Expanding influence in Canada…

It is not normal to get excited about more and more emails finding their way into my inbox, though lately that’s exactly what has been happening. The reason that it is exciting is that they are requests for information about how people can access our discipleship and leadership training. And it’s not only emails, but we’re hearing from people in person and through others who have shared their experiences by word of mouth and people are responding.

Both French and English, from within Québec and from other parts of Canada, people are wanting to grow and be equipped to lead people in the gospel! We have even had a chance to provide our French Leaders: Basic Course with a pastor in Algeria and a church planter in South Africa. Here are just a few places that we are starting to influence in Québec:

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Through personal connections and through our website we have also heard from pastors and church planters across Canada who have not only expressed interest in being trained but also in learning how to offer a similar type of training within their own churches. This rapidly expanding opportunity to influence churches and leaders with our DNA and gospel leadership resources has led us to pursue an exciting new venture with the Acts 29 Network, a diverse, global family of church-planting churches. We are planning to add a significant component to our leadership development training and build a comprehensive academy that will serve the Canadian church well!

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Here are some of the places across Canada where leaders have expressed interest in us helping them to train their leaders or help them develop a leadership pipeline within their church.

We are now in the early planning stages, but the basic idea is that we will offer both rigorous academic theological training and practical leadership development training in our Church 21 churches in Québec AND we’ll begin building training contexts in other churches throughout Québec and in other parts of Canada so they can benefit from the same offerings without having to relocate and leave their ministries. We believe this is going to present a tremendous potential for gospel growth within the church and we look forward to being able to share more details in the coming months!

In the mean time, it will encourage us greatly if you pray for this endeavour and if you want to invest in it, you can do so by clicking here.

Spiritual Leadership Course

Two years ago we made a very deliberate, albeit costly, move in our ministry to create a concrete leadership pathway. We believed that in order for someone to effectively lead others in the gospel, they themselves had to be living out the gospel. As we explored what that would look like, the Leaders: Basic Course was created and its accompanying workbook was published last summer. This resource has been bearing fruit in the lives of our leaders as well as among the people they lead. Men and women are experiencing the gospel in new and fresh ways and some are experiencing what it means to live out the gospel for the first time. We have heard numerous personal testimonies of how God is working through this training and we thank him for that gift.

When we first moved to Montréal, I inherited a small group of guys to train who were desiring to plant churches. Since then we have added several more to this group of church planting residents. Thus, the decision to rework our training strategy and start by building a foundation cost us a lot. It forced us to shift attention away from those who seemed to be the farthest along the road to vocational ministry. But if we hadn’t made this move, it would have cost us even more in the long run. Without a pipeline to create movement and funnel people toward leadership roles, we would simply have to wait for candidates to show up looking to be trained. Thankfully, God is still calling men to us from outside our church who want to be influenced by us. But we are able to spend the bulk of our energy on the normal cycle of leading people into faith and then helping them mature to the point where they are able to lead others.

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Toward that end, we have just completed the second tier of our apprenticeship training, the Leaders: Spiritual Leadership Course. We’ve been training existing missional community and ministry leaders with the material since January and now it has been published and is available for purchase. Though the intensive coaching and discipling of all leaders will continue from this point forward, we are now back to the point where more energy can be devoted to training pastors and church planters. They benefit by having personally experienced a process that they can use to reproduce themselves into others. And at the same time we can be confident that there will be a steady flow of up and coming leaders who have the proven character and competency to lead the church well as she grows in unity and maturity in Jesus Christ.

When the Gospel gets in the way of the Gospel

We talk a lot about the spread of the gospel and the expansion of the kingdom of God. You could even say that this drives everything we do. So then anything that stands in the way of this endeavour could be seen as a serious threat. What are we to do then when the gospel itself gets in the way of our advancement of the gospel?

Just like when drilling a hole through a thick piece of wood you have to reverse from time to time in order to remove the shavings, the gospel doesn’t always move full speed ahead. If you don’t stop to remove the excess wood, you might as well stop drilling because you’re not going to get anywhere.

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The kids helped us put up storage shelves in the basement last week and in the process a few of them got to learn some new skills. 

Sometimes the gospel moves fast and we can hardly keep up, other times it moves so slowly that we don’t even see the movement, but it can never move so fast that it compromises its integrity. This may seem rather obvious, we don’t after all want to compromise the gospel. Yet for many of us who pursue some formal type of ministry or find ourselves in the business of gospel advancement (Jesus’ business), we know all too well the temptation to get things to move a little faster. We can push harder and harder for the things that we really want to see – baptisms, people serving, new leaders, new churches, and the list goes on… At some point though we run into the resistance of everything that we’ve been pushing against.

