Saturday, December 12, 2015

We are moving to a new site!!!

It is only appropriate that with the change of our church name and the name of our training program that we also introduce our new website:

See you there!!!

Thank you!

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Time of Transition

As you will notice if you browse through this website some things are starting to reflect our new name - Leaders: - and some Extend material is still up, so nothing really matches. Don't panic! It won't be like that forever, hopefully it won't be like that for long at all! We're in the middle of transitioning a lot of things in our ministry so that we can be more strategic in how we train and equip leaders to make disciples of Jesus and lead them in planting new churches throughout Québec.

So keep checking back and we think you'll like where we're going. And if you are financially supporting us, don't change anything, we'll be in touch soon with any new information you'll need for your donations to be handled expediently. Thanks for your patience and heart for what God is doing here in Québec!

We helped sponsor the church planting congress 
which was in Montréal the last week of October.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Notre Première Assemblée Française à Montréal

Yes, you read that right. This past Sunday we held our first worship gathering in French simultaneously with our normal weekly worship gathering in English. As our church is made up of both anglophones (native English speakers) and francophones (native French speakers), we have been looking forward for a long time to being able to start a worship gathering completely in French in downtown Montréal. This week we held one for the first time. We still have a little ways to go before we can effectively hold this service on a weekly basis, but the precedent has been set.

Not long ago we announced that Norton and Tatiana Lages, missionaries from Brazil and wonderful friends of ours who are part of our city group, would be taking the leadership role in developing the French expression of Église 21, our church in downtown Montréal. Norton has worked with our French city group leaders, our worship director, and the pastors to design and conduct an initial worship gathering in French. He was able to capitalize on the overlap with our existing welcome team, nursery and children's ministry, and bookstore and security ministries by putting in place bilingual volunteers. They assembled a French worship band to lead us and asked Marc Pilon, the lead pastor of Église 21, Sherbrooke to preach the message.

It's hard to overstate the excitement that this brought to our church, especially those of us who worshiped completely in French for the first time or the first time with this church. We planned this service specifically to bring encouragement to our French speaking brothers and sisters and to begin to put key things in place so that as we grow and see more and more Québécois people become part of our family that we will be well postured to worship together on Sundays.

Please join us in thanking God for this great privilege and blessing and pray with us that God will add to our number many more francophone followers of Jesus and that this service will soon become a permanent part of our regular experience!

Norton and Tatiana sharing their heart for this church!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Year in Review

One year ago we sold our home in Clark's Green, packed up everything we owned and headed north on I-81. Here are some of the things we learned in our first year in Québec...

God is in control!
We didn't even make it into Canada before learning this lesson. Many of you remember that we were denied entry into Canada twice in Ontario before we finally got in through Québec. This very trying couple of days was more than adequate to teach us that we are not in control but we don't have to worry, God is.

God provides.
For the last year and a half we have worked hard to secure commitments of financial support to cover all of our budget. Though we did not accomplish that in the time frame we originally desired we decided to move anyway (we figured since we have to live somewhere while raising support it might as well be Montréal). Yet while we still have not reached 100% of our goal, God has provided everything we have needed and we have no doubts that he will continue to do the same. Over the years there have been times where we've had more and sometimes with less, but there has never been a time when we did not have what we needed to do what he asked of us.

French is hard.
Ok, it's not that hard, and there are lots of languages which are a lot harder, but it hasn't come automatically just by virtue of living here. It takes a lot of work and just when you feel like you're making some good progress you encounter a new situation that reminds you just how far you have to go. On the flip side, the four older kids who are in school have done amazingly well. Their entire school year is completely in French and we are so proud of them for jumping in with nothing and coming as far as they have! 

Life is dark for most people.
We never thought gospel work would be easy. And there is spiritual darkness everywhere in the world, not just in Québec. But in just the last few months we have had one friend commit suicide, another consider it, a husband and father on the verge of walking away from his family, a single mom giving birth, a child battling transgender questions, and the list goes on. Whether it is lack of hope or misplaced hope, there is a deep set spiritual blindness that leaves many of our friends and neighbors groping around in the dark for anything to help them find their way.

