How BSF-men began in Montreal
First, we prayed…
In 2015 we formed a prayer group and asked God to bring faithful men in Christ together in fellowship and in regular study of the Bible. We had learned that the women of a local Bible Study Fellowship class had been praying for years for men in Montreal to get together and “sharpen” each other in the knowledge of God revealed in Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The prayer group thus formed, we met monthly in various homes getting to know each other over simple meals, taking turns giving devotionals, formulating a vision for men in Montreal, and then praying fervently that God grant us our petition for men’s group.
The BSF Montreal men’s group formed
In 2017, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) inaugurated online discussion groups. The technology expanded the reach of BSF worldwide. Several men from Montreal signed on.
In early 2018, BSF began moving to have Montreal form a men’s satellite group of the class in Williamsport Pennsylvania. Preparation and prayer became more intense. Victor Gavino, Gabe Chin and Louie Vassalos agreed to undergo training to become BSF discussion group leaders.
In September 2018, we held our first BSF meeting at the First Filipino Baptist Church of Montreal who so graciously welcomed us. We were then a group of over twenty men from different church backgrounds. The theme that year was “People of the Promised Land Part 1“, a study covering the Old Testament books Joshua, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 Kings 1-11 and parts of the Psalms and Proverbs.
The second year
This season 2019-2020 we have grown to forty (40) men registered and organized into three discussion groups. The theme this year is “The Acts and Letters of the Apostles.”
We began meeting once more on Tuesday evenings at the First Filipino Baptist Church of Montreal. We are grateful to the congregation for hosting us. Our evenings began at 7:30 PM with praise and prayer and a 20-min lecture (video). We had three discussion groups led by Victor Gavino, Fred Goodfellow and Brian Hinds. John Reid was backup.
Mid-stream the BSF organisation transferred us from our parent class in Pennsylvania to the class in Toronto. Then Covid-19 hit, necessitating radical adjustments. By March 2020 we stopped meeting in person and transitioned to an online platform.
The third year
The years 2020-2021 is a study in Genesis. We continue to hold group discussions online using the zoom platform. John Reid graciously took over Victor Gavino’s group. Victor needed to take time off to concentrate on his studies.
The fourth year
The Gospel according to Matthew is this season’s focus (2021-2022). While we hope and pray that we could again meet in-person, Covid measures continue to be in effect. We still meet online.
We look forward to an ever-expanding ministry to men in Montreal through BSF. We do not know how long the Covid-19 lockdowns will take – the times are in God’s hands. While we do miss the in-person fellowships and camaraderie, the online platform has allowed men from distant areas to join our discussion groups.
For more information, we invite you to visit the BSF website.
Interested in joining the Montreal BSF men’s group? Register here.
The WordGo App
The WordGo App, available free in App Store or Google Play, uses BSF material in their self-directed and self-contained Bible studies. The organization was created and is supported by BSF. WordGo’s main target group are young professionals, young parents, students — groups with incredibly busy schedules.
The WordGo App contains all material necessary for a BSF-style Bible study: the Scripture passage; study questions; study notes (available in text or audio); weekly lecture. The study notes has a reference list for further study (optional). An interesting and useful feature of the app is a module on discussion group leader training. This is in addition to its FAQ section.
After the 2019-2020 BSF season, a few of us got together to try WordGo’s 5-week Bible study on Joshua. Of the five participants, four of us have already served as BSF discussion group leaders. We each had a turn leading the online discussions, online because of Covid-19.
All of us agreed at the conclusion of the study that it was well worth the time to get together in this manner for Bible study using the resources available in the app.
We did note that WordGo has this bug that randomly hides one or two numbered questions in patterns that depend on the device. We look forward to when this will be fixed.
Overall, WordGo is a fantastic Bible study app, particularly well-suited to busy individuals who would benefit from an all-in-one (or self-contained) daily immersion in the Scriptures.
Reflections on BSF – from three men
The First year – by Louie Vassalos
Here are some parting thoughts on my last 30 plus weeks’ journey as a fellow traveller among a dedicated group of Christian men. As I understand it, the BSF model is essentially oriented to achieve two purposes: To increase our knowledge of God and to enable godly interactions amongst believers who want to grow their relationship with Him and with one another.
One thing we know about God is that He is not only holy (raised to the third power) and wonderfully complex, but He is also a God who is near and accessible. This, among many other reasons, is why He satisfies us and elicits our praise. But on the matter of His complex nature the bible teaches of God’s incomprehensibility. He lies outside the boundaries of our understanding so that we can’t fully know Him. And there are several reasons for this.
One is that not all of God’s attributes are communicable – i.e., they can’t be passed on to us. God has not – and in fact He cannot – share His exclusive attributes. For instance, only God has the property of necessary existence. Unlike all of creation God is not the effect of a prior cause; He is not a created being – we are. We came into being but God always was.
The effect of sin on our hearts and minds is a second constraint that prevents us from attaining a full knowledge of God.
Finally, there is the cold hard fact that God has sovereignly chosen not to reveal certain things about Himself. As Moses said, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God . . .” (Deut. 29:29a).
All this mystery may not sound encouraging to those who strive for exhaustive knowledge but if we recall Moses ended his statement with, “but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever . . .” (Deut. 29:29b).
So, the upside to this – not that God’s hiddenness should be regarded as a downside – is that there is much that God has revealed to us and intends for us to know. In fact, the unsearchable God has given us ways of searching for Him and the unknowable God has given us means for knowing Him. And for this non-mystery we praise Him and receive blessings as a result.
