HEALTHY CHURCHES, GROWING LIKE WEEDS
BRINGING GOOD BONES TO LIFE
RECOVERING LOST WORDS: PSALMS FOR THE CHURCH
I'VE BEEN TO THE
by Steve Jones
THE FIRST WORD
In a recent conversation with five
Regional Church Health Directors,
I asked about the general health of
our 500+ Fellowship churches. Their
rough estimate was as follows:
• Healthy or promising: 50-55%
• Plateaued or stable: 25-30%
• Declining or dying: 20-25%
While these percentages were based
on estimates rather than firm data,
the reality is that we have much to
do to support our local churches in
returning to health and vitality.
Church consultant George Bullard
talks about the typical life-cycle of
a church in North America. He said,
“The average church that makes it
seven years will have a lifespan of 80
The actual closing of churches is more common than you might think. Our own
Fellowship member churches have numbered around 500 for the past two decades.
Many churches have been planted during that time (87, between 1990 and
2009 and 106 between 2010 and 2021), but many churches have also closed, and so
our net gain is minimal. This is not ideal.
Bullard identifies ten stages in the life-cycle of a church:
• Adulthood (Apex)
• Empty Nest
• Old Age
thrive / 3
The “Moment” a local church decides
Needs a Mountain:
This church, as it nears “adulthood” or
“maturity”, needs to climb a new mountain
together. It needs a fresh vision or
the church will decline over the next
Needs an Intervention:
This church has plenty of structure but
less and less movement. Its traditions can
choke out its life and reason (mission)
for being. This church needs a Church
Consultation, with an outside party to
develop some prescriptions that will help
redirect it back on mission. If not, the
church will die sooner than later.
So, what is my point?
I recognize these are sobering words.
Some declare we’re called to “faithfulness”.
I certainly won’t disagree.
However, this declaration only gets it
half right. The Bible calls the Church
to “faithfulness and fruitfulness”: lives
that are won, discipled, transformed, and
multiplied in others. Our church stats
indicate we are experiencing only modest
outcomes. What are we to do with that? I
visit global fields where church planting
movements and disciple-making movements
stagger the imagination. But this is
Canada. So, do we believe it can happen
We all love the Church, the very bride of
Christ. It is precious.
Consider a Local Church Consultation
Our Fellowship Regions have a ministry
whereby they come alongside a
Fellowship church, and consult and coach.
The Church Consultation takes place over
a weekend with key leaders and members
in the church. Several solutions are
identified and steps are determined for the
church over the next one-to-three years.
This intervention has been used by the
Lord to help dozens and dozens of our
churches pursue missional health.
THESE PRINCIPLES SEEK TO
RAISE UP VIBRANT GROUPS
OF CHRIST FOLLOWERS WHO
DEPEND ON GOD, PRAYING
THEY MIGHT REPRODUCE
THROUGH THE POWER OF
THE HOLY SPIRIT.
The Essential Element Principles
Our own Fellowship International department has been training our Fellowship missionaries
to pursue ten principles that will help advance mission.
These principles seek to raise up vibrant groups of Christ-followers who depend on
God, praying they might reproduce themselves rapidly through the power of the
Holy Spirit. Spiritual seekers — or “people of peace” — form in groups called Discover
Bible Studies (DBS), where they discover true life in Christ. This past year, almost 200
DBS groups were formed in the fields where our Fellowship International missionaries
serve. In fact, a couple of our missionaries have also implemented these principles
through DBS groups in several of our churches in Canada.
What’s the next step?
Contact your Regional office to help your church start on the journey to vibrancy and
health. For example, if you need information about conducting a Church Consultation,
contact your Regional office. For more information on the Essential Elements, contact
our Fellowship International Director Ben Porter (email@example.com).
In this edition of Thrive, Vitality: Ensuring Healthy Churches, we will learn of stories of
health and vitality within churches in Canada and beyond.
is President of
in Canada. Follow
Steve on Twitter @
4 / thrive Autumn 2022
THE FELLOWSHIP’S THEME VERSE
DURING OUR "YEAR OF JOY" IN 2022
IS: THE LORD YOUR GOD IS IN YOUR
MIDST, A MIGHTY ONE WHO WILL
SAVE; HE WILL REJOICE OVER YOU
WITH GLADNESS; HE WILL QUIET
YOU BY HIS LOVE; HE WILL EXULT
OVER YOU WITH LOUD SINGING.
ZEPHANIAH 3:17 (ESV)