The world is at our doorstep.
Maybe not the doorstep, but definitely within a short walk. Our neighbors include friends from Poland, Iran, Morocco, Chile, Colombia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, China, the Philippines, Portugal, and Italy. If you were to consider those who are part of our church this number would easily double. While most of the people in our neighborhood, in Montréal, and across the province were born Québécois, the growing number of immigrants as well as second and third generation Québecois offer an amazing opportunity to see the nations impacted by the gospel!

Church planting will take time.
We have been excited by many opportunities to meet people, network with other gospel workers, and share what we're doing to train men to plant and lead gospel-centered churches in Québec. At the same time, we have seen several guys begin to walk with us only to realize that this is not exactly where God is leading them at this time. This will be an ongoing part of our experience and is truly helpful for them and for us, but it does force us to keep our eyes on the Lord of the harvest and trust him to provide the workers.

Canada is cold. 
I have to sneak this in. It reminds me of the line in Band of Brothers where Guarnere says "My brother's in North Africa, he says it's hot there." and Malarkey replies with "Really? It's hot in Africa?". Yes, we knew Canada would be cold in the winter. In February our average temperature was -15C (5F), which turned out to be a tad chilly to have the kids outside playing all day. But we enjoyed it and made the most of it and look forward to next winter :).

We are the light of the world!
While not necessarily something we learned in the past 12 months, we certainly have been reminded of its importance over and over. In the midst of the challenges, the failures, and the successes we want to keep our minds set on this essential truth. Jesus is the light of the world, the only hope for those in darkness, and a welcome relief for those who are coming to know him. And he shines his light through us so that when people see our good works their response is to give honor and glory to God. There have been countless opportunities to shine that light over this past year and we can't wait to see eyes being opened and people confidently walking in the light of the gospel!!!

This video includes a sampling of pictures representing what this first year has brought us in Québec: some scenes and friends from around the province, the kids and their friends, the church, our city group in St. Henri and the one we just started with our neighbours in LaSalle. A special thanks to all those whose prayers and financial support have made this first year such a great success!

Friday, June 12, 2015

A Typical City Group Meeting

What do we do when our missional community (we call it a city group) meets? In addition to eating together, recreating, serving each other, and just being together at various points throughout the week, we gather on Thursday evenings to do three very intentional things:
  • Renew our focus on the good news of who God is and what he has done
  • Share the victories and challenges of the past week and expectations for the week to come
  • Pray for each other and for those around us
Anyone is welcome, regardless of whether they believe what we believe or not, but we are calling them to join us as we follow Jesus, to be family, and to serve those around us. The idea is that people can belong before they believe and oftentimes they must.

The structure is very simple as you can see in this agenda from last night's meeting. We always start with a casual time for coffee, snack, or meal, any introductions, light conversation, etc.

1. Renew our focus on the gospel...
Read Mark 2:1-12 twice.
Ask the following questions concerning this passage:
Who is Jesus?
What has he done?
What does this story remind us about our needs?
What does faith look like in this story?
What will faith look like in our lives this week?

2. Share life from this past week and the upcoming week.
How does who Jesus is or what he has done speak to what's happening in our lives?
In what ways are we being challenged to exercise faith?
How can we pray for and encourage each other to walk through this next week by faith?
In what ways can we serve each other and others in our lives this coming week?

3. Pray as a group through everything that we just explored together.

Now when we come together next week we automatically have specific touch points to address to see how God worked and how we were able to exercise faith and put our faith into action. This rhythm helps us to be more and more transparent with each other, more dependent on God, and more likely to get into each other's lives throughout the week.

Kids are welcome in the meeting but are also free to play with their friends. 
Older kids and adults from the group take turns watching over the little ones.

Monday, May 25, 2015

God is working all across Canada!

This should come as no surprise, yet it is refreshing and encouraging to meet the people and hear the stories of just how the Spirit of God is moving. In the middle of May I had the pleasure of being part of the Multiply conference, hosted by the C2C Network, which brought ministry leaders together from Vancouver to Montréal and everywhere in between. For two days we discussed the ways in which we are approaching church multiplication and shared stories of how God is working through such a variety of people and efforts to build his church and kingdom in our day.