When the gospel enters a person’s heart, a family, a neighbourhood or a city, it creates space for itself. But the things that were there before – the beliefs, the attitudes, the words, the habits – they have to go somewhere, and the process of getting rid of those things and replacing them with the gospel is usually a messy one. It takes time. It takes energy. Things are often broken or get broken in the process and need to be fixed. It requires patience, gentleness, compassion, healing, and this list goes on too. If we don’t embrace this element of the gospel, we will turn the gospel into something that it is not, and miss out on the most basic benefit – the transformation of the human heart.

I’m privy to two very distinct perspectives within my personal ministry. When I take a step back and see the leaders we’re developing and the new churches and missional communities that we’re starting, it seems like things are moving so quickly. But when I consider my role in leading people in one particular missional community to grow and mature and serve others, I realize just how much time and effort, prayer, patience, and faith are involved, day in and day out. Both are examples of the powerful movement of the gospel but you cannot have the first without the second.

Let’s never stop pushing the gospel forward into new spaces, but at the same time let’s make sure that it is the gospel that we’re pushing and not our personal ministry agenda. The Spirit is more concerned about his work of transformation than we are and we must learn to follow his lead – to be ready to move as fast as he wants but not to get ahead of him!

Preaching the good news of Jesus!

What does it take to preach the good news of Jesus to others?

All of our Leaders: training focuses on three aspects of formation: the heart motivation, the intellectual understanding, and the practical experience. Toward that end we have been conducting a series of workshops this fall into which we have invited not only the  apprentice church planters but also the pastors, our head of women’s ministry, and some special guests who are considering embarking on the path of church planting with us.

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Dwight Bernier leading the workshop on preparing the gospel-centred message

In October we started the series when Andrew Fulford, a PhD candidate in Historical Theology at McGill University, led us through the origins of Scripture, the Canon, textual criticism and some other Bible Basics. In November, I led the group through an exploration of the Biblical Exegesis process and most helpful tools for unearthing the meaning and significance of the biblical text. December’s focus was on taking the exegetical work that we had done and shaping it into a gospel-centred message that could be preached in public. In January we will continue working with the same material with guidance and valuable insights from Dwight Bernier (original church planter and lead pastor of Church 21-Montréal).

The formation is designed in such a way that enables young ministers to shape their practices and at the same time for the more seasoned among us to hone their skills for an even sharper focus in gospel ministry. The Leaders: program focuses on equipping men and women in the church for practical ministry and brings academic resources to bear on that mission rather than building the training around the resources themselves. Several of our apprentices have had opportunities to put their training to work in the past month as we now have two English and three French services every Sunday at different venues throughout Québec.

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Simon Durocher preaching in French from Nehemiah

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Dustin Boreland preaching in English from 1 John

 

Introducing… The Leaders: Basic Course

How do you personally approach the task of making disciples? Perhaps you find that just trying to consistently follow Jesus in the day to day is more challenging than you thought it would be. When you hear the word “church” what do you think of first? Do you ever read the Bible and feel like it’s not really speaking to you in your situation? Is there something missing in your life of faith?

Almost a year ago we set out to revamp our church planting residency in order to create a broader leadership development platform so that everyone in the church could benefit, not just those called to plant and pastor new churches. We began developing the Leaders: program around a three-tiered structure:

  • The Basic Course – How to live out our faith
  • The Leadership Course – How to lead others to live out their faith
  • The Advanced Course – How to lead leaders to lead others to live out their faith

We are excited to announce that we have just published the Leaders: Basic Course book and so the Basic Course, the first level of our training, is now open for enrolment. This self-paced course is designed for everyone, to help build a solid foundation, and it is a requirement for anyone who is serving in leadership or training at the advanced levels. It includes personal coaching and is set in the context of living life in a missional community.

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Some of our city groups have already begun using the new resource and others will follow in the coming weeks as students return and as we launch a series of new initiatives for the fall. The Leadership Course and its corresponding course book will be available for those who complete the Basic Course. Our goal through these courses is to provide a seamless pathway toward mission and leadership that is adapted for everyone, from new believers to those training to be pastors and church planters. The same gospel DNA is found throughout!

While we can’t provide the missional community context or coaching for those of you who don’t live near us, you can get a very good idea of what’s involved by working through the Basic Course book in your own context. We are using this tool to sow seeds of the gospel and mission in other places here in Quebec also. If you are interested in experiencing something like this for yourself or if you’d like to make it available for someone else that you know would benefit from it, you can learn more by visiting our Resources page.

As you are reading this, the Basic Course book is being translated into French. We are still looking for funds to support the translation of this book and those for the other courses as well. Would you consider making a special investment in our French speaking brothers and sisters by giving toward this translation project? You can do so via our invest page.

