In Vancouver, the Concrete is Starting to Crack

Many of us know the history of our own congregations, but how about the landscape of our city? Do we understand the culture that surrounds us, and do we dream of the God’s redemption in that place? I hope that this article, reposted by permission from Flourishing Congregations Institute, will inspire you to look again at your neighbourhood with Kingdom lenses and ask the Holy Spirit to show you where He is at work in that place.~ Cailey

By Frank Stirk

I’ve lived in the Vancouver area now for twenty-eight years, and in lots of ways it’s a different city from when I first moved here. Our immigrant population will soon overtake those born in Canada. Drivers and cyclists watch each other warily on crowded roads. New condos are going up everywhere. And yet housing is so insanely expensive that some are giving up and moving out. (At this writing, we also have the highest gas prices in North America.)

This city was founded in the late-1800s by fortune-seekers eager to exploit the region’s vast natural resources—lumber, fish and gold—and then move on. Most weren’t too interested in settling down, raising a family or building a community.

That’s still much the same today. “We’re a frontier town with a frontier mentality,” says Jonathan Bird, executive director of the faith-based CityGate Leadership Forum. “There’s a make-it-or-break-it, work-till-you-drop attitude. Or it’s ‘I’m here for a little while and I’m not going to sink deep roots, because I know I’m pulling them up in a few years or a few months.’”[1]

Vancouver was and is highly secular and materialistic. Churches have always had a hard time putting down firm foundations in such hard soil. As one visitor to Vancouver in 1911 wrote in her diary, “People don’t seem to worry much about churches out here.” [2]

Or as L. D. Taylor, the city’s mayor for eleven years between 1910 and 1934, explained why he turned a blind eye to prostitution and other such “victimless” crimes, “We ain’t no Sunday School town.” [3]

Screen Shot 2019-09-17 at 12.14.48 PM.png

And it still ain’t—I mean, isn’t. In 1888, there were six churches in all of Vancouver, which at that time was not much bigger than what’s now called the Downtown peninsula. Flash forward to 1988. As the map above shows [4], despite a massive ongoing influx of people into the area to occupy the thousands of apartments and condos that were going up, there were still only nine churches in essentially the same geographic area. (I don’t include the First Church of Christian Science.)

In other words, the net increase in the number of churches in the course of a century was a mere three.

But this is where it gets interesting. Through the 1990s and the 2000s, the number of churches in the peninsula grew slowly. But then starting in 2010—possibly as a result of the Winter Olympic Games that year that put Vancouver on the global stage—the numbers rose dramatically; by mid-2015, there were twenty-eight churches and church plants of many denominational stripes on the peninsula.

Never in Vancouver’s history has the city seen so much new Christian activity. Since then, a few of those churches have folded and a few have relocated outside the peninsula while a couple of other churches have relocated to the peninsula. But most of them are doing surprisingly well.

Alastair Sterne, the pastor of St. Peter’s Fireside, a conservative Anglican church in downtown Vancouver, recalls that even before the church began holding services in 2012, “someone on our launch team shared a prophetic word with me that has stuck. He saw God plant a seed in downtown Vancouver, and it grew roots beneath the streets, and it slowly expanded under the city. But eventually, what started as a small seed blossomed and grew and broke through the ground, the concrete, and filled every crack; what blossomed was seen all throughout the city.” [5]

I wonder—and I hope and pray—that other cities are experiencing this kind of divine activity.

Frank Stirk is the author of the new book Streams in the Negev: Stories of How God is Starting to Redeem Vancouver (Urban Loft Publishers).


  1. Jonathan Bird, interviewed on 21 May 2014 and 19 October 2016.
  2. Grace Morris Craig (1981). But This Is Our War. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, 15
  3. Amy Logan (9 November 2017). “Exploring the hidden stories of Vancouver,” Metro Vancouver.
  4. City of Vancouver Archives, Downtown Church Directory, Vancouver, B.C. PAM 1988-72. Source unknown. It’s from a brochure that may have been printed jointly by downtown-area hotels and made available to their guests.
  5. Alastair Sterne (19 February 2018). “Remembering Jesus in Fog-Land.” St. Peter’s Fireside Blog,


Musqueam Church Plant Begins

This article is from CBWC’s monthly newsletter Making Connections. 

When Tad Inboden moved from Ohio to Vancouver so he and his wife Nicole could study at Regent College, he had no idea what God would have in store for him.

They’ve now both completed their Master’s Degrees, but Tad would tell you it’s not just what you study but who meet along the way that can direct your path for the future.

One person Tad met at school is Jonathan Lee, a driven businessman and marketplace pastor.

“I met Jonathan for the first time at Regent,” says Tad. “During that time, Jonathan was pastoring and running several businesses, one of which was a golf shop located in the Musqueam Golf & Learning Academy. As our relationship developed, Jonathan expressed to me his desire to initiate innovative ways to bring about Gospel renewal on the Musqueam First Nations reserve. The initial simmering of this brief conversation eventually boiled over into several meetings wherein Jonathan articulated his dreams for a church plant.”

