has definitely called us here and gone before us to make
a way," says church planter Scott Rich. In fact,
since he and his wife, Lynn, began acting upon God’s
call to plant the first PCA church in Victoria, British
Columbia, they’ve experienced so many remarkable moves
of the Holy Spirit that Lynn is thinking of writing a
book. "When things get tough," she says,
"we fall back on these memories."
Planting a church in Canada
is usually more challenging than planting churches in
the US since the culture is quite different. A recent
survey among Canadians revealed that one in three people
believe God is important in their lives; about 38
percent never or almost never attend religious services;
and Scott estimates that only five percent of the
300,000 people living in Victoria are church goers.
Although longtime residents
are familiar with the Christian faith because the
Anglican and United churches have held a firm position
in the community for many years, most have little
knowledge of Scripture and equate being a Christian with
being a good person. And since new churches are not
often started in Victoria, it can take time to gain the
trust and participation of the community.
New Age religions –
including witchcraft and neo-paganism – are the
strongest competitors to the gospel in Victoria. Lynn is
uniquely qualified to influence people who embrace such
beliefs, since she was involved in New Age before she
When Scott and Lynn arrived
in Victoria, they chose a house in Oak Bay, an upscale,
well-established residential community in the oldest
part of the city.
Their key church planting
strategy was to build credibility among residents and
develop relationships by serving in the community. To
get things started, they invited neighbors (about 30
families) to an open house. To their delight, 60 people
came, and instead of merely stopping by to exchange
pleasantries, they arrived early and stayed late. Most
were not involved with a church on a regular basis.
"A lot of prayers went up for that gathering."
Lynn says, "We give God full credit for the
Next, Lynn got involved
with the elementary school, joined the PTA, volunteered
to be a room mother, and signed up to lead a Girl Guide
unit (Canada’s version of Girl Scouts). At the same
time, Scott focused on making individual contacts in the
community and managing the administrative
responsibilities of planting a church. A couple of
nights each week, they invited people over – to build
friendships and ultimately share the Gospel.
In December, they organized
a major social event, a Celtic Christmas. "We
wanted to give a gift to the community," Lynn
explains. "We hired Celtic fiddlers (Celtic music
is a favorite here), rented a community center, where
the church now meets, and walked the streets around Oak
Bay, handing out invitations." When 200 people
showed up for this very festive event, they were
astounded and thankful. Scott and Lynn gave brief
presentations about their plans for the church; it was
the first time they had gone public with an evangelistic
In January, they started a
seekers forum on Sunday nights and eventually invited 15
of the participants to help start the church. Gathering
a core group had been much more difficult than they
When Providence Community
Church held its first worship service on October 17,
1999, 160 people were in attendance – another example
of their powerful prayer support and God’s blessing.
Most everyone who came was the direct result of
relationships they had cultivated over the past 14
"The Lord has opened
doors to allow us to have credibility in the community
and we have formed a network of friends who are real
community leaders," says Lynn. As a result, Scott
was invited to be the keynote speaker at last fall’s
Remembrance Day (Canada’s Veteran’s Day), which
receives more attention than the US version. He wove a
spiritual theme into his message.
Today, Providence Community
Church has a steady attendance of 80 to 90 each Sunday,
and the number is increasing. The majority of these
people haven’t been church goers and are true seekers.
Many are hearing the Gospel for the first time.
The staff now includes a
worship team leader, Dale Manason, as well as a children’s
ministry intern, Tyler Kovacs and nursery leader Laurie
Bowes. In addition to worship services, the church
offers small groups, children’s Sunday school as well
as special music porgrams. Topical seminars on parenting
and marriage and mercy ministry are in the planning
In the two years since the
Riches arrived in Victoria, they have faced many
difficulties, including serious family illnesses.
"We’ve had some very hard moments, but it’s so
clear that God is in this," Scott and Lynn point
out. "We’re humbled by it. We know that God has
people here He wants us to reach, and it’s such a joy
when we see His message getting through."
The Riches hope to lead in
planting three more churches in Victoria over the next
decade and assist in church planting in Vancouver.
Scott and Lynn Rich
moved to Victoria in August, 1998, with their two sons
and one daughter. They were well aware of the tough
challenges of church planting in Canada, but excited
about starting Providence Community Mission and winning
people for Christ.
