Listening and Learning with a Blackboard

As we further explore engaging our communities, I want to introduce you to an out-of-the-box idea that First Baptist Church in Victoria has been experimenting with.

FBC Victoria is located right on the corner of Quadra and North Park on the edge of downtown.  They are overshadowed by a much larger and dominant building housing Glad Tidings Church, so much so, that people are often surprised that FBC is a church too!

To help the neighbourhood realize that FBC is there among them, Pastor Jeff Sears and congregation decided they needed to do something so “people realize that we are a church and we are active.”

They have installed a chalk board, complete with chalk, inviting those in their neighborhood to write to one another and the folk at FBC.  Pastor Jeff explained to a passerby who inquired about why the board was up that “our church needs to hear from our neighbours so that we can learn from them.”  Not to preach to them or to write pithy inspirational messages, but to hear and learn how the people in the neighbourhood around them view their world and the beautiful and not-so-beautiful aspects of life and purpose.

blackboard2Each week Jeff poses a question on the board, such as “What was your most life defining moment?”  One of the poignant responses was, “The birth of my child; the death of my child,”  a reminder that there are those all around us whose lives are defined by both beauty and anguish. Perhaps comments such as these will heighten our awareness that every stranger we pass has a story that they need to share and we need to hear.

The decision to put the board up came with risk: in Jeff’s words a “dangerous venture.” What if it was damaged or stolen (the board was caringly made by a congregant), or people write vulgarities and statements against the church, Christianity and God? It was a risk the folks were willing to take to engage their neighbourhood. The good news wasn’t shared by hunkering down in veiled places, but by exposure and risk. They decided that they wouldn’t erase anything negative people wrote about the church as long as it had something to do with the question posed, and though some people did indeed write vulgarities, they were often erased by other passersby. The neighbourhood began to own the board, one person writing, “I love this blackboard.”

The first week they hoped for a couple of comments to the posted question and were blown away with how fast the board filled up.  Jeff says that this told him that people want to be heard, to tell their story, to find meaning from one another in sharing story.  blackboard1

FBC Victoria’s Mission Statement articulates the thought around the chalkboard:  “We are a diverse community united under Christ in spirit and in action, transforming the heart of our neighbourhood.”

The approach to fulfil their mission is not to go tell people what to think, but to hear what others think and to find the intersection between their stories and the God story–how to bring their stories into God’s redemptive, restorative story.  All the questions posted on the board relate to the message Jeff shares the following Sunday, praying that some board contributors/readers will be curious to hear and share more on the questions.

Nora Walker, Board of Deacons Moderator at First Baptist, shared that one man wrote that FBC could make a difference in the community by giving him someone to talk to.  An attempt to follow up fell through, but a few weeks ago at an FBC-hosted BBQ, the same man showed up and connections were made. Nora makes a point of visiting local coffee shops and eateries near the church and has engaged with many people in conversation who now know FBC as the “church with the chalkboard.”  Often they then talk with her and tell their stories.

But there is also an inward reason for the board. Jeff says that he and his congregation want to become more aware of the thoughts and feelings of their neighbours, to not look upon them as strangers but to see that they have deep and important things to share.

It would seem to me that this concept, too, is part of all our discipleship. We don’t have all the answers, and we need to understand the questions and hear the answers from one another both within and without our gathering spaces. That we learn and are enriched by our diversity as humans; that we share in mercy and compassion both in painful and joyful events; that in the midst of both, we can find Jesus ever-present amongst humanity laughing with us, mourning with us and bringing the comfort of God in deep, meaningful ways.

What ways are you engaging the community around you, or in what ways are you imagining engagement taking place? We want to learn from one another how to be Christ’s presence in our everyday spaces and places. Write and let us know what you are up to so we can share your innovative and risky ideas here.

Pastor Shannon Youell
CBWC Church Planting Director

Doubly Loved

What are the markings of a biological son? He looks like his dad. Without even realizing it, he mirrors the personality of his father. His natural defaults, his funny little quirks–they’re little pieces of proof that he has his dad’s DNA. He belongs to his father right down to the molecules that make up his body. His father is overjoyed to see himself reflected in his son. What beautiful love.

How about the markings of an adopted daughter? She oozes love for the man who scooped her out of loneliness and gave her his name. She follows him around the house, studying and copying his every move. When he comes to pick her up from school, she points him out to her friends. “That’s my dad!” What beautiful love.

father daughterIf you think that’s beautiful, consider this: you are twice-born. You are doubly loved.

In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (Ephesians 1:5).

