By Frank Stirk Senior Correspondent | August 11, 2014
Denomination aims to plant hundreds of new congregations within six years
By 2020, one per cent of Canadians—or about 350,000 people—will be calling themselves Pentecostals. Or at least this is one the goals of a vision for growth embraced earlier this year by the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC). To get there will mean adding about 400 new congregations to the just over 1,100 that currently exist, along with 120,000 new members—all in the space of just six years. PAOC general superintendent David Wells says Initiative 2020, as it is called, is partly a response to the fact that their denomination has been seen little growth over the past two decades, and needed more than “a real safe goal” to offset their “status quo thinking.”
“As good Pentecostals, we believe the Spirit was behind birthing some of the passion about what we would trust the Lord for,” says Wells. “It was like the Spirit seemed to be saying we needed a shock to our system to trust the Lord for more.” In addition to greater “missional vitality,” the initiative also calls for greater “spiritual vitality” (what following Christ looks like) as well as “theological vitality” (reengaging Scripture) among Canada’s Pentecostals.
“We’ve tried to emphasize all the way along that it’s actually an integrated initiative,” says Wells. “It’s about whatever we’re doing to have this sense that the Kingdom of God is about mustard seed and leaven.” “This is a prophetic call to live out the values that we purport to be all about,” says Greg Laing, a former PAOC pastor in Vancouver currently serving as the Ontario director of the C2C Network. “It’s the calling back of the people of God to be the people of God. “If this is personally and collectively enlivened in practice,” he adds, “we can’t help but see things multiply.”
But Michael Wilkinson, the interim president of the Canadian Pentecostal Seminary in Langley, B.C., is more cautious. He says given Canada’s cultural and social landscape, “This is going to be really, really tough. It’s hard soil. It’s rocky soil.” The only hope of success, he believes, is for everybody to do their part. “I’m not challenging the vision,” says Wilkinson. “But if somebody says, ‘We’ll leave it up to the church planters,’ then I don’t think it will be realized. But if all the clergy and every congregation says we all need to play a role in that and help out, then it’s possible.” But Laing has seen first-hand how God is even now sending workers out into the harvest fields—and not just Pentecostals.
“Across this whole country,” he says, “the Lord has already called people to city centres who are sacrificially laying down their lives to not so much plant churches as to plant the gospel. It’s mission work that will become a church. People will be saved.” This fall, all eight regional districts of the PAOC will hold “vitality conversations” on the spiritual and theological aspects of Initiative 2020. “It’s nice to have a nice vision statement. It’s another thing to have it become reality,” says Wells. “And to become reality, you’ve got to put some tracks underneath the locomotive and give it a place to go.”
About the author Frank Stirk Senior Correspondent Frank Stirk has 35 years-plus experience as a print, radio and Internet journalist and editor.