Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Category: Church Plant (page 1 of 3)

And Then There Was Progress

The Background

Many of you who follow this blog will be well familiar with the situation our church is facing with the Toronto District School Board. Since you’ve been praying for us, I wanted to post an update — we still need your prayers.

If you want to get caught up on the situation to this point, you can start by reading here.

The short version of the story is that our church was given 3 days’ notice on a 450% hike in our permit fees (we meet weekly in a public school). We have been petitioning the TDSB since the beginning of September for some changes and some relief. Though the changes affected other groups as well, the most drastic hikes were targeted specifically at ‘faith based organizations,’ who are now being charged the same rates as ‘for-profit businesses.’
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What God Is Doing

Yesterday I was able to blog about how through some troubles in our church life (specifically relating to our church rental situation), we have been able to see God work. He has consistently taken circumstances that people have meant for evil and worked them for good (Gen 50.20). We’ve seen it, and we’ve rejoiced.

Today I wanted to take a different look at what God is doing. Rather than seeing how God is working through the tough circumstances, I want to think about how God is continuing to work despite the circumstances.

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What is God Doing?

The past few weeks since our problems began with the Toronto District School Board have been pretty hectic. On top of all the usual work that needs to be done in the life of a church, Paul McDonald and I have been busy appealing the decision, speaking out about the issue as God gives opportunity, praying, and searching for a new meeting place for our congregation.

There’s a very real sense in which someone could ask with all of this, ‘Why?’ In the middle of all of this, the question of ‘What is God doing here?’ is pressing.

Perhaps the coolest thing through all of this situation is that we have never had opportunity to doubt, even for a moment, that God is at work. For the sake of God’s glory, today and tomorrow I want to highlight a few ways we’ve seen God at work lately. Today I’ll write about the ways we’ve seen God working through the troubles with the TDSB. Tomorrow I’ll write about how we’ve seen God work despite the situation.

What is God Doing Through This Situation?

An Unexpected Audience

When the situation first broke and I knew we would need to end our relationship with the school one of my first thoughts was to approach the caretaker who has served us at our school. I wanted him to be informed and to know that we still love him and are not leaving because of anything he’s done.

When I went in to speak with him I actually ended up meeting the school’s other caretaker. Over the course of the conversation it came out that he had actually been listening to some of our church’s sermons online! How amazing is that? Just because our church had been meeting in that particular school that particular caretaker was moved to go online and hear the preaching of God’s word!

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Questions the TDSB Is Not Answering

As many of you are aware, our church plant has been going through a battle of sorts with the Toronto District School Board about some drastic overnight increases to our rent (to the tune of 400+%). Our current response is to pray, appeal however we can, and look for somewhere new to meet as a church as soon as possible.

The story itself has been well documented in Canadian news (National Post, CTV and again, Toronto Star, Toronto Sun and again, CFRB 1010Winnipeg Free Press, etc.), and also in international news (WORLD Mag, Christianity Today, and an upcoming WDCX interview one week from today). Because of the public pressure that has been mounting, the School Board has been scrambling to create canned responses for newspaper reporters and also for people who write the offices of their local Trustees to complain.

But despite all the rhetoric from the School Board, there are still some pretty profound questions that I think need to be answered in this situation:

Why is a government-funded organization using government funds to discriminate against a government-recognized charity?

In their own ‘Community Use of Schools‘ policy document, they state:

The Board will actively collaborate with the governments of Ontario and Toronto to achieve solutions and ensure affordable and accesible use of public space for community-based programs.’

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75 Sundays

January 16, 2011 was a monumental day for us at Grace Fellowship Church. It was our first Sunday together officially holding a Sunday worship service. As of this past Sunday, June 17, 2012, we have met on 75 Sundays now.  I simply cannot believe how gracious God has been to us.

Here are some of my reflections.

God clearly loves his church …

He must. He continues to build it. We have seen slow, but steady growth through the entire time. And almost every person that comes has a story that makes me think, ‘Wow, God must be in this.’ We’ve had young people, single people, married people, young families, middle-aged people, and even retired people, from all different races join us. God is building this church as only he can.