12 A MISSION TO REPLANT
2 THE FIRST WORD
I'VE BEEN TO THE MOUNTAINTOP / Steve Jones
4 WHY SPONSOR A CHILD?
A FOUNDATION FOR YOUR GIVING NEEDS / Gord Baptist
6 OUT THERE
THE SECRET TO EXPLOSIVE CHURCH GROWTH
IN COLOMBIA / Phil Webb
HEALTHY CHURCHES, GROWING LIKE
WEEDS / Richard Flemming
8 LOVE EXTENDED
UKRAINE RELIEF UPDATE / Paul Hildebrand
BRINGING GOOD BONES TO LIFE / Denise Wicks
12 GROUND WORK
A MISSION TO REPLANT / Sergei Li
JOIN A PRAYER MOVEMENT FOR QUÉBEC / Steve Jones
STEPPING OUTSIDE THE WALLS / Larry Freeman
14 TRUTH TALK
RECOVERING LOST WORDS: PSALMS FOR
THE CHURCH / Dr. David G. Barker
16 UP TO SPEED
THE UNEXPECTED PURSUIT OF A HEALTHY CHURCH / Jeff Bennett
FELLOWSHIP PACIFIC: FOCUSSING ON CHURCH
HEALTH / Mike Mawhorter
KEEPING FEB CENTRAL CHURCHES
HEALTHY / Rick Buck and Bob Flemming
CHURCH REVITALIZATION NETWORKS / Tim Strickland
FOSTERING VITALITY IN FRANCOPHONE
CHURCHES / Jean-Philippe Lapierre
BUILDING HEALTHY LEADERS ACROSS
FELLOWSHIP ATLANTIC / Danny Barrett
22 THE LAST WORD
You can connect with us on FACEBOOK:
on INSTAGRAM: @thefellowshipca,
and on TWITTER: @thefellowshipca.
Come and join the conversation.
HOW TO BOOST YOUR CHURCH’S FITNESS LEVEL / Ed Fontaine
MISSION STATEMENT: Thrive is the official magazine of The Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada. It is published to enhance the life and ministry of church leaders and
members in Fellowship congregations by providing articles, resources, and news that reflect evangelical values, a common mission, and a shared sense of identity and vision. Thrive is published
three times per year and is available in English and French.
© The Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada
MINISTRY CENTRE: P.O. Box 457, Guelph ON N1H 6K9
T: 519-821-4830 F: 519-821-9829
SENIOR EDITOR: Steven Jones MANAGING EDITOR: Valerie Heaton
COPY EDITOR: Jesskah McCartney LAYOUT & DESIGN: Ampersand
POSTAGE: Return undeliverable Canadian address to Circulation
Department, P.O. Box 457, Guelph ON N1H 6K9
WHY SPONSOR A CHILD?
When you sponsor a child, you’re saying, “I believe in you,” and that has a huge impact
on the children who are part of any of the Fellowship's five Child Sponsorship
programs. Do you remember the last time someone said that to you? Didn’t it encourage
you and give you a boost of confidence? Difficult tasks suddenly seemed much less
You can give this same gift to children in the Dominican Republic,
Honduras, Lebanon, and Sri Lanka by sponsoring a child. Scan
the QR code or visit fellowship.ca/ChildSponsorship for more
A FOUNDATION FOR
YOUR GIVING NEEDS
by Gord Baptist
The following includes excerpts
from Malcolm Burrows, who is
at Philanthropic Advisory Service
with Scotia Wealth Management.
When charities were first required
to register federally in 1967, over
60% of organizations were religious
and most were churches. In
2013 in Canada, giving to religious
charities represented 41% of all
giving. As of January 2022, Christian charities represent just
29.7% of Canada‘s registered charities.
Statistics Canada reported that in 2013 donors who attended
religious services weekly gave an average of four times more
per year than non-religious donors. Believers have a faith/
value-based passion for regular charitable giving. We are
trained to give.
Yet in Canada we are just starting to see a shrinking base of
donors that are feeling less connected to churches overall.
Unfortunately, this is also true with some of our Fellowship
churches. But, not all thankfully.
This trend has implications for estate planning. Bequests
to churches have traditionally been an important source of
funding. With this decline in churchgoers follows a decline
in estate donations.
Consequently, individuals are increasingly looking to foundations
to address their giving needs. This is why many have
turned to the Fellowship Foundation for their estate planning
needs. It provides a way for people to give confidently
to various ministries, with the opportunity to re-evaluate
their giving wishes if their situation changes.
We at the Fellowship Foundation, in partnership with
ADVISORS with Purpose, can help you create your own
personal Will plan. If you have not yet made these arrangements,
you can contact Fellowship Advancement Director
Gord Baptist at 519-821-4830, ext. 244 (fax: 519-821-9829, or
firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will walk you through the
— Gord Baptist is Fellowship Advancement Director.
THE SECRET TO EXPLOSIVE CHURCH
GROWTH IN COLOMBIA by Phil Webb
OUT THERE: FELLOWSHIP INTERNATIONAL
Many have asked what caused
the success of church growth
in Colombia. My wife, Deene, and
I had the privilege of being part of
this movement firsthand from 1987
to 2013. Since then, we have continued
to visit Colombia twice a year to
encourage leadership. Those first 25
years of the El Redil movement had
various characteristics. El Redil means the “Sheepfold”, so
each church is known for its shepherding qualities.
The first El Redil church was planted in 1987 amongst university
students and professionals. In a city of 2.5 million
there were only a few other churches targeting the middle
and upper classes. We did an extensive job of studying the
cultural and spiritual state of the city and recognised some
glaring needs within the Evangelical church. Within Latin
church culture, leadership is traditionally held within a
select group of people. The Evangelical church continued
to have strong hierarchical structures that did not facilitate
leadership development. In the first years, we were challenged
by Leith Anderson's quote:
“LEADERS WHO FINISH WELL
ARE NOT THOSE WHO RUN
THE LAST RACE BEFORE THE
TRACK LIGHTS ARE TURNED OFF.
LEADERS WHO FINISH WELL ARE
THOSE WHO PASS THE BATON
TO THEIR SUCCESSORS TO RUN
THE NEXT LEG OF THE RACE.
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MAKE
THEIR SUCCESSORS SUCCEED.”
In response, instead of holding onto leadership, the
churches intentionally sought to get rid of the “caudillo”
(strong lone ranger) pastoral style. People were surprised
that there were no protagonists within our public meetings.
