Don’t Drop the Baton!

Over the years I’ve had the privilege of being a part of several church plants and ministry launches. Anticipation, excitement and expectations abound. The beginning of a great race begins.

Over the last while I’ve also witnessed first-hand the closing of some once glorious churches that have enjoyed tremendous seasons of ministry but have since failed and ceased to exist. Discouragement, desperation and frustration set in as they shut the doors. The race is over.

What is it that allows great churches to sustain the challenges of longevity, sustainability and relativity? Like many others I suggest continual leadership is the critical component. “Continual leadership” to me refers to the quality of leadership in time of transitions–pastoral comings and goings as well as other key leadership changeovers.

Continual leadership upholds the vision, values and mission of the church in those seasons of change. Continual leadership happens when the “baton of leadership” is handed off in the “race” of ministry life in the church. Leadership in ministry is often compared to a relay race run by a team of pastors and ministry leaders. The first runner carries a baton. After running a specified distance, the runner hands the baton to the next team member.

The exchange–ministry succession–must occur within a zone a few meters long. Timing is crucial , just as every ministry has a season. If the rgenerationsunners do not exchange the baton within this zone, the team is disqualified (which, in church leadership terms is burnout, heartache, and loss). The length of the race varies and in some relays each team member runs an equal distance, but in others they run different distances.

The relay race is not necessarily won by the team that runs the fastest, but by the team that can successfully pass the baton in the exchange zone. This is continual leadership.

That’s right: races are won or lost in the passing of the baton.

In the race I’m running I’ve received the baton from some amazing people and I’m looking forward with joy and anticipation to the people I get to hand the baton to. I’ve listed below some encouraging resources from folks who are running in the same season as me. I hope they’ll help you to finish strong.

Shalom, Tom Lavigne

Church Planters love to party!

Rev. Dr. Luis Pantoja had a dream… Pastor Cliff Gonzales has a dream… Pastor Tom Lavigne has a dream. The Canadian Baptists of Western Canada has a dream.

Together we are celebrating the unfolding of a dream in the mosaic of the West!

Luis Pantoja had a dream to see the vision of Greenhills Christian Fellowship Philippines translated into the culture of Western Canada. Pastor Pantoja, who passed away a short
while ago, lived to celebrate the birthing of the dream through a joint partnership between
GCF and the CBWC.

Pastor Cliff Gonzales, a veteran church planter, is celebrating the dream of planting Greenhills churches in every quadrant of the city of Calgary. See Greenhills Christian
Fellowship Calgary as they celebrate their second anniversary:

Tom Lavigne and the Canadian Baptists have a dream of seeing the growth of God’s kingdom, alleviating poverty and suffering, and the development of a new generation of Christian leaders and church planters. With 20 new churches and 30 developing projects we are seeing the dream unfold in Western Canada.

Join with us in the miracle and joy of new churches in the West. It’s worth celebrating!

Church Planting and Modus Baptisma

Some of the issues faced by Church Planters relate to questions about baptism.
According to the sage Wikipedia, Baptism (from the Greek noun βάπτισμα baptisma; itself derived from βαπτισμός baptismos, washing) is a Christian rite of admission (or adoption), almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also a particular church tradition. Baptism has been called a sacrament and an ordinance of Jesus Christ.

As a very young child I was baptized by sprinkling with the only reason being that my infant brother was also being baptized and we were getting a sort of family deal for my other brothers and me. Having come to Christ as an adult believer I was baptized by immersion. Years later on a ministry educational trip to Israel I decided to have my baptism “affirmed” by being immersed by a pastor friend in the Jordan River. Personally, it was a very moving experience for me.

Pastor Hizon Cua of Greenhills Vancouver performing a baptism

Pastor Hizon Cua of Greenhills Vancouver performing a baptism

Early on in our church planting ministry we had to come to terms with the question of baptism. What is baptism all about? Is it essential? If so, what mode should we adopt (sprinkling, pouring, immersing…)?

What about baptism and membership? It seems one question led to another, to another, to another.

The early fathers of the church wrestled with the baptism questions, Reformation leaders were
martyred over the issues of baptism and today’s church planters are challenged by what role baptism should play in their new churches.

I’ll never forget baptizing our friend Larry in the icy waters of the Peace River in northeastern British Columbia on a May long weekend. He had come to faith later in life and having heard of the Lord’s own baptism wanted to follow his Saviour in obedience. Larry knew that the Peace River flowed into the Mackenzie River and eventually to the Arctic Ocean and liked the idea that his sins would be washed away into a frozen sea. I just wished he’d picked a warmer time of year to be baptized.

