This city an hour east of Montreal does not draw its name, Magog, from the apocalyptic book of Revelation – though a growing group of Christians hopes it someday might help spark the end times for Quebec’s spiritual destitution.
With 53,000 people in Magog most months and an additional 20,000 vacationing there in the summer, it is Quebec’s premiere destination for the province’s vacationers. Magog’s name is First Nations in origin, an abbreviation for nearby Lake Memphremagog meaning “lake of low water” or “lake between two mountains.”
But church planter Dominic Chaussé (@DominicChaussé) didn’t come to Magog to be on a permanent holiday or to sit by the lake. He came here to start Axe21 as a planter sent by a church also named Axe21 in the neighboring town of Sherbrooke.
Though it has “a huge lake that goes all the way to Vermont, four ski hills less than an hour away, miles of cycling paths, lots of outdoor sports – fishing [and] hunting – and so many restaurants, it has only one evangelical church,” Chaussé said.
NAMB photo by Claudine Chaussé
Dominic Chaussé, pastor and planter of a soon-to-launch church plant in Magog, Quebec, leads a weekly Bible study with members of the church’s core group and local residents.
Many of the younger adults in Magog, as with most Quebecois, have parents who parted from the Catholic Church, leaving their children disinterested and without any knowledge of Jesus.
“I grew up in Montreal, and I never really prayed for my friends to get saved because I never really believed it was possible,” Chaussé said. “My parents’ generation left the Catholic Church, and so my friends are the sons and daughters of people who have left the Catholic Church.
“We have one of the highest rates of suicide and divorce, and it’s because people are so directionless and lack meaning or contentment in their lives.
“But there’s a movement of the Spirit. People are praying for the lost,” Chaussé said, “and we’re seeing those same lost people come to Christ.”
Axe21 plans to launch later this year in a Magog theater that once had been the city’s most notorious bar. Chaussé sees it as an opportunity to redeem a dark part of the city – but a city that is surprisingly receptive.
“I thought it was going to be super hard to start because the faith was so not present,” Chaussé said. “They’re not opposed – just unaware. What’s going to happen when you die? Many couldn’t care less. They don’t really believe there’s something after death. Talk to them about hell and they laugh and say ‘that’s something for kids.’ If you talk to them about going to church, they just think it’s something weird.
“But they’re excited to speak about Jesus.”
Living in a way that reflects Christ has had the greatest effect on Magog residents, Chaussé said.
“Our babysitter is an example. Her mother died. When we heard of this we didn’t just tell her we would pray for her. That would have not had much impact,” he said. “We cooked meals for her and cared for her. She said, ‘You’re living it out.’ She came to church one Sunday, and then she started bringing her husband.”
Axe21’s core group spent 400 hours last summer serving on The Green Brigade, which meant picking up trash after the city’s many festivals.
“The city was actually excited about us launching,” Chaussé said.
The former bar that will become Axe21’s new address has drawn attention from radio stations and three local newspapers – one of which praised the church for its volunteer work in the city. The church currently has 85 people meeting on a weekly and monthly basis in advance of its launch, and they’ve baptized 18.
“There’s really no explanation for what’s happening,” Chaussé said, “except that this is a movement of God’s Spirit.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adam Miller writes for the North American Mission Board.)