Advance in Steveston: What's it got to take? A collaborative approach to church planting is bringing change to Steveston

There has never been an Evangelical church that has thrived in the Village of Steveston. This idyllic corner of Southeast Richmond, B.C. is a desirable place to live. But how could it be possible that there has never been a single local gospel-centered church that has been well-planted? This reality hit hard when I was visiting with a long-time friend who has faithfully served a fledging church there. His name is Nick, and he and his wife Jamie were appointed pastors of a PAOC work six years ago. This lovely but small group are the picture of faithfulness with Sunday services in various locations around the Village. The church is twenty years old but has never thrived. It was cold comfort when Nick realized that their experience was normal.

Disturbed, but not defeated, Nick pressed the Lord and discovered a deeper calling than merely being a local church pastor trying his best to grow that assembly. He felt called to Steveston as a missionary. He had to think differently about how to engage ministry and define effectiveness.

As a missionary, Nick began to do his homework by “mapping” the spiritual history of the area. Two key discoveries surfaced: Steveston was home to one of the first Buddhist Temples in North America and that the primary need within the village was loneliness. While they continued their Sunday services, they began a new work that focused on connecting directly with the Village through the arts which led them to share with far more people than ever walked through the door on a Sunday morning. His missionary mindset (where collaboration is preferred over solo ministry) led Nick to imagine a shared approach to planting the gospel that now includes five denominations.

As a missionary God, the Lord was not unaware of the void of gospel-centered work. As soon as Nick and Jamie moved to Steveston, the Lord pressed them to regular prayer-walking and focused prayer for the Lord of the harvest to send more labourers. God faithfully answered their cry, and in recent years several couples have been called to plant new works there. But this work is opposed: one couple (CNBC) recently left after five years of diligent work without seeing much success. However, they did help establish a beach head for the gospel in two ways: the lease that they had for their own plant is now a ministry space for the collaborative work of five churches; the relationship that they cultivated in a subsidized housing project that we will call "OceanSide," that is home to many immigrants and single parent families. The nations are now moving into Steveston.

As a missionary agency, Multiply has cultivated a 10 day domestic discipleship pathway called SOAR. The Vancouver SOAR summer event has been hosted in Southwest Richmond for the last few years and in 2016 a SOAR team from the USA found an open door to share their joy and faith with kids within OceanSide. They were surprised by the openness of the children and their families. Inspired by this testimony, I asked them "which local church in Steveston will inherit your efforts when you return home?" They said that they were not sure. I had been a pastor in the Vancouver area before joining Multiply and quickly prayed on the spot about who could receive this baton of favor? Pastor Nick came straight to mind and we called him right then and arranged a meeting of our SOAR team leader and himself. Early introductions were made. Later that Fall, our Multiply team received the eager proposal from a U.S. church that felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to come to Vancouver during the next Spring Break. It was a new idea to have a Spring Break SOAR but we urgently needed ministry sites. As we prayed, Nick came straight to mind. I called him and we met that day; I shared the fast-breaking opportunity to partner with us to host a SOAR team in Steveston. Astonished, he told me that he and his church Board had just met and found themselves crying out to the Lord to send help. Here I was, offering sudden help. The Spring Break ministry at OceanSide that took place was clearly blessed by the Lord and led to SOAR teams serving there in summer 2017 and again in 2018. It also led Nick and his wife to become co-leaders of the whole Vancouver SOAR program.

Nick shared with me recently several stories of how the Lord is opening more and deeper connections within the many hard-pressed families who live in the complex: the ends of the earth have come to OceanSide, and the Kingdom of God is advancing.

What's it got to take for a move of the Lord that will result in lasting and thriving Kingdom advance in Steveston? Nick and the new church planters have decided to humble themselves and take a new approach. They are have decided to work collaboratively, as a team, so that they may all thrive together, that the world may know. Please join Nick and the other planting pastors in prayer. The spiritual warfare is profound; but the door for service is clearly open before them.

One year later... (January 2020) The previous year has seen many incredible stories of transformation emerge as Nick and the other church planters have faithfully worked together in collaboration for the sake of God's Kingdom. The gospel has gained a stronger foothold in the Village than ever before, and many relationships have been established and deepened. The collective church in Steveston has partnered with merchants, the city, and other organizations in unprecedented ways, and unique beachheads of gospel movement are growing. In many ways, after being there for seven years, Nick feel he is finally ready to begin.

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About the author

Profile photo for Greg Laing

Greg Laing serves as Multiply’s Mission Mobilizer for Western Canada, based out of our office in Abbotsford, BC. In this role, he is involved in networking with our global workers and local churches to inspire and equip the Body of Christ for mission.

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