I have come to the conclusion that the more I try to guess what God has for me next, the more it simply eliminates that idea as a possibility. His ways are so much higher than mine, and because they are, I have decided to stop guessing and wait for God to surprise me when He sees fit.
Last June, I found myself in a conversation that could only be described as divinely inspired. It was the starting point that led to me accepting a national role in our Fellowship as the Church Multiplication Co-ordinator. The opportunity came as an absolute surprise: I didn’t know a church multiplication position was being developed, nor that I would even be considered. But over these past several months, I have been reminded time and again of how God knows what we need even before we ask. He prepares us with gifting and sharpens our skill set to match the passion He places in our heart.
As a Fellowship, we, the PAOC, have a bright and promising future ahead of us. A strong vision has been declared as part of our 2020 Initiative to see 1,500 disciple-making communities by the year 2020. This initiative was launched in late 2013 with the unanimous approval of our General Executive. Since that time, we have seen some exciting growth. New churches have been planted. Multi-sites have been launched. Creative missional initiatives have begun that are reaching people for Jesus across our nation. And while we are thankful for what God has done, there is still much more to do; we need His help as we continue to journey forward.
I think we would all agree that incremental growth is good, but exponential growth is better. While addition is what we have seen, multiplication is now what we need! In the Book of Acts, Luke described the growth of the early church by how many people were added daily, but let’s not forget that multiplication was happening seven times every week! That’s the kind of growth we want to see in our churches and communities. Are we serious about reaching Canada? Do we think it is even possible?
This past fall I hit the ground running with a short runway to Congress “Momentum,” a church multiplication summit in Montreal, where 40-plus leaders took time to forge a robust and readied multiplication action plan for 2018. What a synergistic time we had with our Multiply Network leaders, harvesting the best ideas, practices and plans to see church multiplication move forward. While we all found ourselves nodding our heads in agreement on seeing 1,500 disciple-making communities by 2020, we needed a clearer co-ordination of efforts and next steps to keep us all singing off the same song sheet. So, from the summary notes of that short day and a half together, a small group formed what we have called our Multiplication Action Plan (MAP). This plan was approved by our General Executive in November 2017. Allow me to share with you some of the key points included in our MAP:
- Increase the Profile of Church Multiplication
We all felt we needed to increase the profile of church multiplication in our Fellowship and put it on the radar screens of our pastors and churches. We hope to achieve this through celebrating our church multiplication stories from across Canada, having a presence at our national and district events, partnering with our Bible colleges, and having a strong social media focus. A focused passion for healthy growth needs to get back into our DNA as a PAOC family, and we hope to seed that by raising the profile of church multiplication.
- Prayer Partnership
Prayer must be a driving force of this vision, for without it, we won’t see the fruitfulness God wants us to have. We need to be praying for planters, missional leaders, multiplying churches, finances, venues, and so much more. A specific prayer focus is what we feel God is calling us to, and we will be working to rally our Fellowship to that end.
- Recruit and Raise Up Church Multiplication Leaders and Churches
Obviously, this is essential to growth in any organization. We hope to have greater intentionality with our Bible colleges, finding ways to seed the ground for church multiplication with our younger leaders while inspiring our established churches to think bigger and broader. Once identified, we want to come alongside our multipliers to help assess, train, equip and resource them. There is much ground to cover by virtue of the sheer size of our nation, but if we have lots of eyes and ears from coast to coast to coast looking and listening for multiplying leaders, our success will be greater.
- Expand the Multiply Network
Multiply Network (formerly the Church Multiplication Network) is a working group of PAOC leaders from across our nation who are coming together to speak into the vision, best practices and action plan for church multiplication in the PAOC. While some will carry greater portfolios in the Multiply Network, we are looking to expand the reach of this team by inviting any leaders interested in being a champion for church multiplication to come on board. Those who become part of the Multiply Network will be some of the first to hear about the new churches and multi-sites being launched. They will be informed of advantageous resources and will be able to jump in early on our strategic conversations. They will receive invitations to our future Multiply Network Summits, where those of like mind and heart will gather to share, learn and grow together.
This MAP is too robust for one group or network. We need the entire PAOC family on board, and we hope you can find ways to become involved. Look for connection points on our social media channels or simply email me to find the involvement you are looking for.
