Tom Lavigne was appointed our Church Planting Director on August 15, 2009. He is introduced to us in the July 22nd newsletter, but just to remind us all he is most recently the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Prince George. I was going to ask Tom to give us a response to questions I would ask him on a quarterly basis. Big mistake on my part. It was only 10 days into his mandate that Tom had more than a newsletter to share with us. I have asked Tom to update us in this exciting work every month to six weeks or so. His own web page (at first carried on the CBWC site will be up and running soon for weekly material).
Three more things before I hand this newsletter over to Tom. First, we have spent considerable time, resources and energy und Ken Thiessen, Ken Nettleton, Howard Lawrence and Craig Van Gelder’s leadership around training coaches for church health. The depth and number of personnel and resources have never been stronger in this denomination, never. Church health and church planting are not an either/or proposition, they are not in competition; they are seamless and effectively linked to each other.
Secondly, Church Health and Planting will overlap and work together but Ken Thiessen will lead Health and Tom Lavigne will lead Planting. They are friends, colleagues and collaborators. While they are pastoral folk in their imitation of Christ, they are not two folk who I would want to be in competition with on a survivor show. In a humorous way I’m declaring them up for this calling.
Lastly, while there has been considerable thought about this including borrowing from the missional model and the Canadian Southern Baptist model; Tom as created a uniquely CBWC piece on the different metrics/descriptors and the vernacular we will use when we describe planting amongst us. What a wonderful time to be alive working in the vineyard and the fields of the Lord together….what a great country to be living and labouring in.
- Why is church planting so important when fewer people go to church?
With fewer people attending traditional churches the opportunities are greater than ever before for new and creative churches to reach out and transform our communities and cities. David Garrison with Church Planting Movements says, “These are days of great harvest, and nowhere on earth is the harvest greater than in the growing number of Church Planting Movements God is stirring around the world. If you want to be on mission with God, to share in the joy of being His instrument in these days of harvest, you’ve come to the right spot!” With so many people not attending church the need and opportunity of fulfilling the great commission of ‘going’ into our world and making followers of Jesus has never been so critical and the opportunities so great!
- What is the new Canadian Baptist vision for church planting and what are the 5 and 10 year goals?
The vision and mission of the CBWC family of churches is “Reaching people for Christ by seeking the health and extending the ministry of the local church, and to live our lives with an “inviting faith, acting in mercy and cultivating leaders.” Within that context the vision and mission of the Church Planting team is to – under the leading of the Holy Spirit and in partnership with the CBWC family of churches – to “Make it Happen!” Over the next five years our goal is that the CBWC would have over 250 congregations and in ten years time (Lord willing) over 500 congregations. If the present church families of the CBWC (168 congregations) takes seriously the ‘Great Commandment and the Great Commission’ and since we have a loving Father who is still not willing that any would perish – then these goals are not only achievable but anything less than our best efforts should not be accepted. In Matthew 11:12 Jesus says, ‘From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been advancing forcefully and forceful men lay hold of it.’ The time to make it happen is now!
- How will church planting be done differently than in the past – and why make the shift?
It needs to be acknowledged that historically from the time of Pioneer MacDonald, Mackenzie, Tommy Douglas and many, many others that Canadian Baptists have contributed greatly to the landscape of the West. It’s important to acknowledge the recent contributions of Dan Watt our past church planting director and the efforts of many modern day planters who have endured, persevered and gone above and beyond to plant new churches and ministries. While the message of the gospel remains the same the shift comes in how we reach out, the ways and paths we go on and the kinds of relationships we engage in that allow us to connect our culture with God and celebrate the life that we have in Jesus Christ.
- You’ve been in the job since August 15. How are you getting started and who are you talking to?
Presently I’m in the midst of an orientation time with the new ministry (from now until the end of 2009) – during this time I’m connecting with our church planters across the West, meeting with key pastors and leaders in each of the Regions and developing relationships with our Regional Ministers and Executive Staff looking at ways of beginning new expressions of worship to God that reflect who we’re called to reach out and share Jesus with. To date I’ve met with pastors in northern BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan and am looking forward to sharing our church planting vision with leaders in Manitoba and throughout BC. The CBWC is an incredibly rich and diverse family reflecting the changing mosaic of Western Canada and we have an amazing group of women and men who have been called by God to engage and share the love of Christ in a hurting and confused society – and it’s my privilege to help pray, encourage, resource and engage in the challenges with them.
- What kind of resources are available to church-planting congregations and new church plants?
When I’m asked about resources I like to look at it in two ways – together as a family of churches we share financial resources and non-financial resources. Firstly, I’m convinced that financially within the CBWC family of churches God has given us more than enough money to engage in the vision and mission He’s called us to. Our people want to share their tithes and offerings in meaningful and substantive endeavours that enhance the kingdom of God. Our role as churches and leaders is to be faithful stewards of what the Father has given us. Presently, like each of us as individuals, families, churches and businesses the CBWC is facing reduced revenues and the challenges of resourcing the ministries we share in together. This fall we will be reviewing our financial situation and begin to trust God for the finances for the next year. Secondly, I believe that while financial resources are important non-financial resources are even more critical. The passion of the planting families and teams, the skills of coaches, mentors and experienced leaders, the resources sitting idle in our church buildings, the talents of people that are not being shared, the assets of businesses being under-utilized or hoarded and the prayers and creativity of our people are absolutely vital to the mission we find ourselves on. Existing churches need to look beyond themselves – look onto the harvest fields and reap a wonderful blessing. Our God is awesome, our mission is daunting – yet under the direction and empowerment of the Holy Spirit nothing is impossible.
- How much progress do you think you can make in one year?
In our first year we want to build on and develop the foundation that’s been laid. There are several plants already in place that need to be connected with and brought along as they go through the process of establishing themselves as local churches and affiliating with the CBWC family. We have contacts with several individuals and independent churches that share similar beliefs and values and would like to affiliate with us. So I feel confident that we will make a lot of progress as we re-engage in the mission of planting churches. The biggest challenge in our first year will be creating a climate that says that we are serious about renewing and planting new churches. If after the end of the first year our churches are saying and beginning to say that the CBWC are a great group to be a part of, that we’re excited about the mission of God we’re on and that we’re a people that are all about new ministries and new expressions of what church is all about – then we can say we’ve made progress!
- How do our churches get involved?
The greatest way to get involved is to be involved! This is a new day, God is doing new things and each of us needs to be a part of what God is doing. As churches we need to pray, seek out, and respond with faith and courage as God sets opportunities before us in our own neighbourhood, community, city and region to reach needy and hurting people with the life transforming hope of the gospel. Our churches have the opportunity to be involved with the CBWC family through the support of financial and non-financial resources to enable us to establish new ministries and churches around the West. Your prayers, partnership and support will help us to make the vision and mission of the CBWC a reality.