Increased Maturity, Increased Responsibility
At the end of 2009, the Fellowship French Mission ceased to engage any new missionaries. This was not because we felt that the task was complete, but because we felt that the Fellowship French Region had reached the point of maturity where it could now handle the strategic and administrative components of the spread of the Gospel in Quebec.
A five-year transition period began during which mission and regional leadership assisted Fellowship French Mission missionaries to bring their ministries to the point of autonomy. That transition period came to an end December 31, 2014. During this five-year window, seven other church planting projects were initiated by the region. These projects were jointly supported, for the first time, by funding from French Region member churches and, as usual, by churches and individuals in the rest of Canada through the National Fellowship.
Since 2004, the French Region has adopted more effective means of planting churches. They had learned that fruitful church planting in other parts of the world incorporate three elements into their practice. First, they insure that they are planting with a God-called and qualified church planter leading the charge. This means that aspiring church planters need to be evaluated regarding their call, giftedness and abilities. The French Region is working on putting an effective francophone church planter evaluation mechanism in place. We have been evaluating our workers along the way but not always as effectively as we should.
Secondly, once it is determined that the planter is God-called and qualified, he is given initial training in current church planting theory and practice. This prepares him to prayerfully develop his church-planting project, and recruit and train the core missionary launch team that will be working with him on the project. This also ensures that a healthy DNA is imbedded in the plant right from the start. It has been my observation that people in a small group naturally turn inward, enjoying the company and meeting each otherís needs. They need to be led out into the community around them in order to be the witnesses God has called them to be. Thus, the challenge of the church planter.
The third element that has proven fruitful in other contexts is to coach the church planter and his core group once they are seeking to execute the project. In order to facilitate this, the French Region has adopted a policy of progressive autonomy for its church plants. Most of our plants are birthed through a mother-daughter relationship. Although an autonomous local church is the result, it is not the means. We believe that a healthy relationship with the mother church and with the region in the early years will foster healthier new churches. An integral part of that relationship is the supervision and coaching of the church planting project through the first few years of its existence. The leadership team directing the project is accountable to the mother church until it develops enough maturity to be able to assume the responsibilities of the developing church under the overall direction of the deliberating congregation. The addition of these three elements to our church planting practice has caused us to plant healthier congregations in less time, using our limited resources, both human and financial, in a more effective way.
Every church plant is unique. Every plant adds to our experience in effectively reaching urban, suburban and rural communities across Quebec with the life-changing Gospel. Not only is the French Regionís increased maturity leading to greater responsibility within the region, but it is also developing its ability to assist churches in the rest of Canada to intentionally and effectively reach out to their francophone minorities in their mother tongue. There are francophone pockets right across our country that could be more effectively reached with the Gospel. This may or may not result in the planting of a francophone congregation.
We want to encourage the English churches within our Fellowship to intentionally and strategically target the francophone minorities within their local mission fields and to look to the French Region for assistance. This last summer, a francophone youth evangelism team, under JBEQ, was invited by a church in Ontario to assist them with intentional outreach to the francophone minority in their community. We would like this to become the norm: francophone human resources and finances under the new national funding mechanism available to assist churches to reach francophone communities across the country. If this might be a ministry that God is laying on your heart, then maybe we need to talk. Our vision is to see dozens of French/English partnerships established for mutual benefit and greater Kingdom impact.†