Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Beverly and I have been married for 25 years this year, and we have three young adult children, all of whom are presently studying in university. We have been leading in ministry since the mid-1980s and missional engagement has been a core since the beginning - at the local, global and now national level. As for extra stuff, we have been involved in the elite-level sporting pursuits of our children, and I would eventually like to watch a baseball game at all 30 MLB parks in my lifetime. (I am at 11 and counting.)
What are you currently doing and how does it connect to church multiplication in Canada?
Currently, I serve the PAOC as the Director of Mission Canada. Mission Canada is the national mission agency of the PAOC, releasing called personnel in cooperation with Districts and local churches into identified missional gaps in Canada. We look at Canada through the lens of a missionary and ask, “Where is Jesus not famous in our nation - yet?” As a PAOC leadership, we have determined five key priorities: Indigenous peoples, cultural language groups and new Canadians, urban centres, Quebec and francophone Canada, and our next generation, including children, youth and campuses. Correspondingly, we convene national conversations and network ‘guiding groups’ with key deliverables in each area. We could be called the research and development arm of the PAOC. We try stuff, and sometimes it may even work! In summary, we plant qualified and called people into missional gaps, to reach and disciple people in many under-served areas of the nation. These incarnational workers are often engaged with people that have never heard the gospel before.
What excites you most about Mission Canada?
What excites me is transformation. What excites me is that our workers often are engaged in settings with people and places that seem to be ‘hard ground’, and yet, the gospel still works (Romans 1:16). We hear stories of change, on a regular basis. Even though our culture seems to becoming increasing secular and disengaged with traditional church models, there continues to be places where light is penetrating darkness. We are trending toward our 2020 goal of forty fully funded Mission Canada workers. We are continuing to see some great work by our current Mission Canada workers, recruitment and training of new missional workers, and ongoing conversations with potential future workers.
Why is the term ‘disciple-making communities’ so important to the 2020 vision?
We have intentionally embraced the fact that many of our workers may not establish traditional church models. We have great churches that will continue to pursue that task. Our Mission Canada workers, partnered with churches and districts, are often embedded into an unreached part of the culture that the church does not readily engage. There they begin to develop a community. Out of that community, they then determine the structure that works for them. Often, it is not a gathering on a Sunday morning, but it takes on the feel of an organic disciple-making community. Many times, the people and places are ‘allergic’ to the existing church, so we go be among them, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). We are commissioned to make disciples, not necessarily to manage structures; so we pray, share, and begin to reach out to many who are without any church or Christian memory.
What do we, as a PAOC family, need to do to become a multiplication movement again?
In our early days, we had the markers of a movement that lead as a bi-product to multiplication. We were known as risk-taking, faith-filled leaders (dare I even say ‘apostolic’!), with mission on the front burner. I see a couple of areas of possible course correction. Firstly, there needs to be a re-engagement of intimacy. We need to encourage pastors and church leaders to pursue first love and intimacy with Christ. He will reignite the passion for those outside of faith. Secondly, I think we need to think more like missionaries, and less like pastors and shepherds. Our challenge should be to look at our assignment with fresh eyes and a missional impulse to learn everything we can about our ‘field’; to remove every obstacle that stands in the way of seeing people come to faith. Lastly, our biggest strength as a movement - the stability, diversity, and empowerment, those things that got us to where we are today - can be our greatest blind spot as we move toward our preferred future. We need to become nimble and flexible and re-engage a spirit-empowered message of hope.
How do we, as leaders, need to think differently about church multiplication?
I believe that our PAOC family recognizes that it will take all kinds of people, with all kinds of different methods and strategies, to reach Canada. Dave Wells often uses the ‘harvest analogy’ when referring to the work of Mission Canada. “Our existing churches are like the large Massey Ferguson combine that combs the prairie fields and harvests wheat in the fall. They are blessed with equipment and can harvest grain in large quantities. However, the tools and resources needed to harvest fruit in the Okanagan, grapes in the Niagara region, or berries in the Lower mainland are different, and different training, practices and labourers are needed.” Remember, the goal is still a harvest. We are mature enough as a movement to understand that not all disciple-making communities will look and feel alike. We need to look at models of ministry expressions other than a traditional church plant, as the wave of the future. A gathering on a university campus, a corporate chaplain, a cyber gathering of young adults, or a community of faith in an urban condo – they will all look different; but the same presence of Christ and power of the Holy Spirit will be active where ever they may gather.
What would you say to leaders out there on the fence, trying to decide whether or not to multiply their church?
Healthy things grow. Set a goal to take an honest assessment, and to lead the church under your care toward health. Perhaps you, as the leader, need to be healthy enough to begin to think about a multiplying mindset. Begin to multiply in small ways within your leadership or church teams. Start small and take incremental steps of faith. Begin to pray and ask the Lord to enlarge your heart as the leader. Begin to lead the way in engaging your neighbours and community in intentional engagement with people in their pre-Christian state. Sometimes you may feel you are lacking resources, leadership, or location, or even think that it is not the right timing. My friend once said, “There is never an ideal time to plant another church, so we just did it. If we do what we can with what we have, God will meet us." (Picture This -- Eric Tremblay, New Beginning Church, Ontario)