Leadership was shared and no one person became the
focus. Team leadership has allowed us to face mistakes —
which have been many — much quicker.
If we were going to believe in and practice the priesthood
of all believers, leadership had to set the example in allowing
themselves to be ministered to by others. Vulnerability
was the road less travelled, but the only road to change in
Latin church culture. We tend to feel able to wash the feet
of others, but find it hard to allow our feet to be washed.
Church culture does not change unless leadership is willing
to practice what is being preached. In order for a movement
to occur, continual evangelism and discipleship must
occur. Trust must be placed in each believer’s ability to
share with and care for others. Last of all, the prayers of all
believers is recognized as paramount in the life and growth
of the church.
The DNA of the El Redil churches has always been to start
new churches once they get to a certain number. We never
thrive / 7
planned to be a mega church, therefore we knew that we needed
to train up new leadership for new plants. All the churches
that have been started by El Redil give back 10% of all offerings
in order to help with leadership training and new church
plants. Today we are a group of 18 churches with 60 or so leaders
being trained to be elders and future pastors.
Longevity of leadership allows for crucial DNA to be passed
on to the second and third generations. We have lost very few
leaders to moral, mental, or spiritual decay. I am also thankful
to say that we have had very few burnouts, because with shared
leadership there is also reciprocal care and shepherding.
The unity amongst the pastors from the 18 churches is critical
for the DNA to continue. This demands time taken to meet
as pastoral couples every month or so. This may seem like a
superfluous gathering, but this is where DNA is passed on and
protected. Most of these 18 churches are already planning for
their next plant.
Let me conclude this brief explanation by noting that expositional
preaching is one more factor that has helped churches
stay focused, and is where the balance between truth and grace
has protected them from the legalism and abuse which is prevalent
in Latin America. Today the El Redil churches are helping
many independent churches and other denominations to understand
what healthy leadership and, in turn, healthy church
life can look like. It’s God’s grace working through each of these
factors that has allowed the Church in El Redil to thrive.
— Phil Webb is a Fellowship International missionary working
with the El Redil churches in Colombia, and Regional Coach
in Leadership Health and Development for the Fellowship
GROWING LIKE WEEDS
by Richard Flemming
Anyone who enjoys gardening knows about weeds. Left on their own they can quickly become the unintended
feature of our flower beds. The rapid progression of weeds alerts us to an uncomfortable reality:
just because it grows doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Just ask anyone battling cancer! By their nature, disciple-making
movements produce healthy churches that multiply quickly. While several reasons could be offered as to
why this is the case, let me mention two that immediately come to mind.
Nowhere to hide
Trevor Larson has been serving in Indonesia as a movement leader for almost 30 years. To date, along with his
team of dedicated Indonesian workers, they have seen 350,000 Muslims come to Christ, forming 70,000 groups
that meet regularly around God’s Word. Do the math and that works out to five people per group. According to proximity, several
groups join together to form churches. It’s not hard to imagine that in a group setting like that, it would be difficult for participants
to hide the true condition of their hearts. House churches, the model of preference for disciple-making movements, leave little room
for regular attenders who we might label as “adherents.” God’s people gathering in small groups around God’s Word is not a place of
comfort for weeds.
Teach them to obey
One of the important qualifiers of disciple-making that Christ left His followers is found in
Matthew 28:20. “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (ESV) is all about
practicing obedience to the Lord’s commands, not just knowing about them. This significant
emphasis on obedience to God’s Word characterizes DMM churches. Here we find a vital metric
of church health that is often neglected in our current measurements. It stands to reason
that a room full of people is not in itself an indication of health any more than a flower bed
full of weeds would be.
Churches that are part of these disciple-making movements are far from perfect. However,
just like the gardener who regularly attends to those annoying weeds, so the makeup of these
small groups of Christ-followers act as landscapers hoeing out those unwanted plants thus
making room for the healthy ones to flourish.
Today, these God-driven movements are producing healthy churches and they are multiplying
— Richard Flemming is Fellowship National's Eastern Coordinator.
LOVE EXTENDED: FAIR
UPDATE by Paul Hildebrand
Since the Russian invasion of
Ukraine began on February 24,
2022, our Fellowship International
missionaries living in Poland, along
with many partners, have been providing
emergency care for refugees
arriving in Poland and supporting
churches in Ukraine as they continue
to care for their communities.
In the first phase of FAIR's emergency response (March to
April), our main priority was caring for refugees arriving in
Poland. Two of our church partners ran emergency shelters
out of their church buildings near the Ukrainian border.
They provided refugees with fresh food and a place to rest
after their long journey. One of the church members in
Zamość is a widow with boundless energy and deep faith
in Jesus. She brings a sense of welcome and peace to each
family. When a refugee family arrives, she greets them all
with a big hug, tells them that Jesus loves them, and gives
a Bible to each child. This welcome and the care provided
were especially helpful to all the mothers who escaped
Ukraine with their children, arriving fatigued from their
difficult journey, and filled with worry about their husbands
who remained back in Ukraine.
This summer, FAIR entered phase two of its emergency response.
Because the number of refugees arriving in Poland
decreased significantly, the main priority was to help
refugees settle into medium-term housing and to send food
aid into Ukraine. Another of our church partners in Poland
was introduced to some refugees who were elderly or had
disabilities, which put them in extra vulnerable situations.
