In the late ‘70s, there were only about 40 evangelical churches in all of Quebec province. Most of these were congregations of fewer than 100 people with little-to-no structure. It was — and still is — a mission field!
François Turcotte was born and raised in this mission field of Quebec and embraced Jesus Christ as his Savior in 1982. “People don’t connect the reality that within North America, there is a population that could be considered to be like Afghanistan or Turkey,” he said. “The evangelical church is unknown here. In many ways, locals consider it to be almost cult-like.”
To fully understand this dearth of spirituality, one must realize the region has no prominent Protestant history. “Before 1965, nobody could read the Bible. It was deemed illegal by the Catholic priests,” François said. “When the missionaries would give a Bible at every door, an hour later the priests would go to those same people and tell them they would burn in hell if they didn’t give it back. It was medieval.”
In the early 1970s, Quebec experienced the “Quiet Revolution,” an intense period in which the younger generation turned Quebec into the fastest-growing secular society in the world. Though the intellectuals and artists who led the movement had turned their backs on organized religion, they still had an underlying concern about whether they would go to heaven someday. This sparked a revival during which the number of Christians swelled from 500 to around 5,000 by 1986.
More than 40 years have passed since the start of the revival in 1976, but François says “In many ways, we are still starting from scratch. We’ve reached less than 1% of the population. We have newer generations re-examining spirituality. We have to learn how to become effective leaders. We must connect in a way that is totally different than what the church has done in the past.”
Practicing 1st Century Church Leadership Development
François is president of SEMBEQ, an evangelical seminary birthed in Quebec, to train church leaders and everyday disciples. SEMBEQ utilizes a multiplication model much like what was used in the 1st Century – making sure every “Timothy” learns from a “Paul” and then is able to “teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
“We respect the authority, the rhythm and the leadership of the local churches. They are part of the decisions (in working with us),” François said. “Our students often don’t realize they are connected to the school. This is personalized, mentor-based, context-based training.”
This approach is bearing fruit: “95% of the students who train with us are still in ministry after 10 years compared with 5% of those who go through training based solely on classroom instruction,” he reports.
How You Can Help
As impressive as these results are, there’s plenty more work to do. The number of leaders who complete the SEMBEQ program is not even enough to replace leaders who are retiring from local churches.
François, who joined Missions Door in 2018, is praying for God to raise up more workers for the harvest in Quebec. “We need people who would like to become missionaries and are willing to come and serve us. Retired couples who would be willing to spend 2-3 years to help a church by sharing their wisdom. Youth groups or college students to come spend 1-4 weeks here to maybe sense that there is a call for them to work in Quebec.”
SEMBEQ also needs financial support. “For all the training of workers in local churches, we would need an extra $25,000 to meet all the needs of supporting mentors on the ground, keeping theological classrooms going, and supporting the church initiatives,” he said.
François challenges us: “We still need to be missionaries. We have reached less than 1% of the population here. We also need mentors, evangelists and the partnership of mission-sending churches to reach this mission field for Christ.”