From Anti-Church-Planting to Church Planters

Acts 29: Churches Planting Churches

The Yukon is known for the Klondike gold rush and its vast wilderness. It’s full of wild adventures and untouched places. The north is stunning in its majesty, yet it struggles socially.

Since planting The Northern Collective Church more than a year and a half ago, we’ve had congregants targeted for human trafficking, charged with murder, and wrestle through domestic violence. Sadly, we’ve even had multiple friends take their own lives.

The Yukon is a beautiful but challenging place.

So, how did we end up here? My husband, Harrison, was born in Whitehorse, Yukon, close to the Alaskan port Skagway. His parents left Hong Kong 40 years ago and established a new life, blending Chinese and Canadian cultures with an emphasis on Chinese spiritual traditions.

I, meanwhile, was raised in a conservative Baptist home in cowboy country Alberta, a place with little ethnic diversity. Harrison and I met at university a few months after he was converted and got married the following year.

Thus began our journey to the Yukon.

We Didn’t Want to Plant

In Whitehorse, we served in various roles at our local church while awaiting God’s direction. One thing, though, was clear to us—church planting would not make sense in a North American context.

We believed church planting was something that occurred only in tribal cultures and unreached parts of the world. Besides, we thought, Our city has many churches already. Why add to that number?

It seemed every church in our community struggled to staff positions, find volunteers, and raise money. Few saw many conversions or baptisms. Harrison and I wanted, therefore, to give our attention to helping an established, struggling church. We were convinced this was the best method of carrying out the Great Commission in our context. Church planting just wasn’t an option.

God Had Other Plans

Life went on while we sought the path for our future. Harrison pursued a master’s degree in biblical and theological studies. We worked full-time, volunteered, hosted weekly studies, and prayed.

In 2016, Harrison completed a church-planting course taught by Terry Geiger, who influenced Tim Keller’s church-planting journey. This course changed our lives.

Harrison was assigned to read one of Keller’s articles, titled “Why Plant Churches.” The piece dismantled every reason we had for being anti-church-planting. God used this teaching to radically transform our hearts to hear Scripture’s truth about church planting. One particular statement changed our predetermined judgements:

The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for (1) the numerical growth of the body of Christ in a city and (2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. Nothing else—not crusades, outreach programs, parachurch ministries, growing megachurches, congregational consulting, nor church-renewal processes—will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting. This is an eyebrow-raising statement, but to those who have done any study at all, it is not even controversial.

One thing became clear to us: church planting is not optional. In fact, it is God’s primary method for rescuing a fallen world (Matt. 28:16–20; Acts 14:21–23; Rom. 15:19–20; Titus 1:5).

Sensing a Need

We saw the need for a church plant in our city. My social-work career in the justice system highlighted a lack of accessible church options for struggling people. Many churches believed they were welcoming, but a variety of factors—lack of congregational diversity, complicated sermons, challenging service times or locations, and lingering trauma from certain church-run residential schools—posed difficult hurdles for some of our neighbors.

There will always be challenges when walking forward in obedience, but the Lord sustains us through all seasons.

Through many experiences, our eyes were opened to how alienating the church gathering can be to people who struggle with addictions, are in and out of police custody, or have a history of trauma with the church. We began diving into God’s Word and re-evaluating our future. We asked our small group to pray together weekly for one year to confirm our desire and readiness to plant a church in this difficult context.

More Churches Needed Here

We are now 19 months into church planting—and what a blessing it has been! We’ve seen numerous people come to church for the first time and respond to the gospel.

Harrison regularly receives calls from people interested in hearing the gospel and wanting to know more about Jesus. Our sending church (Mountainview Church) has also experienced a record number of conversions and baptisms in the last 19 months.

While the anti-church-planting sentiment is alive and well in northern Yukon, we have been blessed by many supportive people coming alongside The Northern Collective’s mission to know, love, and serve King Jesus while teaching others to do the same.

We hope to see thriving, gospel-centered churches in all Yukon communities by making disciples that make disciples. There will always be challenges when walking forward in obedience, but the Lord sustains us through all seasons.