This scenic view of Victoria overlooks James Bay. Inset
photo pictures a busy street in Oak Bay, an upscale
community near downtown Victoria with a population of
about 18,000 where the new church is situated. Scott and
Lynn have established credibility with Oak Bay residents
by building personal relationships and getting involved
in local activities. The response has been excellent,
and they've gained a community-minded reputation.
Noted for its natural beauty, Victoria has both
mountains and seacoast. Blessed with the mildest climate
in Canada, the area invites all kinds of outdoor
recreation, from biking and hiking to mountain climbing
The congregation includes all ages, from infants to
people in their 90s, and offers a variety of activities.
Children attend Sunday morning classes; teenagers take
part in a mix of outings and other get-togethers.
Prayer Luncheon: "God has blessed us beyond our
expectations and opened doors that showed us His
involvement. Over the years, people keep coming back
because they sense His presence."
That’s what Jim Wright,
ruling elder at Heritage Presbyterian in West Columbia,
SC, says about the monthly prayer luncheons he
initiated, which are devoted to praying for the 43
churches in Palmetto Presbytery, as well as for new
church plants and campus ministries in this area.
Jim organized the meetings
six years ago when he felt God’s leading to pray for
Palmetto churches and wanted to encourage others to do
the same. "When a pastor told me he had a similar
idea," Jim says, "I took this as confirmation
and we got started. Later, my pastor, Jim Schirmer,
became involved and we worked together in organizing the
Since then, they’ve been
meeting regularly. Currently, 8 to 16 people participate
on a regular basis, including pastors and lay people.
Churches submit prayer requests by email or postal mail.
A physician with a busy
primary care practice, Jim is thankful the Lord has
given him enough flexibility in his professional life to
help manage the monthly meetings. "We greatly need
to increase prayer for our churches and to mobilize
those who have a heart for prayer."
Archie Parrish, MNA church
vitality coordinator, appreciates the prayer group for
its dedication and effectiveness and encourages other
presbyteries to follow Palmetto’s lead.
Those who want suggestions
for organizing such a group may contact Archie at firstname.lastname@example.org
or Jim Wright at email@example.com
Reformation and Revival:
Register now for this important meeting, Oct. 31
- Nov. 2 at Trinity Presbyterian in Jackson, MS, with
James Montgomery Boice of Tenth Presbyterian,
Philadelphia, as keynote speaker. The theme is "The
Five Pillars of the Ministry." Sign-up deadline:
Sept. 30. Contact Trinity Presbyterian: 601-362-8244 or firstname.lastname@example.org,
or Archie Parrish email@example.com.
Pictured with Jim Wright
(left) is John Jardine, who leads the church vitality
subcommittee for MNA and has been an active leader for
church revitalization in Heritage Presbytery.
Your College Ministry IQ?
Church members, youth and
college staff, MNA committee and affiliated campus
committee members, seminary students, and others
interested in college ministry – all of these can
benefit from the upcoming Foundations of Campus Ministry
Conference sponsored by Reformed University
Ministries-MNA. The dates are August 7 - 10. The place
is Simpsonwood Conference Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
John Gess, pastor of Bethel
Presbyterian Church in Clover, South Carolina, took part
last year. He commented, "I gained fresh insight
into the work of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF)."
Seminary student, Rob
Hamby, also attended and sees it as a great opportunity
for pastors, future campus ministry workers, and anyone
interested in reaching college students. "For
me," he explained, "the greatest benefit was
gaining an understanding of the vision and philosophy of
RUF." Rob will be the new RUF campus minister at
Furman University in South Carolina this fall.
The agenda will range from
the purpose and goals of campus ministry and its
philosophy and theology to evangelism and discipleship.
Participants will also learn how a new RUF is
established and how a church or presbytery can be
involved in furthering campus ministries in their own
areas. Presenters will be Rod Mays, Reformed University
Ministries-MNA Coordinator, and James "Bebo"
Elkin, Area Coordinator for Mississippi, West Tennessee,
and Louisiana, along with several seasoned RUF
For nearly three decades,
Reformed University Ministries has embodied the church
on the college campus. Today, it is expanding faster
than ever and its significance has never been greater.
