[SLIDESHOW=41299,41300,41301]MAGOG, Quebec (BP) — By the numbers, the launch of Église 21 was a resounding success. In addition to the launch team of 80, 150 guests from the community attended the church’s first official service.
But the true success of the launch service can’t be fully conveyed with numbers. Each of those 150 lives had a different story. Some were invited to the Sept. 27 service by friends. Some were curious to see the newly restored theater building where the church is housed. For one of those guests, the story began months ago.
Coffee and community
Church planter Dominic Chaussé used a local coffee shop in Magog, a resort town in Quebec, Canada, as his makeshift office for six months.
“I would go use the Internet and drink coffee and work there, so the business owner knew who I was,” he said. “He knew I was a pastor coming to work for a church here that was going to start, but that was about it. He didn’t really want anything to do with church.”
Before the start of services, Église 21’s core launch team began meeting together in missional communities. And like many church leaders, Chaussé often found himself competing with sports for the attention of his group. In the South, it’s college football; in the Northeast, baseball is king; and in Quebec, it’s hockey.
“At one point in my missional community during hockey season, everyone in the home group was not really listening or involved in what we were doing because they were always checking their smartphones to see what the score was,” Chaussé said. “I told the group, ‘Look, if we’re going to just look at hockey, why don’t we go do it in the city and be in the midst of the people and celebrate with them.” With all of the most popular local restaurants already packed with people watching the game, Chaussé called in a favor and asked the proprietor of the coffee shop to open for his group of 20.
“He was like, ‘If you have 20 people, of course I’ll open,'” Chaussé said. “So he started opening, and we’d go there for every game. We would invite friends, so there were 30 or 40 people in his coffee shop watching the game every few days. That’s when we built a relationship with the owner. He said, ‘I’m surprised that you guys aren’t weird. You’re normal people. You’re even fun.’
“He became more and more open to the Gospel, and we began to see his character shaped by biblical principles even though Jesus is not his foundation and Savior yet,” Chaussé said of his new friend. “That relationship grew and flourished, so when we were about to start services, I said, ‘Hey man, do you want to come? Seriously, I’m inviting you.’ He showed up with his girlfriend, and he was deeply moved. His fear was that his partner wouldn’t like the church, and she really liked it, too. He shared with me how happy he was that since she liked it, he was going to be able to come back.”
Connecting to the culture
Chaussé is hoping other unchurched people in Magog will connect with the message of the Gospel and community of Église 21 in the same way.
“We intentionally studied our culture, and we wanted to do something that’s as relevant as possible for a normal Quebecer,” Chaussé said of the format of the new services. “We noticed that there are three times as many stand-up comic acts as there are concerts, so a Quebecer is more used to listening to someone talk than he is used to singing music and going to a concert.
“One of the first things that we did is invert the normal way of doing things,” Chaussé said. “We start with a sermon, and we end in worship, and people have really responded well to that so far. We tell people in the crowd that as children of God in the church, this is how we respond to God. We sing songs of praise to Him for what He’s done and what He’s continuing to do, but they should feel free to respond however they want and not feel obligated to do exactly as their neighbor. If you want to sit down and just contemplate, do that. If you want to stand up and lift your hands, you can do that. Feel free to be who you are in the presence of God.
“We also offer free children’s ministry even if people want to come and drop their kids off and go shopping. It’s fine with us because we’ll have the opportunity to impact their children.”
Chad Vandiver, the North American Mission Board’s Send City Missionary in Montreal, has aided Chaussé in the launch and NAMB provided assistance through a loan to help the new church acquire their building.
“Dominic did an incredible job connecting to the area and contextualizing the Gospel there,” Vandiver said. “It was one of our biggest launches in Quebec so far, and they have already had a major impact. There’s only one other evangelical church of about 20 in the area, so there’s a huge need.”
Learn more about reaching Canada through church planting at www.namb.net/Canada.