Tell us a little bit about John Ippolito.
I’m originally from Toronto – that’s my birthplace and where most of our family still lives. My father pastored the church where I grew up (so I’m a PK). I accepted the Lord and was baptised, both in water and the Spirit, in my early teens. My affinities, and therefore my high school majors, were divided between Law and Automotive Engineering. It was while deciding on which university to attend that I felt a call to the ministry. I can’t say that I was happy with that, or even that my heart was in it. However, the call was stronger than my desires, and I guess you could say that my own ambitions gave way to my greatest ambition, which is to serve Him. My wife, Kathryn, and I were married after my second year of college. Having completed her studies at U of T, she joined me in Peterborough, where she also took a year of Bible College. We have three grown sons and one grandson.
You still pastor the church you planted, but also work at the Quebec District office, how do you balance these two worlds?
There is really no such thing as balance. I guess I’m old school in my work ethic, so I just do 100% of each all the time. Honestly, it is not as much as it seems from the outside. Aside from meetings and speaking engagements, with today’s technology I can work from anywhere, which makes things easier. I also have two great teams: one at church and the other at District – they keep me balanced.
What are some things that make church planting in Quebec more complex?
I think the obvious one is language. However, as with any mission field, there is a cultural component too. Here in Quebec, those two things mix to create a very interesting society with its own set of challenges. My personal belief is that, despite the natural beauty of the province, there is a darkness over it. I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but the effect is obvious. With less than 3% of the population claiming Jesus as their personal Saviour, Quebec is the least-reached area of North America. In the past, the true Christian faith has been rejected by most Quebecers. Today, I would say it is more discounted than rejected. I believe that this gives us a tremendous opening to share the relevance of the Gospel for today; this is a great time for Quebec.
What opportunities are there for church planting as English-speaking planters? Are there any?
There are great openings in any language here in Quebec. Two of our recent church plants were in English. They are now in their third year and both are very successful. While French is the predominant language (and really the only language outside of the Montreal or Quebec City areas), there is room for English or cultural churches in the large urban areas mentioned. The Greater Montreal area, in particular, is multicultural and in need of many more churches. The church I pastor is in the city of Laval (part of Greater Montreal). Of the more than 433,000 inhabitants of our city, less than 66% speak French as the main language in their home. The City of Montreal would have similar percentages but on a much greater scale. So, the opportunities are great! If I were talking about fishing for men, I would say it is a very, very big lake, but there are relatively few boats out there with nets in the water. To add to that metaphor: whether you’re fishing for bass or trout or something else – they are all biting.
Tell us some forward steps the Quebec district is making in the area of church multiplication?
As a District, we have put some systems in place to assist and walk with new church planters, particularly in the early phases of planting. We have also put church multiplication into our budgets and it is in the forefront of our “talking”. As leaders, it is always on our hearts, minds, and tongues.
What kind of leaders are you looking for to start new disciple-making communities in Quebec?
That’s easy – the kind that can plant churches! Seriously, those who would plant successfully in Quebec would need to be the kind of planters who are driven to see others come to the Lord. I believe that the area of personal evangelism is primary to church planting today (anywhere). Furthermore, the ability to lead and inspire others to follow is a must. As I see it, you cannot plant alone, so the ability to bring others on board is more than an asset – it’s a requirement.
I would add one other thing, and perhaps I’m just stating the obvious, but we need those who - in word and deed - show that the Gospel is relevant; those who believe and live it. And do I really need to point out that this is done best in the fullness of the Spirit?
What can churches and other districts across Canada do to really be helpful in planting churches in Quebec?
Our greatest need is for planters; people who are motived and ready to get out and do it. What can other churches and districts do? I’d say “pray that the Lord of the harvest would send labourers,” and, if possible, find some and send them in His name! And, as Treasurer, I suppose I should add: we also take cheques or cash!