Looking Back / Looking Forward

By Joell Haugan

Ah. The mandatory year end reflection and looking ahead article. Yes. We all do it (some of us call them Christmas or New Years letters). It’s pretty easy to talk about what the kids and grandkids are up to which, ironically, is exactly what us Church Planting people are doing. We have infant churches out there and, often, parent churches that are eager to see them thrive.

Then we have “uncle and aunt” churches that may not have been directly involved in the birthing process but, nevertheless, are supportive and curious as to how the little one is doing. And, I suppose, we have some grumpy old relatives that think the world has enough stuff to worry about and don’t want to bring anyone new into this horrible world. I’ll leave this last group alone for now.

Overall, the Heartland is full of our congregations that are supportive of church planting, at least in principle. I often get a genuine “how is church planting going?” from both pastors and parishioners throughout Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Some churches  have begun Venture Partnerships with our one active church plant (Shalom in Winnipeg) and are even building a relationship with Shadrack and his congregation through invitations to visit and through monthly financial support.

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Enjoying Banff Pastors Conference with friends.

Over 2016 I also think it’s fair to say that there is a genuine “opening of eyes” to see where churches need to planted. For many in smaller areas there is a realization that churches (perhaps even house churches) are needed in many of the smaller towns throughout the prairies. Managing a large building and staff isn’t often feasible in small towns. But, perhaps, a house church connected to an established church in the region (say up to an hour away) might be a great way to bring church live and vibrancy into rural areas. Oh, I guess I’ve now moved into the “looking forward” part of this…. Oops.

In the cities we have seen some church plants become established and self supporting, which is always nice when we see the kids go off on their own….but part of us misses the times when they needed us!

Still, that feeling needs to be filled with new births … er… plants to nurture and grow and push out of the nest (there, that’s now three different metaphors in one sentence). Many neighbourhoods have dramatically changed (especially in the inner cities) and we are finding the need to re-plant in areas that have long since seen most (not all) churches and church members move to the suburbs. The challenge that I’ve seen our inner city churches grab hold of is being re-made in the image of their communities. That’s tough stuff but that invariably leads to new church plants/expressions.

So, for 2017 I’m hoping to see some of these ideas take hold. I’d love to see small groups beginning to meet in Christ’s name in small rural areas. I’m hoping to see city churches extending themselves to be the neighbourhood’s church. I’m hoping to see more Venture Partners for Shalom and for future church plants. And, finally, I’m hoping to see church leaders rise up (both lay and pastor) and want to branch out into a new area that needs a new expression of Christ’s body nearby.

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Road Trip Remembrances

After all these months of sabbatical and a busy start to fall, we’re happy to announce there’s been an official Joell sighting! He didn’t get lost in Manitoba’s backcountry during his Heartland road trip after all, so we’re glad to share his reflections about his journeys and the people he connected with along the way:

So, start a sabbatical by driving 3000+ kms through Saskatchewan and Manitoba, visiting as many of our Heartland CBWC churches as possible… and drum up support for church planting.

That seems to long ago… but that’s what I tasked myself with back in May and it was a great time for me to get to see the “lay of the land” and connect with most (sorry, I missed some) of you. Of our churches. Here’s a few of observations from my journey.

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  1. The Heartland is open and willing to consider involvement in church planting. As I chatted with laypeople and pastors I came away with keen sense that everyone understands the importance of church planting. There is a recognition that planting churches (of various kinds) is healthy and worth investing in.
  2. Most churches are strapped for energy and resources to embark on planting. Yes, we all know it’s true. It’s hard to focus on “having babies” when the parent is having a hard time making ends meet.
  3. Cooperation is alive and…well, not quite doing well but it is a favourable consideration. When asked if a church would be willing to cooperate with other churches in church planting the answer was always a resounding “yes.”
  4. Exposure to current church plants is minimal. Sadly, having our active church plants be visible in the Heartland congregations isn’t an easy task (due to distance) but it was deemed very important by our churches.
  5. There is a heart for Heartland planting. Many church leaders shared a burden they had for a particular community (usually nearby) that they felt needed a new expression of Christian community. This is great stuff!

So, there’s a few musings. Thanks to all who allowed me to visit and I hope to connect with the rest of you very soon.

Joell Haugan
Heartland Church Planting Director

Booster Cables and New Churches

I had an old car in high school–a Mercury Meteor–that had a bad habit of not starting. I had booster cables at the ready and had resigned myself to either leaving it running all the time or parking in such a fashion as to ensure easy access to the battery.

One day after school, to my great surprise, it started. I was so excited that I threw it into reverse to get out of my spot and promptly ran into a Chevette parked behind me. The Meteor had a broken tail light. The Chevette was almost a write off with a huge dent in the hood and front bumper.

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Church planting in the Heartland, this past year, has felt like that old Meteor. We just can’t seem to get new things started. We’ve got some wonderful works in progress and some church plants that are moving to full independence after their initial plantings.  However, some new opportunities have not been able to start. Even with booster cables.

Shalom in Winnipeg under the pastoral leadership of Pastor Shadrack Mutabazi is our only official church plant at the moment. They are graciously hosted by Broadway-First Baptist in Winnipeg.

Many congregations in the Heartland are considering being involved in church planting either directly through starting another congregation in an area nearby, or by joining the Venture program to directly support a new or ongoing church planting work. Either way is wonderful!

Contact me with questions or suggestions!

Blessings.

Joell Haugan, Heartland Church Planting Director
jhaugan@cbwc.ca