“Canada must be evangelized. If we don’t do it, who will? The PAOC must do its part. We must continue to plant churches, to support home missions projects ...”
As the PAOC celebrates its centennial as a movement, we need to be reminded that we did not always appreciate shared strategy, form or even structure. In early 1909, there was an initial attempt to create a simple organization, but Ellen and James Hebden were opposed to any formal structure as it meant the potential of quenching the Holy Spirit’s new work among them. Others were more pragmatic in their approach to ministry in Canada and understood that for the sake of long-term sustainability, the “fellowship” would need to have a focus. By 1916, the “meeting of seven” took place at Mille Roches, and after subsequent prayer and several key gatherings, by 1919 the organization was formed which would bring together “the brethren in Canada, hereby desiring the fellowship of all Pentecostal Assemblies.”1
And here we are now. It’s 2019. What brought us together as a Fellowship 100 years ago was a shared theology and a shared mission to reach Canada and the world. And it still does. We were passionate then about those two banks of the river, and we still are. Shared theology and mission have always been at the heart of our PAOC Fellowship, as together we seek to transform our nation and the rest of the world.
In the 1960s and ’70s, Rev. Robert M. Argue gained the “Bulldozer” as a nickname for his ferocious determination in implementing missionary strategy in French Canada. That passion was born as leadership saw the development of the FLITE program, purposed to make an impact on the huge missional need in Quebec and francophone Canada. Of the 29 churches started through FLITE, 22 remain viable and active today. In 1980, the general superintendent, Rev. Robert Taitinger, called on the delegates at the General Conference in Hamilton, Ont., to increase their efforts: “Canada must be evangelized. If we don’t do it, who will? The PAOC must do its part. We must continue to plant churches, to support home missions projects ...”2 In 1990, Gordon Upton, as the outgoing executive director for Home Missions and Bible Colleges, penned a document that would outline the changing face of religious and church life and summarize the key mission challenges in Canada:
- We need to reach our burgeoning cities, plant new churches among immigrant populations, and continue to encourage non-traditional and specialized ministries.
- We need to be aware of and respond to the challenge of Islam.
- We need to reach the young, fast-growing population of our first peoples and partner to train Indigenous leaders.
- We need to continue to support the growing work in Quebec.3
All of these leaders were looking through a lens that was moving us quickly toward the 21st century.
In 2005, the PAOC General Executive appointed an Integration Commission which made recommendations for the development of Mission Canada. It was to be designed as an agency—one that would function as a catalytic hub of co-ordination, facilitation, research and community for key missional priorities. It would also fill unmet needs in districts for missional resources and personnel. Based on these recommendations, leadership began the intentional identification of Canadian missional “gaps” and the fielding of workers who, one by one, responded to God’s call. Working teams made up of “leaders of leaders” were put into place for each identified priority group. They began to develop a shared vision, values, goals and initiatives that would be voiced together and resourced as one church in mission.
In 2019, we are now trending toward our 2020 goal of having 40 fully funded and deployed Mission Canada workers reaching into the identified gaps in our nation—our priorities in mission. Our first worker, Trevor Gingerich, went to Humber College as a missionary to that campus just 10 short years ago. Today we consistently engage in the recruitment and training of new missional workers and have regular and ongoing conversations with potential future workers. The missional priorities that were the impulses of our forefathers still beat strongly and march onward with passion. Our next generation, children, youth and campuses must lead with greater intentionality than ever as we realize the need to “lean young.” Our greatest challenge as a Fellowship in this 100th year is to reach and disciple millennials for effective kingdom leadership.
Our SERVE Campus Network is growing, and we are seeing students come to Christ and be discipled on over 50+ PAOC campus-related works in Canada. Our Quebec and francophone Canada priority is moving forward with a strong emphasis on revitalization and church planting. The renewed FLITE program, now called FIT4M (French Intensive Training for Mission and Ministry), is accepting new students annually for language and cultural training. The goal of these students: missional ministry in French Canada. Reimagining urban ministry expressions and encouraging our PAOC churches and leadership to successfully reach the urban core of our cities across Canada is another of Mission Canada’s priorities—one that must not be overlooked or taken lightly. The heartbeat of our major cities can dictate and determine so much of what goes on all across the nation.
The strong passion in our cultural language communities, churches and ministries continues to be the leading growth factor in our churches. The call for workers who will reach out to the growing Islamic population in Canada is a great need in our nation and is being addressed through our Neighbours and Newcomers Network.
Faithful partnership in our continued work in indigenous communities is taking place in both our cities and remote communities. Developing the next level of Spirit-empowered leaders is the key strategy for future stability and growth.
Since 2003, The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada has functioned as a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Over 600+ refugees have been sponsored to date from various parts of the world where persecution was high, with credible threats on human lives. This has all been done in connection with PAOC constituent groups who commit to carrying out a 12-month resettlement plan, caring for all the needs of the family, including financial support. We are thankful for such an incredible opportunity as a Fellowship to bring hope and a future to so many families and individuals who have been displaced and lost much. Many refugees have since come to faith in Christ or had their faith strengthened.
So, with clarity of call to the nation and desperation for the ongoing empowerment of the Spirit, we continue to build on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. We honour the past vision, yet realize that the challenge remains to reach every Canadian with the gospel. Our desire is like Paul’s in 1 Corinthians 3:10 (NLT), where he says, “Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful.”
The foundation is in place. Good work has been done. Christ’s kingdom has expanded. But we cannot be satisfied. With passion, purpose, a united vision, and the help of the Holy Spirit, let’s move onward with our shared mission to reach our nation. Why? Because we must!
1. William Griffin, “1919: Ninety-nine Years and Counting,” in Picture This! Reflecting on 100 Years of the PAOC (Mississauga, ON: The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, 2018), 29.
2. Bob Jones, “Expansion From Sea to Sea,” in Picture This!, 64.
3. “Mission Canada” by departing HMBC Director Gordon Upton, revised to May 1990.
Brian Egert has served as the director of Mission Canada since May 2012. He has previously pastored in Ottawa, Ont.; Winnipeg, Man.; and Edmonton, Alta.
This article appeared in the April/May/June 2019 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.