Quebec’s largest evangelical church launches new association
LONGUEUIL, QC–After going it alone for four years since their withdrawal from the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC), Eglise Nouvelle Vie has launched a new association to respond to what the church's leaders believe is the beginning of a widespread renewal throughout French-speaking countries of the world.
Association Chrétienne pour la Francophonie (ACF) has been in development for over a year, but was officially launched at an all-day conference held in the church's sanctuary on Wednesday, April 11. While the vast majority of the several hundred pastors and para-church ministry leaders who attended were from Quebec, there were representatives from several other French-speaking countries.
"With 3,500 people in attendance now," says Nouvelle Vie pastor Claude Houde, "it was tempting to just keep focusing on ourselves and our own continued ministry growth. But as a church, we felt the time had come to look beyond ourselves in this strategic way."
Houde spent the best part of the day laying out an ambitious array of programs and practical supports they intend to make available to both member and affiliate churches and ministries. They include support in practical administrative matters, counselling and encouragement for local church leaders, pulpit substitutes and even travelling worship teams to help smaller churches struggling with music ministry.
The list of services and ministry encouragements was long enough that during the Q&A session at day's end, several people expressed reservation about the feasibility of such an aggressive undertaking.
"The reality is that we have already been doing a lot of these things in an informal way behind the scenes. We have been responding to hundreds of requests for help from churches and ministries for the past number of years," Houde explains. "What we are doing now is essentially just creating structures and freeing up more of our staff's time so that we can more effectively continue having this wider impact beyond the walls of our church here in Longueuil."
Houde indeed introduced the attendees to more than a dozen panels composed of respected ministry leaders as well as a number of degreed notaries, accountants and administrators available to help local churches and para-church groups fulfill their ministry calling more effectively.
"We are essentially and primarily a church planting movement," says Houde, responding to the perceived divisiveness of creating a new denomination at a time when the province's Christian resources are already fragmented. While the ACF will welcome existing churches who wish to join, their desire is much more to see new churches planted with a vision to effectively reaching the 6 million Quebecers and 500 million French-speakers around the world who do not know Christ.
"We are working in a context where over 99 per cent of people are not Christians. Church Planting Canada speaks of a need for 3,000 churches just to bring Quebec up to the same level as the rest of Canada in terms of outreach centres per capita."
While the Nouvelle Vie team sees the outreach as focused on the local church, the ACF will collaborate closely with a number of strategic ministries including IT-a local extension teaching seminar-and Ministères Multilingues, the French Canadian publishing ministry up until recently associated with the PAOC.
The literature about the new association, the breadth of attendees and the focus of the presentations seemed to underline and support the ACF's desire for inter-denominational collaboration.
Concluding a brief meditation on Psalm 102 at the day's end, Houde says "the time has come for Quebec and for the francophone world. We want to leave Quebec in a different spiritual condition than the one we found it in."
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