Church planting focus of new Toronto partnership
    May 9 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

    TORONTO — The final request Dan Collison made before the North Carolina team headed home, the one thing he wanted on their minds as they left: pray like crazy.

    Pushing back the spiritual darkness in southern Ontario, in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), has not been easy.

    “A price has been paid. It continues to be paid,” Collison said as his eyes filled with tears.

    Collison, director of Toronto church planting and the southern Ontario lead church planting catalyst for the Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC) and North American Mission Board (NAMB), works with staff and church planters in an area that is less than five percent evangelical. The GTA, which extends from Hamilton to Oshawa, is home to 5.5 million people.

    From financial struggles and serious health issues to setbacks in church plants and times of loneliness, Collison and the team are just now starting to come out of a season marked by trials. “When there are so few people standing up you’re a target,” he said. “The enemy has the guns well-trained.”

    He is praying more believers will be sent out into the harvest fields of the GTA.

    BSC photo

    Dan Collison, right, works with church planters in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), an area of emphasis for North Carolina Baptists through its Great Commission Partnerships at the Baptist State Convention. See gallery.

    Until then, and despite the challenges, the ones who are standing have planted their feet on a firm foundation and are committed to penetrating darkness with the light of the gospel.

    The task before Collison and other pastors, church planters and leaders in the GTA is great.

    In the GTA, there is one church for about every 275,000 people and 40 Southern Baptist churches. About 43 percent of Canadians did not attend any religious worship service in the past year. Although Baptists statistically, at 2.4 percent, are the largest evangelical group in Canada, two-thirds of them never attend church.

    Eighty-percent of pastors in the GTA are bivocational.

    The Greater Toronto Area also includes the “Golden Horseshoe” of Southern Ontario, which extends beyond the GTA down to the U.S. border and includes the entire area that touches Lake Ontario.

    The GTA includes communities that are completely unengaged and unreached, meaning there is no evangelical presence at all.

    The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) is beginning a Great Commission Partnership with CNBC in order to help advance the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the GTA, especially in these unengaged, unreached areas.

    The partnership is focused on several specific goals, with church planting at the center of ministry for North Carolina Baptist churches that partner in Toronto. Goals include North Carolina Baptist churches assisting in the planting of 40 churches in Southern Ontario and 10 biker churches throughout Canada by 2021.

    An emphasis will also be on strategic, church-to-church partnerships.

    “We are looking for churches in North Carolina to partner long-term in Toronto three, five or more years. Ideally, for the long haul, until a church is not just planted but reproduces itself,” said Peter Blackaby, mobilization director with NAMB for the Canada region.

    As North Carolina Baptists work together to accomplish these goals, they are also helping the CNBC work toward its goal of planting 250 churches across southern Ontario by 2020.

    “The Canadian National Baptist Convention has prayerfully sought to understand how to best impact this area of the world with the gospel. I commend their leaders for praying for a bold vision and for their commitment to doing all they can to see that it is accomplished,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer.

    “I am grateful for the opportunity our convention has to serve in Toronto by planting churches and helping strengthen existing churches. I pray that the work of North Carolina Baptists, and other strategic partners, will help bring forth much fruit in the unreached and engaged areas of Toronto for the glory of God.”

    Challenges in Canada
    Canada has a “complete absence of a Christian subculture,” Blackaby said.

    “On a typical work day, conversation about church, let alone Christ, you would not hear it. You would not expect to hear it. There’s not a natural predisposition within the general population that church is even a good thing.”

    Blackaby said that in many areas witnessing and church planting begins not just with “breaking up the ground” but removing rocks, or those preconceived ideas about God and church, from under the ground. “You’re starting at a much earlier stage than you probably would in North Carolina.”

    Many people in the targeted partnership area are two, even three, generations removed from any kind of real Christian experience.

    They have no connection with the Bible, even the most familiar Bible stories, and are “disillusioned and disenfranchised,” Collison said. They have walked away completely from Christianity and the church. The gospel “needs to be lived out for them before it can be communicated verbally. It can be a fairly slow process of building relationships of trust and relationships of confidence,” Collison said.

    How you can help
    A goal of the partnership is to see North Carolina Baptist churches involved in mission efforts in Toronto that go beyond a one-time trip to Toronto. Churches are encouraged to commit to serving in one area or alongside one church planter for an extended period of time in order to build relationships and truly understand, and be involved in, the planter’s strategy for reaching the community.

    North Carolina Baptist churches can join the work in Toronto by becoming a sending or supporting church. Sending churches are churches that agree to plant a church, or to lead a network of supporting churches in partnering with a specific church plant in Toronto.

    These churches are the liaison working with a church in Toronto to coordinate sending mission teams that respond to the needs of the church plant. The sending church commits to working with that church plant until the new church is sustaining on its own.

    In unreached areas supporting churches may help out with community events and find ways to serve the community in order to “re-earn the right to be seen as a community player,” Collison said. Church planters are not welcomed in all communities, so mission teams are needed to serve and help these planters and churches earn a right to even be in the community.

    “People are looking for Christianity to have a real, tangible, experiential difference from the rest of the world — not something that’s seen in word only but that’s seen in power,” Collison said.

    Contact Michael Sowers at or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5654. More coverage:

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    Related story
    Toronto planters on mission to change city
    5/9/2011 5:48:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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