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November/December 2006 Issue

Église Nouvelle Vie, Longueuil, Quebec
By Debra Fieguth

Suburban Montreal church focuses on community needs

There is no particular emphasis on evangelism. But in 13 years, Église Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) on the south shore of Montreal has grown from 40 adults to about 3,000 regular Sunday attenders, 70 percent of whom accepted Christ at the church.

“We don’t have any formula,” says Pastor Claude Houde. He attributes the rapid growth and solid community presence to two things: prayer and meeting people’s needs. In a part of the city once considered “a pastor’s cemetery,” Nouvelle Vie is the product of “faithful intercessors” who prayed for the community for many years before the church was finally established. “We’re reaping what others have sown,” says Houde, 44.

Why Neighbours Know About This Church
Since 1993 when Houde preached his first sermon based on the Isaiah 58 passage about true fasting, the church has concentrated on practical needs. During the ice storm of 1998, 500 people lived in the church for three weeks. A mercy ministry, Action Nouvelle Vie, reaches 8,000 people. And each August just before school starts, the church hosts a “back to school” fun day in the parking lot for 300 of the community’s most disadvantaged children, with hot dogs, fire fighters, a clown and free or inexpensive school supplies and new clothing.

“I think it’s important to put the Word into action,” says Suzanne Fournier, Action Nouvelle Vie’s general director. In Quebec where the evangelical Christian population is low and suspicion high, the best way to reach people is to provide for their physical needs. “We don’t evangelize here. If we were to do that in Quebec we would have to close our doors,” Fournier says.

The Breadth and Depth of an Outreach Mindset
While bringing the message of Jesus’ love to the secular, cynical people of Montreal is the goal, it is never overt. Rather, “it is an amazing natural and supernatural outgrowth” of practical ministry, says Houde. For example, a pro-life program concentrates on loving pregnant women and girls. Women from the church accompany girls in the delivery room if their boyfriends have abandoned them and promise to be with the young mothers for the first two years if they decide to keep their babies.

Action Nouvelle Vie is in a separate building beside the church. When people are helped with their physical needs, they often begin to think about the spiritual as well. “The barriers towards the church are falling down, and it’s not viewed as something weird,” Fournier says.

None of this would happen without committed staff and many volunteers. “We really depend on volunteers,” says Houde, who estimates there are “easily more than 1,000 volunteers” who put in 10 to 15 hours a week doing everything from leading small groups to operating the food bank.

An emphasis on women’s ministry is also important. Three years ago, Stephanie Reader, with a doctorate in biochemistry and a well-paying job at a pharmaceutical company, gave up her high salary to become pastor for women and director of women’s ministry at Église Nouvelle Vie because she had a burden for women. Women’s ministry ranges from dealing with depression, addictions and sexual abuse to cooking meals for the parents of sick children and holding women-only worship and prayer times. “A lot of women when they arrive at the church are broken,” says Reader. She often sees transformation take place: broken women are restored, and then they are able to give to others.

Collaboration with Other Churches
The average church in Quebec has fewer than 70 people and many don’t have musicians. “We have been blessed with an abundance of singers and artists,” says Houde. Teams of musicians minister at other churches in the area each weekend.

Every year the church distributes thousands of Christmas baskets to people in need. Now other churches are coming to Nouvelle Vie for baskets. “And we teach them how to develop” a distribution program of their own, Houde explains. The church also hosts a mercy ministry seminar once a year to equip churches to start their own ministries. “I would say probably 30 percent of my time is spent with pastors of smaller churches,” says Houde.

Formerly affiliated with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, Église Nouvelle Vie stepped out on its own last year. With a congregation reflecting a range of denominational backgrounds and partnering with many different groups, “it had become important for us to be identified as an interdenominational church,” Houde says.

Future Challenges
A “pandemic” of youth gangs is growing in Montreal, especially in the ethnic communities. Young Haitian, Asian, African and Latino men often feel disenfranchised and as a result turn to violence. “A lot were born here but they don’t feel they’re Quebecers,” comments Houde. How best to reach them is a challenge.

The other challenge is how to minister most effectively to the elderly. Quebec has one of the lowest birth rates in Canada. The population is growing older. Every week church volunteers go into the homes of the poorest elderly people in the neighbourhood. “They don’t sing or preach. They just clean up,” provide other practical help or visit with the people. But future ministry to the elderly will have to go beyond that, Houde expects. “It should be normal for us to have homes where they can be taken care of,” he says.

For a church that has already done so much and reached so many on the South Shore, caring for the elderly will be a natural next step.

Visit the Eglise Nouvelle Vie website

Debra Fieguth is a freelance writer in Kingston, Ont. This profile is second in a series. Église Nouvelle Vie is an affiliate of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Claude Houde will be a plenary speaker at Cross the Street, an EFC-sponsored conference in Mississauga, Ont., Jan. 26-27, 2007.

Other articles
Nov/Dec 2006 Issue

Cover Story
Called Into The House

Featured Articles
Native Suicide: A Challenge to the Church

One Youth's Life or Death Struggle

From the Editor
Called to Respond

Kingdom Matters
Affair Ministry Emerged from Brokenness

Family's Story Tied to Mercy Ships

Phone Ministry 24/7 

Splat! Paintball with Christian Love

The Gathering Place
Responding to Distortions

God at Work in Denominations
God Uses Willingness to Serve

A Church You Should Know
Eglise Nouvelle Vie

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