To request a brochure, call Reformed University
Ministries at 404-929-2160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vision for Vancouver
have mountains of challenges and an avalanche of
opportunities." That’s how church planter John
Smed sums up the situation in Vancouver where he’s
leading in planting Grace Vancouver, a church reaching
city center residents: affluent young families and young
urban professionals. For years, Faith Reformed
Presbyterian here (Doug Codling, pastor) and, more
recently, Christ the King Presbyterian in the suburbs
(Bill Senyard, pastor) have longed for greater outreach
to Vancouver through the PCA. Grace Vancouver, the first
of three new churches outlined in an ambitious ten-year
plan, brings hope for a greater Gospel advance.
beauty – its mountains, ocean coastline, ski hills,
parks, and architecture – is sharply contrasted by
these factors: the city has the highest rate of
intravenous AIDS transmission in North America, lowest
per-capita income in Canada, flourishing child
prostitution, and serious gang violence. Among the
population of two million, five percent attend church; a
third claim no religion.
Grace Vancouver has
implemented a diverse group strategy to reach the city.
John explains: "First, we promote dialogue and
world-view discussion in our ‘Arts in the City’
forums, as well as in our youth group. Local artists
facilitate the forums by presenting their work. Second,
we engage in apologetics at discovery groups and
skeptics forums. Alan Clark, a nuclear astro-physicist
leads the class, ‘Faith and Science.’ Third, we
present the Good News through Christ-filled preaching
and historical, lively, and energizing worship.
"Some good disciplers
are helping plant this church," John adds,
"including church planting apprentice Mike Ivancic,
formerly with Campus Crusade for Christ, his wife,
Charlotte, and Paul Engstrom, a seminary intern.
tremendous response from unbelievers. We see God moving
ahead of us opening hearts to hear the Gospel, and we’re
excited about the great vision He has given us. The
expectation in the US is to expand Christianity; in
Canada, it is to see Christianity survive." To
learn more, check the Web: www.gracevancouver.com
the support of a strong core group, some of whom are
pictured here, worship services began in April at the
Grandville Island Community Center. A facility has been
purchased in the target area and will be renovated.
John Smed, formerly MNA church planting coordinator, and
his wife, Caron, began laying the groundwork for the
church in July, 1999, based on these core values: a
church for the city, the searching, the nation, and the
Bob Marsh, US Army, is stationed at Fort Dix, NJ, where
he serves at the Installation Chapel and handles a
variety of duties, such as conducting funerals (as shown
at right) and preaching at weekly chapel services. Fort
Dix is well known as a summer training ground for Army
reservists and National Guard units; 20,000 to 30,000 of
these troops come through each year. "As training
manager," Bob explains,
"I coordinate chaplain coverage for all of
them." Throughout the year, he ministers to active
duty personnel and retirees. "I’m thankful,"
says Bob, "for the opportunity to present Jesus
Christ to such a broad range of people."
You’re Interested in Chaplain Ministries…
PCA chaplains serve a vital purpose in the
military as well as in civilian posts, such as hospitals
and prisons, by ministering to thousands of people at
their point of need. If you’d like to know more about
their work and how you can help, request a brochure or a
video about MNA Chaplain Ministries. Email email@example.com
or call MNA: 404-320-3330.
pastors, church planters, lay leaders, and wives from the
western region attended their annual church planting
conference last February at Asilomar Conference Center in
Pacific Grove, CA. Pete Alwinson, pastor of Willow Creek
Presbyterian in Winter Springs, FL, was keynote speaker.
"There was a great spirit of enthusiasm for all the
speakers," said Lewis Ruff, church planter at All
Nations Presbyterian in Oakland, who organized the
Church Planter Training Conference:
Whether you’re involved with a church plant or considering
one, you can benefit from this event: August 7 - 10 at
Simpsonwood Conference Center in Atlanta, GA. It’s designed
for pastors, key lay leaders, and their wives. Guided by the
theme, "The Church Planter: A Worshiping Leader,"
seminars and workshops related to all aspects of church planting
will be led by experienced church planters. A fee of $395 per
person includes lodging and meals. Call MNA: 404-320-3330 or
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