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.

droxford1

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.

droxford2

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”!

Joell

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Urban Suburban

Have you ever seen the show Urban Suburban? On each episode, a Canadian family trying to decide where to settle down is taken on a whirlwind real estate adventure to help make up their minds. The show’s two hosts argue the benefits of each kind of lifestyle–comfort, affordability, luxury, walkability and so forth, until the family finally makes a decision, which, of course, starts out being a compromise but ends up being a dream home made for happily ever afters.

In God’s paradigm, when we ask the question of urban or suburban, the answer is “YES!” We need missional communities in city centres, in sprawling suburbs, and in rural outposts. God’s Kingdom is advancing into every nook and cranny of our nation, and we have the opportunity to join in. 

Over the next couple weeks, we’re going to share some articles from various sources that can help us explore what church planting could look like, and what ongoing church life could look like, in each of these contexts. Western Canada’s geography gives us an amazing opportunity to express God’s love in so many different and beautiful ways, so I hope you are encouraged by these articles and find helpful encouragement. For this first week, here’s a look at suburban missional life. ~Cailey

7 Practical Tips for Missional Communities in the Suburbs

by Jon Dansby. This article reposted from the Verge Network.

First, let me say that the suburbs are a great place for a community on mission. Usually, the mission to declare and demonstrate the gospel is the missing link that ties MCs together, but suburbs are great for mission!

Suburbs Christopher Chappelear

There are lots of reasons that this is so:

  • Suburbs are broken up into neighborhoods.

Both community and mission happen more naturally in a defined neighborhood. This may seem obvious, but sadly it’s not. You can shoehorn your calendar to make it work far away, but you’ll run out of steam eventually. It’s hard to get focused and passionate about reaching an undefined group of people like “all our friends at different jobs” or “people from all our different neighborhoods.”

For the same reason, people don’t move overseas to reach Afghanistan and then all live in different countries. Our MC’s explicit mission is “to make disciples in the Brushy Creek neighborhood.” We are all praying for the same faces and names. This has been life for our MC!

  • Suburbs usually have several entry points. 

Besides just being neighborly, most suburbs have several coordinated things going on. Our biggest break was when my wife began attending Bunco (also called “drunko” by the ladies) with a bunch of other neighbors. Then these saucy ladies invited her onto the Yard of the Month committee.

Suburbs do all kinds of things where you can join in (HOA, basketball, Bunco, Xmas parties, block parties, Halloween, parks, sports, pools, your own parties, etc.). As we’ve gotten in deeper friendships, we have a policy to never say ‘no’ to a neighbor.

  • Suburbs allow you to know people well enough to serve them.

Suburbs allow you to know people well enough to serve them. There are people with needs right around you. Rather than serving at some organization over 20 minutes away, you can get to know your neighbors and serve them. We had a single mom living across the street and as we got to know her, I saw that her yard was a constant struggle for her. I told her that her yard was now our responsibility. So our entire MC showed up and worked. She sat in our driveway sharing a drink with my wife and was blown away, unable to comprehend why we would do this.

So, get to know people. Is there a couple who hasn’t had a date in over a year because they need a babysitter? A mom who needs English lessons? An elderly recluse who needs a friend? Some neighbors who are looking for a regular central hangout?

Practical Tips for Suburban Missional Community

Let me talk about a few crucial practical elements have been a huge part of my MC.

1. Pray. I know, I know. This sounds like one of the Sunday school answers: “Jesus…Bible…God…pray!” But it’s not. Missional Community is truly a work of the Spirit. The Spirit alone makes our testimony about Jesus effective to the world. Jesus rebuked the disciples for their prayerlessness in working for Him against Satan’s kingdom (Mk 9:29).

No less for us when we’re laboring to win people out of Satan’s kingdom. We must pray in a way that believes, “you do not have because you do not ask!” Ask often with names and faces in mind.

2. Do things differently on purpose. This is crucial. Somebody smart once said, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” You and your people won’t drift toward mission any more than you naturally drift towards any other kind of difficult obedience. In past groups, we assumed that studying the right thing would move us to obey it. It never really worked. So, we had to even talk about our MC differently from the beginning.

3. Cultivate community while doing mission. Obviously, there are at least 2 parts to missional community: mission and community (duh). So, that means that you’ll have to keep your eye on both. Your community needs mission and your mission needs community. A community without mission is self-focused (and disobedient).

A mission without community is hamstrung without the community apologetic. In our MC, we spent time in my home gathering for meals from the very beginning. At these meals, sometimes my neighbors would come by, sometimes they wouldn’t. Cultivating mission and cultivating community isn’t either/or, rather it’s necessarily both/and.

4. Mission takes years, not weeks. Adjust your expectations. If you’re going to make a difference, you need to be in it for the long haul. This is where doing MC in the suburbs really shines because your neighbors have to ask the bank before they can go somewhere else. You really want your unbelieving neighbors to find true friendship with your MC. That takes time!

5. Move your 3rd Place to your home. This is something that is unique to suburbs. A Third Place needs to be neutral, natural, and regular. Your home isn’t neutral or natural if you’re trying to reach those at your work. In this case, a restaurant, a pub, or something else is more appropriate. However, a home is completely neutral and natural for unbelieving neighbors. We meet in my home at least twice a month for our 3rd Place meal and it has been incredibly fruitful. We’ve basically fused our Third Place and our Family Meal.

6. Invest in hospitality! Spend time and spend money to get to know your neighbors. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21). In the same way that you don’t really care about a stock price until you invest in it, you won’t care about hospitality until you put some time and money into it. If you invest in this, you will want to see it flourish. Hospitality is certainly the most overlooked evangelistic discipline. Hospitality aids proclamation. Over time we’ve bought folding chairs, large folding tables, outdoor light strings, speakers for music, lots of different beverages, more plates, etc.

7. Don’t forget to be a community. I’ve talked a lot about mission, but you’ll need to invest some time with people who’ve joined your MC. Quality time requires quantity time. Do stuff on the weekends. Go eat wings, fix each other’s homes up, read the same books, take care of each other’s kids, be friends.

Discipleship

Check out this video on discipleship:

We’d love to hear from you. Your thoughts and opinions are greatly appreciated, so leave a comment here, or email me: tlavigne@cbwc.ca.

Until next time… Tom Lavigne, @tomlavigne1 (Twitter) CBWC Director of Church Planting

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 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