By Rick Scruggs
On May 7 we formalized a journey started 12 months earlier! Unlikely partners bound together by a document, motivated by a love for others, and captivated by a vision that requires we work together and pray for healthy offspring. Planting churches and getting married have some remarkable similarities!
This wasn’t the first time Restoration churches in Calgary, Alberta, had attempted a network church plant. Our first plant started strong in 2007 but suffered an untimely demise because of a moral failure. It caused significant discouragement in the ranks. A follow-up effort in 2009 was impeded by an inability to locate an appropriate leader, and the idea lay fallow for a couple of years.
Forming the Partnership
The stimulus to kick-start the Calgary Network again came from an unlikely source. Ben and Janet Simms of Lifeline Christian Mission had a thing for Calgary. Despite living in Columbus, Ohio, the couple had honeymooned in Calgary years ago and maintained a long-distance relationship with the city. They regularly vacationed in the Rocky Mountains in Alberta and had expanded Lifeline’s vision to include new church planting in Calgary, if and when it happened. In 2012 at a leadership conference hosted by Alberta Bible College, Ben Simms challenged a few of Calgary’s church leaders to make another stab at doing a network church plant. Four local pastors responded positively to the challenge.
John Nicholson of the Rosscarrock Church of Christ, Derwin Clark with Riverview Christian Church, and Rick Scruggs of Bow Valley Christian Church all came from the independent stream of the Restoration Movement. The fourth partner was Kelly Carter with Calgary Church of Christ, which has its roots in the a cappella churches of Christ. All were good friends and had worked together on projects, but the alliance wasn’t quite complete. Partway through the 12 months of “courting the idea,” another U.S. partner came on board via Simm’s connections. Steve Edwards and the Intermountain Church Planting Association in Idaho contacted the Calgary Network and asked to join the party!
Six churches and parachurch agencies were now involved, four from Calgary, one from Ohio, and another from Idaho. From the beginning, it has been a comfortable alliance with mutual agreement, deepening friendships, and shared responsibilities.
Prayers for a church planter were answered when the youth and young adult pastor at Calgary Church of Christ informed the group he was interested in the position. Peter and Chelsey Roberts were assessed in Calgary in May and were given the green light, much to the group’s delight. Peter was to finish his ministry with the Church of Christ in August and was eager to get started in his new role in September. He and Chelsea have targeted the booming northern tip of Calgary, where they currently live with their three children. They are busy sharing the vision and recruiting prospective launch team members.
Calgary is a growing city of 1.1 million people with a booming economy. According to the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Calgary needs 678 new churches to reach a ratio of one church for every 1,000 people. (We need 386 new churches to reach this ratio in Toronto, and 200 churches to achieve it in Vancouver.) There’s a lot of room for new churches all across this country. We need to find a multitude of ways to plant new kingdom communities. But at the moment, we’re celebrating how God has put together this unlikely consortium to start one more here in Calgary!
You can also be praying for the city of Winnipeg (population 750,000), where there are no independent Christian churches. In June, at the invitation of and under the guidance of the Northern Plains Evangelistic Association out of North Dakota, a few of us participated in a three-day prayer walk there. We’re hoping and praying God might pull together another unlikely alliance of his people to replicate in the middle of Canada what’s taking place here in Calgary.
Rick Scruggs serves as senior pastor with Bow Valley Christian Church in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.