AnotherÂ Church Planting Congress has come and gone with MontrÃ©al playing host for the first time. Â The Congress takes place every second year and MontrÃ©al 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 MontrÃ©al. Both we’re ironically held in some of the largest churches in the city, yet only CalgaryÂ hand a healthy contingent of outliers in attendance.
The event took place in downtown MontrÃ©al 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 myÂ thoughts on this year’s Congress that featured Ed Stetzer as plenary speaker.
- 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 aboutÂ resilient congregations in QuÃ©bec. Coming from the West it’s easy to regard QuebecÂ 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 toÂ 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 ofÂ 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 withÂ great fanfare. It’s okay to celebrate what’s working, but there was only ONE formatÂ being shared and Stetzer cautioned againstÂ this trend.
- Being QuebecÂ I was surprised and somewhat stunned that most of the church plants I encounteredÂ 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 eventÂ was put on, and attended by, very traditional and conventional denominations, I thought there would be at leastÂ someÂ alternatives.
- However, to be fair, the strict attractional model of church planting seems to be having someÂ success in Quebec. At the risk of over analyzing a context that’s not my own, the combination of existing spiritual historyÂ coupled with a lack of conventional evangelical traditions paves way for a segment of Quebecers swayed byÂ 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 mostÂ forms of diversityÂ 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, thisÂ 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.