To help these refugees they provided them with a safe place
to live, including the purchase of an apartment using the
money they had saved for a church building renovations,
and financial assistance from FAIR.
thrive / 9
HELPING AT THE
We also have partnerships with Operation Mobilization, numerous
churches, and chaplains serving throughout Ukraine who regularly
need food aid. They are feeding and caring for many displaced
people in Western Ukraine, Ukrainian Christians regularly need
food and fuel support to continue. The large food shipments from
the UN were mainly sent to Eastern Ukraine, making our food aid
vital for Ukrainian churches in Western Ukraine who are caring
for their communities where other sources of aid were slow in
We are grateful that God has called so many churches and
individuals to give generously to this emergency response. By
the end of April, nearly $1,200,000 was raised. This past summer
we were praying for an additional $750,000 to continue
to provide aid to those who have lost so much as the war
— Paul Hildebrand is a FAIR Projects and Promotion
In March, a team of volunteers
from Fellowship churches in BC,
led by April Christensen, went to
the Polish/Ukrainian border to join
in the work being done by Fellowship
International missionaries. In the past,
they had worked with Pierre Jutras in his
camp ministry, and so out of their love
for Pierre, they wanted to go help. When
they arrived, they served at two emergency
shelters operating out of churches near the
Ukrainian border. Seeing how weary the
church members were in caring for the flood
of refugees, they immediately began caring for
many of the 'behind the scenes' tasks necessary
to keep the shelters operational, providing
the local volunteers with to rest and be restored.
Their time was filled with prayer and service meeting
many practical needs.
To inquire about possible volunteer opportunities,
please email email@example.com.
10 / thrive Autumn 2022
thrive / 11
Have you ever had a season in your life when you
had no meaningful occupation – whether paid or
unpaid? Perhaps it was because of an illness or loss of
employment. Maybe it started out as a relief because
you needed the break from a stressful job or time to
heal. But with every passing day, new feelings began to
surface: boredom, worry, discouragement… losing hope
that your circumstances would change.
For many of us, we return to our normal occupations
after such a season. But for many boys in Lebanon, this
is a daily reality with little likelihood of ever changing.
The people of Lebanon have been hit hard by a series of
unfortunate events. The country was already experiencing
political, economic, and social instability exacerbated
by the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who
sought shelter from the civil war in their home country.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic and the Beirut port explosion
in August 2020 caused hyperinflation to settle
in. Most businesses have either closed or are struggling
to stay open. Jobs are extremely challenging to find.
Fellowship International missionary Karim Anayssi
tells the story of a young man named Mohammed,
whom he met while out in the community around
Cedar Home in Lebanon. Every day that Karim went
out, Mohammed was at the same place, standing by garbage
cans. He told Karim that his father pulled him out
of school and told him to pick through the trash to try
to find things that they could sell or use for their family.
Every day he goes out to wait for people to drop their
trash off at the garbage cans.
It’s young men like Mohammed that Karim dreams of
helping, and he’s in the unique position to do just that!
Karim serves as the executive director of Cedar Home.
One of the assets he oversees is a building located
outside the city. Abandoned during the Lebanese civil
war, and previously home for Cedar Home, shows the
scars of the decades it has stood empty. But it does still
stand – straight and tall amongst the hills. Despite bullet
holes on the outside and broken furniture and debris
within, it has “good bones” – and the potential to bring
hope to young people again.
Karim dreams of bringing those “good bones” to life
again, taking the old building and making it into a
school for boys to provide them with the opportunity
to learn trades like plumbing and electrical work so
they will have “in demand” skills, and to demonstrate
and share the love of Christ with them so they will gain
hope in Christ. Then they would be sent out to apprentice
and work in their community, bringing the Good
News with them.
FAIR wants to make Karim’s dream a reality.
Through the Good Bones special appeal, FAIR is
seeking to raise $150,000 to repair, renovate, and
outfit the old Cedar Home building. Funds will be
used to make the home ready to accept both residential
and non-residential boys into the program. You
can partner with us in this life-changing ministry opportunity
on our website: fellowship.ca/GoodBones
With your help, we can bring “good bones” to life,
bringing hope for the future and the light of the Gospel
in its wake.
— Denise Wicks is a FAIR Projects and Promotion
Please join us in praying these verses over the Good Bones project and the boys who will be
impacted by its success.
“YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. A TOWN BUILT ON A HILL CANNOT
BE HIDDEN. NEITHER DO PEOPLE LIGHT A LAMP AND PUT IT UNDER A
BOWL. INSTEAD THEY PUT IT ON ITS STAND, AND IT GIVES LIGHT TO
EVERYONE IN THE HOUSE. IN THE SAME WAY, LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE
BEFORE OTHERS, THAT THEY MAY SEE YOUR GOOD DEEDS AND GLORIFY
YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN.” MATTHEW 5:14-16 (NIV)
In October 2020, Zach Lautsen and Aaron Murray moved
to Québec from Sioux Lookout, ON. When they came,
provincial restrictions were strict – yet they came to learn
French and the culture, and to discern their calling. Zach
is a flight specialist and Aaron was a youth pastor; both are
now full-time missionaries in Québec, serving in churches
that are in the midst of the replanting process. Their goal
is to help give life and support to new churches plants and
those churches that are being replanted. When a church
reaches a phase of waning growth and/or decreasing numbers,
they are faced with the prospect of closing their doors
entirely. Here in Québec, many such churches have engaged
in the process of replanting their church – re-establishing
the church’s mission, vision, and direction, setting
them on a path towards church health.