Over 650 members of the Musqueam people group live on a small portion of traditional territory in southern Vancouver, known as the Musqueam Indian Reserve. Jonathan knows many members of the Musqueam community through his work at the golf course, and has a heart to be and see the active love of Jesus visibly and tangibly in the community.

Tad caught the contagious vision, and he and some other Regent friends, James Lim from Singapore, Rajan Mathew from India and Austin Stevenson from the United States, gathered together for forty days of pre-dawn prayer to hear God’s heart and voice for the community, as well as joining in with regular worship and prayer nights already present and led by Musqueam followers of Jesus.

Leadership Team

During this time, God broke each of them of their preconceived notions and clearly called them to be with the people: work with them, worship with them, learn from them.

Says Tad: “In this community, we are called to be an irreplaceable agent for drawing people into an encounter with Jesus Christ by embodying a reconciled and redeemed community.”

April held their first gathering–a Sunday evening meal and worship time. In early May, Tad and his team met with the BC-Yukon Regional Advisory Team as a step towards joining the CBWC as a Church Community in Process, under the working name Southlands Church.

Since then, the team have been processing how to best express themselves as a church in the midst of the complex social history between the Christianity and First Nations people in Canada. Pray for Tad, Nicole, and the whole team as they listen to God and discern how to share His love in this neighborhood. And watch and listen for God stories to come as they discover with the Musqueam people’s team where God is already at work and looking for them all to join Him!

To learn more about this new work or to support a Church Plant through a Venture Partnership, contact Church Planting Director Shannon Youell at

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

They have Walked the Same Mile

CBWC Church Plant God’s House of Many Faces recently welcomed a Californian church group for a week of evangelism in Vancouver. During this time, several people came to faith.



Here is a poetic response to the Lord’s work from a person who has been part of the God’s House community for 3 years and finally prayed to receive Jesus:

I felt a little off at first
Introducing myself at my worst
But it was in meeting them that I found
That my own barriers and beliefs were made bound
It was too much pain that I kept behind my smile
But in my shoes, I realized they have walked the same mile
The stories that run parallel, we are the same kind
So I then took that as a sign
The testimonies of each of you
From the outside, I would not have any clue
But the first moment I received prayer
I felt relief for you understood my heart
Then another came to me and prayed as well
told me my bipolar does not define my health
The chaos and the hell that I felt
I now repel
As you shared your tears of love
Was it the Holy Spirit from above?

Carey Institute Seminars for YOU: Vancouver

Winter Dull-drums?  Need some fresh ideas and inspiration? Click on pictures below for more information on amazing resources and training for lay leaders in the local church

 THE COUNTRY THEY CALL LIFE: 1-day Retreat with Dr. Barbara Mutch (Feb. 26)

 IT TAKES A VILLAGE: Nurturing Children In Faith For A Lifetime (Feb. 28)  



Chinese Preaching Workshop with Rev. David Chan (April 23)

English Preaching Workshop with Rev. Darrell Johnson (May 27)

THE SPIRITUALITY OF ILLNESS: Faith & Prayer In The Midst Of Suffering (May 9)

Closing the Bible a Path to Transformation

By Jodi Spargur

How has closing the Bible improved our congregation’s engagement with Scipture? Well, the journey began as we started this church when a mentor and friend asked why white people don’t believe the Bible. “What??” I asked, certain that I had misunderstood what was being said. “We take the Bible very seriously” I shot back in defense. “But you don’t know the stories,” my friend replied. “You open the book, read them. Then close the book, and forget them.” And a seed was planted in my heart and mind that I have tended now for 7 years.

Closed Bible

We have done many things over those years to think about how one gets scripture inside of us in a way that make evident that this story is the story that shapes our every moment and that is available to shape your story in every moment. Some have met with some success. Others have been abysmal failures. This journey has been further guided by the reality that literacy levels in our community are low to begin with and in any gathering there is a very wide range of comfort with print media.

So, as pastor, I have given up preaching in favour of recovering the oral tradition of scripture itself. Well, not totally given it up. I preach in a very dialogical format once a month. The rest of my time I have committed to teaching scripture by hearing and sharing what you have heard.

Currently we use a method of scripture study called, “Simply the Story” and use it as the teaching tool for our House Church gatherings.

It is a method of learning the story of scripture by hearing not seeing and then passing that on to the group as a way of getting the story “in” people’s hearts and minds. One of the guiding ideas being that one need not be literate to be a disciple of Jesus and even a teacher of the word. Our culture, however has gotten so print focused that we have unwittingly excluded many who do not learn well in that way.

For those of us with higher levels of literacy it has been a challenge to abandon comfortable and familiar ways of learning and communicating. And we find ourselves engaging scripture anew as we learn these new (but very old) skills.

