Another Church Planting Congress has come and gone with Montréal playing host for the first time.  The Congress takes place every second year and Montréal will play host yet again in 2017. The last time I was at a Congress was when it took place in Calgary in 2009. In Calgary, there was a noticeable distinction between Montréal. Both we’re ironically held in some of the largest churches in the city, yet only Calgary hand a healthy contingent of outliers in attendance.

The event took place in downtown Montréal along Saint Catherine Street at Evangel Pentecostal. I can honestly say I covet this space :). They have two buildings all along one of the most vibrant streets in all of Canada. Here are my thoughts on this year’s Congress that featured Ed Stetzer as plenary speaker.

The good:

  • The location was superb, and I highly valued gathering in the middle of the urban core which added a layer of intrigue for the event.
  • It was really neat to worship alongside Francophone brothers and sisters, singing songs in both French and English was a moment to remember.
  • It was encouraging to see and hear about resilient congregations in Québec. Coming from the West it’s easy to regard Quebec as highly irreligious, but there are some cool things happening in the province.
  • Essentially the only reason why I intended was to connect with new church planters from around the country. I was able to track down a handful of leaders trying out new and exciting things in their context.
  • One of the draws for me was listening to Ed Stetzer who was the planetary speaker. I’m a sucker for stats and his research from Lifeway always offers an interesting glimpse into the religious landscape in North America. He’s a professional speaker and his talk reflected a very nuanced guide to church planting. I was particularly appreciative for some of his comments that highlighted the dangers of certain cultural trends of conventional church planting.

The ho hum:

  • At any church planting conference it’s easy to celebrate success. Large, highly attractional, very conventional, church plants were lauded with great fanfare. It’s okay to celebrate what’s working, but there was only ONE format being shared and Stetzer cautioned against this trend.
  • Being Quebec I was surprised and somewhat stunned that most of the church plants I encountered we’re very conventional. We’re talking about the single leader raised up through years of assessments, launched off with supporting funding from sending church, with the intent to attract in a new crowd of already churched. Understanding the event was put on, and attended by, very traditional and conventional denominations, I thought there would be at least some alternatives.
  • However, to be fair, the strict attractional model of church planting seems to be having some success in Quebec. At the risk of over analyzing a context that’s not my own, the combination of existing spiritual history coupled with a lack of conventional evangelical traditions paves way for a segment of Quebecers swayed by glitzy services and more importantly, the redemptive narrative of Jesus.
  • Again, I thought I was going to encounter more weirdos, more outliers, more people trying things outside of the box as the church struggles with the advent of post-Christendom. I found exceptionally few. Apart from the MoveIn group (who for some reason continue to insist they arent a ‘church’), there were effectively NO organic expressions represented.
  • Add, to springboard off of Helen Lee and, ‘The Case for Diversity‘, this Congress was devoid of most forms of diversity from ethnicity to socioeconomic. There was the obvious balance between Francophone and Anglophone, but this was another ‘birds of a feather’ event.

As with prior events, this wasn’t the venue for out-of-the-box thinking, which is sad because as the only church planting conference of its kind in Canada, somebody needs to start celebrating the outliers. This is not a new concern by any means, but maybe an indicator that (once again) it’s time to coordinate another kind of gathering that celebrates the stories of those outside of the conventional fold trying to tell the Gospel story in a language people in their neighbourhoods and cities can capture.