One such blessing, which several men publicly endorsed at our last meeting through their testimonials, is our men’s BSF. The experience we enjoyed this inaugural year and hope, God-willing, to continue enjoying in years to come, stems from both the study of God’s word and the fellowship that grows organically out of that study.
God’s word and Spirit equip us with a divine perspective and power that brings heaven closer to earth so that we are enabled to pray, “Your Kingdom come; Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. Accordingly, BSF is aimed at bringing God’s revealed word nearer to us that we may know Him better and live out our lives as a consequence of that knowledge.
This now-small group of Montreal men understands that our missionary reach may eventually exceed our expectations, so we’re always looking for Christian soldiers to sign-on by signing up. I don’t want to reduce this to a numbers game because it’s certainly more than that. Though we can each only play one part, that part is something no one else can play. The truth, as we know, is that we are uniquely gifted to be one part in the whole body – a body that derives its power and significance from Christ, its head.
Several years ago, Victor Gavino’s distinct part began to be played out. I thank God for raising up Victor; for giving him the impetus to respond to the spiritual need in our city, particularly for the men of this city. He had the determination and commitment to get this Montreal BSF group off the ground. Needless to say, without his vision and will to see it through we wouldn’t have seen this first year.
And we could not overlook the First Filipino Baptist Church for comfortably housing our meetings in a warm, welcoming space, especially during those raging winter storms. We’re grateful to the whole congregation for their generosity and kindness.
Above all we thank our Lord for His Providence, who’s will it was that we should all unite with a desire to make His name known in this city. May He continue to encourage us and light our way forward. May He bless us and be our blessing.
Perspectives on BSF – by Francois DuPreez
This is the church, the body of Christ. A group of strangers that meet to edify, build up faith through the hearing Word of God.
Faith can only come through the hearing by he Word of God. Without Faith it is impossible to please God.
Friends, we HAVE to get the Word of God in us.
I had to, unfortunately, step out of the study for 8 weeks because of some intense project at work. This did however, give me a perspective others may not have had. When I returned I could clearly see growth in the men around the table – more confidence not necessarily in themselves but in the Word. In fact, there was a lot more confession of brokenness in ourselves and more confidence in the Word!
I am looking forward to the June XCC with some of the brothers here – to deepen our brotherhood in Christ and I know September comes and others will be curious as to how that is even possible in 70 hours!
It is amazing how, just as we don’t get to choose our family members, we don’t get to choose our Church family either – but somehow we get so connected in a very deep and special way.
A big thank you to the guys, Victor, Gabe and Louie, who stepped out in faith to set BSF up for men in Montreal. It is because of your obedience that the church can advance in dark places like this city.
Lastly – a challenge for the summer.
Pray against complacency, laziness etc. Fill yourselves with the Word and witness to those God brings across your paths. Pray for your families and your churches – stand watch!
My reflections on BSF – by Réal Frenette
I remember when we met at Victor’s place sometime in September to find out about BSF. Victor asked us to introduce ourselves and I was the first one to speak. I introduced myself by saying right away that it was due to the strong encouragement of my wife that I was planning to attend BSF. As it turned out, as we went around the room, I found out that I was not the only one. I’m sure we’re all glad and thankful to have listened to our wives!!!
The first Bible study that I attended was over 37 years ago, during a camping trip. I was not yet a believer at the time: someone had invited me to join their College and Career group for a weekend camping trip. It turned out to be something that the Lord used to draw me to Himself, the first of many steps. Beside the fact that I met the one who would eventually become my wife, I also got to meet and to know lots of other people. They were people who were like me in some ways: sports-oriented kind of people. But they were also very different from me in other ways. The Bible was something very meaningful to them, and Jesus was definitely present in their lives: on top of that, around the camp fire, they sang songs about Him and to Him. It was mind boggling to me at the time, and also very attractive.
Well, 37 years later, here I am attending another Bible study. Well, I have attended many Bible studies since then. Here again, I have gotten to meet and know people who are like me in some ways, and different in other ways. This time though, what is similar, what is common amongst us is not that we are necessarily sports-oriented: that was important to me 37 years ago when I was much younger, with a lot more energy. No, what is common amongst us is that we share a love for God’s Word, and a love for God. So we come here, free to express this important part in our lives, free to share with each other what God is doing in our lives: in the process, we are encouraged to keep going in our walk of faith. I also like the fact that we can come here to sing songs about God and to sing songs to God, just like in that camping trip: a bunch of very amateur male singers forming a choir before God: somehow, I believe God enjoys this type of music. As John Piper puts it, we are a singing people because we are the children of a singing God, a God who rejoices over us with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).
So there is definitely something common between us all, but we are all also different from each other: different upbringing, different cultural background, and basically different life stories. Different, and yet part of the same Body, His Body: all inter-connected in some personal ways to the Head of the Body, who is Christ our Lord.
BSF has allowed me to meet and get to know new people, my spiritual brothers. BSF has also allowed me to get to know better 3 people from the Old Testament: Saul who didn’t seem to have a heart for God, Solomon who was more half-hearted, and David a man after God’s own heart. And BSF has also allowed me to get to know better the God of those 3 men, the God who is also my God. A faithful and loving God, faithful to his promises to His people Israel back then, and still faithful to us today. A God who deserves full obedience and worship, for what He has done for us and continues to do, for who He is.
I am certainly considering joining BSF again next year. The prospect of studying the book of Acts along with some epistles is very appealing. This last year, we have spent time in the Old Testament, the First Testament: in it, we could see definite pointers to Christ. Next year, as we open the New Testament, we will see Christ openly revealed. As II Cor 1:20 says, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God”.