Our prayer and conviction is that God’s Word never returns void.

Share your thoughts on Jodi’s approach by commenting on this blog or sending your response to Jodi Spargur pastors God’s House Of Many Faces in Vancouver. This article is reposted from Jodi’s blog.

Finding God’s Faithfulness

Cailey Morgan

Last week in our youth Bible study, Kyson and I asked the question, where have you seen God’s faithfulness in 2014? It was interesting to hear the variety of responses, many of which pointed to positive circumstances as evidence of God’s goodness to us.

We should definitely thank God for these circumstances, but while it is absolutely true that every good gift comes from God, we must also remember that His faithfulness remains constant in every situation and independent from whether we feel good or happy or safe.

As I reflected on this same question of where we’ve seen God’s faithfulness, many moments of CBWC Church Planting life in 2014 came to mind, and I wanted to share a few with you.

Pastor Albert and Christina of Canaan Life Springs Baptist Church.

Pastor Albert and Christina of Canaan Life Springs Baptist Church

At our online assembly in April, we welcomed Canaan Life Spring Baptist, a Mandarin-language church plant, into full affiliation with the CBWC. Their work to reach and reconcile Taiwanese and Chinese immigrants in Burnaby is fuelled by assurance of Christ’s promise that as He is lifted up He will draw all people to Himself.

In June, we mourned with Emmaus Community Fellowship as they dealt with the death of Gerry McBeth, husband of Pastor Janet McBeth. Gerry was a walking testimony of God’s love and faithfulness, which Gerry showed through hard work and thoughtful encouragement to many at Emmaus, the Union Gospel Mission and beyond.

Crossover church plant continues to reach Calgary’s Japanese population, with the call to develop leaders to send to Japan for sharing the Gospel in that nation. One of these young leaders, Carly, is not of Japanese descent but felt God’s burden on her heart for Japan nonetheless. Carly was baptised at Crossover this summer and says this:

I started attending Crossover Japanese church a few months after the Tsunami in 2011 because I was only 14 and I couldn’t go to Japan to help. I didn’t know what to expect and was nervous because I hadn’t met Japanese people before despite being so enthralled by the culture. God had put a burden on my heart for the people of Japan and given me the strength to have patience.

Pastor Yoichi of Crossover Japanese Church baptises Carly.

Pastor Yoichi of Crossover Japanese Church baptises Carly.

The fellowship and mentoring that I have received at Japanese church really has contributed to the person I am today.

Every summer our church has a BBQ/Service in Cascade Ponds, which presents the opportunity to be baptized. I had long put off that personal decision. I wanted to be baptized in Japan because I saw that as the start of my mission, but I had realized that me not considering the present as time that God could use me for his kingdom was leaving me weak to fight my temptations. Idolatry overtook me and I was putting people before God, but as I allowed for God to become number one in my life I have learned how to love people with the love of God, not my own imperfect love.

We’ve been praying for a long time for more church plants in Manitoba. In September the Board approved Shalom Christian Outreach in Winnipeg to enter the process of affiliation. This means that they are one of our church plants working towards becoming a full-fledged member church with the CBWC. Pastor Shadrack Mutabazi and his congregation have entered wholeheartedly into partnerships with other Baptist groups in Winnipeg, including Broadway-First Baptist Church. Broadway-First generously provides meeting space for Shalom, and we are excited to see this partnership grow in the coming year.

How about you? Where have you seen God’s faithfulness in the good time? Or in circumstances which to us may seem hard?


Vancouver Leadership Forum–Feb 12

You Lower Mainland folk: Here’s a note from Dawn Johannesson about our next Leadership Forum for CBWC church leaders. It’s a free event and we’d love you to participate with us. Please email Dawn ( or me ( if you have questions. ~Cailey

The next Leadership Forum will be on Thursday, February 12th at Trinity Baptist in Vancouver beginning with dinner at 6pm (5:45pm for you early birds).  The meal is complimentary.

We are delighted that Tim Colborne, pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church will be our presenter that evening…and Marilyn Chan (Tim’s Associate at Broadmoor) will lead us in worship.

  • What does the spiritual journey look like in the midst of depression and mental illness?
  • What language can we who journey with mental illness use to understand our spiritual experience?
  • Is there a way forward for any of us when broken?
  • We will talk about these things and how the church can learn to walk alongside the depressed and mentally ill.

Please share this with your congregation/board members/leadership and friends…as this topic will touch and speak to many who are affected by depression and mental illness.

Thanks, and please rsvp to me when you can.


Emmaus Community Baptisms

Congratulations Steve and Mike from Emmaus Community Fellowship on your baptisms! Emmaus is a CBWC Church Plant in Vancouver led by Pastor Janet McBeth.

Looks like a cold but blessed day. God bless you as you grow in Him and His strength.

Baptism1 baptism2 Baptism3


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.