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French-speaking Quebecois key to evangelization in province
A Baptist leaders group said recently that the potential for church planting is rich in Quebec, and it is important that ministry begins with the French-speaking Quebecois.
Send Montreal church planting, an initiative by the North American Mission Board, is being launched to start 225 churches in Montreal and other areas in Quebec by 2020. Most of them, or 199, will be French speaking, Baptist Press said.
It is more strategic to put maximum effort at French-speaking Quebecois, the largest unreached group in North America, comprising six million of its total 7.3 million population, according to BP.
NAMB noted that the unchurched population in Montreal is 90 percent of its total 3.2 million populace. But overall in Quebec, the Quebecois are the most difficult people to minister to in North America, the BP said.
This is because Quebecois have a dislike for organized religion and very little interest “in anything that isn’t French Quebecois,” BP said. In general, there is a perception of spiritual apathy.
Gerry Taillon, executive director of the Canadian National Baptist Convention, told BP, “My parents are French Quebecois. My relatives have been here since 1642. This is the most spiritually needy and hardest part of Canada and the most religiously apathetic. But I also believe God is doing many things here and I believe our job is to partner together and start a critical mass of churches in this province.”
One reason for the avoidance of organized religion is the province’s secularization, which began in the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s when the dominant Catholic rule was ousted. Secularization has since spread to areas in the outer reaches, BP said.
The strong resistance of the Quebecois, plus the language barrier has led many evangelicals to focus on English speaking churches to minimize difficulties, according to BP.
Still, the French-speaking Quebecois are the key to this ministry. Francois Verschelden, pastor of Connexion, Montreal and a Quebecois told BP, “If we are going to reach Quebec, then we have to reach the vast majority, which is French-speaking.”
Verschelden is one of two church planters assigned to Send Montreal. The other is Ron Young, who pastors the Renaissance Bible Church in Rawdon. The two men will select 25 locations for their initial church planting efforts, BP said.
They are also tasked to identify people and churches in Canada and the U.S. who have the potential to be pivotal in church planting, sending and partnering, BP said.”
The NAMB is focusing on church planting as its overall No. 1 priority. Kevin Ezell, NAMB president said on its website, “[W]e’re not just moving the deck chairs around. We want to send a message to the Southern Baptist Convention that our focus is on church planting and that we’re trying to get our act together.”
Ezell said on the website that this does not mean that they are going to neglect evangelism. “We will continue to do evangelism, because you can’t do church planting without evangelism. The purpose of everything we do is to bring people to Christ and penetrate lostness.”
Ezell also said that they are pinpointing leaders that can be developed. He said on the website, “We want to mobilize and equip thousands of churches—along with the associations and existing church planting networks—to engage in church planting.”
Jeff Christopherson, NAMB’s vice president for the Canada region told BP, “I believe some of Quebec’s greatest indigenous leaders have yet to be discovered, and it’s our job to unearth them. It’s inconceivable to a lot of people that there could be that many communities in one province without the Gospel. It’s our job to make these realities known.”
Aside from Christopherson, Taillon, Young and Verschelden, other members of the Send Montreal team are Peter Blackaby (CNBC mobilization catalyst), Jacques Aviakian (NAMB national missionary), Mark Hobafcovich (from NAMB’s multi-ethnic team) and John Mark Clifton (pastor of Wornall Road Baptist Church, Kansas).