Transitions at the Fellowship French Missions
The Fellowship French Mission was born back in November 1958, during the dark days of persecution in Quebec and great sacrifice on the part of our pioneer missionaries. At that time there was just a handful of preaching points plus a few small churches which were mostly concentrated in north western Quebec. However, God used the newspaper publicity surrounding the persecution to bring Christians from across Canada face-to-face with the massive spiritual needs in the province of Quebec. As they learned about the need, they began to pray, and God answered those prayers!
They kept on praying, and God kept on pouring out his blessing. By 1970 there were 17 churches with more than 500 believers. By 1980 that number had climbed to 39 churches and by 1990 there were 66. Today in 2011, more than 53 years later there are 85 churches with at least 3 more ready to launch in September, and more than 8,000 believers. How can we not help but shout out "To God be the glory great things he hath done!"
A Key Turning Point
The strategic goal of all missionary church planting is ultimately to see the new church plants mature to the point where they are self-propagating (responsible for their own growth); self-financing and self-governing. This foundational, three-pronged principle is drawn directly from the Book of Acts and is not only true for local church plants but also for missionary movements.
The delicate question that faced the leadership of the Fellowship French Mission several years ago was, "given the evident maturity of our francophone region and churches, what would be the appropriate timing for the leadership of the Fellowship French Mission to put this principle into practice and to pass the baton of full responsibility over to AÉBÉQ (The Fellowship’s French Region of churches), while being careful not to inhibit the evident growth and momentum of the work in Quebec?"
That is a crucial question, and the answer came to us in an unusual way. The 50th anniversary celebration of the Fellowship French Mission was held on November 7th, 2008. It was truly a night to remember! That evening over 1,000 believers (more than 900 were francophone) gathered in an auditorium in Laval, QC, to celebrate God's faithfulness through the Fellowship French Mission over the past half-century. The tremendously exciting moment that evening came when the offering was counted at more than $175,000. We later learned that more than $100,000 had come from Quebec churches and believers. What a blessing!
God did something that night in the hearts of a number of anglophone and francophone leaders. We came to the conclusion that the time had come for the transition to take place, for the church-planting principle to be put into action. And so over the next few months a transition plan was developed that went into effect on January 1, 2010.
The Transition Plan
The key elements of the plan were that:
- Over the next 5 years (January '10 to December '14) the work and ministry of the Fellowship French Mission would be gradually phased out;
- All of the missionary couples that had started their missionary service with the Fellowship French Mission would move toward one of the following four options during that 5-year window of time: a) their church would eventually become self-supporting, and they would continue on there in pastoral ministry; b) they would begin leading a brand-new church planting project, but under the auspices of the AÉBÉQ Region; c) they would retire from missionary service; d) some other transition option would become apparent during the transition period;
- All new missionaries engaged after January 2010 will serve under the auspices of the Church Planting Committee of the AÉBÉQ Region.
But where will their missionary support come from? The answer to that question is that all missionary couples engaged under the new paradigm (after January 2010) will receive a significant portion of their support from the following three sources: a) their mother church (if they have one, and most do); b) donors in Quebec (through the AÉBÉQ Region); c) donors and churches from across Canada (through the Fellowship French Mission until December 2014, and beyond that through a national or regional ministry mechanism that is yet to be determined).
This new paradigm is predicated on two crucial truths. The first is that our francophone churches are now ready, willing and able to carry a major portion of the funding responsibility for church planting in Quebec. The second truth is that Quebec is still very much a mission field and a vital ministry for our National Fellowship of churches. As such, there is now, and will continue to be in the future a very clear need for churches and individual donors from across Canada to financially partner with our francophone brothers and sisters in Christ to see the harvest gathered before the return of our Lord.
How is the transition process unfolding? It is progressing well. At the beginning of the process our (pre-January 2010) missionary team numbered 28 couples and 2 singles. Now in June 2011, our pre-January 2010 team numbers just 22 couples and 2 singles. During this past 18 months, we have bid farewell to Gabriel and Nita Cotnoir as well as Cléo and Huguette Leblanc (retirement); Gilles and Michelle Paquin along with Michel and Julie Vincent (church plant now a self-supporting church). Also John and Lise Francis have now moved on to missionary service with Fellowship International in Honduras. Israël and Agnès Godfrey have re-engaged under the new paradigm in a brand-new church plant at Saint-Grégoire/Nicolet, south of Trois-Rivières.
The great news is that 3 other new missionary couples have also been engaged (since January 2010) in brand-new church planting projects under the new paradigm with the AÉBÉQ Region. They include Ken and Anne Taylor (Saint-Eustache, QC); Marc and Marie-Hélène Pilon (Sherbrooke, QC) and Éric and Carole Lanthier (La Petite Patrie, QC). The work is continuing to progress and grow for God’s glory!
Please pray that:
- our churches and donors will understand the necessity of this transition process and will continue to pray for and give to the Lord's work in Quebec;
- our missionaries will continue to serve well, and that their individual transitions will be carried out with sensitivity and clear direction from the Lord;
- as a leader in this transition process, I will have the strength and wisdom to see the Fellowship French Mission finish well.