Impacting Canada

By Kent E. Fillinger

Toronto, Canada, is the most ethnically diverse city in the world. On the west side of Toronto, where Churchill Meadows Christian Church meets, 55 percent of the population

Churchill Meadows in Toronto is Canada’s largest Christian church/church of Christ.

speaks a language other than English in their homes. All totaled, more than 140 languages and dialects are spoken in the city. People of Muslim and Hindu backgrounds outnumber the people with any form of Christian background. Additionally, only 4 percent of the population is churched, which means the majority of people have no frame of reference for Christianity. Culturally, Canada resembles Western Europe more than the United States. Canada is 10 to 20 years farther down the roads of postmodernism and post-Christendom than the U.S.

Before Jim Tune planted Churchill Meadows in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto, in 2001, the last Christian church planted in Toronto was in 1957. There are only seven Christian churches in Ontario, a province with a population of 13 million, slightly larger than that of Ohio. After a decade of ministry, Churchill Meadows has an average worship attendance of 810, making it the largest Christian church in Canada. It was also the second-fastest-growing large church surveyed last year, with a growth rate of 32 percent. Churchill Meadows has partnered to plant seven churches in Canada since its launch.

The church purchased its property in 2006, but because Toronto is not a church-friendly culture, it took five years to wade through the permit, zoning, and building processes. For the first several years of the church’s existence, no one would rent office space to Tune, so his house doubled as the church office for the entire staff, and his garage and basement functioned as storage space for the church’s equipment, which needed to be set up and taken down for worship each Sunday.

The church moved into its first facility in March 2011, and now occupies a 42,000-square-foot facility with a 700-seat, theater-style worship center. Churchill Meadows received Church Development Fund’s first international loan, which helped make the building project possible. The church has added almost 300 people since moving to its new facility, and has broken 1,000 in attendance a few times.

 

Simple Church, Growing Church

Churchill Meadows adopted the Simple Church model several years ago, and that model is now being tested as Tune and his team resist the urge to start using the new facility for any and every kind of ministry activity. Tune heard that people have only four hours of available time each week outside of work and home, and he wants to ensure people are not simply busy at church, but that his congregation is being strategic in advancing the church’s mission with the time they have available.

Because Tune and his church reach people with no church background, the church initially functioned without any elders. Tune conducted a survey very early on that indicated 75 percent of the church’s attendees were unbelievers or unchurched prior to coming to Churchill Meadows. Tune started with a raw group and invested time to develop a group of spiritual leaders. Today the church has four elders who help carry some of the pastoral load.

Tune has adjusted his leadership style as the church has grown over the last decade. Given the church’s size, Tune “touches fewer things” and has narrowed his focus. He realizes he is less available to the congregation than he was in the beginning, and it has been a challenge for him as a relational person to change his ministry paradigm. Tune invests most of his energy and his best time in leading staff members to ensure they can effectively direct their ministries.

 

Multiethnic Ministry

The church is unique in that it has a multiethnic staff, with Tune the only native Canadian. In hiring church staff Tune has looked at gifting first with a bent toward diversity. Churchill Meadows is somewhat understaffed, but given its sizeable debt and current giving patterns, the church needs to wait for new growth to fund additional staff.

Half of Toronto’s population was born outside of Canada and, therefore, the immigrant population is sizeable. Churchill Meadows seeks to be like family to these new arrivals. A Hispanic church member started a ministry called “The Amigos Program” two years ago with the intent of helping Latin immigrants, but the ministry quickly expanded to minister to all newcomers, regardless of their origin. The Amigos Program has become a core component of Churchill Meadows’s ministry focus.

The church provides English as a Second Language classes, conversational English classes, job skills training sessions, and résumé writing workshops. Churchill Meadows also has people who drive immigrants to interviews and help them get driver’s licenses—one woman even pet sits for people as needed. The Salvation Army recently asked the church to assist at some refugee shelters to minister to these immigrants as well.

All of these efforts to serve the immigrants have been recognized by the community; it has helped the community to better understand the church’s motivation—that the church is in the community to make a positive difference. The result? More people are coming to church. Churchill Meadows has had Muslims and Hindus come to Christ. Tune baptized one Muslim man who eventually baptized the rest of his family.

Tune wants to see Churchill Meadows continue to grow so it can be an engine for church planting and missions throughout Canada.

 

Kent E. Fillinger is president of 3:STRANDS Consulting, Indianapolis, Indiana, and associate director of projects and partnerships with CMF International.

You Might Also Like

5 Comments

  1. Diana Feuchtenberger
    May 23, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    “There are only seven Christian churches in Ontario, a province with a population of 13 million, slightly larger than that of Ohio.” ???

    I have a friend who travels often in this area and says this just isn’t true. Were you excluding other denominations when you wrote this? If so, that is very misleading.

  2. Jim Tune
    May 24, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Dear Diana,

    No one is misleading anyone here. I was the subject being interviewed by Kent. The Christian Standard serves a constituency of churches known as Christian churches or Independent Christian churches. Those in our movement commonly refer to our tribe as simply Christian churches, and Christian Standard readers generally know what that means. Of course we are not the only Christians, but prefer to call ourselves Christians only. Therefore the vast majority of Christian Standard readers understand perfectly what is meant when we report the number of Christian churches (7) in the province of Ontario. There is even an annual Directory of the Ministry that publishes the number of Christian churches in each state/province. Churches in this directory are called Christian Churches and the listing is understood by all not to include the denominations. It would be laughable to even suggest that in a province of our size that there would only be 7 churches of ANY kind and equally laughable to think that was what we were saying, and for that matter, even more disturbing still if you believe the motive was to mislead! That was neither Kent’s intention nor mine.

    Jim Tune

  3. Diana Feuchtenberger
    May 25, 2012 at 6:57 am

    I did not mean you intended to be misleading. But it seems to me as we learn to walk as one we should be aware of how “our church speak” is heard by others. Just another lesson for me to learn to listen for what others mean. Sorry to be disturbing.

  4. Pat Stillwagner
    May 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    As always a wonderful pleasure to read…. Thank You Jim

  5. Laureen Estabrooks
    May 30, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Being a member of Churchill Meadows Christian Church has been tremendously educational. I have been attending for 7 years and have been challenged and grown. As a believer for 41 years, I am fully blessed by the approach to ministry that happens here under the guidance of Jim Tune. We are called a Real Church for Real People and that is practiced. Those who come find an atmosphere that is welcoming, caring and loving. Each service has a message that presents Christ, with excellent preaching and teaching. Attenders will find an upbeat worship time and seamless movement from communion, worship, preaching and teaching. There are many opportunities to serve within the church, with programs for every age. Outreach into the community provides a way for church members to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a busy and hurting city. This is a safe place where newcomers can investigate Christianity without pressure or judgement. A vibrant, living, growing and reproducing church planting church. Everyone is welcome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe for Free!

Subscribe to gain free access to all of our digital content,
including our new digital magazine,
and we'll let you know when new digital issues are ready to view!