“We need to own what we’re doing as a local church—each of us, not just the pastor.”
It all started with prayer.
Twelve years ago, long before the PAOC launched the 2020 Initiative, Malvern Christian Assembly (MCA) started doing regular community prayer walks. They divided the 183 streets of Malvern—a community of over 44,000 residents located in the northeast corner of Toronto—into seven districts and placed a deacon and a pastor in charge of each district. Once a month on a Saturday morning, congregants walked the streets as ambassadors for Jesus, praying for and blessing people in the homes and apartments of the community.
“One year after we started the prayer and blessing walks, police did a major crackdown in the community and arrested over 60 gang members. That was the genesis of a transformation in Malvern. It’s safe to walk the streets again, and we know that prayer has everything to do with that transformation,” says Ginette Howse, lead pastor of MCA. “We visited the police station and took the officers food shortly after the sweep to thank them for all they do. We were able to share with them how we walked and prayed through the community. There’s been a lot of favour; people in the neighbourhood know who we are. We bless the community businesses and have opportunities to share Jesus with local people. It’s been amazing.”
Miracles like this have encouraged the congregation to take ownership of the mission-focused vision of MCA. They embrace it with passion and generosity. There is great expectation to see the full vision come to fruition. But keeping up the momentum takes prayer and planning.
“I think the more you inform people—about the good as well as the bad—the more they own it. We need to own what we’re doing as a local church—each of us, not just the pastor. We have a lot of prayer meetings,” says Ginette. “Our vision is always before our people. Everyone is engaged in it completely every day. Testimonials are a regular part of our services. People get excited when they hear what God is doing. We also have a lot of outreach opportunities where people can easily be engaged.”
Being willing to take risks has also been a key motivator that keeps the congregation involved. MCA’s commitment to launch seven new church plants in seven years is one of those motivators. Five churches have been established so far; they are working on number six, which will be in a highrise building.
“It looks like we may reach the goal in 2017. Which just boggles my mind, because I have no idea how to do this,” Ginette says while laughing. “Being mortgage-free has been a huge blessing. It has freed us up to really support these church plants.”
Last year, more than 100 people completed evangelism training offered by MCA on a Wednesday evening. “They are ready to engage and do their part to see the community come to know Jesus,” explains Ginette.
MCA has generously released staff and people to help establish each new church plant. A core group of people goes to help get things up and running. Services are held on Saturday evenings in schools and libraries—a smarter financial option than trying to buy buildings in which to hold services. Ginette knows that the secret is a lot of hard work on the ground. “It’s been a lot of old-fashioned knocking on doors and making our presence known. We’re just trusting that God will lead us.”
Of the three churches that started last September, two are meeting in community libraries and one is a campus church at the University of Toronto. The U of T church is particularly exciting. “We spent two years getting known at the university, and they have now opened the door for us to start a campus church,” Ginette explains. “We are really seeing the Lord’s favour there; it’s a huge breakthrough in this secular institution that could only have been achieved by the Holy Spirit.”
Malvern’s vision also extends beyond their community and the nation of Canada. Knowing they are empowered by the Holy Spirit to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth, they are equally committed to monthly support for eight global workers and the international work of the PAOC.
“I think one of the keys is our commitment to extend every act of compassion and generosity—we must be the hands and feet of Jesus,” Ginette states. “Our church doesn’t have any large-income families attending, but everyone is mission focused. We are generous with our people, releasing them to plant churches, and with our finances, to help our community. We assist with new church plants, and we come alongside our international missionaries. And God keeps providing us with more. If there is any need, our first response is always ‘Let’s help.’ ”
Jordan Hageman is a freelance writer from Stoney Creek, Ont., and a regular contributor to testimony magazine.
This article appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photo: iStockPhoto
MCA’s mission statement:
“In the power of the Holy Spirit, we will go into the community of Malvern, the city of Toronto, the nation of Canada, and to the ends of the earth, and preach the gospel to all people, and make them disciples of Jesus Christ.”
MCA’s 2020 Vision:
- Every home in Malvern reached with the gospel
- Every believer becoming a disciple, and every disciple a mentor
- Every family member trained and equipped
- Every gift fully developed
- Every act of compassion and generosity extended
- Establishment of a Family Centre
- Enlargement of their territory by planting seven new churches