I firmly believe that Baptists in Atlantic Canada should be praying about how to start new congregations and birth fresh expressions of church in our region. There is a need for renewal in many of our struggling congregations and I wonder if some shouldn’t be willing to partner with a stronger church and allow others to help resource their ministries and help breathe new life into tired congregations.
I think it is time for some of the pastors of our larger churches to widen their vision by helping to resource and partner with smaller, struggling churches and form partnerships which will bring strength to the church and glory to God. It is my conviction that if we are going to reach Atlantic Canada with the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ we must be open to church planting, church partnerships, new congregations, satellite and multi-site churches and spiritual renewal in our congregations.
My fear is that many churches have become introverted, inflexible, aged and, some have lost the vision for how the Gospel of Jesus Christ can impact their community. Some long for the good old days and have nostalgia for past glory and are rapidly headed toward lost visibility and even closure. I don’t believe it is necessary for aging churches to die if they are willing to embrace change and take their Kingdom mandate seriously. Too many congregations are merely surviving and too many are locked in a structure that prevents them from engaging the unchurched.
May God give us the courage to embrace change, to see the possibilities and to lay aside our bent toward self-preservation for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
For too long I have witnessed Pastors and church leaders become jealous of new church plants or of leaders who were expanding the Kingdom of God. I think this is a parochial and narrow view of the Kingdom of God.
Not long ago I attended a meeting of the North American Baptist Fellowship in Falls Church, Virginia. I had the opportunity to hear Leith Anderson again. Leith Anderson retired after serving for 35 years as Senior Pastor of Woodale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Leith spoke at Oasis a number of years back and again at our Evangelism Conference. It was when Leith began to talk about the Church in America that I began to sit up and take notice. I want to share a few thoughts from that talk that I hope will stir up discussion and possibly challenge some of us in Atlantic Canada.
Anderson basically said that Denominations that are not planting churches will not survive. He also said that the Senior Pastors of our churches must be the champions of new congregations and church planting. Woodale Church has planted dozens of churches in the 35 years that Leith served as Senior Pastor giving away some of their best leaders and church members for the sake of expanding the Kingdom of God. Leith went so far as to say that they even helped plant churches in several denominations other than their own Baptist group.
You may not completely agree with everything Leith Anderson says but I am convinced we need to have these important conversations and that we must be praying about what God wants us to do in Atlantic Canada. I am not just talking about starting new congregations from scratch I am talking about replanting dead churches and resurrecting dying churches.
I am convinced there are great opportunities available to the Churches and Associations of the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches. We have a history of revival and church planting, it is in our DNA as a denomination. The question is, what will we do with the opportunities? It is time for us to “fish or cut bait!”