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
Pushing back the spiritual darkness in southern Ontario,
in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), has not
“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
He is praying more believers will be sent out into the
harvest fields of the GTA.
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
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
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
An emphasis will also be on strategic, church-to-church
“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
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
“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
“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
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
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
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.
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