learn from Joyce and Betty’s experiences—ones that I hope all of us will take to heart.

We need each other, and God often answers our prayers through each other. Where may He be calling you?

New church plants often draw people back to God, or to God for the first time. They tend to reach new demographics existing churches haven’t reached, and can energize the other congregations around them. Until everyone in a place surrenders to Jesus as Lord, there is always room for another expression of God’s family there.

How will your church encourage new works in your area? Who of your best leaders could you send to help water a new seedling? What greater flourishing of your area, which seems impossible for a single group, could you imagine when the synergy of multiple congregations is offered as a platform for the Holy Spirit to work? I know these are pointed questions, but it’s easy to fall into territorialism–something that can’t keep happening if we  to see God’s Kingdom come and His will be done in Western Canada.

Do you have other stories of servants of God that have inspired you? Do you have a bone to pick about my use of the word “territorialism?” Do you want to hear more about how to partner with the CBWC in establishing a new missional work or congregation? Please get in touch. Leave a comment here, or take it up with my boss! Shannon’s available at, or you can contact me directly at ~Cailey Morgan

PS: Listen to a message from Joyce and Betty’s 2014 visit to Argyle Road here!


Rethinking Success

With Guest Blogger, Alberta Regional Minister Dennis Stone

There are a multitude of voices and assumptions, both historical and cultural, on what constitutes a successful church plant. In today’s blog, we hear from Alberta Regional Minister Dennis Stone and his gained wisdom in the metrics we use to determine a “successful” new community or church plant. ~Shannon

Everyone is behind Church Planting, but as the Alberta Regional Minister I’d like to put a twist on our perception of it. Usually we think of Church Planting as an effort to have a ministry group form, develop finance and worship structures, support a pastor, gain a church building and become fully independent. Those elements are often how successful church planting is perceived.

CBWC Gathering 2017.5.25-158.jpg


In Alberta at the present time we are working with several worshipping congregations that are far from being independent as listed above. These are, however, vibrant congregations hungry for the Word of God, discipling and evangelizing … all on a level that would be outstanding for any of our established churches. In Alberta at the present time we have groups meeting for worship intentionally seeking association with the CBWC (not just meeting in CBWC buildings) in the following languages: Birundi, Karen, KaChin, and Haitian/Creole (Bonnie Doon-Edm). These situations do not include already affiliated groups that serve immigrant communities such a Premiere Eglise d’Expression Francaise de Calgary (PEEEFC) a Haitian group, or Greenhills Christian Fellowship that effectively ministers to those from the Philippines, nor does it include the efforts of FBC Calgary in providing ministry for Spanish and Ethiopian ministries or Westview Baptist in providing ministry for Japanese, Arabic and Deaf (sign language) ministries.

In the new year it looks like we may have another Spanish congregation to work with in Edmonton. Our Calgary Korean church is an exception–independent and healthy, effectively ministering for decades in the Korean language.

These congregations almost always work on a shoestring budget while renting facilities. They usually have pastors who serve out of the goodness of their heart with little financial return for their efforts. Few of these worshipping congregations will ever be fully independent or successful church plants in the traditional sense, but the CBWC cannot stop helping these ministries that do evangelism, immigrant integration, worship in a known language, and intentional mission work within our Canadian borders.

Shannon’s note: Consider how you might join where God is working in some of our new ethnic specific churches as they struggle financially. CBWC and Church Planting are committed to these groups as they do the good work of sharing faith and worship as they gather and as they scatter. Contact us to become a Venture Partner to encourage our brothers and sisters who need the body of Christ so they do not become discouraged in their labour. The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 8, commends the Macedonian church, who even in the midst of their own financial lack, pleaded to share with other saints who were also doing the work of the kingdom of God. And along with Paul, I praise God that we have and can have the privilege of seeing generosity extended among our family of churches.


Evangelical Emmanuel Fellowship Church

By Shannon Youell

Imagine a church that is an enthusiastic worshipping community, a family dependent on prayer, and a “home away from home” for those new to a city and culture. Evangelical Emmanuel Fellowship Church is all of this and more. Pastor Elie Pierre and the male and female leaders who are part of his team are pursuing spiritual renewal in Edmonton’s Haitian community.

Evangelical Emmanuel.jpg

“It takes a village to raise a child.”
This African (Igbo & Yoruba) proverb, which exists in varying forms captures the shared responsibility of everyone in a community, both immediate and extended, to nurture and develop young ones and comes from the African worldview that “children are a blessing from God for the whole community.”

