By Jamie Cairns
Bethel Baptist Church, Toronto
Twelve years ago, the Lord challenged our church to be baptized: to die to the church we knew and to be born again as a “niche” ministry. A niche ministry is a targeted one; our target was seniors. The Lord enabled us to tear down our old building and rebuild as a seniors’ residence with a small chapel on the main floor. Our building has 19 Life Lease Units and a shared lounge opposite the chapel. Being part of a larger facility means that we have very little maintenance, reduced costs, a modern, climate controlled facility and a built in community with the residents of the building. We have truly become our name, Bethel, The House of God.
The challenge of a niche ministry is that there is no blueprint. Having no Sunday School space and a small chapel means that the purpose of the church is to remain low key. Being inside a residence means that many outside will not come in and if they do, they are often looking for more than Bethel can offer. Since residents live right above us, our worship must be quieter and for our seniors, more traditional. While some of the residents have joined us over the years, others are members of different churches. Therefore the residents cannot be seen as a mission field for intentional evangelism, but rather more of a chaplaincy ministry; being available as the needs arise. Consequently our call to a niche ministry has really taught us to ‘wait upon God’ for direction and he has been very faithful.
The Lord has been faithful to develop us into a ministry of prayer. Because the ministry is in a building where people live, there are opportunities to talk with them and offer to pray. Therefore our prayers can be targeted to needs we know, with joy in seeing the answers.
The Lord has been faithful to develop us into a ministry of servanthood. Since we are dealing with one main group, our focus has become helping them ‘walk with God’. We do this through an Adult Bible Class, worship and visitation. Our hope is to help them find joy in their relationship with Jesus. Being low key gives us the opportunity to encourage them to be involved in the community around them and not feel that they have to expend all their energy to ‘grow’ the ministry.
The Lord has been faithful to minister to us his Presence. A seniors’ ministry brings with it fluctuating congregations. We can have a good crowd for a while and then, with changing health needs, we can become very small. Yet, despite the number present, we always have a full house: full of the Heavenly Host. Our mission has become letting God shine himself through us. This is the mystery of the Incarnation. Five years ago the Lord opened up the opportunity to hold a monthly Community Service on a Wednesday night. It has provided a ‘neutral’ service for people in our building and an opportunity to invite the wider community to come and commune in his Presence.
The fruit of faithfulness is the gift of God. He alone is faithful and as we trust in Him, He grants us His fruit of faithfulness. In His faithfulness, He has turned our challenge into joy, doubt into hope, discouragement into rejoicing. Through these things the fruit matures to the place where we have been able to share it with others. At the front of our sanctuary is a stained glass window. It depicts the Risen Christ with the words “I am the resurrection and the life”. Our prayer is that we continue to walk by faith in God’s faithfulness, trusting He will give us new life every day.