By Chris Stefanidis
Renforth Baptist, Etobicoke
Renewal: the state of being made new, fresh, or strong again; the state of being renewed.
When my mom proudly shared with a friend of hers that I was called to be the pastor of Renforth Baptist Church, he replied with a bit of a sneer, “That’s a dead church!” At the time, she felt indignant, but the sad truth was he was right.
Remembering back to when I first walked into the place, there was a deadness there. A heaviness seemed to hang in the air making it hard to breath. These are not poetic descriptions or exaggerations. It was the truth. Early on, there were roughly 12 devoted souls who ventured to show up to hear me preach. The impression I got was that we were all just hanging around, waiting for the church to die. There seemed to be no life, no future and no hope. I wished I had never come.
I knew the only one who could renew the life in this place would be God, who is more than capable of restoring life to the dead. The good news is this is exactly what has happened. In the past few short years at Renforth, through the power of Jesus Christ, loads of prayer and our partnership with Mississauga City Baptist Church, Toronto Baptist Ministries, and the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec, we have been renewed. Where there was once a deadness about the place, now there is fun. Where there was once an eerie silence, now there is laughter. Where there was once no hope, now there is a fresh wind of God’s Spirit breathing back His life. There is nowhere else I would rather be.
Some of the highlights in the past year include: A growing fellowship that now averages 70-80 people each Sunday. Our annual community BBQ that served more than 250 of our closest neighbours and friends. Our one working bathroom is in the process of being renovated to become two fully accessible bathrooms that will be easier for our guests to find. We have hired a part-time children’s ministry director to lead our growing children’s program. God has brought us many talented musicians, teachers and small group leaders to equip us for service. Each week, more and more new people come by God’s leading and chose to remain with us.
If renewal means . . . to be made new, fresh and strong again, then Renforth is being renewed, but it is not on our own. We could not have done it without our family of churches. God bless you for hearing his voice and being a part of his work at Renforth.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Chris Stefanidis