Honouring the Legacy of Jack Charleson
February 6, 1936 — November 27, 2017
We will never fully comprehend the impact that this man made on the church in Canada, particularly in Ontario and the GTA. Jack’s fingerprints are all over the DNA of Canadian Youth Network.
Jack and Shirley faithfully served their local church, Bridlewood Presbyterian Church, for decades. However, it was after Jack’s retirement that he made his greatest mark. In 1985, Jack was part of a handful of men who came together to pray about their dream for an evangelistic thrust in Ontario. Under Jack’s leadership as Chair, on October 26, 1985, Mission Ontario was born with 5 objectives.
- Strengthen the Prayer Life of churches across the province.
- Endeavour to ensure that every person in the province heard the Gospel.
- Encourage cooperative evangelism.
- Establish a network of neighbourhood Bible studies.
- Recognize the social responsibility inherent in proclaiming the Gospel.
Part of this dream was to have an evangelistic event at Skydome (now Rogers Centre) in Toronto. This dream was realized in 1995. Mission Ontario with Billy Graham set a record attendance on the youth night of around 70,000 which will never be broken due to fire codes. There were more people outside the stadium. Thousands began a relationship with Jesus that night.
The Mission Ontario Youth Committee continued the vision with a dream to hold a millennium event as we entered the year 2000. In 1998, approximately 8 different denomination youth leaders gathered with the Mission Ontario Youth Committee to create the 2000 ACTS youth project. In the fall of 1999, 8000 youth went through a 5 week curriculum on the Great Commandment and Great Commission. October 16, 1999, 11,000 teens were commissioned at Copps Coliseum (now First Ontario Place) to do acts of service in the year 2000. Prior to this event there were 8 known communities across Ontario where church youth groups networked together to reach their community. After this project there were over 50 networks. 500 young people started a relationship with Jesus at that event and many great stories were documented during the year 2000 of church youth groups impacting their communities.
For the 2000 ACTS project to exist, Mission Ontario Youth became a charitable corporation under the name Canadian Youth Network. Jack Charleson was CYN’s first Board Chair and served for 3 years as a mentor to the 2 founding directors Dale Winder and John Latta.
The Canadian Youth Network continues to serve the church by supporting youth leaders as they develop spiritually healthy teens. The vision very much like Mission Ontario’s original vision is that every teen in Canada has the opportunity to experience God’s love, respond to the gospel and be discipled in a healthy church youth ministry. Along with pastoring youth pastors and continuing to encourage networking among community churches, CYN runs an annual Lunch Tour in 12 cities with 450 youth pastors/leaders attending in 2017. Our annual Change Conference averages over 200 young people per year who commit their life to Jesus.
One of our greatest memories which Jack was able to witness was the gathering of church leaders from across the GTA at Peoples Church to hear the vision for the 2014 Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham. CYN played a key role in the leadership of this event which saw 40,000 attend Air Canada Centre over 3 days and over 4000 commitments made to follow Christ. Participating on the youth committee was pastor Matt Baker who became a Christian as a teenager at the 1995 event and now brought his own youth group to the Festival of Hope which he helped organize.
Matt’s story is one very small illustration of the exponential impact that Jack and the Mission Ontario team first dreamed of in 1985. Jack is now able to see first hand the full impact his efforts have made. Jesus will definitely be saying to Jack, “well done, good and faithful servant!”