Advance Church Planting

Six years ago, the Toronto executive of our denomination invited our region's church planting director to lunch. We wanted to talk about church planting in Toronto, a city that is growing by over 100,000 people a year. We hadn't done any church planting in recent years, and had no idea where to start, but we wondered what God might do.

The view from Liberty Village, the community in which I'm planting a church

The view from Liberty Village, the community in which I'm planting a church

Some two years later, I became a church planter in downtown Toronto. We began to talk about ways to encourage more church planting in our city. Although we have many churches, entire neighborhoods lack any gospel-proclaiming church. The percentage of evangelicals is very low. We need dozens of new churches across the city.

This past January, I began working part-time with our denomination to start a new training center for church planters in Toronto. It's called Advance Church Planting Institute. The goal is to train and coach church planters over two years as they prepare to plant churches in an urban context. We began our first cohort in October, and I'm excited about the future.

I've never seen such an interest in church planting before. I've met so many great church planters over the past couple of years. God is bringing resources like C2C Network to mobilize and encourage planters. I have the sense that God is up to something in Toronto, which is good. The need is great.

Whether you're from Toronto or not, please pray for our city. Please pray for the church planters who are investing their lives in bringing the gospel to communities where it hasn't been heard in some time. Pray for more planters (Luke 10:2), and for networks like C2C. Please pray for the church we're planting, and for Advance as well. I can't wait to see what God is going to do.

You can find out more about Advance at our website.

Hard Soil?

It was only a week ago that I preached a sermon that talked about people who are resistant to the gospel. I posed what I thought was a good series of questions:

How do we share the gospel in a community in which many seem to be resistant? How can we share the gospel effectively, when it sometimes feels like we’re about as welcome as the furnace telemarketer? How can we — ordinary people like us — live on mission?

It's not the first time that I've talked about people being resistant to the gospel. I've used other terms as well, like hard soil. People usually know what I mean, and I don't get many arguments about the premise that we are in a gospel-resistant culture.

At least, not until last week.

Two days after I preached this message, Gord Fleming, National Director of C2C, spoke to a group of church planters in Toronto. He spoke about the explosion of new churches in Québec, which is known to be much more resistant to the gospel than Toronto. "We believe the lie that it's hard soil," he said. "The enemy wants to defeat us." When God gives us an assignment, Satan will do everything the can to throw us off, and one of his tactics is to get us to believe that people aren't ready for the gospel. We just need to love Jesus and be obedient to the Spirit, he said, and not defeat ourselves before we begin.

Then, last Sunday, I attended Fellowship Pickering, a church plant in a suburb of Toronto. Matt Hess spoke about creating a culture of invitation. He challenged us to refuse to worry about hard soil. God is at work, he said, and we just need to follow him and trust him to work with expectation.

We shouldn't deny reality. We can look around and make tentative conclusions about our communities. At the same time, Fleming and Hess are right. Our enemy would like us to see the obstacles more than we see God's power. Let's stop coming up with reasons why God can't work, and let's pray and obey with expectancy. God happens to specialize in what we tend to identify as hard soil.

Twenty Lessons in Church Planting

We celebrated our second anniversary as a church plant this past weekend. I've spent two decades as pastor of established churches, and only a few years (including pre-launch work) as a church planter. Here are twenty lessons I've learned about church planting so far.