A New Baby!

No, not us.

Well sort of. We are celebrating the birth of our brand new baby missional community in LaSalle this Friday. Five days ago the two “parent” city groups had a fun and festive evening together celebrating what God has done to make this new birth possible and to formally commission the new group. With influence and input from both our French group in le Plateau Montréal and the English group we lead in LaSalle, the new group will focus on serving a different part of our neighbourhood for the sake of the Kingdom. The new city group will operate primarily in French but due to the diversity around us there will always be other languages represented. The group will be led by Norton and Tatiana Lages, very close friends and partners in ministry who have a huge heart for people to experience the good news of Jesus and his Kingdom.

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Pictured here are the happy parents – above is the French group from le Plateau Montréal and below is at least some of the English group from LaSalle.

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As with any birth there is some serious pain that comes amidst all the happiness. In our case we will be missing those whom we sent out from our group tremendously. We have walked very closely for the past year so their absence will be difficult and will leave a big gap. But we remind ourselves that without this sacrifice we will not see new groups or the opportunities they represent for many new people to encounter the good news of the Kingdom of God. We want to keep shining light into new places and that means we go to those places, so we are thrilled to be postured to do just that and to expand our sphere of influence in LaSalle.

Another fun and exciting aspect of this new city group is that it will give us a chance to reach more French people who will be part of the Église 21 church that we are in the midst of planting in downtown Montréal. It’s so cool to see people from different backgrounds and speaking different languages work together to put good news on display in our city. We invite you to check out more about the importance of community, what a typical city group meeting looks like, or the beginnings of our French church plant.

Please pray for all three of these groups as well as all the other city groups of Church 21 in Montréal, the West Island, the South Shore, Magog, and Sherbrooke. May God bless his church and build his Kingdom in Québec!

 

Salut Ron!

This week we said good bye to a dear dear friend of our family. We first met Ron not too long before he married Marlene, moved to our street, and became part of our church family. Ron was a man not easy to forget and I want to share just a few of the lasting impacts he made on a group of people in just a very short time – that we might all aspire to have such influence in the lives of those around us.

Ron was a big presence. A big guy with a big smile, a big laugh, and always looking to have a big time. He was a storyteller and we looked forward to hearing many more stories than we had a chance to hear. It wasn’t so many months ago that Ron discovered that he had contracted lymphoma. He battled it hard but it didn’t relent. We prayed and prayed for Ron, full of hope that the Lord would beat back this cancer and give us more time with our good friend.

It wasn’t to be. Just days before heading to the hospital this last time he was organizing a day of ice fishing for our group. You have to understand that Ron was a man who knew a lot about a lot of things and most of this through experience. And he loved nothing more than to be able to introduce others to the same joys that he had experienced himself. So having had a great time ice fishing with his grandkids the season before, he thought he’d take this group of mostly imports to Quebec on their first ice fishing excursion.

He had done the same thing for several of the guys in our group in October when he took us to our first Habs game. Though with Ron it was more than a game. It was an experience. We cooked and ate together beforehand, then drove and parked right next to the Bell Center because, of course Ron knew people. As we walked around inside we got to not only see the plaques with the history of the team and players but we got Ron’s own twist on each as well. It was amazing to think that this guy knew so much and his heart was bursting to share what he had with his friends.

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Ron, Norton, Helielber and me at our first Canadiens’ game. A season ticket holder, Ron jumped at the opportunity to introduce the national sport of Canada to a couple Brazilians.

One rainy fall evening Ron and Marlene took Shari and me out on a double date at a nice French restaurant by the river where we could enjoy some time just to get to know the two of them better. They had jumped right into the life of our city group and quickly become a blessing to all of us, even bringing others out to join us as well. Ron was a generous man. So excited to treat us all to our first Nanaimo bars, he sent a whole slew of them with Marlene on an evening when he wasn’t even able to come enjoy them himself. That’s Ron.

Ron drove for Uber, and one evening in our kitchen he told me about a gentleman whom he had driven that day who had actually invited him in for tea. Ron had pictures of himself and this stranger-made-friend in his beautiful downtown apartment overlooking the city! All because people are important and Ron was good at being with people. In less than six months Ron had became a fixture, not only in our home but in our hearts, and he managed to make a life-long impression on each of us.

Lord, we have entrusted Ron to you for so long now and in your loving care for him and his wife you brought him to be with you. We are so thankful to know that no matter how good Ron’s experience was in this life, it is only now becoming what it was always meant to be. I have no doubt that you are at this moment giving Ron new experiences and stories to tell so that he will be well prepared when we see him next. Thank you for loving and rescuing your son Ron.

Salut Ron!