Over the past two years, Zach and Aaron were able to
learn French and develop a strong desire to reach the rural
areas of Québec with the Gospel. It’s been pure joy for
me to see their heart for Québec grow every month, and
to watch them work hard at learning a foreign language
by Sergei Li
alongside their families. Their love for reaching French
Canadians shows in both their efforts to learn the language
and in answering God’s call to minister in the rural
area of Chicoutimi, QC. They worked together with the
current leadership at the Chicoutimi church with humble
hearts, providing much-needed support during the
church’s replanting process. Zach and Aaron are now in
Verdun, QC, serving in another local church engaging in
the replanting process.
As the needs in Québec grow and as our pastors age, we’re
encouraged to see missionaries from Canada come and do
the hard work of learning the language, the culture, and
helping to plant and replant churches
in Québec for God’s glory. Join us in
praying for more young people, individuals,
and families to come serve in
Québec, for the glory of God.
—Sergei Li is Fellowship National's
Francophone Ministry Coordinator
GROUND WORK: FRANCOPHONE AND CHAPLAINCY MINISTRIES
JOIN A PRAYER MOVEMENT FOR QUÉBEC
by Steve Jones
In recent years a prayer movement was started, praying for Québec 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I
became aware of it when I heard alarms go off on the watches and Smart phones of Québec leaders
at 10:02 am during our meetings. It was a reference to Luke 10:02 (NIV): “He told them, ‘The harvest is
plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest
A growing number of Fellowship Francophone brothers and sisters are praying that God will bring “times
of refreshing” (Acts 3:19) to our Québec region and more workers from around Canada and the world to
share in the work of reaching people for Christ. Currently there are 297 people who persevere in prayer one
hour each week. They gather in 14 prayer small groups each month, and commit to fast and pray for one day
for Québec. An invitation is going out to all of English-speaking Canada to join this prayer movement. Steps
are being taken to get the information concerning this prayer movement translated into English. This information
will be available on our website sometime in autumn 2022 outlining the movement and how to join.
thrive / 13
by Larry Freeman
Do you ever get the feeling that
you are being watched? Under
some circumstances this might
be a bit creepy, while in other
circumstances that is the hope
and desire. When Jesus called His
disciples, He said, “Follow me,
and I will make you fishers of
men” Matthew 4:19, ESV. The idea
in these words is that while they were following Him,
they would observe and listen with the goal of learning
how to become fishers of men.
Those words still hold true for the call to discipleship
today. A number of our pastors in Québec, as well as
other parts of Canada, have stepped outside the walls of
their offices and their churches to model for their people
how to become “fishers of men”, remove boosting their
church’s overall health through fostering a culture of
discipleship. Éric Leblanc (Cowansville, QC) serves as a
Fellowship chaplain at the food bank run out of Église
Évangélique Baptiste de Cowansville. He writes: “In this
way, they (those who utilize the foodbank) discover
God’s love for them in Jesus through the love that I
and my team show them. This has encouraged some
members of our church to get involved in the ministry.”
Healthy churches have increasingly involved members.
Fellowship chaplain François Provencher (Granby,
QC) writes: “In our church we have several chaplains
who are involved in the community… The members of
our church pray for each of us… Church members see
Sunday morning visitors in connection with the different
areas of chaplaincy, which is encouraging for the
Serge Caron, a pastor and a Fellowship chaplain who
works with parolees, sums it up with these words:
“Chaplains who work with the released not only bring
hope to these ex-detainees, but also encourage church
members when they see them attend Sunday worship.
These are powerful testimonies that remind us that
God is present everywhere, whether in prison or on the
— Larry Freeman is Fellowship Chaplaincy Coordinator.
GOD IS PRESENT EVERYWHERE,
WHETHER IN PRISON OR ON THE STREET.
by Dr. David G. Barker
TRUTH TALK: THEOLOGY AND TRENDS
CHURCH HEALTH IS ABOUT
VITALITY AS WELL AS STRUGGLE;
COME-BACK CHURCHES AS WELL AS
DYING CHURCHES. THE CHURCH LIFE
CYCLE TALKS OF INFANCY, GROWTH,
REDEVELOPMENT, AND AGING. THE
AVERAGE NORTH AMERICAN CHURCH
LIVES AND DIES WITHIN 75 YEARS.
A HEALTHY THEOLOGY OF CHURCH
HEALTH PRACTICE MUST ALSO INCLUDE
LAMENT. HERE DR. DAVID G. BARKER
REMINDS US ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF
THE LAMENT PSALMS.
In recent studies of the Psalms many have come to
believe that the movement away from the psalms in
general, and the lament psalms in particular, is a loss
for both theological truth and authentic worship in
the twenty-first century-church.
Two factors play into this. First, the apostle Paul said,
"Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual
songs" (Ephesians 5:18; cf. Colossians 3:16 AMP). If
Paul thought that the psalms were beneficial to the
first-century church, how can we think they are not
beneficial for the twenty-first-century church?
When we think of the 150 psalms in the book of
Psalms, we are taken from the amazing glory of God to
the deepest depths of lament. In no other place do we
find such an all-encompassing collection of worship
thrive / 15
songs. And they are God-breathed Scripture. No contemporary
song or ancient hymn can make this claim.
Second, we have avoided the psalms of lament. It is surprising
to many Christians that lament psalms comprise the largest
category of psalms in Psalms. With this omission, we have lost a
crucial voice of spirituality and worship.
