TORONTO (BP) — Church planter Randall Edwards* not only had the 6 million people of metro Toronto in mind when he moved to the city seven months ago. With immigrants comprising 52 percent of the population, he had the whole world in mind.
“We came here with the mindset of going global,” Edwards said. “Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world and one of the most strategic places in the West to reach unreached people groups. We want to see them come to Christ here.”
The church plant, although not officially launched, already has involved a variety of immigrants, Edwards said. With the hope of mobilizing his church plant to help penetrate lostness among an unreached people group in North Africa, Edwards and his wife Amanda* participated in a June vision trip to the continent through the International Mission Board.
More people from that unreached people group live in Toronto than any other city in the world outside of Africa, said Edwards. He envisions not only mobilizing his church for onsite ministry in Africa among the people group, but also strengthening the church plant’ s own ministry among the group back in Toronto. Edwards’ name and the name of this people group have been withheld to protect the church’s future ministry opportunities in North Africa.
Edwards took the trip with the help of scholarship funds from the North American Mission Board. Southern Baptist church planters who are members of the Send North America Support Network are eligible for up to $3,000 to purchase plane tickets for a planter and a spouse, or another team member, to take a vision trip to minister to an unreached people group. NAMB makes the funds available to the planter when his church adopts a people group through IMB and receives the appropriate training.
“We believe these trips will help church planters gain a Kingdom mindset, a vision greater than just the city where they are planting,” said Micah Millican, NAMB’s director of church planter relations. “As they develop a heartbeat for the nations, they’ll lead their congregations into a global perspective on missions.”
NAMB leaders hope the effort will encourage church plants to engage the 3,100 unreached people groups currently not being engaged with the Gospel by any church or mission organization. So far, nearly 100 church planters have identified a people group and are going through the process of adopting and engaging the group with the help of NAMB and IMB.
“Jesus never intended for the Great Commission to be sequential, that we start in Jerusalem and then once that’s accomplished we then turn our attention to the rest of the world,” said Ken Winter, IMB vice president of church and partner services. “He intended that we live out every day as global Christians, making disciples of all peoples. We are grateful for this partnership with NAMB to introduce the challenge of reaching the unreached into the DNA of new churches from the very beginning.”
Edwards expects his recent trip will have a DNA-building influence on his church, as he takes what he learned and begins to mobilize his church’s involvement among the people group.
“We have a global city in Toronto, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the people here have a global missions mindset, and that’s the key,” Edwards said. “The global nature of the city means that it’s a great launching point to the world.”
Even though he grew up traveling the world and lives in one of the most international cities on earth, Edwards says his recent trip brought many new realizations.
“Just seeing the work of God in a different region of the world impacted me greatly,” Edwards said. “It gave me a renewed vision for what we are doing here. It put it in perspective. You can get so myopic that you forget that God is working in different ways all around the world. I got to see work being done that was completely distinct from what I had ever seen before.”
For more information on the Send North America Support Network and the criteria for being a part of it, visit namb.net/cpprofile or contact Micah Millican at [email protected]
*Names changed. Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).