by Clint Mix and Jacqueline Solomon
The great thing about franchises is that you always know what you will get. The challenge is that they cannot adapt to their changing contexts or the gifts of those who led them.
Canadian Baptists have never been fond of the cookie cutter approach to ministry. With a deep love of autonomy, we have always adapted to where we are while maintaining our commitment to Christ. Yet, as the years passed, our once-innovative mission-hearted churches (and their buildings) became local fixtures and we began to face the temptation of thinking that the way we do things is the only right way.
CBOQ mission and church plants serve in very diverse contexts and are led by equally diverse mission and church planters. For churches that are just starting out, discerning their calling and deciding how to participate in God’s mission is essential for meaningful connections in their communities.
The Church Plant Design Shop, a partnership initiative of CBOQ, the Free Methodist and Alliance churches, helps mission and church planters figure out what that heart call of God is and develop the skills to be able to plant effectively within their local context.
So what do these mission and church plants look like? Are they A-frame buildings? Do they have pulpits? Do we need to add Second Baptist Church monikers as we plant? The reality may make some of us a bit uncomfortable.
What our church planters are learning is that church—real church—may not look like a building at all. It is shaped by God’s mission and the context to which the church is called. It is also influenced by the gifts and passions of those who lead and serve. So, it may instead look a lot like an assortment of people in the community room of a food bank, the living room of a hospitable church planter, a local pub or the gym of a local school. Church planting isn’t about replicating church buildings; it’s about building up communities of people who love Jesus and participate in God’s redemptive mission. While a building may (or may not) be a practical reality at some point, it doesn’t take the building to make the church. Rather, people who meet together to serve, worship, learn and grow together are already a church—no building required.
Some of these dedicated innovators were in attendance at the Design Shop held recently at Mississauga Chinese Baptist Church. Warren Gao, Roberto Ascencio and Andrea and Nelson Chang are using different approaches that fit best with their communities, which is a good thing—church planters can do things in as many different ways as there are communities.
Warren Gao is the pastor at Milton Missionary Church, which was a plant of Brampton Chinese Church. Pastor Warren has started Bible studies in several areas, including Oakville and Mississauga. With opportunities to study God’s word together, pray together and worship together, they are starting small communities of faith, in new places and welcoming those who have never learned about God before. As these studies grow in number and strength, they may become more established churches. They may even be able to send out church planters of their own someday.
Roberto Ascencio has started a church plant in Preston, Ontario where he is reaching out to the lower income families in the neighbourhood. A plant of Cristo Para Todos Church in nearby Cambridge, Roberto has a vision to bring Christ into some of the harder places in the area. And he knows the area well! Roberto has lived in the area for many years and is taking on the challenging task of connecting with peers and neighbours who didn’t grow up in the church and introducing them to Jesus.
Andrea and Nelson Chang are new to the area. Hailing from South Carolina and arriving in Toronto via Dallas, Texas, their experience of church is anything but small. Part of several mega churches in the US, adjusting to the smaller realities of Canada could have been a shock. Instead, they’ve jumped in. Both seminary students at Tyndale, Nelson and Andrea had a hard time sorting out exactly where God was calling them to ministry. After the Church Planters Design Shop, here’s what they had to say:
We’re church planters. We know it’s going to look different, but that’s exactly who we are. It used to be we don’t fit the mold, but one of the things we like about CBOQ is that there isn’t a mold… We finally said yes to this. We know who we are, we know what You want us to do… it’s just a matter of how.”
Andrea and Nelson are currently investigating ways that they could become missional church planters with possibilities of starting new communities of faith or perhaps reseeding others that need a bit of a boost.
Each church planter needs to hear what God is calling them to do, develop the skills to do it and keep an open mind about what that church will look like. The Church Plant Design Shop is there to help them do just those things.
If you want information on becoming a church planter, contact Clint Mix, Director of Church Planting and Mission at firstname.lastname@example.org.