Yes, as Christians we have hope like no others. But we live in
the now-but-not-yet. Death is still an enemy. There is a day coming
when all tears will be wiped from our eyes, but not yet. We
don't grieve like others with no hope, but we still grieve, and
lament psalms give us a voice.
How do we bring lament back into the church? The answer
is simple: read all the psalms, and all the verses in them (i.e.
don't skip vv. 19-22 in Psalm 139). For centuries reading a psalm
was part of the church's worship. But in recent times we have
chosen to do differently. We have come to believe that church
services need to be uplifting and positive. Psalm 88 is a tough
read in these kinds of services.
Fellowship National President Steve Jones designated 2022 as our
"year of joy" (Zephaniah 3:17). Perhaps it would be good to reflect
on from where joy comes. Yes, the psalmist said, "Rejoicing comes
in the morning." But why the morning? Because in the previous
line he said, "Weeping may stay for the night" (Psalms 30:5 NIV).
Almost one third of Psalms is given to the
lyrics needed for that night of weeping. We
all know that the darker the night is, the
brighter is the dawn.
— Dr. David G. Barker is Professor
Emeritus of Biblical Studies at Heritage
College and Seminary in Cambridge, ON.
PURSUIT OF A HEALTHY
by Jeff Bennett
UP TO SPEED: REGIONAL UPDATES
Lead pastor. Growing attendance.
Small groups and community.
But there was a question that repeatedly
pulsed within my heart: “How
many times have you, and the people
in your church, shared the Gospel?”
I knew the number must be low,
which exposed a lack of priority in
sharing the Gospel. God’s presence
in my church was graciously apparent in many ways, but I
could no longer ignore the reality that I had not equipped
the church well to pursue the lost. My mind agreed that the
harvest is plentiful. My heart longed to see a plentiful harvest.
So, my decision was to simply grow my ability to share.
The plan? From 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. across 15 days, I
knocked on doors and engaged people on the streets alongside
a new friend from the UK. It felt awkward and a little
bizarre. Yet as days passed, I was surprised by how God had
gone before us, how open people were to receive prayer or
hear the Gospel, and how fast this new habit became routine.
Joining someone else who helped me see beyond my current
perspective was essential toward me making progress in
The fruit? An even greater longing for the lost, clarity
to obey Scripture, and willingness to die to self. I didn’t
return home with a new method, but with a renewed
heart that compelled me to go share truth, instead of only
defending it (Mark 16:15). I began spending time every
week proactively engaging people with the Gospel and
prayed for others to join me.
Three years later, we have a team who inspires one another
to engage the harvest weekly and seeks to model evangelism
as normal obedience. God has moved believers from
many places to join in conversation and evangelism with
us. We are seeing regular baptisms and churches started.
We’ve learned that church health isn’t triggered by human
ingenuity but through ordinary, surrendered hearts
that have counted the cost at salvation, and every day after.
We’ve learned that we need one another for perspective,
encouragement, and accountability. If God has already spoken,
then we can go out with kindness, with boldness, and
just as we are to share the truth of who He is.
Are you ready to take the next step? “The harvest is plentiful,
but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2 NIV). Join us at
harbourfellowship.com for resources, upcoming in-theharvest
times, and to connect with people who can help you
make room for the Gospel in new ways in your own heart.
— Jeff Bennett is Lead Pastor of Harbour Fellowship
Church in St. Catharines, ON.
thrive / 17
FOCUSSING ON CHURCH
HEALTH by Mike Mawhorter
What is church health? As difficult as it may be to define,
healthy churches are why the Fellowship exists. Our
vision at Fellowship Pacific is “to innovatively develop relationships
and resources that propel every Fellowship Pacific church to
be accountable to their Gospel mandate.” The wording and even
the order of wording is significant. We value innovation in
the resources and service we provide, always asking how we
can do it better. Relationships are key – between churches and
Fellowship Pacific, but church-to-church as well. And we want
the resources we develop to support and inspire churches in
Some of the resources we provide include helping develop mission,
vision, and values; providing a discipleship framework
for churches to design and implement their own discipling
strategy; board training to equip board members to lead effectively;
team building for staff and boards; consultations to help
a church do a deep-dive into their culture and ministries; EQ
Bootcamps to help pastors and leaders improve their Emotional
Intelligence; as well as crisis support, pastoral care, and assistance
to search teams.
As we currently reimagine how we can best serve our churches,
we are shifting priorities in two directions. First, we are moving
away from simply presenting content to a greater emphasis on
coaching. All our staff are getting coaching certification. We are
also working to develop the resources we offer into asynchronous
seminars involving video content, group interaction, and
Second, we are emphasizing more church-to-church involvement,
so that people don’t just look to the Fellowship Pacific
Regional office for help. There is a gold mine of wisdom, experience,
and creativity in our churches. The challenge is how to
discover those resources and make them accessible. We are currently
working on a platform to better facilitate this.
Recently a church contacted us for a survey to give their congregation
as they look for a new pastor; we were able to send them
a survey from another church. A different church is struggling
to survive; two churches in their part of the province have come
forward to offer help and support. This kind of interdependence
can enhance the health of both the giving
and receiving churches. And church
health is what we are all about.
— Mike Mawhorter serves on the
Fellowship Pacific Connect team, where
he is responsible for pastoral placement
among other ministries.