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory (Romans 8:14-17).

God, as the Creator of the universe, fathered humanity into existence. He is your physical Dad–He created you. He cannot help but love you because He bore you, and you are His.

God, as the Father of His people the Church, drew you back to Himself and adopted you into His family. He chose, knowing your faults and all the ways you are going to hurt Him and reject Him and embarrass the family through your selfishness, to welcome you. He chose to love you.

And now you are His biological and adopted child. You get to bear His name. You get to rely on Him for your identity, for your value.

You are in His family, and He’s asked you to show your love for Him by loving your brothers and sisters, those He bought back from slavery with His own blood, just like He did for you.

You were an orphan, but not any longer. Will you now go, and tell everyone around you that they don’t have to be orphans either? Will you share even a bit of the love, the inheritance that the Father has so abundantly–so hilariously over-abundantly–poured out on you?

Cailey Morgan
CBWC Church Planting

Three Elements of Church Revitalization

By Shannon Youell

I am often asked to talk about “church renewal.” As with many titles or terminologies, this term can be so ambiguous that the meanings are multiple.Recently I was asked with two of my colleagues to do a workshop on Renewal in the Church. The understanding we had of this came out of three areas that had impacted how we think about church and the activities and missions surrounding it.

The first was around context. Where a particular church community is situated can change the dynamics of our lives as both gathered and scattered bodies. Mark Doerksen shared about one of the Heartland churches situated in the heart of farmland. How that church approaches engaging their community can look quite different than an urban church or even an urban church in an economically-depressed area of the city would.

The second was around culture. CBWC world traveler Shelby Gregg shared with us an interesting observation she made while exploring the city of Lisbon in Portugal. She noted that the town itself was a series of concentric circles that formed around church buildings. The church was the focal point of the community development plan because at the time, church was a dominant cultural place of community gatherings. In our post-modern culture here in North America, that is not often the case anymore. Especially in urban centers, the centrality of a church building and the activities found within are no longer the focus of social structures.

I took the group on a story-walk around the neighbourhood and the community around it. Participants in the workshop mapped their own place, some mapping the neighbourhood they lived in, while others did their workplace or church location neighbourhoods. neighbours CC pnwra The purpose of this exercise is to raise awareness in us that we all live and work and shop in the mission field. This is the third area: We are the renewal in our churches. As we share our lives in relationship with those we are surrounded by in our everyday lives, people introduced to living life the Jesus way, and we ourselves find new wonder and joy in seeing how Jesus works in mysterious and amazing ways through us to bring his redeeming, reconciling, restorative hope right here in our neighbourhoods!

Often, we think of renewal in the church as internal changes to programs, to music selections, to small groups. We should continue to reflect on these elements of our culture and context, but systems theory tells us that if we want to change something, changing the system is the wrong way to do it. Systems effectively change when we change our thinking about the things we do. Imposing changes on a system just changes how we approach a particular task, not why we do it in the first place. That was a part of our task at the workshop – to stir up the whys of what we are doing and how effective or ineffective those things may be in differing contexts, cultures and generations. If the why of what we do is to see the kingdom of God advance, then everything we do as gathered and as scattered should reflect that. And since the church is no longer the central community hub in many of our contexts, we will need to rethink how we meet and be salt and light to the world God so loves.

Over the next several blogging articles, I will be sharing with you stories of our CBWC family who are hearing God’s leading into their neighbourhoods and creative ways they are connecting with people beyond their Sunday service gatherings. I would love to hear from you out there in the blog reading galaxy with your stories too! Contact me at so we can chat and share with our tribe how you’ve discovered connecting within your context and culture to those where you live, work, play, and pray!

Shannon Youell
CBWC Church Planting Coordinator

What ARE we Planting Part IV: In A Neighbourhood

By Shannon Youell

Church planting is developing an expression of God’s kingdom in a neighbourhood.

In the beautiful and familiar passage of John chapter one sits one of my favorite verses: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message this way, “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood” (John 1:14).

CC Lauren Wellicome

God, in Jesus, moved into the neighbourhood!  He went to the local school, shopped at the nearby shops, visited over the fence with his immediate neighbours, went to barn dances at the local community center, memorized the Torah at the local synagogue. He lived there, right there, God with skin on, where humanity, created in His image, lived. And He lives in my neighbourhood, in your neighbourhood. He dwells among the world He so loves and His presence invites all to participate with Him in the ministry of reconciliation.

