MONTREAL, Quebec — It’s still possible to visit 1,000 Quebec
communities and never see an evangelical church — a staggering fact that
Canadian church planting leaders face as they gather momentum for the Send
Montreal church planting effort.
Baptist leaders from Canada
and the United States
met to discuss plans for “Send Montreal” in mid-April in the first of many
local/regional gatherings to convene around the church planting strategy “Send
North America,” an initiative of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) being
launched this year.
Send Montreal coalition members set
a goal of starting 225 churches in Montreal
and other communities in Quebec
by 2020, which would include 199 French-speaking churches.
The coalition assigned two church planters, Quebec
native Francois Verschelden, pastor of Connexion in Montreal,
and Ron Young, pastor of Renaissance Bible
Church in Rawdon, the task of
designating 25 initial locations for new works in the province.
The group also gave priority to identifying key people and churches in Canada
and the United States
who can join the team in planting, partnering and sending.
“I believe some of Quebec’s
greatest indigenous leaders have yet to be discovered, and it’s our job to
unearth them,” Jeff Christopherson, church planting leader for the Canadian
National Baptist Convention and NAMB’s vice president for the Canada
region, said during the April 14-15 sessions. “It’s inconceivable to a lot of
people that there could be that many communities in one province without the gospel.
It’s our job to make these realities known.”
Particularly in the Montreal
metropolitan area, the unchurched population exceeds 99 percent of its 3.2
million people. But the secularization of Quebec,
whose citizens ousted the dominant Catholic rule and replaced it with a
resistance to organized religion in the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, has
extended to all outlying areas.
With a population of nearly 6 million (Quebec’s
total population is 7.3 million), the French-speaking Quebecois are considered
the largest unreached people group in North America.
They also could be among the hardest to reach, but they’re the key to the
“If we are going to reach Quebec,
then we have to reach the vast majority, which is French-speaking,” Verschelden
The Montreal cityscape of Old World Catholic architecture and modern structures sprawls toward the Fleuve Saint Laurent. Once a Catholic stronghold, Montreal has become a socialist, secular metro region with distinct Quebecois culture of refinement and
A general aversion to organized religion and a disinterest in anything that isn’t
French Quebecois has made church planting efforts an uphill struggle for
Southern Baptists and other evangelical groups.
The hardness of the Quebecois spiritual soil has at times removed it from the
purview of many evangelicals who’ve opted rather to plant English-speaking
“My parents are French Quebecois. My relatives have been here since 1642,”
Gerry Taillon, executive director of the Canadian National Baptist Convention,
said. “This is the most spiritually needy and hardest part of Canada
and the most religiously apathetic. But I also believe God is doing many things
here and I believe our job is to partner together and start a critical mass of
churches in this province.”
As NAMB gears up to launch Send North America at the Southern Baptist
Convention in June, Toronto and Vancouver
will join Montreal as areas of
special need with a priority of uncovering indigenous leadership and mobilizing
churches to partner with church planters through these key Canadian
In addition to Verschelden, Young, Taillon and Christopherson, the Send
Montreal gathering included Peter Blackaby, a CNBC
mobilization catalyst; Jacques Avakian, a national missionary with NAMB; John
Mark Clifton, a former Montreal church planter and pastor of Wornall Road
Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo.; and Mark Hobafcovich, a member of NAMB’s
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Miller writes for the North American Mission Board.)
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