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.

For the Love of the City

A year ago this month we moved into Liberty Village, a condo community in the heart of Toronto. I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, and have spent the past 20 years living in the inner suburbs. Moving into an urban condo community was a new experience for me. I thought I would love it, but it’s been even better than I expected.

I want to be careful in this post. I don’t want to suggest that cities are inherently better than other places. Sometimes you get the impression that people think city-centered ministry is what really counts, and everyone else has missed out. That’s not at all the case, and I don’t want you to think that’s what I’m saying.

But here is what I am saying: I love the city, as many of you love where you live. And here are just two reasons why.

Liberty Village. Photo courtesy of Carlos Pacheco

The City as a Great Place to Live

My father lived in a village in Kent, England. When I visited him I appreciated many of the aspects of village life. We walked everywhere. We relied on public transit (bus and train) when we needed to travel. We visited the high street almost daily. We got to know others in the community. It was easy to see why a village is a great place to live.

When you live in a certain type of city neighborhood, that’s exactly what you experience. Liberty Village isn’t called a village for no reason: with train tracks on the north and south, and only a few ways in and out, it really does have the feeling of a village within a large city. We tend to walk everywhere. To travel within the city, we often use transit. (It’s almost a kilometer to drive our car from the parking spot to the street outside, for one thing.) We shop the local shops and regularly bump into people on the street. We meet them at parties and community events. We have the best of village living in the big city.

Not only that, but we have all the benefits of urban life as well. We have many of the ingredients of great city living: diversity, culture, food, a critical mass of people. Our commute time is low because we live where we work. Jane Jacobs and others have described the qualities that make cities healthy, and many of them are present here. Contrary to what many people think, the city is a great place to live if you want to improve the quality of your life.

The City as a Great Place to Serve

As far back as Ray Bakke, and as recently as Tim Keller, people have been arguing for the importance of city-centered ministry. I won’t go over all of the arguments, but there’s no doubt that there is a need for churches in the city, just as there are in the suburbs and the country as well. I love how James Boice put it:

Not every Christian needs to live in our cities, but far more should live in them than do now. They should live in them as their mission field of choice….since we want to be ahead of the times rather than lagging behind them, we should probably lead the way with an even higher percentage of Christians relocating to the urban areas. Many thousands should move there.

The whole post on Boice’s view of the city is worth reading.

I really resonate with Boice’s statement, “And while we’re working on it we should not think that the world is utterly opposed to us. Society is often less hostile than we think.” One of the reasons that the city is such a great place to live is because there is such a need here. When a church shows up that loves the city, it is often met with more receptivity than one might have guessed.

One more thing: city ministry has the potential to be much more community-based than in other settings. We are essentially starting a parish church. I don't have to get in my car and drive 15 minutes to a church meeting. I can walk a few minutes and meet most of the people who are part of Liberty Grace Church. The potential for living in purposeful, missional community is staggering.

So What?

The city is not for everyone. Some people are city folk; some aren’t. We need people and churches everywhere.

My point is not to run down where anyone else is living or serving. My point is to tell you that the city is an amazing place to live, and a great place to plant a church, and that you should consider it for yourself.

Last year, Nathan and Sarah Fullerton moved into Liberty Village to join us. It was because they have a love for the city, a calling to the city, and a desire to serve here. I'm so glad they share my love for Liberty Village, for the Lord, and for service, and that they've brought others with them. I want their tribe to increase.

Don’t believe all the bad press about how cities are such a bad place. (A lady told me the other week: “Good luck working with all the murderers in Toronto!”) If you feel the draw to a city, consider how you might live and serve there for the glory of God. We certainly could use more servant-minded believers who love the city in our church plant and other church plants!

Pray for Toronto

Toronto has been in the news lately. Today I’m asking you to continue to pray for this city no matter where you’re from, and it has nothing to do with the news. Here’s why I'm asking you to pray:

The Opportunity

  • Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America, and the largest in Canada.
  • The population of the GTA population is expected to grow to 7.45 million by 2031, with the population of Toronto to grow to 3 million.
  • The population of the downtown core has tripled, and is outpacing the growth of the suburbs. Nearly 50,000 condo units have been built, sold and occupied downtown (south of Bloor Street) since 2000. By the end of 2011, more than 90,000 additional condo units had been approved for construction, the majority in the downtown core.
  • Many communities lack an evangelical church of any kind.

To reach just an additional 0.5% of the existing population of Toronto, we would need to reach 14,000 people. To reach 0.5% of the Greater Toronto area, we would need to reach at least 28,000 people. That will take a lot of new church plants and revitalized churches. Of course, an additional 0.5% is not enough. We need a lot of workers!

The Encouragement

I’ve never been so encouraged by what is happening in Toronto:

  • Church planters like Daniel and Mike of Trinity Life Church are planting new churches in the downtown core.
  • People like Nathan and Sarah Fullerton, who work with me at Liberty Grace Church, are moving back to the city with a passion for church planting.
  • Downtown churches like Grace Toronto continue to grow. Grace is working on planting a new church in the west end.
  • C2C, a national church planting network in Canada, has appointed Greg Laing as its Ontario Regional Director. I’ve met with Greg, and I’m encouraged by his passion for raising the capacity for church planting in Toronto.
  • I know a growing number of solid, missional pastors of established churches who are serious about their mission to the city.

Toronto is in the news for all the wrong reasons these days. I’m longing for the day that Toronto is in the news because of what God is doing in this city.

I realize that many of you are not in Toronto, but I would appreciate your prayers for this city. Pray that God would raise up new and revitalized churches that would respond to the opportunity in Toronto in obedience.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore spray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to tsend out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:36-38)


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.

Toronto in 10 Years

If you want to see how Toronto has changed in the last 15 years, check out these images. If you want to see how Toronto is expected to change in the coming 10 years, check out this one:

Toronto 2023

As you look at this picture, ask yourself some questions:

  • How many churches need to be planted so that we have even one church for every 10,000 people?
  • What would it look like for the gospel to advance in a city with so many people who are not churched or de-churched but completely unchurched?
  • What would have to happen so that it's impossible to live in this city without having to decide what to do with Jesus?
  • How can we see vibrant, gospel-centered churches planted throughout the new condominium communities of downtown Toronto?

(Thanks to John Neufeld for inspiring these last two questions.) 

Please pray for Liberty Grace Church as we prepare to launch on September 28. But please also pray for the other church plants in this city, and that God would raise up more church planters with a vision for the advance of the gospel in downtown Toronto.

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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.

All That Remains

I went out for a walk with Charlene on Monday and came across the location of a prominent old church in Toronto called St. John the Evangelist [Garrison] Church.


The church began in 1858 and served the community, originally serving the soldiers and families associated with nearby Fort York. Later on it served residents who worked in local factories. The church became a leader in social outreach, and by 1931 it ran the largest free medical clinic in Canada. It ministered to pilots and staff from the nearby Royal Norwegian Air Force training camp during World War II.

After the war, the congregation dwindled. By 1963, the church was demolished and replaced by a multipurpose building. That building was demolished in 1985.

A plaque on the site reads, "All that remains here of the church is the cornerstone of the 1893 building, on the ground below."


The cornerstone of their church building became a memorial stone. Of all the things that made this church look great in its day, nothing remains today except for a slab of stone in a park. Anything more than that is known to God, and it will be revealed in time (1 Corinthians 4:1-5).

"All that remains..." got me thinking. What will remain in our churches long after we're gone? Certainly not bricks or any of the things you notice at first. I pray that the bricks, stones, and activity won't tell the whole story. I pray to God that there will be more that remains.