I love this image as it helps me understand and re-see that God is already at work in the places around me. What does that mean for us as we wrestle with God and imagine with Him where he is already at work in our neighbourhoods? And where, exactly, is the neighbourhood where we are to develop this expression of God’s kingdom? Is it the neighbourhood where the building is that we gather for worship? Or the one in which we live? Or work? Or where the jogging trail, the coffee shop, the grocery store that we frequent during the week are?

Perhaps, the answer is the same answer Jesus gave when the Pharisee asked, “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus’ short answer: the people right in front of you! Right where you have been placed. Right where you are. This is where each of us, as image-bearers of Christ, are compelled by love of neighbour to develop an expression of God’s kingdom.

We form relationships with those around us, in communities whose health and well-being affect our own health and well-being, because, as we are reminded in Jeremiah, we are not set in a place to endure until heaven, but to “seek the peace of prosperity [of the place I’ve put you]. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (29:7).

Eugene Peterson takes us on a journey of “a conversation in spiritual theology”—the subtitle of his book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. The book is an amazing read, but I want to focus our attention on his observations about place in his chapter titled “Christ Plays in Creation.” He talks about how God created place for humans and it is local. It is wherever we are. And it’s not perfect; there’s a serpent slithering around. Peterson writes this:

This place, this garden, is not utopia, is not an ideal no-place.  It is simply place, locale, geography, geology.  But it is also a good place, Eden, because it provides the form by which we can live to the glory of God (page 74).  

And a few pages later he acknowledges, “Getting to know the neighbourhood, the nature and conditions of the neighbourhood, is fundamental to living to the glory of God.  It is slow and complex work” (page 78).

Pepe Pont CC BY-ND 2.0

I wonder that much of our wrestling to define neighbour and neighbourhood has to do with what we need to come to terms with.  Developing places where the glory of God is seen does take some slow, often tedious, and complex work.  It requires commitment and shared heart with God about who he loves. t demands dying to what Peterson calls “self-enclosed” lives—to opening ourselves up to an adventure of learning who is around us, and where the gospel story intersects in their own stories.  It means putting aside what we think is needed and discover together, in a neighbourhood, what is needed to usher in God’s shalom that brings healing, hope and goodness to that place.

In urban planning and developing we are seeing an intentionality in reclaiming community. In reconnecting neighbourhoods to shopping and recreation and community issues. As Christ Followers, we should be doing the same—looking neighbourhoods as places we already live, work, play and pray in. But just like in urban planning, we must be intentional. We must make an effort and take a step out of our comfort zone.

Is there a local community issue? Attend the meetings, research all sides, get to know all people involved.

Help out cleaning up the parks; participating, not just attending, local community celebrations; read to kids at schools; do a bakery or grocery pick up run for your local food bank once a week.

Make an effort: engage, encourage. Be intentional. Get to know the people around you. Start walking your neighbourhood, your local community. Chances are you might run into God taking a leisurely walk down the same streets as you.

I could share with you some stories of those who have committed themselves to this type of intentionality in their place of context, but how about you tell some of yours with all of us.

Send us a story over the next few weeks to encourage, inspire and equip us to join God where He lives…in our neighbourhoods!

Shannon Youell
CBWC Church Planting Coordinator

Proclaiming the Gospel

This article is reposted from CBWC’s enewsletter Making Connections. Subscribe here.

Pastor Jodi Spargur and her congregation God’s House of Many Faces, a CBWC Church Plant in Vancouver, have been faithfully loving and serving their neighbours for several years. They recently welcomed a team from an inner-city church in California to help them practice healing prayer and proclaim the Gospel in their community. This was made all the more significant because the visiting church members had all come out of addiction or gang involvement or other cycles of violence themselves.

During this week of evangelism, God’s House of Many Faces saw five people come to faith in Christ. One of Jodi’s team members shares this story of having a friend turn to Jesus:

It was amazing for me to see a friend whom I’ve longed to see open up to Jesus for the last 2 years do just that! She agreed to receive prayer from our visiting friends and myself.

She was so surprised as we prayed and she felt warmth spread through her body as the Spirit took away the chronic pain she has struggled with for years. This led her to ask for further prayer for emotional pain she has carried for a very long time.   Feeling like now was as good a time as any I asked, “would you like to pray to receive Jesus into your life?”

She replied with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” I was so surprised that I asked three times to make sure she knew what it meant and really wanted to!

But God wasn’t even done then. I found out later that her husband and son were praying with another member of our team and they too were re-committing their lives to Jesus and were praying that the power of addiction would be broken in their family and that healing could come. What a day!

