Horizon Weekly | 20 May 2020
By Karen L Willoughby
Tracy and Steve Fish (back left) with their children: Emma, Lillia, Teagan, Liam and Sophia
SASKATOON, SK—People travel from deep in the United States to Faith Baptist Church, because this is the place where Henry Blackaby served before the study he wrote—Experiencing God—became an international bestseller that spawned several updates and related curricula.
Despite ups and downs in membership in the nearly 40 years after Blackaby left in 1982, discipleship continues today to be a major emphasis at Faith Saskatoon, as does missions and ministries.
“I first came to Saskatoon in 1998 and was asked to be the pastor in 2000,” said Pastor Steve Fish, a Texan-now-Canadian who met and married his Canadian wife when they were students at Oklahoma Baptist University. “Fifteen people were in the church then, but even during lean times, by the end of every year we were in the black.”
One of the things that had stopped as the congregation withered was Faith’s support of missions through the Cooperative Program, the way Canadian National Baptist churches work together to spread the Gospel across the nation and throughout the world. A member at a finance committee meeting the year after Fish became pastor asked the church to think about their missions giving.
“He said he realized in his life that when he gave his tithe to God, he always had enough,” the pastor recounted. “We committed then to give ten percent, and two percent to our seminary as well.”
It wasn’t easy. The CP and seminary cheques were written first. Other costs such as electricity each received a percentage of the rest of the offerings, until income grew.
“We support the Cooperative Program because we can do more together than by ourselves,” Fish told the Horizon. “We do it for the support of our missionaries, so they can focus on ministry and not fundraising.
“And we do it to help people come to the realization it’s all God’s anyway. Psalm 24:1—The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord. We are just acknowledging this by giving 10 percent,” Fish continued. “It’s a testimony to the condition of our heart—it’s not our money anyway—that we would give first to God.
“Part of our stewardship is helping one another as well. That’s seen in [the New Testament book of] Acts,” Fish said. “Our giving is an opportunity for us to work together. It’s cooperating together for the sake of the Gospel.”
That cooperation for the congregation, which pre-pandemic numbered about 85, extends to meeting local needs as well as to working with regional and national partners.
Faith Baptist Church in Saskatoon, SK
In addition to Sunday school and Sunday morning worship, Faith’s ministries include Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon women’s Bible studies, Wednesday evening men’s Bible studies, Thursday evening college and career Bible studies, and Friday evening youth Bible studies and related activities.
There’s an annual Vacation Bible School that draws about 60 youngsters from the community, led by Faith members. And throughout the year, money is received for camper scholarships at Ranger Lake Bible Camp, some 90 minutes northeast of Saskatoon.
“We have a university in our city and some students are coming to our church,” Fish said. “There has been some pushback to a Christian organization on campus, in part because of its stance on marriage. The university campus is the prime battleground for connecting with a world that is becoming so hostile to the standards of the Bible.”
Faith Saskatoon participates with CNBC-Saskatchewan in a ten-year partnership with the Baptist Convention of Kansas/Nebraska. A spring trip to the Haskell Indian University in Lawrence, Kansas, was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fish, regional ministry leader for CNBC Saskatchewan, allocates one day a week ministering to other pastors and churches in the province. He works with a regional board developing refreshing times, equipping opportunities, sending opportunities and network-building.
“There’s a lot of isolation in ministry,” said Fish, who returned in February from southeastern Cuba, where he scouted mission opportunities for Saskatchewan churches. “It’s amazing what God is doing there. The Gospel is spreading like wildfire.”
Cuba still has many restrictions, despite now being a “secular” rather than “atheistic” society, Fish said. The growth of new house churches is particularly exciting, he added.
A new mission endeavour of Faith Saskatoon is to sponsor an Iranian refugee family.
A new mission endeavour for Faith Saskatoon is the sponsoring of an Iranian refugee family. “Our church has been devoted in growing in the Word, but I wanted us to be more out-focused,” Fish said, adding that Faith members were eager to help a former Muslim, now Christian family—dad, mom and two teen sons—from Iran who had been in Turkey for nine years, unable to find legal employment.
Using savings, additional offerings and fundraisers, the church raised the $30,000 for the family required by the Canadian government as part of the church’s application to sponsor refugees. The church also sent money to help the family while awaiting permission from Turkish officials to leave, and from Canadian officials to enter their new homeland.
“We are required to find them a place to live, get the boys in school, help them all learn the language and help them in locating jobs,” Fish said. “For a full year we get to take care of them. We pray the money will be there as needed.”
Fish went to Turkey a year ago to meet with the family and validate their story, and again in early March, in part to baptize a young woman as a favour for another Saskatoon church, so she’d have legal documentation (the baptismal certificate) that she was a religious refugee.
“I met two other Christian families there who would like to be sponsored,” the pastor said. “It’s a scary situation for these refugees in Turkey. The Turkish government is not renewing anyone’s refugee status, and they’re all limited, timewise. As Christians, if they were to head back to Iran it would not be good for them.”
An hour after Fish left Turkey, all outgoing flights were cancelled because of the pandemic, and upon arrival in Saskatoon he was placed in home isolation for 14 days, as required for travellers returning to Canada.
Faith Saskatoon’s first online Sunday service was March 22, supplemented with “lots of phone calls and emails,” the pastor said. Sermons are recorded and available on the Youtube.com channel MrSaskFish. Faith Saskatoon also has a Facebook presence.
While he is concerned about his family, the congregation and others in Saskatoon and around the world, Fish said he’s not concerned about the long-term survival of the church in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Someone tried to burn the church down in 2012,” the pastor said. “We were out for a year. During that time, we were constantly reminded that God is good and is on His throne. We trust Him to glorify Himself in this time of isolation and we’re praying for the strength and wisdom necessary to continue to be His witnesses, His hands and His feet.”