Steve and Sandra Long have been pastors at Catch the Fire Toronto (formerly Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship) ...
The mission statement of Catch The Fire is “to walk in God’s love and give it away to Toronto and the world.” Vision statements are the summary of what your organization does, wants to be, and is trying to accomplish.
At Catch The Fire Toronto, we have developed four primary goals that flow out of this statement. One of these relates to leaders: We are seeking to raise up world-class leaders.
I find it interesting that the constant challenge for every growing business, charity, church, and organization is that there are not enough leaders. Cultivating leaders has to be a priority if growth is going to take place.
Jesus himself had the same challenge. In Matthew 9 he told a large group of his disciples that the fields were ready for harvesting. The challenge was that there were no workers. Jesus’ first recorded prayer request was for new leaders.
Jesus saw that the specific need was that there were not enough shepherds. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36 NIV)
If this was an important issue for Jesus, it needs to be an important one for us. So, our work as a Christian ministry is to respond to this challenge of Jesus and raise up leaders who can shepherd people. It requires us to think about how we can do this in the best possible way to further His Kingdom on earth.
Our strategy has several angles.
We treat everyone as a potential leader. Everyone is invited to the training courses for leadership roles. This includes prophetic training, cell leader training and kids worker training- they are all open to everyone.
We release people into ministry before they are ready. We’ve found that there is always another course that people think they need to take before they are qualified.
What people really need is experience, not another course. So we are happy for people to grow on the job knowing that mistakes will take place from time to time. You will remember that Jesus released his twelve disciples before he trained them in the very things that he was asking them to do! (Matthew 10)
Paul, in his strategic passage in Ephesians 4, said that the role of existing leaders is to train and equip others in ministry. That means everyone needs the chance to learn how to pray for the sick, kick out a demon, do a miracle, give wise council, preach, and disciple a new believer. The primary role of our pastors is to train and equip. Our leadership team are constantly taking people with them on ministry trips so that we can model what we do.
We are definitely not a ministry where you watch the “man or woman of God” do their thing. We purposely have a prayer ministry team who do the ministry at public meetings along with the pastors. We purposely have our congregation lay hands on each other several times each Sunday as we gather together. We are training people to have confidence that they are anointed.
In my opinion, Cell leadership is the best preparation for a leadership role in Christian ministry. I’m convinced that being a leader of a cell or small group is by far the best training ground for “the next”. Cell leaders have a title but no one is obligated to attend the group, listen to the leader or follower their leadership. It is the perfect place for people to sort out their calling!
If you are called to be a church planter and can’t grow a cell, you will not succeed as a church planter. If you are called to be an itinerant speaker and can’t raise up other leaders in a cell group, you will not succeed in an itinerant role.
What further roles are there for cell leaders whom God is using to expand the Kingdom? Jesus asked us to be faithful in the little before we are given the bigger roles and responsibilities. The bigger roles at our church are things like heading up teams such as the prophetic, healing rooms and kids church.
Another strategy of our church in the last seven years has been to release cell leaders to become campus pastors. Not only has our church grown numerically because of campuses but also we have raised up hundreds of new leaders in the process. Seven years ago we had one band at a Sunday meeting. We had one preacher. We had one team ministering to the youth and kids.
Today we have ten bands every Sunday. Ten sermons. Ten teams of youth workers, of kids church workers, of greeters, ten set up teams. We have ten of everything! We are getting ready to have twelve of everything, and then fifteen of everything, then twenty!
What about impacting the world? One local church can’t do everything, but we can do something. Our strategy in missions has been to take the values God has given us and pass them on to other pastors and leaders. We do this via conferences and schools both in Toronto and around the world.
Many of you who are reading this have participated in one of Catch The Fire’s training events. Many of you have travelled with us on missions trips or helped at an International Leaders School of Ministry. Thank you for helping us give away to the world.
In the last seven months we have had three one-week leaders schools in Europe for Iranian pastors. Over 400 pastors, most of them from Iran, have attended. John Arnott’s forgiveness book is now in Persian (Farsi) courtesy of churches in England. The leaders school was also videoed so the pastors can take these resources back for their church and their communities.
I am amazed that what we are giving away is helping the transformation of a nation. Today, these Iranian pastors tell us that 10% of their nation is born again. Who would have thought this was possible even two years ago?
About ten years ago Duncan Smith (pastor of Catch the Fire Raleigh) and Dan Slade (leader of Partners in Harvest) were in Kirgizstan. They went back one year later for a follow up school and heard that the average church growth in that year had been 300%!
The most successful way of seeing people come to know Jesus and be discipled is through a new church plant. John and Carol Arnott have helped start about 25 church plants around the world in the last twenty years. Most of those are in Ontario, Canada, but new churches have also started internationally for example in London, UK and Oslo, Norway.
I have been reflecting on where Sandra and I are right now at our stage of life. We have two primary roles, to pastor the pastors at Catch The Fire Toronto and to help start new Catch The Fire churches in Canada. As I look back I realize that I have spent most of my ministry life in church planting.
Sandra and I helped to start two Baptist churches in Mississauga, a city of 750,000 to the west of Toronto. We also helped to resurrect a third one.
We have served at this church since 1994. We have helped oversee the transition of the church from bring a revival center where people come to, to being a revival church where people go out. As part of this, Sandra and I have been the primary vision casters for the Catch The Fire Toronto campuses. We have ten right now with new campuses getting ready to begin in Kitchener and Stouffville. We are also helping as consultants with new church plants in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Calgary, Alberta.
I tend to be a simply practical and pragmatic person. If Jesus said the problem was a lack of leaders and if Paul said that leaders are to raise up other leaders, then my calling is to raise up leaders of leaders!