God’s House hosted a baptism service at the ocean on February 15 where new believers could proclaim their trust in Jesus.

Pray with us for continued transformation in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. Pray that we will be able to celebrate more and more with God’s House of Many Faces as their friends and neighbours hear the Gospel and respond.

There are many ways you can take part in the exciting work of church plants across Western Canada. To find out how to offer your time, talent or treasure, contact Church Planting Coordinator Shannon Youell at To subscribe to Church Planting email updates, contact Cailey Morgan at

Pray with Us: The Well

Patrick and Vicki Hazelwood of The Well community in Lethbridge, Alberta have a good problem on their hands: too many kids in Sunday School!

Pray with us as they discern the best way to teach the kids using the resources they have, and pray for more leaders.

Here’s a shot of the group singing at the Blue Sky Seniors Lodge in Lethbridge on December 15th.  The kids enjoyed doing a number of solos and afterward gave Christmas crafts they made in Sunday school to the seniors.

the-well-seniors lodge

Pray with Us: Crossover

Join us in prayer for Crossover Japanese Church in Calgary. Here is an update from Miyuki Taniguchi:

We need our youth leaders or teachers on Sundays.  As you know, our young people’s first language is English. We sing together at first, then separate into three groups: adults, youth and children. The young people’s leader needs to speak English. Right now, we do not have any youth leader who can lead their youth worship on Sunday.  Please pray that God will give them a good leader and teacher.
Also right now, we have a few non-Christian young men who often come to our church on Sundays. They are planning to go back to Japan in a couple of months. We really hope they will accept Jesus before they go back to Japan. Please pray with us.



As of October 31, Tom Lavigne completed his time as the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada Director of Church Planting. Read the interview below to find out what he has been learning in the transition process.Tom-Lavigne

We’ll be taking a break from GO WEST! as we revision and work through various changes taking place in the ministry. However, we have other methods of keeping you up-to-date on our church plants and the ministry itself. Read the “Staying Connected” article for tips on keeping in touch with us throughout the adjustments.

Stay Connected

In this time of transition, we’ll be working out a number of changes in the Church Planting office in order to best serve the CBWC constituency. Therefore, this will be the last issue of GO WEST! for the time being, but there are plenty of other ways to stay connected.

  • We will continue to share stories and prayer requests on the Church Planting Blog: Subscribe to the feed by clicking here, or visit the blog and click the “Follow” button on the bottom of your browser window. By entering your email address, you’ll have all the Church Planting new sent right to your inbox.
  • All our blog entries are also posted on the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada Facebook page for easy access.
  • We’ll continue to share stories as well through the CBWC’s wider monthly enewsletter Making Connections. Subscribe today.

And, Cailey will still be available to connect via email:, or at 604.420.7646. Thanks for being willing to stick with us amidst the adjustments!

Final Thoughts from Tom

GO WEST!: At the last leadership forum in Vancouver, we discussed how ministry brings with it all kinds of transitions. As you are in a transitional phase yourself, what advice can you offer others in a similar circumstance?

Tom: The initial thoughts are that we should be expecting transition to be an ongoing part of ministry. While some people hope that change never happens—it seems to be an inevitable part of ministry. Any advice I would give would be along the lines of staying especially close and sensitive to how God is leading, have lots of healthy communication with family, close friends and mentors. Also, the realization that while change or transition catches some of us by surprise; God is not sitting on the sidelines in a state of shock, so we can trust that He is very involved in the process, loves us deeply and has the best in store for us.

GW: What have you learned about yourself in the process?

Tom: I’m learning to be less fearful of what others think and more concerned with being obedient to God. It’s most important to please God in His process and timing than others and myself in our own plans and agendas.

GW: What are some of your fondest memories of your time as Director of Church Planting?

Wow, so many amazing things have happened over the past four years.

  • I’m very appreciative for the opportunity given me by Jeremy Bell, Jan Paasuke and the Staff and Board to come into the role with a lot of freedom and resources to help shape the Church Planting ministry in the CBWC.
  • Being a part of the stories of the lives of our Church Planters, their families and teams as they struggle, pray and wrestle through what it means to be a church family has been a huge blessing.
  • Parties at launches of new churches, baptisms of new believers, and seeing the “aha” moments in the faces of Church Planters when they realize that yes, God is indeed in this ministry.
  • Getting to work alongside a passionate staff team who do so much more than they ever get paid for and yet deliver amazing results time after time.

GW: Tell us something we didn’t know about you.

Tom: I’m an introvert in an extrovert’s clothing…but don’t tell anyone.