In the same way, it takes a village to support, plant and grow churches. There are many ways a new church needs support and the joy of sharing with these new works makes me think of the apostle Paul’s statement about his joy being complete when those he discipled, mentored, and supported continued the work of the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

A few years ago CBWC was introduced to a lovely group of Haitian believers by our Alberta Regional Minister, Dennis Stone. They had been gathering as a church for a time and desired to be part of a larger family of churches. Their hearts for gathering together and for the people in their neighbourhood are evident and contagious. One of our first tasks in supporting them was in their provincial registration as they are mostly French speaking. Dennis engaged a member of Bonnie Doon Baptist Church in Edmonton to help with translation.

Pastor Elie.jpg

Pastor Elie

A while later, I had the wonderful honour to meet with them and then we introduced them to our wider Edmonton family at a Celebration Dinner.

They felt so very welcome by all. Pastor Elie attended Banff Pastors’ and Spouses’ Conference that year.

Though I was concerned about the language barrier and how he and his wife, Clertude, would be able to engage, on the very first night, Colin Godwin from Carey Theological College happened to be seated with them and engaged them in French!

As we worked towards affiliation, this group continued to move out into the neighbourhood from their rented facility. Early this past spring, they were delivered the news that their rent would be increased to an amount that was out of reach for them. Staff at the Alberta Regional Office began to seek the possibility of sharing space in one of our other Edmonton congregations.

The Circle of Church Life
Around this same time, one of our well established faithful congregations were considering the possibility of closing the church, as their congregation was aging. Bonnie Doon Baptist Church was a plant out of Strathcona Baptist Church in Edmonton in 1913. Sam Breakey reports that the church had a long history of investing in next generation leadership. Many fine CBWC pastors and leaders came from that ethos. Their forward-thinking nature led naturally to Dennis Stone’s encouragement to entrust the building to CBWC so that another congregation could come to life in that community.

A high percentage of French speaking people reside in Bonnie Doon around Faculté St. Jean (University of Alberta) and a newly built French elementary/high school. Thus began the discussion that perhaps God was leading our new Haitian church plant out of their soon-to-be unaffordable space into a new ministry context in a more affordable and strategic location.

Dennis and Sam facilitated meetings between the two groups and they both had growing excitement at the possibilities of new life flourishing in the beloved building and neighbourhood. With the help of our head office and some folk in other Edmonton CBWC churches who provided on the ground assessments and advice on both the building itself and the community, we began to move towards this great opportunity. There was much work to do in assisting with some necessary building upgrades, official motions, and paperwork updating; many hands were involved!

In early June Evangelical Emmanuel Fellowship Church held their first service in the Bonnie Doon facilities. With representation from Bonnie Doon Baptist, they celebrated in worship and thanksgiving for how God made provision in ways beyond anything they could have imagined for both congregations. Much joy was shared and I wonder, as tears were present, if some felt their joy had been made complete.

Written with assistance from Sam Breakey (see, it really does take a village!)


Community Engagement

I love stories! I love to tell them (and I always seem to have one, much to the eye-rolling of some who graciously wait for the point of a discussion while I tell it); but I equally love to hear them. I love to hear the ways God is working through people and communities and neighbourhoods all through the CBWC. Stories inspire me, bring me to raucous laughter and tears of compassion, empathy and delight. I remember stories because I’ve connected with them. This month we are featuring some of the stories we’ve been hearing that have inspired us and others. Hopefully they will inspire you as well and cause you to celebrate along with us how God uses ordinary people in ordinary places in extraordinary ways as we join Him on His mission.

Our first story comes from Victoria, BC, and we highlight it as it demonstrates what can happen when we take the time to invest in what is important to those who live, work and play in the communities beyond our church spaces and join them. Our modernist approach has mainly concentrated on inviting people to come see what is important to us, yet—as the story shows—when we engage in what is important to others, relational trust is established and doors are opened for engaging together. ~ Shannon Youell


David Dawson & fire Chaplain Ken Gill

Community Engagement
by Pastor David Dawson, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Victoria BC

Often, church members do not live in the immediate neighbourhood of their church building. At Emmanuel Baptist in Victoria, people travel from many locations to attend church services and events. Yet when a church is grounded to a particular location through a building, it is important for the church to be connected to the more immediate community. This responsibility often falls upon church staff and the volunteers.

At Emmanuel we have a long history of reaching out to students because we are located near the University of Victoria. More recently, we have been making more of an effort to connect with our neighbourhood and municipality. In the last few years a couple of doors opened for us through the use of our building.