As a family of churches the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada have had many discussions around the significance and role of baptism in the growing life of a believer. The CBWC website has some resources that might help to answer some of the questions you may have.

Tom Lavigne

Creating Welcoming Communities

Church Planting is all about creating communities of faith that welcome people home.

I was raised in a Catholic family, in a Catholic community – attending catechism and church regularly – trained as an altar boy and sensed God’s call on my life for ministry around the time I received my first communion… Unlike some I have no Catholic horror stories – we had a wonderful priest and a loving community that supported us in many ways.

TOm-Chris-masAfter several years of being away from a faith community I returned to Christ through the leading of friends in an evangelical Pentecostal church. I was welcomed, loved, mentored and discipled. Affirming God’s call to ministry I was trained in a Pentecostal Bible college and interned in one of their churches. I deeply appreciate and am thankful for the encouragement
and blessings I’ve received from the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies.

So, why am I a Baptist? Sensing God’s call to church planting, we joined with friends from different Christian experiences to create a community of faith where denominationalism was not a hindering factor. When our church plant looked at affiliating with a larger church family we looked for a group that would offer a healthy degree of autonomy as well as help us with ongoing support. We found a welcoming home with the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada (CBWC).

If you’re church planting and find yourself looking for a family of churches consider the CBWC and check out some reasons to join us in creating welcoming communities of faith in Western Canada.

Tom Lavigne, Director of Church Planting

Orienteering and the Year Ahead

In the sporcompass-mapt of orienteering, participants race using a compass and a map to find points in the landscape. It can be enjoyed as a walk in the woods or as a competitive sport.

Compass use works best when looking ahead to focus on where you’re going, while also looking back regularly to remind yourself where you’ve come from and to help keep yourself on track.

Looking back over 2012, we’re excited and grateful to see God at work in our Church Plants. He’s strengthening and growing them deeper in their relationship with Him and in the communities they’re called to across Western Canada. We’re seeing people coming to faith and coming back to faith, people being baptized, and people being discipled and raised up as leaders.

Everywhere we look we see that God is moving, the West is changing and the world is coming.

Looking ahead we’re awed by the opportunities before us. There are prospective planting opportunities in Neepawa and Winnipeg, Manitoba; Kindersley, Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Calgary, Edmonton, Hughendon, Red Deer, and Wainwright, Alberta; and Quesnel, Vancouver, Victoria, and Williams Lake, British Columbia. The task ahead is as thrilling as it is daunting.


Mikyuki and Yoichi Taniguchi

As we orienteer our way around Western Canada we are very thankful for the courage and sacrifices being made daily by those leading in our new and developing churches.

We continue to pray for Reymus and Angie Cagampan in Winnipeg; Patrick and Vicki Hazelwood in Lethbridge; Roger and Dorcas Maurice, Yoichi and Miyuki Taniguchi, and Cliff and Jen Gonzales in Calgary; Janet and Gerry McBeth, Albert Kao and Christina Wu, and Peter and Jennifer Chong in Burnaby; Jodi Spargur and Hizon and Grace Cua in Vancouver; and Norm and Alice Sowden in Mill Bay.

Tom with Alice and Norm Sowden

Tom with Alice and Norm Sowden

Our successful Church Plant orienteering is made possible through the ongoing prayers and generous financial support of the entire Canadian Baptists of Western Canada church family. In particular we would like to thank Westview Baptist Church, Leduc Community Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Church Sechelt and First Baptist Church Lethbridge for going above and beyond to help make extra contributions to the cause in 2012Thank you!

Special thanks also to Jan Paasuke and the CBWC Board, Jeremy Bell and the Executive Staff, and Joell Haugan and the Church Planting Advisory Team for your continued oversight and encouragement. To Cailey Morgan, my co-labourer in ministry: thank you for going the extra mile in our communications, networking and research—and for being a difference maker in the Kingdom.

Orienteering is a full of risks. The challenges are many and the task sometimes seems impossible. Church Planting involves courage, character and conviction. Looking forward to 2013 we’re emboldened by the words of the apostle Paul to the Philippians:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (3:12-14).

Pastor Tom Lavigne, Director of Church Planting

Church Planting and Resolute Mice

What do the smartest mouse in the world and Church Planters have in common? Check out this video.

mouse-mugWhen I think of many of the Church Planters I know lots of words come to mind: resourceful, stick-to-it, determined, faithful, overcomers.

Having to face all kinds of hurdles, obstacles, tests, trials, and challenges, Church Planters are risk-takers. They’re strong-minded, resolute, gritty and single-minded. Church Planters by nature tend to be unwavering, firm, dogged, untiring and at times heroic. Other words that come to mind are focused, unyielding, persistent, tenacious and uncompromising.

