Seeing the city as a major urban mission field
By Barrie McMaster
Vancouver is an international city of youth and vigor, wealth and culture. Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities to live in—and arguably one of the most beautiful. It is also one of the least churched major cities in North America.
With these facts, Canadian and American delegates to Celebration 2010 were introduced to a major urban mission field. Church Planting BC (formerly the BC Conference Board of Church Extension) welcomed everyone to “Experience Vancouver.”
The day lived up to its title. More than 200 delegates boarded five charter buses, each one hosted by one of the 10 Vancouver church planting couples. The delegates traveled Vancouver streets, seeing the posh retail areas, the homeless on the Downtown Eastside and the ministries that assist them and the ordinary-looking, million-dollar homes.
They visited church plant neighborhoods, saw the “hubs” (shared office/meeting facilities provided by the BC Conference for church planters), and met church planters who told the story of bringing the gospel to the city. They told what it cost, personally and in dollars.
One church planter told how he would walk through the trendy Yaletown condo area and be told to leave. Another reported that a church planter can’t knock on the doors of high-rise homes, so you try to get to know people in parks and community centers.
Delegates also heard that some church plants are already sponsoring missionaries. They were told it is a blessed frustration to minister to an immigrating population; to baptize 50 new believers only to watch almost all of them move away as they settle in their new land. They heard another planter repeatedly say that it’s all by God’s grace that the church he serves has grown to three services in two locations in just five years – with 70 percent of the 700 attending between the ages of 20 and 30.
While each bus took a slightly different route and visited different church plant neighborhoods and locations, all five buses converged in Kitsilano’s Vanier Park, across the False Creek mouth from the high rises of Vancouver’s West End, for a time of prayer. They were invited to pray individually or in small groups for Vancouver, for the unreached and for the church planters.
Following a stroll along the water’s edge to Granville Island, the groups visited one of the hubs before proceeding to the dockside Public Market and lunch. The day concluded with a rally in one of the meeting rooms at the new Vancouver Convention Center on the south shore of Vancouver Harbor.
One delegate said the tour helped her appreciate the challenges of church planting in a city. Another said, “It sounds like a lot when you hear they (Church Planting BC) have a budget of a million dollars, until you think about the information we got today on the cost of renting homes and meeting space. The cost of doing business blew my mind!”