GW: What excites you as you look ahead? Any plans? Any ideas about where God might want you next?

What excites me looking ahead are the incredible opportunities that God has in store for each of us—as I look around I see God at work in so many people and places and I’m amazed at His goodness in allowing us to be a part of His great story. The only plans I have are to take a bit of time off (November/December) visiting with family and friends and taking some personal retreat and reflection time. I’m not sure where God would have us next—if you hear anything please let me know!

God’s Blessings in Church Planting

We asked some of our CBWC Church Plants where they have seen God at work. This is what they said:

Kelly Maurice, Première Église Évangélique d’Expression Française de Calgary:

GospelFest was very hard this year in terms of organization but God was gracious enough to make it all work in the end. We had to relocate the event due to the flood and our new park was just beside the biggest mosque. To my surprise some Muslims came and even danced with us! God definitely had a plan for this year despite the terrible lack of organization. Moreover, people who were just hanging out at the park came and joined in to celebrate with us! God is good!

Norm Sowden, Mill Bay Baptist Fellowship:

We participated in a local fair, offering people a shady place to sit and chat. It was great! We made lots of connections. One couple who moved from Edmonton to retire here in the Cowichan Valley are now coming to MBBF.

Vicki Hazelwood, The Well, Lethbridge:

Our family at The Well continues to grow. We are so encouraged by what God has been doing. We just celebrated two baptisms, and on any given week we can have up to 20 kids ranging in age from 2 – 14.  We need God’s direction, creativity, and provision of helpers as we move into the fall.

Yoichi and Miyuki Taniguchi, Crossover Japanese, Calgary:

We finally got a landed immigrant visa after 9 years’ of struggling. We are very thankful to God! Thank you so much for your prayers and support for our family!

Hizon Cua, Greenhills Christian Fellowship, Vancouver:

The Sunday we had at Bethel Baptist, Sechelt, was a blessing for us. It was a wonderful time spent in fellowship in the spirit of Christ’s greater body of believers. Who will forget the dynamic Auntie Mary who provided water fun for the young kids. One of them said, “I wish I had a grandma like her, she is so much fun.” Our church was also truly blessed with Martin and Grace, who lovingly took the time and effort to drive back to the campsite later that day and brought to us firewood and branch sticks which we used for our memorable bonfire and marshmallow night.

If you would like to support one of these young churches or would like to know more about initiatives in your area, contact the Director of Church Planting, Tom Lavigne, at  tlavigne@cbwc or visit

This article originally appeared in October’s issue of Making Connections, the CBWC‘s monthly stories and events publication. Subscribe to Making Connections today.

Church Plant Failures

This article first appeared in GO WEST!

by Tom Lavigne

For much of the 22 years of my pastoral ministry I’ve been actively involved in church plants and with church planters. I’m often asked about what “Success and Failure” looks like in church planting. Some say that success can be measured in ABCs—Attendance, Building and Cash—but these three factors are far from the whole picture of a Spirit-led congregation.sad

I’ve seen churches that are small in numbers but huge in ministry effectiveness; groups with small budgets doing big things; plants with lots of money and quality space, but no people. I’ve seen some amazing successes and spectacular flops and I have some scars to prove it. To quote the actress Sophia Loren, “Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life.”

So why do some plants fail? Geoff Surratt’s written a great series of blogs that summarize a lot of my own experiences with church planting. Geoff shares a three-part series including these three failure factors:

  • Planting alone; Resiliency; the Intangibles of Calling, tough soil, timing and grace.
  • Underfunded; Rigid models.
  • Unqualified leaders; Lack of understanding and respect for local context. Read the articles.

As an added bonus, check out Geoff’s book, Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing. Here are some of the humourous chapter titles:

  • Establishing the Wrong Role for the Pastor’s Family: “I realize that the church secretary can’t type, but she’s the mother of my children.”
  • Settling for Low Quality in Children’s Ministry: “If flannelgraph Bible stories were good enough for me, they’re good enough for your children”
  • Promoting Talent over Integrity: “We know he’s a thief and a liar, but no one can make the organ sing like Bob”
  • Clinging to a Bad Location: “We’re located under the freeway behind the abandoned Kmart.”

As I get older I appreciate more and more the words of Otto von Bismarck who said “Fools say that they learn by experience. I prefer to profit by others’ experience.”

I’d love to talk with you about your church planting ideas, and share some of my cautionary tales. My mistakes would feel much less painful if I knew someone was learning from them! Give me a shout at 1.800.596.7772 or