I’m writing this from our luxurious suite at the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac in beautiful, old Quebec City, Quebec.
Heather and I are here, along with about 74 other Mennonite Brethren affiliated church planting couples from across Canada, and a handful of other connected people. The event is an all-expense paid retreat for church planters, put on by the C2C Network–the national counterpart to Church Planting BC, our British Columbian parent organization. Dan and Bev Rutherford, of Gateway Baptist Church (our home / parent church in Victoria for the duration of my church planting “apprenticeship”) are also here with us. And what a treat we are enjoying!
Our music for worship times is provided by BC’s own Brian Doerksen; the teaching by Jeff Vanderstelt of Soma Communities in Tacoma Washington. If what we have experienced so far of our 4 day stay here is any indication, we will be spending a lot of time on what feels like holy ground! And that’s appropriate: many of the couples attending here have endured significant suffering for the sake of the Gospel. What makes this holy ground is not so much the great Gospel-centred teaching (though Jeff is great) or the music (you do know who Brian Doerksen is don’t you?), but rather the privilege of worshipping alongside men and women who are giving their all for the sake of the name of Jesus in the resistant church planting soil of Canada’s cities. Did you know that 64% of Canadians now live in just a handful of major cities? These people know that and have intentionally moved to plant new churches in those cities–Quebec, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria, to name a few. This in spite of the high personal costs involved. I am moved by the honour of being counted in such company!
I don’t think I’m far off the mark in guessing that these people at this retreat represent about 75 new churches recently planted, being planted, or about to be planted in Canadian urban centres. And, true to C2C’s core values, these are designed to be Gospel-centred, Spirit-led, Mission-focused churches. Not your garden-variety Christian country clubs. On the plane coming to Quebec City, I had the chance to visit briefly with one of the members of Canada’s next Olympic Team for the London games in 2012. He and his partner just qualified by winning gold in the Pan-American Games in Mexico. That’s where he was returning from on the Air Canada flight we shared. During our conversation he acknowledged that Christianity–the Catholic Church in particular–had done a great deal of harm throughout history. So I told him, in a nutshell, about what the C2C Network is trying to do: to do good in the midst of Canada’s cities by establishing Christian communities where people can find acceptance, belonging, and healing through being reconciled to God, through Jesus Christ, and to each other. He said he thought that sounded pretty good. I think that this is a goal worth striving for, fighting for, sacrificing for. Though I am certainly no athlete, I’m pretty sure a gold medal cannot properly communicate what the athlete pays in countless ways to achieve it. That’s not how it will be one day when the King of kings gives His reward!
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV)
Tonight we prayed en masse for the cities of Quebec, including for Quebec City itself. One of the pastors, in his testimony, compared his love for his city, Montreal, to the love a man has for a woman. These people are emotional about the cities they dream of reaching with the Gospel. I know Jesus is infinitely more emotional about the cities He has sent people like this to reach with the life-giving, transformative message of His life, death, resurrection and soon return. And I guess the question that keeps coming to mind is this: why did it take me so long to commit myself to such a worthy goal? Moreover, why are there only approximately 75 new churches represented here? What kind of impact would 750 new Canadian, Gospel-centred, Spirit-led, Mission-focused churches have on our cities? What about 7500? What about 75,000?
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