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Take A Look At Harvest Bible Chapel London
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By Haydn Jensen

If you attend a church regularly, don't you sometimes get curious about what's happening in other churches in London?

Harvest Bible Chapel is one church in town that has seen strong growth since it began 14 years ago. You might not know much about it because they don't have a building yet—even though they attract around 1,400 every Sunday. Let's take a closer look.


Norm Millar, Harvest London's Senior Pastor
Presently meeting at Banting High School beside Sherwood Forest Mall, Harvest London is essentially "church in a box". They have to take everything "out of a box" to set up each Sunday and then put everything "back in the box" when they're finished. Norm Millar, Harvest London's Senior Pastor says they have about a tractor trailers' worth of equipment to set up each week. So, he's very grateful for their excellent working relationship with the Banting school staff as well as the Thames Valley District School Board and are able to store almost all that equipment on site.

London Harvest Bible Chapel is in association with the larger Harvest Bible Chapel, a non-denominational evangelical organization based in the Chicago area. It was founded and headed by James MacDonald—who was born here in London, by the way. You may have heard James MacDonald's popular Walk in the Word radio program that airs locally on 99.9 Faith FM at 8:30 each weekday morning. Harvest's church planting association is formally called Harvest Bible Fellowship. Their church plants currently number 15 in Canada (with 13 in Ontario), 70 throughout the US and over 36 internationally. After acting as an overseer during a new church plant's first year, Harvest Bible Fellowship then encourages local churches to develop an elder-governed leadership with no central office beyond the local congregation. Further connections between a local Harvest Bible Chapel and Harvest Bible Fellowship is intended to "influence by relationship, not by mandate."

So, in the early days here in London, Norm says they went month to month, not entirely sure where their church was going. One thing was always clear, however: The London Harvest Bible Chapel remains firmly committed to straightforward "expository" Bible teaching with an evangelical goal of making and developing healthy disciples of Christ. Worship is passionate, with contemporary music and definitely not a spectator activity. On their website you'll read that Harvest Bible Chapel is based on the following four pillars:
  1. Proclaiming the authority of God’s Word without apology (2 Timothy 4:2)
  2. Lifting high the name of Jesus through worship (John 4:24)
  3. Believing firmly in the power of prayer (Ephesians 6:18)
  4. Sharing the good news of Jesus with boldness (Ephesians 6:19-20)

People have responded very positively to this approach. With average attenders somewhere in the mid to late 20's, Norm is quick to point out that they have a full age range attending. Kids from nursery to Grade 5 have their own children's program. As well, about 150 youth from Grade 6 through 12 have their own Wednesday night youth program at Compass Community Church (on Pond Mills Rd. near Commissioners). They have over 300 college and university students attending and a growing integrated Spanish speaking congregation. For the 11:15 service, they translate into Spanish during the service.

And yet, for all the excitement and energy around Harvest London's Sunday services, Norm would say the real growth in the church happens elsewhere. He describes Sunday services as a furnace to heat things up, but midweek small groups held in people's homes are where people really grow.

Norm emphasizes that for Harvest, small groups are not about friendship, but about discipleship. Of course, friendships do develop naturally from there. This discipleship or spiritual growth is also intended as a process of mutual ministry within each small group. As Norm says, "the leaders' role is to help ministry happen. It's not a top-heavy process." He has noticed a clear hunger for Bible understanding from people of all ages—even the youth program integrates small group discipleship as part of their weekly activities.

The growing edge for Harvest London is in many ways about reaching the next generation, but doing this by bringing many generations together to learn from each other. It's also important to invite folks from many different cultures and vocations to work side by side. Norm sees that as exactly what the body of Christ ought to be. As a church community growing together, Harvest London's toughest challenge would be working with not having their own building. Operating at or near capacity in a rented space each week is an ongoing difficulty. The church owns land, but a lot of red tape, unforeseen setbacks and costs mean that getting their own church building is still a distant vision at least a couple years down the road.

During my chat with Norm, it was very clear that he loves the word of God and loves leading a church that also loves gathering around the Bible together. He says "We're a heads down church—because there is power in the word of God.” Norm also loves London and sincerely wants to nourish positive partnerships with and prayer support for civic leadership, church leadership and other ministries actively seeking to bring about positive change. And yet, in Norm's words, “At the end of the day, the hope for our city, our province, and our country is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ." He sees the Gospel as hope for the poor and for everybody. He adds, "It does not mean we do not minister to, give to, or help serve...It's a 'both and', not an 'either or'. Too often we put our hope in things that are temporal and not powerful enough to bring transformation. And so, our ultimate hope and energy and passion is primarily according to the Gospel. That's the Gospel and bringing a cup of water; the gospel and providing finances; the gospel and being a friend."

Like to find out more about Harvest Bible Chapel London?
www.harvestlondon.ca
519.668.1977
info@harvestlondon.ca

Service Times & Location:
Banting High School
125 Sherwood Forest Sq.
London On N6G 2C3

Sunday Mornings
9:00am - 10:30am
11:15am - 12:45pm