In connection with the Oak Bay fire chaplain ,who attends the Peninsula Mission Church, we have been able to host a couple of appreciation dinners for local police and fire personnel. We have used our building and hospitality skills to bless our emergency personnel with a first-class banquet. This has also allowed us to connect with our mayor and council, who attend these banquets as well.

Another door was opened for us as local neighbourhood groups have asked to host events at our church building. These town hall meetings on such things as urban development and emergency planning have been ways in which I, as lead pastor, have been able to meet people in our community.

On one such occasion, we were planning to host an event which had to be cancelled on short notice because of a power outage. A few people from the immediate neighbourhood still came out to the event and hung around for conversation. Out of this conversation, a local neighbourhood association was born and Emmanuel was able to support this group through printing their newsletter and offering free space to hold meetings and luncheons. Through these connections some of our neighbours have even begun to volunteer time gardening and helping with our student dinners.

It is been a pleasure to build relationships with those in the church’s immediate neighbourhood. We have been able to create positive connections through providing rooms, a few pots of soup and the use of our photocopier.

In an age where community members are not making it a strong priority to attend church, we have found a way to make connections through simple involvement in community activities. We hope that God will use our physical assets to build friendships and help us to create a good reputation in our community.


Where We’ve Been and What’s Ahead

By Shannon Youell

As we look back on the fullness of the work we’ve been involved in this past year, Cailey, Joell and I are keenly aware that as we’ve paused to pray and discern in the 77 Days of Prayer initiative, the daily 10:02 prayer for workers of the harvest, and our several articles and resources on prayer and on neighbourhood prayer walking, God continues to be at work all around us. The challenge in all that He is doing, is for us to continue the discipline of praying and listening to where God invites us to focus and join Him in this season.


Listening may mean a change of direction or rethinking some of the pillars we’ve been relying on, as God calls us to rely on Him more and more in our changing cultural landscape and increasing population of those who identify as having no religious affiliation whatsoever. Many who identify this way, when surveyed by researchers, report they have deep and meaningful relationships; find purpose and meaning in their life; are generally happy and fulfilled.What does this mean to us, the Church, as we attempt to engage them? How do our own ideas of “what they need” have to change? These are deeper questions to explore in prayer and discernment. God is re-igniting the desire of the Church for those who don’t know Jesus the King, so He’s preparing us as workers for the harvest, but perhaps we need to retool some of our methods as we harvest a different kind of crop.

We are excited and encouraged by where we are seeing God preparing you and me and all our congregations–His workers–for harvest. We have had more folk talk to us about missional innovations, engaging neighbourhoods, replants, new churches and revitalizing existing churches to join God on mission in 2017 than the previous three years! So we’ve been praying and waiting. Praying for God’s kingdom, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Praying for planters, pastors, lay leaders and all the local missionaries in our pews who are discerning the call of God to reimagine evangelism, church and mission. Praying for God’s wisdom and provision as our CBWC tribe partners with these works.

Will you pray? Will you pray and listen to where God is at work? There are several new churches preparing and discerning beginning something new, whether a new location, new plant or renewed vision of local missionaries. Some are brand new initiatives; others are folk who have been meeting together and desire to join our CBWC family; others are new immigrant churches as God brings believers from other nations to establish refuges of faith for new Canadians. Each of these cannot do the work on their own, nor are they meant to. As they pray and discern, we also pray and discern for provision, for trust, for God’s Kingdom to be revealed through each one.

We see in Acts and in Paul’s writings that the churches collected money to send to those churches who were struggling and those who were planting: churches supporting churches as they stepped out in the mission of sharing Jesus with the world God so loves. In John 17, Jesus prays that all of us would have that same love for the world as Jesus has for us and that God has for Jesus. Think about that! We are to love with the same generosity and sacrifice of God, who loves so much so He sent His one and only Son that none may perish and all could find the salvation of God’s Kingdom through the love of God revealed in Jesus.

As this year closes and so does our collective season of making space to pray, listen and discern, the next year opens full of the possibilities of how, then, we shall respond. How then shall the good and faithful folk in our approximately 168 churches respond to the call of the Spirit as we engage our world for Christ? One of my practices as each year closes is to take time to pray and ask God two things: Have I been faithful? And have I been obedient? Faithful means I have given, I have blessed, I have served–it’s something based on my metric of that generosity. But I always then ask the second question as I also need to be obedient to God’s metric in my faithfulness.

