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Canadian Baptists have ‘quite the journey’

MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO (BP)–With only 10 years left before the Canadian National Baptist Convention hits the deadline for reaching its goals of 1,000 healthy, reproducing and cooperating churches and 100,000 baptisms, President Rick Lamothe predicts pastors and churches are in for “quite the journey.”

“We’re going to have a lot of decisions to make. We’re going to have a lot of ups and downs. We’re going to come to a lot of crossroads,” Lamothe told the CNBC annual convention at Portico Community Church in Mississauga, Ontario. “I believe the 2020 vision is a sacred trust. And so we must prove to be faithful.”

The scope of the challenge is reflected in the numbers, Lamothe noted. The Canadian National Baptist Convention now has 275 churches across Canada, up from about 130 in 2000. The past decade also has seen about 8,000 baptisms. But while that is reason enough to be grateful to God, 725 more churches will need to be planted and 92,000 more people will need to be baptized for the vision goals to be realized — and all that in the same time span.

“I believe with all my heart,” Lamothe said, using Proverbs 3:5-6 as his text, “that if we are going to see God bring fruition to our CNBC 2020 Vision, we must live the next 10 years with complete trust, an obedient heart and a ridiculous faith.”

CNBC Share Team leader Paul Johnson agreed. “Our goal of 100,000 baptisms is so compelling, so staggering, that we must have a fresh movement of the Holy Spirit to see that happen,” Johnson said. “We’re not at the level of seeing a movement, and that’s a concern to all of us.”

In 2009, Canadian Baptist churches celebrated 828 baptisms — 18 more than in 2008, for an increase of 2.2 per cent. Yet the only region to report an increase in baptisms was British Columbia, with 150 more than in 2008. All the other regions reported declines, and most of the increase in British Columbia was by three churches.

Nearly half of all CNBC churches baptized no one in 2009. That includes 45 percent of newly planted “seeds” and congregations, where disproportionately more baptisms are normally expected to occur.

“We want to find ways to help them,” Johnson said, “including churches in their association that would encourage them, train them and help them to fulfill the Great Commission among their own communities.”

Making sure that all new seeds and congregations are actively engaged from their inception in evangelizing their communities is a priority for Start Team leader Jeff Christopherson.

“We just feel that we have to intentionally put evangelism in as part of the church-planting strategy, because it doesn’t happen accidentally,” Christopherson said. “If we’re going to get to 1,000 churches, I just believe we have to have the right kind of DNA in the churches that we’re starting.”

In 2009, a total of 27 churches, both congregations and seeds, were started.

In the same vein, CNBC national ministry leader Gerry Taillon called on pastors to take a fresh look at what the Great Commission means when Christ commands His followers to “make disciples.”

Taillon said the Lord recently had impressed upon him that the command is in fact to “make disciple-makers.”

“Can you think of the movement, if the people in our churches were disciple-makers instead of just disciples, experiencing the abundant life?” Taillon asked. “What if instead we gave them the dream to be like Jesus Christ, the dream to be a reproducer, a multiplier of disciples, so that everyone in our church is a disciple-maker?”

Lamothe urged pastors and church leaders to take action themselves, and not just leave it up to the convention staff to move them closer to the goal.

CNBC churches sent 97 messengers to this year’s held July 5-8 annual meeting. Eighty people registered as visitors. Attendance at each session numbered between 300 and 350 people.

In other business:

— Lamothe was re-elected president for a third year, while John Evans, co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, was elected as first vice president, and Ray Shannon, pastor of Fairview Cornerstone Baptist Church in Fairview, Alberta, as second vice president.

— Messengers approved for 2011 budgets of $2.63 million for the national convention (up 2.9 percent), $358,538 for international missions (up 4.7 percent), and $2.07 million for the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary and College (up 4.5 percent).

Next year’s convention is slated for July 5-7 at Richmond Hill Baptist Church in Calgary, Alberta.
Frank Stirk writes for the Canadian National Baptist Convention.

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  • Frank Stirk