A Mission Impossible
The following is an account of the realization of an impossible vision. It is the vision of creatio ex nihilo, that is, the creation (the beginning of a church) from nothing. This is what Jesus called making the stones come alive (Luke 3:8). While walking and praying through the streets of Ottawa, Dr. Rich Ganz knew that this work would be completely dependent upon the supernatural intervention and power of God.
One year earlier, Rich, his wife Nancy, and their little daughters, headed off from the U.S.A. to make a film in Switzerland. The project was a disaster. Rich became an itinerant teacher, preacher, counselor, and university guest lecturer, as he moved his family from country to country, always wondering where God was leading him. He would soon find out.
One night, during Passover in March of 1980, Rich was leading a Passover Seder in the Netherlands. In the middle of the Seder, a phone call came from a man who had tried to track Rich down through four countries with one question, a question which he finally got to ask during that call: “Would you like to start a church in Ottawa?” Hearing this, Rich remembered being on his face praying in Switzerland several months earlier. He had cried out to God to be used by God as a preacher of the gospel, and not just teaching in universities around the world.
The good news was that here was his answer to prayer. The bad news was that there was only one family wanting such a ministry. The good news was that this one family was a wonderful family - the Joy and Aubrey Ayer family. The bad news was there were (basically) no people, no money, and no building. The good news was, as Rich recalled it, “This is perfect.”
As Rich walked the streets of Ottawa, he remembered what he had committed to do: Preach the gospel. Jesus came to preach and teach. Rich was going to preach and teach. Everything Rich would do in this ministry would center on the Word of God and prayer.
Right there on the streets, Rich began preaching, teaching, and evangelizing. Three months later, Rich began doing it in a rented nursery room in a community centre. The church began to grow, and grow, moving into its own building in 1995. Over the years, tens of thousands of people have been influenced by Rich’s ministry, and thousands have come through the open doors of the Ottawa Reformed Presbyterian Church.
In 1982, Rich started a seminary, The Ottawa Theological Hall (OTH), to train men for pastoral ministry in Canada. To date (May 2010), 17 men from OTH are either in, or have been in, full time ministry. Many more men and women have received varying degrees of training to help them in their various work and walk with the Lord.
On the streets of Ottawa Rich became convicted again and again of the necessity to preach the Word of God in every situation, and at all times. “Be ready, in season and out, with a word for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
Our growing church was blessed with children. Right from the beginning, a biblically-based Sunday School was essential. Rich’s wife Nancy began working on a curriculum. These early lessons and studies later became the internationally acclaimed Herein is Love commentaries for children. Our church, our seminary, our Sunday School, our pastor’s books, his wife’s commentaries, all were designed to show forth Christ from God’s Word.
The centrality of God’s Word was, and is, the centerpiece of the ministry of the Ottawa Reformed Presbyterian Church (Ottawa RPC). Four churches have been started in Canada by the Ottawa RPC. Three missionary families have been sent to Africa as full time missionaries, two of which have begun a mission in the Southern Sudan.
At the same time, there have been numerous fierce assaults against the ministry of the Ottawa RPC. We live in an age where the church is seen more as a social club designed for entertainment, than as an army battling against the gates of hell. To stay committed to a ministry of the Word of God invites scorn and contempt in a postmodern, emergent, conversational culture. It is much more fun to be a postmodern than to be a prophet.
The Ottawa RPC was, and remains, a prophetic church built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles (Ephesians 2:20). We are not ashamed to say, “Thus says the Lord,” and mean it. If nothing else, people have known that “a prophet has been in their midst” (Ezekiel 2:4-5).
Addendum: Rich Ganz is still the pastor of the Ottawa Reformed Presbyterian Church (fuller ORPC history). It is now 30 years since Rich first walked the streets of Ottawa, praying and preaching. He is still walking, praying, and preaching. He has no intention of stopping.
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