Rural Church Planting in Western Canada

By Joell Haugan

Doing church in rural areas ain’t what it used to be. Churches dotted the landscape across the entire populated areas of the Canada….usually all within a few miles of each other. Amazingly, folks could get on their horse and buggy and be at their burgeoning local church within an hour or maybe two at the most.  Which, by the way, account for the normal service time of 11am that churches today still mostly use. And, once you got there, there was no leaving after only an hour to head home. Church in the country was often an all afternoon thing.

Fast forward to 2017. Most country church buildings are actually gone. Some demolished. Some moved to the city for someone’s quaint restaurant. The remaining ones are sitting out in the country, often in disrepair and subject to teenager’s drunken whims.


Except this one. Bingham Baptist Church in Droxford, Saskatchewan, is a memorial to a time not so long ago.

The congregation stopped meeting here sometime around 2000. The building is pretty much untouched since then with community folks still stopping in to check on it on occasion. This church resides on a depopulated area of Saskatchewan  Thirty-ish years ago this area was full of farms and farm families in their homes usually a few miles apart. Everyone had neighbours that could be walked to if necessary. Now, mega-farms are often 10 miles apart and people commute to work on the farm from area towns and cities.

But, people are still out there. The Rural Municipality that this building resides in (think of a 40 by 40 kms area – this one happens to be exactly 802 sq kms) has a whopping 140 people living in it.  The nearest town has 229.


Nowadays, folks get in their cars, drive 45 minutes to get to their city church and, if they live in a rural area, may pass by six or seven places where countryside churches used to be. They also may pass many folks and families that still reside on farms and who are no longer connected to a local church family.  Every day they drive to the big town/city for school/work/appointments and doing so on yet another day is beyond the effort. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could gather together with folks from their neighbourhood (read: 10 mile radius) and become a body of believers without the massive overhead that comes from needing a church building to pay for?

What does church planting look like in rural areas of Western Canada?  Can we do “local” in such sparsely populated areas?  I believe we can. I also believe we should. But local might end up looking different and might end up needing the support of a nearby city/town church.

Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a functioning church, regardless if there is a building, every 10 miles throughout the Canadian countryside like there was in the old days. Well, not really like the old days.

BTW, the answer is “yes”!



Sent or Stuck on Self?

By Joell Haugan

“Missional” is a bit of a buzzword these days in Christian thinking circles, as churches struggle with what it means to be “the Church” in the 21st century. For sure, Christ wasn’t mincing words when He spoke the Great Commission just before He ascended to heaven. Fulfilling this job is the primary work of the Church. Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians by Kim Hammond and Darren Cronshaw picks up on the “missional” theme emphasizing that all Christians need to see themselves as sent into the world to share and live out the Gospel…thus, “sentness.” This rather pointed quote highlights the need to retain “Great Commission” priorities for the sake of the the Kingdom:

People who have lost their sentness expect their church to deliver on its promises to meet their needs, to care for them, to make them feel good. Pastors who have lost their sentness see their primary responsibilities as organizing services and meeting the needs of the people who are paying the bills. People who have lost their sentness gauge the success of their pastors according to metrics related to sales: more customers, more money and, ideally, a more fancy showroom. In other words, we measure church success by building, butts on seats and bucks in the offering (pg 33).

This quote comes in the “Beyond Consumerism” chapter at the beginning of the book.  I admit, I like the quote.

I also hate this quote.

I like this quote because it really does shine a mirror on how we in the western church have allowed consumerism to creep into our church life. It echoes 2 Timothy 4:3-4 which warns about “tickling ears.”

We may very well be becoming more self-centred, individualistic and, perhaps even narcissistic. I often find the need to help our folks focus on others: others in the church, others in the community and others in the world. Granted, this isn’t exactly a new problem. But it does seem to be worsening as our culture becomes more individualistic.

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When we accidentally shift our “church focus” from others to ourselves we begin seeking answers to the wrong questions. The wrong questions include: “What is in this for me?” or “How did I like the church service today?” or “Was I comfortable today?”

A “sent” mentality starts asking “How can I serve others?” or “Where is God at work in my neighbourhood?” or “What areas of discomfort is God asking me to explore?”

As a pastor I often get asked “how big is your church?” I now usually answer with “we average around 169 pounds.” I then get blank stares. Really, though, it is a consumeristic question.

I hate this quote because I find myself worried about the very things listed: numbers, funds, and Sunday service performance. Is it because I was trained that way? Am I “missionally immature” for worrying about that stuff? These are questions that gnaw at me at times.

I don’t like being gnawed.

Focusing on our “sentness,” while not being the magic bullet, is a step in the right direction, for both pastors and churches.