A HUGE THANK YOU to the faithful and obedient Joell Haugan, who has worked alongside Cailey and I for the past few years as director in the Heartland Region.  Joell brought with him an understanding and love for church planting, particularly in the rural context, and a huge heart of grace and generosity.  He has often hopped in his car and travelled from Swift Current where he pastors, to the towns and cities dotting the Heartland Region to encourage churches in engaging in and partnering in new and existing plants.  He has joined us in hosting CP initiatives at retreats, Assembly and Banff Pastors Conferences, Celebration Dinners and ministerials.

At church planting we have been praying and discerning the best way to cover this vast territory and Joell has gifted us with his insight based on his experience. Though Joell will no longer be the official director of Heartland Region, he will still share his gifts and insight in what is reshaped in the future.  Please drop Joell a big thank you or buy him a Timmy’s if you see him.  He has been and continues to be a huge blessing to our CBWC family!


Joell roadtripping last year.

We have the wonderful privilege of joining God where He is working and expanding His Kingdom around us. May our prayer and our response in 2018 be “Your Kingdom come and Your will be done” in us and through us as we are faithful and obedient to God’s missional calling to our CBWC family.


Prayer is Not Optional

By Shannon Youell

At Banff Pastors & Spouses Conference, Church Planting (which includes missional innovations) always has something to help stimulate your imagination in sharing Jesus with those who have not yet experienced His presence in their lives. This year we put together a few simple resources to share with your congregation on a crucial place to begin engaging neighbours in proximity to where you live, work and play.

I want to assure you that we provide you with ideas that most often we have done or are doing ourselves and/or are currently challenging our thinking around evangelism, discipleship and being faithfully present to God and neighbour. We want to populate our thinking that inviting Jesus with us into all the places and spaces we find ourselves in should be the norm for His followers, not the exception.

It seems that 2017 has been the year of prayer.  By that I mean that across our nation, in our churches and in our spirits, God has been tugging us to that place of making space, praying, listening, and responding.


We’ve been joining in praying for ourselves with the Luke 10:02 movement. Just to say it again…when we pray that prayer Jesus instructed us to pray we are praying for ourselves, as we are the workers Jesus is calling out for.

We’ve been praying for our churches and denomination during this season of 77 Days of Prayer.  And, I certainly hope, we have been praying for our neighborhoods and neighbors and folk who live and work and play around us.

That’s a lot of praying for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven, in our homes, neighborhoods, churches, towns, cities and nations!

Paul wrote to the Galatians about sowing to please the Spirit and not our own selfish natures.  He encourages them, and us, to “…not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9). There’s that reaping a harvest analogy again and we find that we are the reapers (again)!  “Don’t become weary”, don’t quit because it is hard, unrewarding, boring, silly, uncomfortable and isn’t filling the seats of your Sunday service. The call is to pray “unceasingly” and with boldness, faith and until you see God moving and hearts shift (usually I’ve found it is first my heart that needs shifting; my mountain that needs to fall into the sea!) and suddenly God’s presence fills the spaces between our praying and the harvesting.

If, in the sincerity of our hearts, loving those God loves, desiring to witness and be a part of seeing the light of shalom come into places where darkness still prevails, then praying is always the foundation.  Can we pray? Can we give up some of our precious “me” and “us” time to seek the kingdom in the way Jesus instructed.

In our give-away super packet at Banff, we included some ideas about prayer walking your neighbourhoods in your town. You can get it by clicking here.

Print it out.  Give it to every person in your congregation.  Model it first yourself.  This is where I began, though not with a guide or even an idea of what I was doing.  God challenged me to stop praying only for my home, my safety, my family and to begin to pray for the neighbourhood too. Then He challenged me to walk my neighbourhood weekly and stop, listen and pray at each house.  For you, we give this guided thirty-day challenge.  Will you accept it?  Will you join God who is at work already–He grows the harvest after all–and take the time to discover where He wants you to begin reaping?



Live From Montreal

By Shannon Youell

Journey to the Cross
There are 500 stairs to journey to the top of Mount Royal which rises behind McGill University in downtown Montreal. Cailey and I are in Montreal for the 2017 Church Planting Canada Congress. The morning prior to the conference I decided to take the 2 km journey up those stairs to the lookout point to view the city and river, and then a little further to the cross that is visible from all around the city, especially at night when it is lit up.


It was a LOT of stairs.

It is not an easy climb and there is an easier way to the top–along more gentle inclines with no stairs–but I was up to the challenge so off I went! As my legs began to burn and my breathing became more labored, I wondered what was it in me that chose the harder way up as opposed to the more leisurely route. At one point where the stair path intercepted the roadway path I almost defaulted to the path easier taken. My journey to the cross that day reminds me of our journey as people desiring to see God’s Kingdom continue to break into our nation, which finds foundation at this historical city.

