University of Victoria
After moving to North Carolina to attend seminary, Mike took a ministry position at First Baptist Church Jonesboro, GA, from 2010-2018. During this time, he and Sarah met, married, and welcomed two amazing sons into their family. God was working in their young adult ministry, and they enjoyed a wonderful time on staff at FBCJ.
In 2017, Mike began to feel God stirring in his heart, preparing him for a change of seasons. In January 2018, he prayed a significant prayer:
"God, don’t ever let me get so comfortable that I won’t follow you wherever you lead. If you have a new assignment for me, please show me."
Not long afterward, he received a call from Ashley Austin. He shared with Mike what God was doing in Victoria, and how Canvas Church was ready to plant a second campus on the island, this time on the east side of the city in the municipality of Oak Bay. Mike and Sarah agreed to pray about the opportunity and seek God’s guidance.
“Canvas Church exists to help people discover their place in the Story, Family, and Mission of God.”
God’s Story: Have you ever watched a master painter at work? A talented artist can transform an ordinary, plain canvas into something meaningful and valuable right before your eyes. As you observe forms taking shape and colours blending together, you begin to see what the artist has in mind for the finished product. The artist is telling a story on canvas.
We believe that Jesus will build His church and so we desire to see God do what only He can do. Apart from the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, we cannot start, build, or maintain anything of eternal value. For this reason, we recognize the need to have an army of prayer warriors praying for us, Canvas Church, and the people of Victoria.
One way you can receive regular updates on prayer requests and answered prayer is by
joining our Facebook group by clicking here:
following Mike on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
and following Canvas Oak Bay and social media as well!
We have already seen God do many miracles since we’ve been here! One of those was how He specifically provided housing for us to live in Oak Bay. The Victoria housing market is notoriously difficult to navigate, with the cost of living exceptionally high. Oak Bay is even more so. Some people even scoffed at our attempt to find housing in this area. However, Sarah and I not only believed that God would provide, but we had a specific list of things we were praying specifically for. As the day of our house-hold shipment arriving grew closer, we prayed even more fervently.
There is a beautiful account in Luke 5:1-11 where Jesus commands Peter to put out his nets for a catch of fish. Although they have fished all night without success, Peter obeys, and brings in a miraculous haul of fish! When our household shipment was not many days away from arrival, and we had grown discouraged by still not finding any housing, Sarah clearly felt moved by the Holy Spirit to look online one more time. Although we had “fished all night” without any success, she obeyed…and discovered the perfect house, which had only been listed online for 12 minutes. She emailed the property manager and set up a time to walk through. We immediately fell in love and submitted our application, along with several others who were also interested.
A week later, we were informed that our application was chosen among the many. The reasons? It was a good fit for our family and we were the first to respond to the ad. Sarah’s obedience to the Holy Spirit’s leading put us at the front of the line. Our move-in day was February 1st, less than 24 hours before our household shipment arrived in Victoria. God answers prayer!
Helping people discover their place in the story, family, and mission of God.
Mike’s family has a long history of planting and pastoring churches in Canada. His great-grandfather, a banker with the Bank of Montreal, planted a church in Prince Rupert, British Columbia shortly after World War II. His grandfather Henry Blackaby, born in British Columbia, later helped to plant 37 churches throughout the province of Saskatchewan. Many of those stories are chronicled in the book and Bible study "Experiencing God". Mike's father Richard pastored a church in Winnipeg for 3 years before becoming president of the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Cochrane, Alberta, for 13 years. This is where Mike grew up, and he remembers often hearing about the need for church planters to go and start Christ-centered, gospel-preaching churches across this vast country.
Along the way, God began to confirm their call in many ways, including several people without knowledge of the opportunity randomly telling Mike that the Holy Spirit had told them this year would bring a new ministry assignment into his life, specific answers to prayers for guidance, and even dreams. In July 2017, Mike and Sarah and their boys visited Victoria to further pray and seek God’s guidance on the island. They came with a condensed list of prayerful questions for God to answer. During their time on the island, God gave clear and specific answers to each question they had. After seeking wise counsel and continuing to pray, both Mike and Sarah were convinced that this was the next step in their story.
In January 2018, Mike and Sarah and their boys moved 2,800 miles (4,500 km) from south Atlanta, GA, to Victoria, British Columbia. They immediately began meeting monthly with a small group in Oak Bay who had been gathering over the previous months and continue to take one step of faith at a time as God leads. In the first months of living on the island, they have already seen God’s miracles in confirmation of their new assignment! For more details on the story, they encourage you to email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. God is at work in Oak Bay, and He is calling laborers into the harvest. (Matthew 9:35-38)
Covering 31,284 square kilometres, Vancouver Island has seven geographic regions with approximately 750,000 residents. The South Island is home to the city of Victoria, British Columbia's provincial capital, as well as Sidney, the Saanich Penisula and Sooke.
The Central Island includes Nanaimo, an important transportation hub, Gabriola Island and the oceanside communities of Parksville and Qualicum Beach. The Pacific Rim region, the Island's West Coast, is known for breathtaking surf beaches.
Tofino and Ucluelet draw surfers and outdoor adventurists from around the world. The North Central region, which includes The Comox Valley, Campbell River, and the Tahsis is an exceptional adventure destination. The North Island includes Port Hardy and Port McNeil and is famous for whale watching and First Nations Culture.
Vancouver Island is a truly unique place, where they say you could boat, golf, and ski all in the same day!
Canvas Church started 5 years ago on the west side of Victoria with the intention of multiplying across the city and the island. Canvas Oak Bay is the first of this multiplication process. For 12 months leading up to our arrival on the island, members of Canvas Westshore gathered their family, friends, and co-workers for monthly services at the historic Oak Bay Beach Hotel to build momentum and spread the word of the new church starting on that side of town.
Since arriving in January 2018, we have spent the last year continuing to gather for monthly services, building relationships, doing outreach events, and serving in the community. We have since moved locations to the Monterey Recreation Centre, which is right off of the main street in the heart of Oak Bay’s shopping district. Oak Bay is a very established and stable community, so it is vitally important that we build trust and a reputation as part of this community. We have sought to do this by volunteering alongside other volunteers at several community events, and God has opened many doors for us already as the leaders of Oak Bay have slowly welcomed our involvement. The wrong approach for us would be to make a big “splash” as the “new” thing in town. Rather, we have attempted to build their trust and our reputation as a church that seeks to bless and be involved in the community.
As we have built relationships in Oak Bay as well as with members at the Westshore campus, we have prayed that God would bring together a core group that could become our launch team. The plan is to identify this team by January 2019, spend two months meeting weekly with them for "house church" to train and build a unified vision, then officially launch weekly services on March 31st.
We also plan to be a multiplying church that raises up leaders that eventually go and plant other church campuses across the city and the island.
We are God’s workmanship and our lives are the canvas. Through Jesus, God transforms our ordinary lives into something amazing. We are each an unfinished masterpiece, both presently valuable and a work in progress, and God always finishes what He starts.
God’s Family: God has plans not just for us as individuals but also for us as a community. Our stories do not unfold side by side; they overlap and they blend together, like hues and shapes in a painting. We are part of a larger story. God is at work, blending our unique stories into a greater expression of what is on His heart.
God’s Mission: God, as the great Artist, has a plan and purpose for how His masterpiece will ultimately take shape, and He invites us to join Him in what He is doing in our city. Our lives should display the beauty of God’s grace and workmanship to all those we encounter. Canvas Church exists to help people discover their place in the story, family, and mission of God.