In chatting with leaders across our nation and in various denominations, it has become apparent to me that for the 2020 Initiative to reach its goal, we need to implement a new narrative when it comes to church multiplication. The power of story, as we all know, can be tremendously impacting and can really shape how we view things. I have heard leaders say or ask the following about church multiplication: “It’s so difficult.” “I don’t know where to start.” “What if it fails?” “Where will we get the money?” “Where will we find the leaders?” Such statements and questions can send the wrong messages. While these are valid concerns, they can be very demotivating for others.
I believe we need a fresh narrative that is full of excitement and possibility—a narrative chock full of pioneering passion, complete courage, and a deep trust in God to make our efforts successful. We need to focus on hope and opportunity while sharing a strong belief that we can see great goals accomplished together. I really do believe our best days are ahead as a Fellowship, and I invite you to dream with me about it. I like the frankness of the great auto-maker, Henry Ford, when he said this: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Let’s all believe we can!
As we look ahead to 2019, we will be celebrating 100 years as The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. What better time to shift to a new narrative? These types of celebrations can cause us to pause and think about the future and what it could hold. We can seize hold of those opportunities to talk and dream together about the next 100 years, if the Lord doesn’t return before then, asking Him for His leading and direction on what this next centennial should look like. It’s also a time to celebrate the past and remind ourselves of where we came from, what was important to our founding leaders, and what their vision was for this Fellowship. Can we recapture their heart and passion again?
Rev. R. E. McAlister shared the following statement in the Canadian Pentecostal Testimony in September 1925: "There is no better investment in all our work than the investment of home missions [church planting]."
Another leader around that same time wrote, "At present, we are putting forth a special effort in opening up new assemblies. This is the only hope of increasing our foreign mission work, to establish many new assemblies in Canada" (author unknown).
Rev. R. L. Brandt, an Assemblies of God district superintendent, pastor and National Home Missions General secretary wrote in 1960: “Pioneering and progress are inseparable. The expansion of the Assemblies of God [PAOC] on nearly every front will be determined by the movement’s ability to plant healthy churches …”
Have we lost our pioneering heart to reach those far from God in Canada? Have we become too rigid in our methods, systems and strategies to see a move of God’s Spirit in our nation? Are we flexible enough to be on the right side of change? What are we willing to risk?
One of my favourite passages in Scripture is the story of Jonathan and his armour-bearer in 1 Samuel 14:6-7. I like it because it’s an underdog story, and who doesn’t like a good underdog story? I also like it because it reminds me that, with God, we are the majority. But what I absolutely love in this passage is the risk-taking attitude of Jonathan. He didn’t have a prophetic dream leading him to this action—no angelic visitation—but just a sense that “perhaps this might be a good time for God to show up, and I’m willing to risk that He will.”
“‘Let’s go across to the outpost of those pagans,’ Jonathan said to his armor bearer. ‘Perhaps the LORD will help us, for nothing can hinder the LORD. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!’
‘Do what you think is best,’ the armor bearer replied. ‘I’m with you completely, whatever you decide’” (NLT, emphasis added).
At one time in Canada’s history, the majority of people went to church on a Sunday, and Christianity had a strong influence on culture. Times have obviously changed and we have yet to regain that same Christian influence. We are outnumbered and outvoted, but perhaps God will not let us be outdone! There is hope for Canada, and God is calling us back to His heart for those far from Him. But it will take courage, a bold faith, and an increased capacity for risk.
J. Oswald Sanders penned these words: “A great deal more failure is the result of an excess of caution than of bold experimentation with new ideas. The frontiers of the Kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution.”
Could you be a Jonathan who would be willing to take a risk to see God’s kingdom advance in Canada? Could you be an armour-bearer who would come alongside one of our risk-takers, our church planters, or one of our multiplying churches, who would boldly and courageously say, “I’m completely with you”? Now is the time for change; now is the time for us to take risks; now is the time for us to live by faith and not by “safe”!
I came across this quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry years ago that reminds me again today to continue to speak positively toward the future. He said, "When you want to build a ship, do not begin by gathering wood, cutting boards, and distributing work, but awaken within the heart of man a desire for the vast and endless sea.”
Rev. David Wells recently sent an email to some of our Multiply Network catalysts and closed the message with this statement: “These are wild, opportunistic days to see the church multiply in Canada and for people to become followers of Jesus.” I totally agree with that statement and urge our PAOC leaders from all across our nation to dream bigger, risk more, and be empowered with God’s Spirit as we do this together. We are truly better together.