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Large groups of attendees have stood in pouring rain to hear the gospel.

“These people come here to this culture, and they have no hope. They’re new to the city and no one’s reaching out to them,” Rourke says. “It blows you away what God is doing through the community.”

And it all has had such humble beginnings in another part of the city. You wouldn’t think Rourke, who’d planted the 411 Church in Manhattan, would start his Toronto efforts with something as practical as the yearly bike repair service called Chain Reaction.

“You can’t go anywhere in this city without seeing bikers,” Rourke says.

So they started a free bike clinic with 12 hours of expertise from a local TREK bicycle shop and the help of some Southern Baptists from Dunwoody, Ga.

Rourke looks for the “social fault lines of a community,” a phrase coined by Jeff Christopherson, North American Mission Board regional vice president for Canada and the Northeast. Find where the needs are greatest, and you’ll find the heart of a community.

“One lady said she had been hit over the head by people telling her she was going to hell and that she had totally given up on God and Christians until she got the flier for Chain Reaction,” says Rourke. “When she found out we were Christians offering a no-strings-attached bike clinic she said she opened her heart to God again.”

Rourke’s vision for church planting is a citywide movement transforming lives, families, communities and cities with the gospel.

This is why the new church plant he’s starting, Rendezvous Midtown, will engage the more affluent areas of inner-city Toronto in serving the city’s underserved communities.

By involving the rich in reaching out to the poor, Rourke says this transforms the city while tapping into a distinctive of Canadian culture.

“Canadians love to serve,” says Rourke. “This gives us an automatic common ground with them and opportunity to introduce them to the real reason behind our selfless love for the community.”

As a result of this vision and of early successes with planning outreach opportunities for the neighborhood, the school the Rourkes’ kids attend put him in charge of community outreach. This position has put him in touch with corporate leaders who can help with resourcing projects.

In other words, a group of nonbelievers are moving toward the kingdom with their hands and feet and Rourke sees this as a chance to transform hearts citywide.

Rourke looks for the “social fault lines of a community.” Find where the needs are greatest, and you’ll find the heart of a community.
This isn’t to say, Rourke explains, that do-gooding is some type of evangelism and he’s certainly intentional about sharing Christ. But what he is saying is that people see the light of Christ when a group of Christ followers want to see a city transformed through a gospel presence.

He tells this story: “We wanted to start a coffee shop inside a local thrift store. The shop is operated by a self-described atheist. ‘You can do it,’ he said, ‘unless I start losing money because of it.’ A little while ago the man said ‘I think there is something divine going on here. Since you started your coffee shop, I’ve become one of the most successful thrift stores in Canada.’ I was shocked. I said ‘But you’re an atheist. How can you call it divine.’ He said ‘Maybe I’m not an atheist anymore. Maybe I’m moving closer to believing in God.’”

Maybe, slowly, Toronto is moving in the same direction. OM

Adam Miller is associate editor of On Mission magazine.

Toronto is one of 29 cities that are part of the focus of Send North America. To find out how your church can join with other Southern Baptists in penetrating lostness in North America, visit and click on the “Mobilize Me” button.

ON MISSION • Summer 2012 39

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