RELATIONSHIPS ARE KEY –
BETWEEN CHURCHES AND
FELLOWSHIP PACIFIC, BUT
WELL. AND WE WANT THE
RESOURCES WE DEVELOP
TO SUPPORT AND INSPIRE
CHURCHES IN THEIR MISSION.
18 / thrive Autumn 2022
KEEPING FEB CENTRAL
by Rick Buck and Bob Flemming
UP TO SPEED: REGIONAL UPDATES
Helping churches thrive on mission by maximizing
their ministry impact and sharpening their effectiveness
to make disciples – that is FEB Central’s Church
Health mission, and here are just a few of the ways we accomplish
Association Shepherds are experienced pastors who connect
with our churches’ pastoral staff, pray for them, and
assist in reconciliation when invited. They are a valuable
aid as they voluntarily give of their time to support their
Church Consultations are one way we assist churches
with discovering areas of weakness, and with prescriptions
for how to address them and move forward. This diagnostic
process offers specific direction in needed areas and
enhances church health.
Vitality Interim Pastors (VIPs) are another tool for our
churches. Times of transition are windows of opportunity,
and in addition to preaching and giving care, VIPs offer
leadership in areas such as vision, structure, and the new
pastor search process. Far more than simply “holding the
fort”, a VIP serves with the leadership, preparing the church
for their new pastor. FEB Central is running training for
VIPs this fall.
And finally, although a new model for us, we have seen success
in the area of Church Mergers. In their book, Better
Together, Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird say, “Mission driven
church mergers have tremendous potential...to expand
the impact of strong, vibrant churches as well as revitalize
plateaued and declining churches.”
We praise God for how He is strengthening our FEB Central
churches to be on mission for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
— Rick Buck is FEB Central Regional Director, and Bob
Flemming is FEB Central Church Health Director.
WE PRAISE GOD FOR HOW HE IS STRENGTHENING OUR FEB CENTRAL
CHURCHES TO BE ON MISSION FOR THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.
thrive / 19
How is a plateaued or struggling
church revitalized? The answer
to that question is critical to pastors
in churches needing revitalization. To
support our pastors in leading churches
to good health, FEB Central Leadership
Development launched Church
Revitalization Networks (CRN) in 2018.
The networks consist of five-to-ten pastors
who meet in a monthly cohort over ten months. They
receive teaching, peer interaction, and coaching in Church
The CRN teaches a change process that is rooted in Gospelcentred
thinking found in Ephesians 4:22-24: “…put off your old
self…be renewed in the spirit of your minds… put on the new self”.
(ESV). The network is not a quick fix, but teaches a patient process
of discernment and faithfulness in preparation for implementing
the necessary changes.
To date we have conducted eight networks across Ontario in
Chatham, Woodstock, Cambridge, Toronto, Cobourg, Sault Ste.
Marie, Parry Sound, and Ottawa, with almost 50 pastors having
received this training. Many of their churches are making good
progress in being revitalized. We plan to continue launching
by Tim Strickland
At the request of CRN participants, we created a follow-up
network called Next Level Leadership. Over twenty pastors
have participated in three networks in London, Cobourg, and
Cambridge, with more planned for the future. In addition, we
are launching a Next Level Preaching network in the Fall of 2022,
led by our Leadership Catalyst, Steve Adams. We are branding
the networks under the Next Level banner as Next Level
Revitalization, Next Level Leadership, and Next Level Preaching.
What is key to the networks’ effectiveness? While the training
material and coaching provide helpful teaching, the heart of the
networks is peer learning and fellowship among participants.
Pastors share about their efforts to lead revitalization in their
churches, learn from one another, and grow in relationship
together in the Lord. In addition, the networks fit our ethos as a
Fellowship, combining sound doctrine and practical leadership,
showing that good theology and good leadership go hand-inhand
and lead to stronger church health.
We would be pleased to provide support to other Regions who
are interested in launching Next Level networks for pastors. Our
network team of Jack Flietstra, Mark Cuthbert, Steve Adams,
and Tim Strickland would be happy to hear from you. Visit
febcentral.ca for more information and to get in touch.
— Tim Strickland is FEB Central Leadership Development
CHURCH REVITALIZATION NETWORK,
LED BY MARK CUTHBERT, CHATHAM, ON, 2020-2021
CHURCH REVITALIZATION NETWORK, LED BY PETER CHALEBOIS AND
TIM STRICKLAND, TORONTO, ON 2021-2022
CHURCH REVITALIZATION AND NEXT LEVEL
LEADERSHIP TRAINING MANUALS (2021)
20 / thrive Autumn 2022
IN FRANCOPHONE CHURCHES
by Jean-Philippe Lapierre
UP TO SPEED: REGIONAL UPDATES
As Director of Church Vitality
in the AEBEQ Region, I see the
last two years of critical moments
as a season in which God has been
renovating hearts and pushing
AEBEQ churches towards greater
fruit. James. 1:2-3 instructs us to look
at critical moments (trials and testing)
as necessary — not something
to fear, but to welcome. A stable church is often synonymous
with a plateaued church: resistant to change and
struggling to integrate the younger generations. The path
towards becoming a healthier church must often start
with critical moments where God reveals obstacles in the
hearts of believers and in the church culture.
