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Church planting focus of new Toronto partnership
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
May 09, 2011

Church planting focus of new Toronto partnership

Church planting focus of new Toronto partnership
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
May 09, 2011

TORONTO — The

final request Dan Collison made before the North Carolina

team headed home, the one thing he wanted on their minds as they left: pray

like crazy.

Pushing back the spiritual darkness in southern Ontario,

in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), has not

been easy.

“A price has been paid. It continues to be paid,” Collison

said as his eyes filled with tears.

Collison, director of Toronto

church planting and the southern Ontario

lead church planting catalyst for the Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC)

and North American Mission Board (NAMB), works with staff and church planters

in an area that is less than five percent evangelical. The GTA,

which extends from Hamilton to Oshawa,

is home to 5.5 million people.

From financial struggles and serious health issues to

setbacks in church plants and times of loneliness, Collison and the team are

just now starting to come out of a season marked by trials. “When there are so

few people standing up you’re a target,” he said. “The enemy has the guns

well-trained.”

He is praying more believers will be sent out into the

harvest fields of the GTA.

BSC photo

Dan Collison, right, works with church planters in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), an area of emphasis for North Carolina Baptists through its Great Commission Partnerships at the Baptist State Convention. See gallery.

Until then, and despite the challenges, the ones who are

standing have planted their feet on a firm foundation and are committed to

penetrating darkness with the light of the gospel.

The task before Collison and other pastors, church planters

and leaders in the GTA is great.

In the GTA, there is one

church for about every 275,000 people and 40 Southern Baptist churches. About

43 percent of Canadians did not attend any religious worship service in the

past year. Although Baptists statistically, at 2.4 percent, are the largest

evangelical group in Canada,

two-thirds of them never attend church.

Eighty-percent of pastors in the GTA

are bivocational.

The Greater Toronto Area also includes the “Golden

Horseshoe” of Southern Ontario, which extends beyond the

GTA down to the U.S.

border and includes the entire area that touches Lake

Ontario.

The GTA includes

communities that are completely unengaged and unreached, meaning there is no

evangelical presence at all.

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC)

is beginning a Great Commission Partnership with CNBC

in order to help advance the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the GTA,

especially in these unengaged, unreached areas.

The partnership is focused on several specific goals, with

church planting at the center of ministry for North Carolina Baptist churches

that partner in Toronto. Goals

include North Carolina Baptist churches assisting in the planting of 40

churches in Southern Ontario and 10 biker churches

throughout Canada

by 2021.

An emphasis will also be on strategic, church-to-church

partnerships.

“We are looking for churches in North

Carolina to partner long-term in Toronto

three, five or more years. Ideally, for the long haul, until a church is not

just planted but reproduces itself,” said Peter Blackaby, mobilization director

with NAMB for the Canada

region.

As North Carolina Baptists work together to accomplish these

goals, they are also helping the CNBC work

toward its goal of planting 250 churches across southern Ontario

by 2020.

“The Canadian National Baptist Convention has prayerfully

sought to understand how to best impact this area of the world with the gospel.

I commend their leaders for praying for a bold vision and for their commitment

to doing all they can to see that it is accomplished,” said Milton A.

Hollifield Jr., BSC executive

director-treasurer.

“I am grateful for the opportunity our convention has to

serve in Toronto by planting

churches and helping strengthen existing churches. I pray that the work of

North Carolina Baptists, and other strategic partners, will help bring forth

much fruit in the unreached and engaged areas of Toronto

for the glory of God.”

Challenges in Canada

Canada

has a “complete absence of a Christian subculture,” Blackaby said.

“On a typical work day, conversation about church, let alone

Christ, you would not hear it. You would not expect to hear it. There’s not a

natural predisposition within the general population that church is even a good

thing.”

Blackaby said that in many areas witnessing and church

planting begins not just with “breaking up the ground” but removing rocks, or

those preconceived ideas about God and church, from under the ground.

“You’re starting at a much earlier stage than you probably

would in North Carolina.”

Many people in the targeted partnership area are two, even

three, generations removed from any kind of real Christian experience.

They have no connection with the Bible, even the most

familiar Bible stories, and are “disillusioned and disenfranchised,” Collison

said. They have walked away completely from Christianity and the church. The gospel “needs to be lived out for them before it can be

communicated verbally. It can be a fairly slow process of building

relationships of trust and relationships of confidence,” Collison said.

How you can help

A goal of the partnership is to see North Carolina Baptist

churches involved in mission efforts in Toronto

that go beyond a one-time trip to Toronto.

Churches are encouraged to commit to serving in one area or alongside one

church planter for an extended period of time in order to build relationships

and truly understand, and be involved in, the planter’s strategy for reaching

the community.

North Carolina Baptist churches can join the work in Toronto

by becoming a sending or supporting church. Sending churches are churches that

agree to plant a church, or to lead a network of supporting churches in

partnering with a specific church plant in Toronto.

These churches are the liaison working with a church in Toronto

to coordinate sending mission teams that respond to the needs of the church

plant. The sending church commits to working with that church plant until the

new church is sustaining on its own.

In unreached areas supporting churches may help out with

community events and find ways to serve the community in order to “re-earn the

right to be seen as a community player,” Collison said. Church planters are not

welcomed in all communities, so mission teams are needed to serve and help

these planters and churches earn a right to even be in the community.

“People are looking for Christianity to have a real,

tangible, experiential difference from the rest of the world — not something

that’s seen in word only but that’s seen in power,” Collison said.

Contact Michael Sowers at [email protected] or call

(800) 395-5102, ext. 5654.

More coverage:

www.ncbaptist.org.

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