Let me share two take-aways from our time together in Toronto. First, I was so glad to meet brothers and sisters from across Canada who are committed to the same God and the same mission that we are committed to in Montréal. It's easy to think sometimes that there aren't that many of us who are in this gospel enterprise, so I'd like to share links to the works of some of those I met so that you can be more aware and be praying for these works as well. Check out what God's doing for the most vulnerable in Kelowna, BC, how neighbourhood parishes are posturing themselves to bring renewal to downtown Vancouver, and see how another church plant is growing out of missional communities in the West End of Vancouver similarly to how we are in Montréal.

Not only did I get to meet a bunch of new ministers of the gospel at the conference but I was reminded of something that God did in my life eighteen years ago. Under-girding the powerful stories of God at work was the idea that what we need more than strategies, more than models, more than anything, is for God to show up - that it's more important for us to pray and walk in faith that he is going before us. When I was in college I worked through Henry Blackaby and Claude King's Experiencing God workbook. If you're familiar with it, you know that it is filled with amazing stories of how God worked time and again in response to the faithful prayers of his people in Canada.

Today, we are asking God to move in similarly amazing ways. We want to see him work in our homes, in our neighbourhoods, in our cities, and in our countries. Please pray with me for my family, for our LaSalle neighbourhood, for Montréal, for the province of Québec, and for all of Canada!

In Toronto, I spoke about how missional communities are key to making disciples and developing leaders in the church. Download the talk here (25 min) and if you're interested in learning more, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

How well are you Equipped?

It may not come as a surprise to you that training is important to us in what we do here in Montréal. After all, most of everything that I do in my work and on mission has to do with training others, either in how to follow Jesus, how to help others follow Jesus, or how to lead people who are following Jesus, etc. We believe that training and equipping are essential and invaluable in order for any of us to do what it is that we do well.

That said, I think it is worth taking a few moments out to think about training in general and to evaluate whether you are adequately trained for the tasks that you tackle throughout the week. You may be a leader within your church, a teacher, a musician, or you may serve in some other capacity. You be looking for ways to become more gospel-centric in your counsel to others, more practical in your teaching, more effective in your communication, and more compassionate as you actively serve people in your community. If you don't find that you are well equipped and confident, I'd encourage you to pursue training. The work that you do is too important not to be prepared to do it well. 

I would also like to highlight three areas in which Shari and I are currently receiving training so that we will be better equipped to lead people. We're very thankful for the intensity with which our church approaches its mission and that this is reflected in the amount of resources and energy that go into equipping our leaders.

City Group Leaders
Next week we will finish up the final session of our new city group leader training which has focused on how to pastor people in community and lead them into mission around the gospel. This training is not only extremely beneficial in its theoretical aspects, but it is imminently practical as we are in the process of beginning a new city group in our neighborhood in LaSalle. We will share more about this in the weeks ahead as it develops.

Premarital Counseling
Sixteen years ago today, I asked Shari to marry me. Shortly after that we began premarital counseling. Sixteen years later I can still say that every minute of that training and mentoring was worth it, and we probably could have used even more. Now it is our turn to invest in young couples who are preparing for their marriages. We have received the "classroom" portion of that training already and are awaiting the live counseling session part. The training is so good in helping to frame marriage around the gospel that I anticipate huge dividends not only for the pre-marrieds that we counsel but also for those who are already married and for our relationship too!

Elder Process
Though Shari is not going through this training, she certainly plays a huge part in my qualification and capacity to take on this responsibility. After serving in my current role in the church for a little over six months we were asked to begin working through the elder process. This is a very deliberate series of tasks and evaluations designed to function alongside the normal life of serving and leading within the church to prepare men to lead the church. As Paul wrote to Timothy so many years ago, it is an honor to be able to serve the church in this way and I am equally thankful for the training I am receiving so that I will be able to serve the church well.

As you reflect on your own training experiences and needs, will you please take some time to pray for us in ours? We desire to make the biggest contribution we can to the work that God is doing through his church and we want to learn and grow so that we are able to play the part well. If you would like any ideas or help with respect to what type of training to pursue when it comes to gospel, community, or mission, please don't hesitate to ask!