Building up a church is no easy task. But it’s one that Mark Barrett is ready to take on.
The new pastor at North Broadway Baptist Church moved to Tillsonburg with his wife in early March after spending time on Canada’s east coast.
Originally from the state of Oregon, Barrett moved to New Brunswick in 1982 and later to Prince Edward Island, and now makes his home in Tillsonburg.
“It’s my first time pastoring in Ontario. I didn’t know Tillsonburg existed before we came here,” said Barrett.
“I know Stompin’ Tom had this song about Tillsonburg and that’s the first thing people would mention when they heard I was coming to Tillsonburg,” he said with a chuckle. “I know parts of the song, I’ve listened to it on YouTube.”
During the last three months, Barrett and his wife have been pleasantly surprised.
“We love it here. The people are very, very friendly – not everywhere that we’ve lived has been that friendly. Everywhere you go people are friendly and very welcoming when they find out that you’re new here. It’s just a great environment.”
Barrett and his family have also been well received by members and parishioners at North Broadway Baptist Church.
“The church here has been very welcoming. They’re happy people, they hug us when they greet us, we’ve been to people’s homes for meals. It’s just been a really pleasant experience for us to come here.”
Barrett said he believes coming to Tillsonburg was all a part of God’s plan.
“I’d have to say God brought me here to Tillsonburg. We were pastoring in Charlottetown and were there for eight-and-a-half years - we had a really nice ministry there, we were reaching out to immigrants (and refugees) who were coming to Canada. The Lord was really blessing that ministry and our church was growing, but my wife and I were just sensing that God had a move for us. We didn’t know where or what, so we just began to seek God and ask Him what he wanted from us.
“We were content to stay there, if He wanted us to. But through a number of events and doors that opened, this church was in need of a pastor and they heard about me. They gave me a call and here we are.”
Barrett brings an extensive history of global and local ministry experiences, including many years working with newcomers in Canada. He has travelled to places such as South Korea, Russia, Israel and Columbia where he has carried out much of his ministry work for the past 15 years.
“I have a heart for people of all nations. I’m involved with missions quite heavily and I’m actually on staff with an organization called E3 Partners Ministries, based in Dallas, Texas. Every year I take a team to do church planting in Columbia and I’m going again this year on the 27th of July.”
Although he’s been here just a short time, Barrett believes God will use his experience, skills and knowledge as a pastor to help the North Broadway Baptist Church grow, re-structure and re-build itself to meet the challenges and the needs of a growing church.
“I tend to be a builder, I think. Wherever I’ve been in churches – this is my seventh assignment – it seems that God has brought me into situations that need to begin to re-build or build. It seems like that’s what God uses me to do.
“Everywhere you go God has a different assignment – and yet I think that God uses certain individuals for a certain season in the life of any particular church. I’ve only been here a few months, and I’m in the discovery process right now. We’re having focus groups in our church, we’re talking about what’s going on, what are we doing well, what are we not doing so well, and what do we need to start new. So we’re talking about all that and trying to discover where we’re at as a church, who the people are, what their needs are and what are the needs of the community.”
Those discussions and future plans appear to be in line with pastor Mark Barrett’s short-term goals for North Broadway Baptist Church.
“I want to get to know the people, let them get to know me, build relationships, and love the people because they’re not going to follow me unless they really know my heart and know me. People don’t care what you know until they know how much you care. How do we as a church minister to our community, that can best fulfill the needs here in Tillsonburg.
“We want to build a foundation and make sure it’s strong so it can last through the years,” he summed up. “And we want to be a strong church that is vibrant in the community.”