  1. Church planting is much harder than you'd expect, even if you thought it would be hard. Expect disappointments and spiritual warfare.
  2. Church planting is much more rewarding than you'd expect. It's not the point of church planting, but it's a side benefit. You will probably experience more joy in church planting than in any other ministry you've experienced.
  3. Church planting is a team sport. Don't ever try it alone. Don't ever try it without your spouse's full support.
  4. Having a set of core convictions is essential in planting a church. Everyone will tell you what to do. It's important to listen and learn, but it's also important to know what God has called you to do.
  5. Having a plan is important when planting a church, but don't expect the plan to survive its first contact with reality.
  6. People you think will support you often won't. People you think will support you often will.
  7. However long you think it will take you, double it. Just to be safe, triple it. Don't get into church planting if you don't know how to be patient.
  8. You will see a steady stream of people who wander from church to church. Don't expect them to stay long. Don't build your ministry around them.
  9. You will be tempted to settle for transfer growth. Keep your eyes on the harvest.
  10. Planting a church is different than pastoring a church. Know the difference, and make sure you're actually planting.
  11. If you can't fundraise, you probably can't plant.
  12. Deal with your baggage. Don't plant a church in protest. Plant a church for positive reasons, not negative ones.
  13. Never discount the importance of year zero. Set the foundation well rather than rushing to a premature launch.
  14. Attend conferences sparingly. They're helpful, but always weigh the benefits.
  15. Get to know other planters. Pray for them, learn from them, rejoice when they succeed, and share their burdens when they struggle.
  16. Expect to be busy. Church planting will demand more of your time than other forms of ministry.
  17. Build structure. Unless you structure your time, you'll be pulled in a million directions. Don't say yes to every invitation you receive.
  18. Stop counting. Minister to the people who are there rather than obsessing over the people who aren't.
  19. Don't expect glory. Church planting is hard, tough work. But you're privileged to be able to do it.
  20. Keep coming back to the gospel. Don't get your identity from how well the church plant is doing. Get your identity from the gospel. Build a gospel culture, beginning with you.
1 Comment

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Evangelism: Knowledge and Openness

You may have heard of the Engel Scale, which measures the journey from no knowledge of God to spiritual maturity as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Frank Gray has modified the Engel Scale to include not only the knowledge of the Gospel (similar to the Engel Scale), but the attitude towards the gospel.

Our challenge is to look for people who are open but lack knowledge. It is also to winsomely lead people from being closed to being more open towards the gospel as they grow in their knowledge.

A lot of our evangelism and church planting supposes that many people are open and need only a small amount of knowledge. A recent book on evangelism challenges this notion:

Research suggests that when people put their faith in Christ, on average it’s taken two years from the point when they came into meaningful contact with a Christian who witnessed to them — and that time period is growing. Witnessing is a long-term commitment to invest in a relationship, to pray tirelessly, and to speak the gospel over and over again, patiently and persistently. It is a journey of gospel conversations. It really does take effort. (Honest Evangelism)

Some implications:

  • We need to look for those who are open and need more knowledge of the gospel. I suspect that their number is shrinking, but they are still there.
  • We need to redefine success. Success is not just someone moving from unbelief to belief; it is also someone moving from being closed to being open, and from little knowledge of the gospel to a greater knowledge of the gospel.
  • While I’m sympathetic to those who think we should focus on the ripe fruit (people who are open and need only a little more knowledge), we cannot afford to ignore the growing numbers of those who have less knowledge. Nor should we ignore those who are closed.
  • We need to adjust our timelines. While some will respond quickly, many will not. That will affect how long it takes to see churches planted and for churches to grow through evangelism. This, in turn, will likely affect our models of ministry.
1 Comment

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Missing What's Right in Front of Me

We had a Grand Opening for our new location as a church plant this past Sunday. We invited hundreds of people from the community. Our people stood out in the rain inviting people to attend and put hours of work into the event. We had events planned for a hot day, including free ice cream and a dog wash.

The day came on Sunday, and it was cold and wet. Some people showed up, but far fewer than we’d expected. It was still a good day, but I admit that I was a bit disappointed. I was encouraged, however, by the number of people who showed up for our worship service later in the afternoon.

On Monday I saw the pictures from the event. I thought I had a good grasp of what had happened at our Grand Opening, but I was stunned as I looked at the pictures. It looked amazing. I wish I had been there — except I had been there. I just hadn’t noticed everything that had been going on around me.

photos compliments of Rodolfo Prata — more photos here

Pastors and church planters — actually, everyone — ride the waves of emotions based on our perception of what’s going on around us. I was reminded again this week that my perceptions are fallible. I’m only catching a fraction of what’s going on around me. That’s not even counting the things that are happening that nobody knows except for God. Who are we to be able to make an accurate assessment?

God is often at work, even when we don’t see it. I’m glad we get glimpses of this, even if we miss it at first.

3 Comments

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.