Throughout Canada, Christ-centred churches are embracing the instructions given by Jesus to “make disciples of all nations.” At the Church Multiplication Conference in Calgary, Apr. 1–2, speakers emphasized that God’s purpose for all believers is a lifetime of spiritual growth and seeing others come to know Jesus and grow in faith.
“Jesus is building the church – we are called to make disciples,” says Henry Schorr, pastor of Centre Street Church, Calgary.
A discipleship culture, he says, is rooted in prayer, Scripture and worship services that focus on God. Disciple-making churches follow the example set by Jesus to build trusting relationships and pursue a lifestyle of generosity and simplicity.
About 130 church leaders attended the conference that was co-sponsored by C2C Network and Outreach Canada.
Pastors of small and large congregations, new church plants and older churches shared how God is working in their hearts and congregations as they strive to be disciple-making churches. Many of the participants and speakers were from Mennonite Brethren churches.
Churches planting churches
“The best long-term strategy for making disciples is through the church,” says Norm Funk, lead pastor of Westside Church, Vancouver.
Started in 2005, Westside began a second service in 2007, planted Reality Vancouver in 2009 and Christ City Church in 2013. In September 2013, the church moved into a building that seats 1,800 people.
Although the attendance is only 1,100, Westside holds two services Sunday mornings. “Two services are purely for missional reasons – 11 a.m. is a great time for some and 9 a.m. is a good time for others,” says Funk.
Loving people in a place
Initiative 22 in Montreal is starting city groups that strive to be a family of missionary servants in specific neighbourhoods.
“Missions is not something we do; it is what we are,” says lead pastor Dwight Bernier. “Our church doesn’t have programs – we live the programs through missional communities.”
City groups gather weekly with each meeting having a specific purpose. The reasons for getting together include praying for the city, praying for each other and equipping for ministry, working together on a ministry and hosting a party for members and their friends.
Another new church, Artisan Church in Vancouver, sees value in establishing small parishes or churches that are embedded in the life of specific geographic neighbourhoods, says Lance Odegard, who helped plant the church.
“It allows the church to be attuned to a specific place and people,” says Odegard. “In this way the church is truly incarnational – loving people in a place and loving a place with a people.”
What about failure?
Churches that have lost the vision to multiply disciples can be revitalized, says Scott Thomas, co-author of Gospel Coach: Shepherding Leaders to Glorify God.
However, if a church chooses to close, the closure service can be a celebration of the church’s life and the building and resources used for a new church plant. “The grain of wheat, when it dies, bears much fruit,” he says.
These pastors were among 12 speakers who shared stories and practical ideas on how to develop disciple-making churches.
In her role as a pastor of House For All Nations Church in Calgary, Julia Sianturi wants to develop a discipleship culture through leading by example.
“If anyone needs help, always walk the second mile with them,” she says. “Be patient and sensitive to what others need. Pray with them, cry with them, laugh with them. Treat people like they are part of your family. Think of older people as your parents and younger ones as your children.”
Sianturi appreciated the aspen grove illustration that several speakers used to symbolize a church community. Through drawing nutrients from the same root system, aspen trees grow and multiply where other trees cannot thrive.
“Even though we are different, we are connected to one root system,” she says.
—Gladys Terichow is staff writer for the Canadian Conference of MB Churches