Weird Reading

By Joell Haugan

Throughout history, various cultural issues have created forces that made people reinterpret the Bible in goofy ways. For example, the Crusades had people quoting scripture in ways that made it sound right to kill your enemies instead of loving them.

Prohibition in the US caused preachers to preach that the Bible taught abstinence, in spite of the fact that Jesus Himself made wine. And slave owners in the south often heard teachers teaching that the Bible taught that blacks were inferior, in spite of the clear and obvious Bible teaching that all humans are created equal and are endowed with the image of God.
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For each of these “re-readings” of scripture, it took only time for the historical and clearly taught truths taught in scripture to re-assert themselves.  Whenever we impose a cultural shift on scripture, it leads to weirdness.

So, don’t panic when someone comes along with another weird reading of scripture. Time and good scholarship will prevail. And, the Word Of God can withstand the test of time!

Joell Haugan
Heartland Regional Church Planting Director

This article is a repost from Joell’s pastoral blog at

Church planting doesn’t have to be a one-church show

By Joell Haugan, CBWC Church Planting

In 1982, First Baptist Church in Swift Current ceased operations. The entire south-west part of Saskatchewan was without a BUWC (now CBWC) church. Rev. Jim Wells in Regina didn’t want it to stay that way. He spearheaded an inter-church effort to create a new church in “Speedy Creek.”

Community Baptist Church (Swift Current, SK) was formed in 1989 under the leadership of Betty Milne and Joyce Oxnard as a church plant supported by the Saskatchewan (now Heartland) Area of the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada.  Many area churches participated both with finances and volunteers to get the work off the ground.  Those churches included the following:

  • FBC, Asquith
  • FBC, Moose Jaw
  • FBC, Prince Albert (from which Rev Bob Knight came and who now pastors at Strathclair, MB)
  • FBC, Wakaw
  • FBC, Saskatoon
  • Confederation Park, Saskatoon
  • Emmanuel, Saskatoon
  • Fairmont, Saskatoon
  • Westhill Park, Regina

From those churches a large group of volunteers showed up on a hot summer day in 1989 and canvassed areas of the city in search of folks who were wanting to connect to a church. Each church also donated money to support the plant. As a result, on Thanksgiving that same year, an inaugural service was held in the high school and the church was started!

Swift-CurrentToday, the CBWC help churches to plant their own on their own. Certainly, it should be the goal of every congregation to want to reproduce itself. In cases where an existing church isn’t quite ready for the responsibility of a daughter church, we also help churches join together with other churches to support church plants. Venture Partnerships are a great way to come alongside your fellow CBWC churches to start and/or support new churches being born around Western Canada.

Get in touch if you’d like to explore what church planting could look like in your context: Joell’s available at or Church Planting Coordinator Shannon Youell can be reached at

December Church Planting Update

Here’s an article we wrote for the CBWC’s monthly enewsletter, Making Connections, with some exciting Church Planting news. In case you missed it, I’m posting it here as well.
~ Cailey

It’s an exciting time in Church Planting with the CBWC. Our executive Coordinator and Director of the BC-Yukon Region’s church planting activities–Shannon Youell–has been with us since early this year and has already brought fresh energy and ideas to the table. Ron Orr, Alberta-NWT’s Church Planting Director, has been faithfully serving since the spring as well.

We’ve seen growth of our existing plants, and we look forward to introducing several new partnerships and local works to you in the coming months. We also look ahead to the further development of church planting initiatives in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, as we welcome Pastor Joell Haugan to our team as part-time Heartland Director starting January 2015!

Joell, who pastors at Community Baptist Church in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, shares some thoughts with us about his past, present and future ministry.

Making Connections: What is your experience in pastoring / church planting?

Cailey Morgan,  Ron Orr, Joell Haugan and Shannon Youell

Cailey Morgan, Ron Orr, Joell Haugan and Shannon Youell

Joell Haugan: I’ve been a pastor for 23 years ….13 of which were as a youth pastor and 20 of which have been with the CWBC in both Kitimat, BC and now here in Swift Current.  Here in Sask we initiated a church plant in a very little town and hour and a half south of Speedy Creek. It was great to be involved in that ministry which, sadly, lasted only about five years. However, that planted in me a desire to see more churches started in any and every place! If we could get a church going (even for a little while) is a town of 20 people… surely they can be planted anywhere!

MC: Share some passions and joys in your current ministry?

JH: What we see here in Swift Current is a town that has been noticeably changed over the past decade. Immigration has literally changed the colour of our city and our church has changed right along with it. A body of believers that reflects the makeup of their community is a sign of health. Our blended ages and ethnic groups has been a blessing to this church….which was planted only 25 years ago itself as part of a Heartland Area (then the Saskatchewan Area) initiative. I would love to be part of similar initiatives to see other areas blessed the way we have been here in Swift Current!