I can’t describe or quantify what God has done or what we have felt in planting this church other than saying that we have sensed the divine smile every step of the way. Even when we’ve had to do hard things. And it’s not that we’ve done everything right; it’s just because he loves his church and he wants to prove it over and over.
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Good News for Toronto!

Some of you may remember that a while ago Paul McDonald was authoring a blog called ‘Good News for Toronto’. Well, I have some good news: Paul has begun blogging again!

His blog is devoted to experiences, questions, reflections, and thoughts on evangelism in the city of Toronto. It is an excellent resource and an excellent read. He has already written two posts this week. Here is an excerpt from the first:

Whatever happened to that evangelism blog? Wasn’t it called Good News for Toronto … or something like that? It was, it still is; in fact, it has been resurrected!

My last post was in May of 2010 (yikes! … it was  year of Sabbath rest!). Lots has happened since. Caleb was born (Dec 4, 2010) – Georgie and I love him so much!!! Praise be to God for such kindness to us! I served as Pastor of Lakeview Baptist Church for a year! And well … lots of other stuff too.

Something really cool just happened a couple of weeks ago. My dear brothers and sisters at the Grace Fellowship Church plant in Don Mills hired me to help in the work of establishing the Church! Georgie and I have long standing friendships with many of them so we are very humbled to receive this mercy – this opportunity to walk in the works that God has prepared for us here (Eph 2.10).

Read more…

I highly recommend you adding Paul’s blog to your RSS feed.

Autumn Church Plant Updates

Hired Help

Paul & Georgie with Caleb

We are thrilled to announce the hiring of Paul McDonald to a half-time position where he will oversee ministries relating to evangelism and discipleship. Far from being a hired-gun evangelist, we’re desirous of putting Paul to work equipping the saints for the work of the ministry, creating a culture of evangelism and discipleship within the body.

Some of his work will include:

  • Training for evangelism and leading evangelistic efforts
  • Some one-on-one discipleship and mentoring
  • Small group studies
  • Preaching and teaching various series as appropriate
  • Labouring for the church in prayer
  • Providing the church with global missions vision & awareness

I’m so excited to work with Paul! In God’s providence we attended seminary together and have laboured together for a number of years at GFC Rexdale before the church plant. He is a man of unquestionable character, by God’s grace, and is, as Titus says, ‘zealous for good works.’ I can’t wait to see the impact of his ministry in our local body.

A Meeting Place

We continue to meet at Greenland Public School. We are so thankful to God for the renewal of the permit which just came through last week. God has provided for us in great ways! With this permit we have been granted the use of two rooms we were previously denied access to—and they are great! They will facilitate better ministries to children and families, so we are thankful for that.

From Mark to Peter

We have finished working our way through our first book studied together on Sunday mornings: Mark’s Gospel. From there we will launch into 1 Peter on September 18. Please pray for me as I study and plan out that series in the coming weeks.

A Full Fall

This autumn we launch our full ministry schedule for the first time. We’ll be meeting for corporate worship Sunday mornings, doing group studies and children’s ministry on Sunday nights, and our small groups (Truth Application Groups) midweek in various homes. One thing I’m really excited about is the prospect of having all of our small groups led by members of the church rather than pastoral staff. What a blessing to have the congregation ministering to each other! I’m so thankful to God for giving us so many mature men & women from the start.

A Big Sunday

This past Sunday we ran out of chairs and bulletins. The gym where we meet felt full. In reality there was a lot of room to grow, but compared to previous summer weeks, this felt like a big change. It was an anomaly in the sense that many of the visitors from this past week were only visiting for one week, but it gave us a taste of great things to come.

A Week of Prayer

Beginning programs and ministries and beginning to see growth, far from making us feel strong, makes us feel our weakness, inadequacy and dependence more than ever. As a church we’re dedicating ourselves to prayer this week as we launch into our new fall schedule. Would you please join us in prayer? Ask our God and Father to strengthen us and equip us for the work he has called us to. Ask that we might be granted strength through his Spirit to comprehend the magnitude of the love of Christ, so that as a church, we might be built up to maturity, and that we might be increasingly conformed to Jesus, made a suitable dwelling place for our Lord.

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