Horizon Weekly | 24 June 2020
By Karen L Willoughby
MONTREAL—It wasn’t so much a plan as it was a thought: to start maybe 20 churches for French-speaking people.
With the fourth plant slated to start this fall, David Pothier now has a vision: to start 100 La Chapelle churches in Quebec, across Canada, and internationally. La Chapelle in English is The Chapel.
“French-speaking Canadians are the most unreached people in North America,” said Pothier, who affiliated with the Canadian National Baptist Convention when La Chapelle Rosemont in 2013 was still in the planning stages. Today the Rosemont congregation has grown to at least 1,000 pre-pandemic attending Sunday morning services.
La Chapelle Mile End started in 2015; it has grown to about 400 in Sunday evening worship. La Chapelle Ahuntsic, which started in 2017, has grown to 250. La Chapelle Gatineau started in 2019. It reaches about 100 each Sunday.
All four churches are in Metro Montreal. Each of the four churches are among the top givers in Canada of their undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program, the way Canadian Baptists work together to share the Gospel of God’s unrelenting, unconditional love to all people in Canada and throughout the world.
“I think the Cooperative Program is powerful because we can do so much more together than we can do alone,” Pothier told the Horizon. “Our church alone cannot send money to every disaster. Our church cannot meet every need. But with the Cooperative Program we have churches together giving for church planting, missions, compassion. It creates a strength.
“So the first reason we give is because we can do more together,” Pothier continued. “The second reason: CNBC and its Send Network believed in us and we want to give back. We give also because the [CNBC] convention is so strong on church planting and expanding the Kingdom of God. We believe in this and we want to participate in this.”
Pothier, born in the Three Rivers community more than two hours from Montreal, invited Jesus to be his Lord when he was 15. He was 21 when he responded to God’s call to enter ministry. He became a volunteer youth pastor, then young adult pastor, and when he looked for partners to start a church, he connected with Church Starting Catalyst Gary Smith, who told him about CNBC.
“I told him that the Baptist Faith and Message is our statement of faith and that it would be important he agree with that statement,” said Smith, now pastor of Bow Valley Baptist Church in Cochrane, Alberta. “He had a dynamic passion to reach his own people group, the Quebecois people.”
Pothier said he is gratified rather than amazed at the growth of La Chapelle.
“It was a move of God. It’s not something we can emulate,” the pastor said. “The timing of God was perfect timing.”
That being said, “I think we discovered a way to preach the Gospel in a way people can understand and relate to. It’s not enough to understand; they need to relate to it.”
To put the Gospel in listeners’ minds, Pothier uses what he calls a “John 4 approach,” the way Jesus communicated with the Samaritan woman at the well.
“First He connects at a deep level. Second, He exposed her pain,” Pothier said. “Third, offer Jesus as the solution to that pain.
“If you expose the pain without a connection, people will reject what you say,” the pastor continued. “On connecting deeply, two things are helpful. First humour. The heart opens when people laugh. Another tool, authenticity: Talk about your own weaknesses, hard times, difficulties. People can relate to that. If people feel you preaching to them top to bottom, they will not connect.”
Within two years of its founding, La Chapelle Rosemount had grown to “full up” of its available space, Pothier said, so in 2015 he sent out a team led today by Pastor Jean-René Bibeau to start La Chapelle Mile End.
Two years later he sent Pastor Jackson Ntumba with a team to start La Chapelle Ahuntsic. Last year he sent Pastor Josias Laporte with a team to start La Chapelle Gatineau.
During the pandemic Pothier brings the Sunday message via video to all four churches though usually each of the pastors speak at the church they lead.
“They all have the same vision, just different preachers,” Pothier said. “We offer a strong attractive Sunday service, strong disciple-making groups, and compassion ministries.”
La Chapelle churches engage within their communities by volunteering with non-Christian organizations and helping with financial and other resources.
“With this, they don’t see you as a competitor, but as a partner,” Pothier said.
Canada has become a secular society, the multiplying pastor said. The Christian heritage is gone, and people don’t think about going to church.
“God is out of the public state completely. It’s also morally dark. And emotionally dark. When God is gone, hope is gone,” Pothier said. “This is creating a ground where people are looking for hope and in the last six years, we’ve baptized 550 people.”
La Chapelle churches meet in rented facilities: theatres, clubs, schools. Throughout the week, about 70 discipleship groups meet in homes.
“Our small groups are based on three things: community built around scriptures, life in the Spirit, and doing missions together,” Pothier said. “Our missions are local now. Next step, international.
“Our vision is to plant 100 churches,” the multiplying pastor continued. “In Quebec we have the vision to plant at least 30.”
The others will be elsewhere in Canada, and throughout the world, wherever French-speaking people can be found. Pothier didn’t want to be limited though. He said he’s open to God’s continued leading.
“God is doing a new thing in His church,” Pothier said. “I don’t know exactly what He’s doing but I have a sense God is doing a new thing. This COVID-19 crisis can be used by God to do unprecedented things in the body.
“People should, I think, know this is a sign to hear from God, to slow down our life, to use this crisis to slow down and do what the Spirit is telling us. Our biggest problem is the noise,” the pastor noted. “We cannot hear from God because there is too much noise around us. In the digital age we need to find a way to have moments to extract ourselves from the noise. To seek God for His person, not for His blessing only.”