MC: What excites you most about your new role?

JH: The traditional models of church planting can still be a valuable model for ministry however, what excites me is that churches can pop up in so many different ways these days. I imagine that when existing churches simply open themselves up to to the church birthing process we’ll see satellite churches, house churches, affinity churches, ethnic churches, multi-ethnic churches, inter-generational churches, front porch churches…. and some other types we haven’t even thought of!

Pray with us that the Holy Spirit would go before Joell and guide him as he seeks to catalyse, connect, and encourage new churches in the Heartland.

Thankfulness in Disappointment

By Pastor Joell Haugan, CBWC Church Planting Resource Team

Phil Keaggy wrote a song many years ago that had the lines:

Disappointment – His appointment,
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God’s better choice for me.

In our lives we often face disappointment; and we Christians can get all upset and bothered by events that, in the grand scheme of things, are really only a small blip on the radar of life.  We often get all worked up, fretting, to and fro-ing, and complaining that God has let us down!

Actually, it might be that your disappointment is because you were on the wrong track anyway (like the lyrics above).  Or, that it is just a bad thing that happened in your life…that happens.

Regardless though, we need to take a deep breath and look at the bigger picture.  Actually, that process is called “counting your blessings”.  So, take the disappointments that come your way, change the first letter to an “h”, … and then let the blessing counting begin to get a better picture of just how great things really are for those who follow Jesus!



The NHL playoffs have begun and I’m a tad excited. I really enjoy hockey. It’s fast paced, intense, kinda dangerous, and on TV every night! Unfortunately, I’m not home every night to watch the six hours of NHL hockey. It would probably be better if I were playing six hours of hockey per night… but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be interested in the games and I’d not be able to get out of bed for a week. hockeyskates

The Playoffs are “sudden death” or, more optimistically, “sudden life”. Players, coaches, and fans all know that if they lose the series, then they are finished. It’s over. Get out the golf clubs.

For many players, there may only be one chance in their career to get a chance to play in the Stanley Cup Finals, and each year 29 out of the 30 teams fall short of the glory of the Cup. Twenty-nine teams are losers. It’s not a very nice or fair system.

The Bible teaches that all of us fall short of the glory of God…in other words, every single one of us is a loser. Only one player ever has lived His life in such a way as to win, but he ended up drinking from the cup that took his life. However, the amazing thing about Jesus’ victory is that He invites the rest of the players on the planet to share in the victory! Which then means that every one of us who simply joins Jesus’ team actually ends up sharing in the victory and, in other words, is a winner! We all end up experiencing sudden life!

Pastor Joell Haugan
CBWC Church Planting Advisory Team

This article is reposted with permission from Pastor Joell’s blog.

What’s the difference between a leap of faith and a step of faith?

Now, I’m just making a distinction between the two phrases, so don’t go running to Webster’s to see if I’m right, but I’m suggesting that true Christian faith is more of a “step” than a “leap”. Leaps of faith often are considered for no reason at all. People might just jump off a bridge, expecting God to save them…only to wake up dead.Flickr-Hugo-stoplight

Others will fight against obvious evidence to the contrary and insist that something came out of nothing (the universe, for instance) or believe that a loved one couldn’t have committed a crime, even though they’ve been found guilty not just beyond a reasonable doubt but beyond all doubt.

Leaps of faith actually aren’t faith at all. You could substitute the word “folly” or “stupidity” instead of “faith”, and it would be more accurate.

Steps of faith, on the other hand, are logical, reasoned, and evidence based moves. For example: going through a green light at an intersection is a step of faith. You are trusting that the drivers coming perpendicular to you know that red means stop… and that the light is functioning correctly.  However, you do not know this for sure. You don’t know the mind of the other driver… and you can’t see the light from the other angle.  You are stepping out in faith, knowing the training that all drivers must take, knowing that the city maintains their lights, and knowing that the manufacturer is trustworthy. But you really don’t know for sure.

There may be be mechanical failure in the other car or the lights. A hacker might have messed with the light programming. The other driver might be drunk or texting. You are taking a step of faith.

The Christian life is to be lived with such information. The Bible gives us the foundation for helping us to learn about things that we can never prove (who The Father is, how Jesus loves us and dies and rose again, how to rely upon the Holy Spirit). We learn from each other through their experiences in the faith. We are tutored in things of “faith” in our churches.  We see God’s handiwork in nature.

All of this is not proof, but it is evidence… very good evidence that leads us to take a knee in the presence of God and defer to Him to be in charge. It’s a step of wondrous, mystical, rational faith.

Avoid the leaps… they hurt.  Take that step!

Pastor Joell Haugan
CBWC Church Planting Advisory Team

This article is reposted with permission from Pastor Joell’s blog.