I’m often asked are Church Planters born or made… My answer is YES! I’m also quick to say that while many Church Planters are developed through schools and training centres they need to have many of the above attributes to be successful in reaching out and establishing new communities of faith.

God is moving, the world is coming and Western Canada is changing… It takes some very “wise mice” to hear what the Spirit is saying and respond with courage as opportunities arise!!

Tom Lavigne
Director of Church Planting – Canadian Baptists of Western Canada

The Holy Spirit in Church Planting

Tim Keller, Redeemer Church and several other Church Planters share some basic yet profound insights into the role of the Holy Spirit in church planting. The 4:33 minutes/seconds you’ll invest in watching this clip may have a long and profound impact on your ministry:

What are your thoughts on what Tim Keller has to say?


Everybody Has Something to Say About Church Planting! How about you?

It seems that everyone is talking about planting new churches. Church Plants come in all shapes, sizes, types, and philosophies.

There are books about planting missional churches, 21st-century churches, successful churches (do people write books about planting unsuccessful ones?).

Church-Planting-wimpsI love some of the titles:

There are also some terrific authors and practioners, including Ed Stetzer (a prolific writer/blogger with lots of good stuff to say, Michael Frost (for the folks who like it straight up), Alan Hirsch (an Aussie globetrotter with lots of penetrating insights), Sean Benesh (planting in urban contexts and a personal favourite), Frank Viola (for the organic flavor of church planting), and the list goes on.

Check out this link to some of the better reads. If you’ve read some of the authors I’d love to hear your insights.

Who knows, maybe someday you’ll write a book saying something about your church planting experiences. I’d love to get a copy!

That’s my story – for now.


Surviving and Thriving – Army Stories

The Sargent Major barked to a roomful of raw recruits: “From six o’clock in the morning until six o’clock in the evening you’re on the Queens time – get it moving gentlemen!”

After high school I had three options: I could go to college or university, but I had no money, and less-than-spectacular grades. I could enter into the workforce in a lousy economy with zero to few job options. Or, I could transition from the Army Reserves into the Regular Force—and that’s what I did.

The military taught me lots of things, most of which I can’t share in print. However, three things I will share because they’ve had a major impact on the Church Planting ministries that I’ve been involved with.

  1. In the Army they teach us to know everything we could about the mission we’re engaging with: local people, conditions, culture, landscape, history, places of influence, strengths, vulnerabilities and on and on. Should church planters take the time to know everything they can about the community they’re working in?  Sounds like Church Planting 101!
  2. Napoleon spoke of how an army operated on its stomach. In other words if you weren’t well fed and looked after it was hard to hold up over the long haul. In the same way, successful Church Planters need to look after themselves, their families and their leaders in ways that are healthy and long lasting. Which approach are you taking to mission and ministry—the marathon or the 100-yard dash?
  3. I joined up with the Army because I needed a job. The military helped to train me and sustain me while I developed, matured and grew into the person I needed to be. Many Church Planters are bi-vocational—one of our Planters was quad-vocational. They work hard and long developing the relationships that will grow and enhance ministry long term. Some of our Church Planters have told me that they will always be bi-vocational and have no desire to be fully employed by their church, but I’ll discuss that point in another article. Being employed outside of the Church Plant provides a helpful perspective on the people we minister to and with.

Geoff Surratt’s article “Church Plants Made to Stick” offers some interesting perspectives on church planting sustainability. Don’t skim the article without looking at the 5 Responses at the bottom.

Now, get down and give me 50 pushups!


Missional Training

Once in a while, we at CBWC Church Planting get to take part in learning opportunities with some of our Planters.

Hugh Halter shared recently at a Forge Canada workshop at Southside Community Church in Surrey, BC, with pastors and leaders from a variety of Lower Mainland Churches. The CBWC Church Planting ministry sponsored five people to share in the day.

Pastor/Evangelist/Author Hugh Halter lives in Denver with his wife, Cheryl, and his two daughters, Alli and McKenna. Hugh’s books include: The Tangible Kingdom, And – The Scattered And Gathered Church as well as his most recently published Sacrilege. He is the founder of Missio in Portland, OR, and is currently the lead pastor of Adullam (remember the caves where King David hung out…) in Denver, CO. He speaks extensively across the continent encouraging and equipping pastors in incarnational ministry and missional leadership.

Hugh’s topics of discussion included discipleship, leadership and living out missional community. Hugh’s relaxed yet passionate presentation style helped us to realize that behind the ecclesiology of Adullam community lies the heart of an evangelist with a firm grasp on his Christology.

We asked Hugh what he’s excited about these days. Here’s a short video:

You can read more about Adullam’s missional structure and vision on their website, or in any of Hugh’s books.