Watching the Olympics was a frustrating experience for my family. Half-way through the games, my son stopped watching any tv coverage because watching Canada’s Olympic team’s performance or lack thereof became too painful. While other countries had former Olympic stars come out of retirement and dominate – ours fell or did not recover properly from injury. Other countries had young rising stars exceed expectations – ours didn’t shine as brightly. Even incredible efforts like the women’s soccer team and decathlete Damian Warner left us longing for so much more. Our athletes seemed to be out-matched, out-funded and conspired against to win at a world stage.
I have these similar feelings as I think about our churches trying to win the spiritual battle within our province. I believe the theological reality that through Christ’s victory we have already won and that the power of the gospel is more than sufficient to change the world. However, from a human perspective there are times or have been times in the history of Fellowship Pacific that our spiritual and cultural adversaries seem to have the strength of the American Dream Team, or the Jamaican relay team and we are the Canadian teams who try hard, do our best but end up short.
We believe that people entering a relationship with Jesus Christ and growing in the image of Jesus are activities rewarded with streets paved with Gold. We believe that the most important victory is seeing people step from death to life and grow into the image of Christ. I believe that as we pray for the spiritual transformation of our province, we must accompany God’s work by doing our best by equipping the next generation of leaders to win through better funding, training and support.
It is with this desire, burden and hope that Fellowship Pacific Church Reproduction has partnered with Northwest Baptist Seminary to design a new program to equip our best to be the best for the sake of Christ.
What Does the Best Look Like?
Planting churches is a significant kingdom investment. In general, a plant will cost at least $250K over the first three years. This financial burden is shared by denominations, core groups and planter families. If a plant is not successful, there are the additional costs of broken dreams, failures and disappointments that can occur.
Because of these costs, those responsible for planting have studied extensively the qualities of an effective church planter. Attributes that many successful planters have in common include: visionary leadership, relating to the unchurched, communication, resilience, enterprising and a spouse who is supportive.
As I reflect on the qualities necessary for planters who can bring the spiritual transformation we long for, I realize that we need to add to the current theological models of training. Seminary has equipped pastors and planters with the skills of theological reflection, exegesis and spiritual leadership principles. But the fact is, unchurched people don’t care how well a graduate is able to exegete, write papers and grasp leadership principles that are taught well in a class room. They want friendship, they need to hear the gospel communicated in a clear compelling way and they want to be inspired. These skills can only be refined through practical experience.
Church planting and pastoral ministry is the combination of skill and knowledge. We don’t place our lives in the hands of surgeons who have only been taught in the classroom. We don’t certify electricians who have memorized the building code, but haven’t demonstrated the ability to work safely. We don’t want our sports teams to be filled with men and women who are stat freaks, know the rules, can quote history, but don’t have the skills and training to win. Neither can we place our future in the hands of pastors who have learned truths of ministry, but haven’t been required to prove competency in the skills of leadership.
In partnership with Northwest Baptist Seminary, we are boldly redefining the outcomes of successful Seminary training.
The Purpose of Immerse
I am excited that the Immerse program will allow the Fellowship Pacific to train future leaders in theology, knowledge and the skill that is necessary for effective ministry.
I have been on the ground floor in the design of this program to ensure that the outcomes that we require from graduates are exactly what we need to have podium level planters and churches. These outcomes will require our future pastors to live on mission to reach people, disciple into the image of Christ and develop leaders who will do the same.
As students are trained by a mentoring team representing the disciplines of academics, local church ministry and professional experience, they will be challenged in the crucial areas of ministry.
Church planters who graduate from Immerse will be effective church planters. This doesn’t mean that every church plant will go on to success, however, every planter who graduates will demonstrate that they have impacted people for Christ and have developed a track record of discipleship. If these things don’t happen, they don’t graduate, and the instructors and mentors haven’t done their job properly.
Even more specifically, the church planter track will guide future planters through the stages of planting including casting a vision, developing a core, creating a strategy, and discerning the community. By the time that a planter has completed the Immerse program, they will have a track record of leading people to Christ, building a core group and having a growing momentum ready to launch.
I believe that the Immerse program will strategically allow us to launch church plants in three ways.
Churches strategically multiplying – Many churches embrace a desire to plant a church but in reality realize that they do not have the resources (core group, finances and leadership) to generously give to a plant. I have talked to churches who have had plants as part of their vision for years without ever coming to a place of enacting on it. Immerse will give a healthy church an opportunity to mentor a planter who will be guided to reach people, cast vision and grow a core group. The church will still need to be generous, however, the process will be more gradual and if the planter is successful, many of the people who will join the future plant, will be people who have been reached over the four years of training.
South Delta Baptist Church has a vision of planting multiple churches. Billy Clem has come to the church to join the Immerse program and to be trained to be the next church planter that emerges from South Delta.
Training planters in their plants – Dustin Laird is the planter at Parkland. He has a good track record in ministry and was identified with qualities at the church planting assessment centre. However, by joining Immerse, we have the opportunity to press more strategically in Dustin’s life and guide him and shape him for greater effectiveness.
Planting churches with multiplication in their DNA – Chris McKenzie is joining Lindsay Anderson at the Willoughby/Clayton Heights plant that is just starting. Chris adds experience from leading a multi-cultural church in Taiwan that will benefit the plant. During the process, Chris will learn the rigours of planting, assist the plant to grow and allow this brand new plant to participate in a new church through Chris’s leadership as he moves towards graduation.
As we pray and plan to develop the next generation of leaders that will bring tremendous victory we will need to partner together to make it happen. As Northwest Baptist Seminary and the Fellowship Pacific Ministry Centre have worked diligently to design a program we will only be successful with your support as well.
- We need church pastors who are willing to invest in future ministry leaders in a mentoring role.
- We need churches that dream of multiplying and starting other churches to reach the lost with the gospel.
- We need supporters willing to financially invest in the training of these future leaders.
I believe working together we can build upon the faithfulness and strengths our churches currently have and begin dreaming and working for more.