Over the last few days I had the opportunity to attend a Catch the Vision trip to Toronto along with Philip Glover, a friend and leader at Grace Life. I’ll give more detailed information about our trip and how Grace Life will get involved on September 25th during our Sunday morning gathering.
Here are 11 things that I learned, reflected on, and enjoyed from my trip to the city of Toronto.
|The beautiful city of Toronto.
1) Canada is a different country than America
I know that seems obvious, but there is a reason why I’m stating this, so hear me out. On our way from the airport to our hotel, we quickly noticed the similarities to the United States. Walmart, Home Depots, Ford and Chevy dealerships, and even a Popeye’s Chicken were just a few of the many businesses we passed that have a presence in Jacksonville. Even though it looks like you’re in America, you’re not in America.
One church planter (who is American) summarized the biggest difference between the two countries: Americans follow their hearts while Canadians follow their minds. This makes every Gospel conversation unique to the individual.
2) It is the most international city in North America
The diversity is truly remarkable. It’s not difficult to communicate with them since English is primarily spoken, but on the subway, it was common to hear multiple conversations in different languages. I know I heard French, Russian, Middle Eastern dialects, and languages from Asia and Africa.
One church plant reaching the Urban Core has 15 different nationalities during their gatherings. I believe they average around 80-100 in attendance.
What is truly astonishing is 50% of the population of the city is born outside of Canada. You can literally reach the nations with the Gospel by starting a church in Toronto.
3) It’s the fourth largest city in North America
6.5 million people claim the Greater Toronto Area as home. And that number is quickly growing. Only Mexico, Los Angeles, and New York City are ahead.
4) Toronto is the entertainment and financial capital of Canada
If you put Hollywood and Time Square and Wall Street in the same city, it would be Toronto. They have a mini time square, had lines wrapped around for blocks to see movie stars, and they are compared to London and Broadway when it comes to theater.
5) They need more Gospel-centered churches
Read this next line slow. And then read it again. Then read it out loud. 96% of people in Toronto have no connection to Jesus. Ninety-six percent. Roughly 6,305,000 people in Toronto need to hear the Gospel. Men, women, and children from all over the world that live with in this city have no relationship with Jesus and are on their way to hell. The only way for them to hear is if we obey the Great Commission and help make disciples of all nations. We must help planters or send our own people to plant churches that are passionate about making disciples and passionate about planting more churches
6) The gospel is global
When you leave your small community and submerge yourself in a global community and are surrounded by a great lostness, you realize how global the Gospel is. It is powerful enough to reach all nations and there is no barrier that it cannot cross.
7) We celebrate disciple making not large gatherings
Grace Life Church is a small church. The normal American church is a small church. Mega churches are somewhat anomalies. In Toronto, we’re reminded that the scorecard of success is not the size of the church. Success, I believe, is found in a faithful obedience to the command to go and make disciples. When we make this our focal point, we don’t try to attract a larger crown, we try to take the Gospel to all people.
There are no church transfer problems (Christians who go from church to church), the people who are growing the church are essentially new believers. So when you hear of a church that had a record attendance of over 150 on Easter Sunday, that’s a big deal because that means the Gospel is infiltrating lostness. Their big Sunday’s are not filled with consumer Christians looking to find the church that currently meets their needs.
8) We need legacy churches that plant churches that in turn plant more churches
I loved hearing from these planters that they are being sent out by established churches. These are churches grounded in the Gospel and are passionate about the planting of new churches. There’s no competition, there’s no frustration over generational differences; there is just a deeply rooted desire to plant churches.
We believe we are partnered together as a network of churches within the SBC to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Let’s lay aside trivial things and make every effort to be pastors and churches dedicated to doing whatever we possibly can to plant more churches.
9) The greatest calling in your life is to share the gospel
Each and every follower of Christ has been commissioned to go and make disciples. You are to be a missionary on your street, at your job, and within your family. You don’t have to leave the country or start your own church, but you must share the good news that Jesus died for all mankind.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. – Acts 1:8
10) Canadians are very friendly
We were with a group of 25 church leaders who came to Toronto to tour the city and to hear from church planters. On our tour Tuesday, our shuttle dropped us off across the street from a library where we were to meet with some planters. We jaywalked across this 4 lane street, but while we were in the middle, a car out of nowhere is coming up on us pretty quickly. The lady slows down and roles down her window. Expecting her to give us a few nicknames, she laughs and says, “You guys look like a flock of geese!” and tells us to have a good day and then drives on.
That’s just one story of a few encounters where the people obviously cared for other human life.
11) The Blue Jays stadium is great
If you know me, you know I love baseball and have a goal to visit every Major League baseball stadium so I was thrilled when I found out we would get to watch a Toronto Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre.
The game between the Jays and Rays was great and the stadium was great as well. It was a great night to watch a game, they had the roof open, and the stadium was much better than I was expecting. It’s hard to explain the atmosphere and if you ever get a chance to catch a game in Toronto, be sure to do so.
I’ll be sharing more details in the weeks to come, so be sure to subscribe or follow me on twitter @mattgmacn.