SBTC seeks churches for ‘Send Montreal’ effort

MONTREAL—Driving across borders usually doesn’t result in drastic changes in scenery or culture. Crossing from the United States into the Canadian province of Quebec on Interstate 87 is an exception.

In the bustling city of Montreal, just 42 miles north of Champlain, N.Y., half of 1 percent of the city’s citizens would name Jesus as their savior, while, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, about 26 percent of Americans would fall under the category of “evangelical.”

“Within Quebec, there are 46 Baptist churches,” said Chad Vandiver, mission strategies associate at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. “But there are 70 mosques in Montreal alone. There are over 7 million people in Quebec and less than 1 percent are Christians. They are one of the most unreached people groups in the world.”

The International Mission Board (IMB) defines an unreached people group as a group with less than 2 percent of its population being evangelical Christians. Jacques Avakian, the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) lead catalyst for church planting in Quebec, said that because only 40,000 of the 7.5 million people living in Quebec have a discernable Christian testimony, Christians need to make a concerted effort to reach the lost in their Canadian province and especially in Montreal—a city that Vandiver said has largely turned away from God because of a disdain for the Catholic church, the religion of its largely French heritage.

“The need is great,” Avakian said. “With those numbers, you can see the need is really great for ministry here. There are opportunities to reach the nations here because we have people from all over the world in Montreal. The majority of the people are lost; it is a very postmodern city. God is not even mentioned in everyday conversations.”

So as part of NAMB’s “Send North America” campaign, designed to mobilize churches to reach and evangelize the continent’s lost and dying population, churches now have the opportunity to change that and to make God not only a part of the conversation, but a part of Canadians’ lives. To begin mobilizing churches, NAMB will first lead vision tours to Montreal, which Vandiver and Avakian hope will in turn bring more groups from more churches back to the city to help.

“My goal is to have several churches, at least five, that will bring teams back to Montreal,” Vandiver said of the plan.

Avakian agreed. “We would like for people to join us for a vision tour. On the tours they will come to Montreal and see what God is doing and how they can be involved in our work. Once they have visited, they can adopt a region or a church planter, build a relationship and commit to pray, participate and provide for the long term of 5 to 7 years.”

Vandiver, who attended the first Send Montreal church planting coalition meeting in Montreal on Jan. 15, said NAMB may offer scholarships to individuals who want to join a vision tour and plan to bring a team back with them to serve. The first three vision tours have been scheduled for May 14-17, Aug. 27-30 and Oct. 22-25.

In giving an example of how a church might choose to go and minister, Vandiver noted that Montreal is one of the top five cycling cities in the world. He suggested a team go to Montreal, bike on the trails and interact with people along the way.

“There is a very natural bridge for evangelism there,” Vandiver said.

Opportunities to join in the evangelism effort do not end with physically traveling to Canada, though. Both Vandiver and Avakian said prayer tops the list in priority and that the need for financial help follows closely behind. Vandiver said the church planters have practical needs such as laptops, projectors, portable baptistries and microphones.

“We welcome help that can come from Texas or anywhere else in the U.S.—anyone who wants to come alongside our planters and churches,” Avakian said. “None of our pastors are full-time, therefore we need support for them to be able to do their ministries full-time.”

Vandiver said since Canada is both foreign and a part of North America, NAMB and the IMB have been working “seamlessly” together, along with the Canadian Baptist Convention, to enable people to share the gospel in Montreal, which Vandiver noted has one of the highest suicide rates in North America.

Vandiver said a “both/and” strategy applies when allocating resources to evangelize all nations—be they Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria or the “ends of the earth,” as Jesus instructed the apostles in Acts 1:8.

“I like the word ‘glocal,’” Vandiver said. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money finding darkness in Montreal. I think it would be a shame to continue to go oversees and to not reach Montreal.”

Vandiver’s vision brings encouragement to church planters like Avakian who see that the harvest is ready but that the workers have been few.

“To know that churches and the Southern Baptist Convention are taking a special interest in Montreal and Quebec is truly an answer to prayer—and not just my prayers, but the prayers of many believers in Montreal,” Avakian said. “It really humbles me and brings great joy to me to know that God is preparing people for what he is doing and is about to do in Montreal and Quebec.”

Those interested in going on a vision tour or receiving more information can contact Vandiver by email at or by phone toll-free at 877-953-7282 (SBTC). To receive newsletters about the work in Montreal from Avakian, email

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