I have the pleasure of working with a Church Vitality Field
Team of five pastors who assist churches in these critical
moments. While we estimate that 40% of our churches are
showing signs of spiritual healthiness, another 40% are
plateaued, and 20% show signs of decline. Through tough
moments, leaders pray with a new sense of urgency. They
can also call upon the help of our Church Vitality Field
We offer assistance in the area of crisis management,
church board assessments, and walking with both the
church and the pastors in ministry transitions. We also provide
a church vitality pathway which involves the whole
church seeking God’s face step-by-step on the issues of
becoming a healthy missional church. This involves 16-18
months of coaching as God sheds new light on the heart issues
and church culture He wishes to transform.
One pastor described his experience in the Vitality Pathway
this way: “God identified four major groups in the church
who had different challenges, did not mingle, and did not
understand the other groups suffering. When God enlightened
our board on this issue, we realized that even we were
part of two of these subgroups. It became evident to us how
we needed to shepherd differently.”
By the end of the Pathway experience, testimonies of healing,
repentance, and unity replaced the old factions in the
church. This is one of many stories of how God brings new
life when the whole church seeks His face.
— Jean-Philippe Lapierre is AEBEQ's Church Vitality
thrive / 21
BUILDING HEALTHY LEADERS
ACROSS FELLOWSHIP ATLANTIC
by Danny Barrett
“IRON SHARPENS IRON,
AND ONE MAN SHARPENS
PROVERBS 27:17 (ESV)
Many men’s ministries have used that
verse as a good reason to gather for
breakfast and a devotional on Saturday
mornings. Being Baptist, I like a good breakfast with the guys!
Throughout the years I’ve been involved in Fellowship Atlantic,
that verse has taken on deeper meaning as I’ve seen it lived out
through our pastors’ clusters. These gatherings have helped to
shape us as pastors for our churches.
Our pastors’ clusters are monthly gatherings hosted in two
locations within our Region. Each quarter both groups come
together for training and encouragement in what we call
“super-clusters”. We regularly have 20 or so Fellowship Atlantic
pastors, from most of our 19 churches, plus about a dozen or so
other like-minded brothers.
For monthly gatherings, we come prepared to discuss a chapter
of a book we’ve been collectively reading through (most
recently we have been working through Paul Tripp’s book,
Lead) or a relevant article. Often those are just our launching
points for a variety of discussions that offer wisdom, experience,
counsel, and practical help for daily ministry through the
relationships we build together as brothers in the trenches of
Camaraderie and mentoring relationships have developed because
of these gatherings as we come away knowing better the
needs, joys, and sorrows of the churches to which we are connected.
We also gain prayer, encouragement, wisdom, and practical
advice for applying Gospel truths to our situations. These
clusters remind us that we are part of something bigger than
our own ministries and churches, and that we are interdependent
for the good of ourselves, our churches, and our Region.
From these clusters we grow and are shaped together so that we
can continue the Kingdom work that God has called us to in
our Region. We encourage one another so that we don’t become
weary in welldoing, and so we can be healthier shepherds leading
— Danny Barrett is Fellowship Atlantic Regional Director
Church Health Director.
HOW TO BOOST
by Ed Fontaine
THE LAST WORD
Church assessments are like a
workout: not something I’m excited
to do beforehand, but glad I accomplished
afterward. It seems there
is a natural high that results when we
do the hard work of exercising, and
the hard work of assessing ourselves.
But I get it: not many of us pastors
look forward to an assessment. We
get enough criticism about our preaching, leadership, and
weaknesses that we don't need a team of experts coming
in and piling on where our congregation leaves off. But
surprisingly, my experience with an assessment was quite
Two friends that are senior pastors went through a church
assessment. They raved — and that isn’t hyperbole — about
how good the process and result was for them. They came
away encouraged, challenged, and feeling valued. Not what
I expected. In fact, their stories were so encouraging that I
felt like I was missing out on something. It took me a while,
but I finally pulled the trigger and initiated an assessment
for our church.
The process was thorough and professional. Four leaders
were there with one clear goal: to help me lead our church
better. Like a doctor asks questions to be sure he understands
your health before prescribing a solution, the team
asked questions and reviewed documents to ensure they
had an accurate view of the church before they made their
prescriptions. It didn’t seem to take them long, and so I was
surprised at how accurate and insightful their findings
were. They showed me their report first, allowing me to
explain anything I thought necessary. Then they gave it to
the elders and the entire church. The report outlined our
strengths and weaknesses, and made suggestions on how to
move forward by building on strengths as well as addressing
Their report did three things for us as a church. First, it
strengthened my leadership because it verified that many
of the things I had been saying were in fact true. Their
words helped move our leadership and our people to a
more committed stance on things I’d been suggesting.
Second, it encouraged me as a leader. I had gone through
an independent assessment and they were generous in
their praise, to me and to the church. I felt valued, and it
strengthened my commitment to lead better. Third, it gave
us direction about next steps as a church. Because the assessment
focused on our church, they were able to identify
specific issues we needed to address for our ministry based
upon our context and strengths. One of their suggestions
was so big that I didn’t think our leaders would be willing
to even consider it. But they listened and formed a team
that is now leading our church through a major renovation
that they have agreed is our faith step for the future. Truth
be told, I was blind to this important step and would never
have led the church into it. But the assessment woke us all
up to a faith step that is now breathing life into our body as
we continue to move toward accomplishing it.
Few of us naturally like working out, and few of us naturally
like the idea of an assessment. But the truth is, an
assessment is like a workout: it breathes new life into our
leadership and our churches.
FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO INITIATE
A CHURCH CONSULTATION, PLEASE
CONTACT YOUR REGIONAL OFFICE.
— Ed Fonatine is Lead Pastor of Springvale Church in
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