It was my privilege to catch up with the Chairman of the Church Extension Committee, Rev. Ian Goligher (Minister of Cloverdale FPC, BC) to learn more about the origin and work of this part of the FPCNA.
The work of the CEC might be less well known than some other committees. Could you tell us where the concept for the committee originated?
Since the inauguration of our presbytery in 2005, the Book of Church Order includes a Church Extension Committee (CEC) “to develop plans to promote the work and witness of the church by all scriptural means and to submit such plans to the presbytery” (Section 11.2). It includes the need to encourage churches involved in extension works and provide guidelines to bring a church plant to maturity where it can establish a membership with office bearers, call a minister, and at the same time, move to constitution within the presbytery.
How did you get involved?
I was appointed to this committee at the inception of our presbytery and I was later appointed as its convener in 2015. It fell to me somewhat for being the longest serving minister in the presbytery and being involved in a few church plants in the past.
What are the main challenges to the work?
The number one challenge is the lack of men to pioneer new mission churches. Then there is the tremendous commitment that is demanded of any young man who has been licensed by our presbytery to obey the call of God to minister in a place where there is no established church. We also recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will work repeatedly. Every new church is a miracle of God’s sovereign grace where the Lord is at work in many different ways through different kinds of people. The issues facing urban churches and rural churches are very different. The cost of real estate can be astronomical in urban centers and in rural areas the distances between scattered communities can be prohibitive to bring people together in one location. There are also difficulties when men minister in remote parts of the continent where they are hundreds of miles away from the next FPC congregation. Also, from state to state there are different laws and different heritages that need to be considered. Here in Canada, we have an international mosaic, creating the burden of how to minister the gospel to people from so many different countries, many of whom know nothing of Christianity.
What is the CEC involved with presently?
Regrettably, we have no church plants or budding congregations at the present. Our presbytery’s focus has been on filling vacant pulpits. We have radio ministries in Canada and the USA that we pray will lead to inquiries about the ministry of our denomination. In fact, in the last months we have had such inquiries from Texas, Maine, and Wisconsin. These inquiries often come to us by email through SermonAudio or by phone calls in response to messages on radio. We pray that we will soon be able to join the dots of these inquiries and be in a position to focus on a particular area to plant a new mission church or churches.
Could you outline your vision for the future?
The use of radio is showing itself to be effective to let people know we exist as a denomination. By weekly or daily radio preaching, people get to know the message we preach, not just the name we adopt. Our churches which webcast their services will continue to facilitate people in different time zones who have no biblical church to attend. It is possible that a family or two who meet to worship via webcast services may see their numbers growing and perhaps lead to a nucleus of people to form a mission church. By such web- cast ministry the quality of worship and preaching is not compromised, which so often happens when people do home church. With such a pressing need for ministers and a small number of ministerial students, there may be a place for evangelists, who work part-time alongside our churches. Many churches are in metropolitan areas where outreach and other forms of ministry would be of huge help. With the possibility of several workers, the church could become a hub with different ministries in the community or city. If such evangelists provided leadership and impetus to members of our churches, a great work could be done. Such helpers in local churches would also solve the problems of distance and burn- out of ministers, who can become overwhelmed with the workload they must carry. Of course, only the power and blessing of God can make any gospel effort effective. May we live to see the power of God calling sinners to the Savior and worshipers to form churches for His glory.