A Collection of Losers
The Congress began with a daylong preconference, The Nones and Dones: The Evolving Story of Secularity in Canada, that engaged church planters and catalysts from across the nation in the conversation around the changing religious landscape in Canada.

James Tyler Robertson, Adjunct Professor, Tyndale Seminary, Canadian Religious Historian and Pastor, helped us frame our roots as people who were apolitical, fiercely independent and determined to break free of both imperialism and the control of the organized church. Our DNA as a nation is that we are a collection of “losers” (losers of the various battles that defined the settlement boundaries of North America and those whose loyalties changed due these conflicts) “who survived by hard work and partnerships.” The only way they survived was humble hard work. Partnerships with faith groups were necessary to survive.

Jamie’s description of our history has gone round and round in my head. As we in the church express great alarm at the secularization of Canada, what does this revelation say to us when the percentage of those who self-identify on census information as No Religious Affiliation (or “nones”) continues to rise?

The Spiritual Landscape
One of the main reasons for this shift in self-identifying as “nones,” and relatedly “dones” (those who have church experience but are “done” with it), is that it is now socially acceptable to say in public that you have no religious affiliation. In the history of our country, many of the social services and pillars of society centered on the church and the services that they offered. Everyone needed some kind of affiliation with the Church. Once government began to offer its citizens healthcare and education, and began to solemnize marriages, for example, people were no longer bound to the church for their regular function of their daily lives.

Sociologist Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme (Associate Professor of Sociology at Waterloo University) has been studying the secularization of Canada. Based on those studies, using Census figures, Statistics Canada and other research, she found that in our area of Western Canada, the average of 28% people have self-identified as nones.

Of our western region, BC ranks the highest at 39% of the population saying they have no religious affiliation—but among those under age 35, the percentage jumps to 47%. This is based on census and other research between 2010 and 2014.

We can’t expect to have a common history and language anymore—many of these “nones” have never had an experience of Christian Church. Almost half–47%–of teenagers in Canada have never attended a religious service (Bibby Research, 2008). Sociologists say that number now, ten years later, is higher—closer to 52%—and continuing to rise.

Now What?
Joel Theissen, Professor of Sociology at Ambrose University and Director of Flourishing Congregations Institute said that the #1 reason people join any group is because they have relationship with someone inside the group.

So what does that mean for those of us who are longing to see God’s Kingdom realized in our schools and neighbourhoods and communities?

We’ve written often about how different methods and approaches have worked in different eras in the last 100 years and why these methodologies are working or not today. Missiologist Hugh Halter, in his explorations of intentional neighbouring said recently in an interview that they realized every friend and neighbour who “eventually found Jesus first found themselves drawn to the festivities in a home” (Hugh Halter, Happy Hour).

Karen Wilk is part of the Capacity Building and Innovation Team of the new mission agency of CRCNA as well as a National Team Member of Forge Canada. As part of the preconference, she shared her experience of innovating and shaping faith in community in her own Edmonton neighborhood where people are finding Jesus and faith, not because they were invited to church but rather they were first invited to community in their community (we’ve featured one of Karen’s books before, titled Don’t Invite Them to Church). She spoke of shifting our conversations from how to make church grow and how to get people in them to what is God up to in our neighborhoods and how can we participate.

Overall, the church in Canada is facing 500 stairs. There are easier paths being promoted, but the true journey needs to humbly begin climbing each stair with perseverance, prayer, and partnerships, remembering the grit required of us to continue the climb to make Jesus visible and the cross a light on the hill.

Perseverance, prayer and partnerships. This is the Canadian way after all…eh.

We’re going to have some Tool Kits for you at Banff to help start these conversations with your church leadership team and congregations. Come chat with us.

We are deeply appreciative of all our Canadian pioneers both in the past and current. Thank you New Leaf Network and Jared Siebert for your brilliant reveal of the Canadian Landscape. Thank you Forge Canada and Cam Roxburgh for your pioneering work for the past decades of re-imaging mission in our nation and in our neighbourhoods. Thank you Church Planting Canada for pressing in to gather Jesus lovers together to wrestle, share and encourage one another in this journey of sharing faith through our churches and networks.

And thank you to each of you who read this blog because you too desire to see where God is at work and join Him there in your cities, communities and churches.


Cailey and I taking in the CPC Congress.

Joell, Cailey and I would love to talk to you about participating in a one day conference with New Leaf Network around the topic of the Nones and Dones as we all wrestle with grasping hold of the challenges of sharing Jesus in an increasing secular environment. Drop us a note to begin!