Need of Greater acceleration in reaching the unreached.
Sunday morning at a typical Canadian evangelical church – about a hundred congregants, a building groaning with deferred maintenance, lots of grey hair, half the people not singing along with the familiar music.
Has evangelicalism been fading in Canada Is it poised instead for new growth Paradoxically, the answer to both questions is yes. As our country celebrates 150 years since Confederation, let’s take a quick tour from east to west to reflect on the past, present and future of evangelical Christianity.
The liberalization of divorce laws and sexual ethics, the increase of government-sponsored gambling, the secularization of public schools and universities, the availability of abortion virtually on demand, and the progressive dismantling of Lord’s Day legislation. The century before, from the 1860s until the 1960s, had been an era when Protestantism commanded Canadian culture. Indeed, most Protestantism just was evangelicalism.
Those Evangelicals who do call for a return to a Christian Canada, like the tiny Christian Heritage Party, sound off from the sidelines. For at least two generations, it has been eccentric in Canada to link religion and nation in a way that continues to be second nature for many Americans. The task for Canadian Evangelicals is to fully accept their loss of cultural privilege, and gear themselves to reach a once predominantly Christian country that now only shows a trace of its history.
Meanwhile, Evangelicals in the medical world are fighting to retain their freedom to conscientiously object to practices they see harmful to unborn children or patients vulnerable to euthanasia. On the 150th anniversary of Confederation – our country’s great experiment in co-operation between English and French, and Protestant and Catholic – it is not at all clear whether most Canadians have retained a spirit of accommodation of difference. Evangelicals, who ran the cultural show for a century in Canada and did not rack up a stellar record in that regard, might now have to endure a season on the receiving end of an overbearing cultural consensus. Again, there is no Billy Graham or Tim Keller or John Stott or Nicky Gumbel spurring any of these developments. In typical Canadian evangelical fashion, there are instead hardworking leaders and faithful coworkers doing what they are supposed to and thanking God for good results.
Furthermore, the very ebbing of evangelical cultural power across Canada, the way it has already ebbed in Vancouver and Montreal, allows more and more people to encounter the gospel without prejudice and previous disappointments. That means a new day for effective evangelism, alongside the formula of “retention of youth + enfolding of immigrants” – much like the situation Evangelicals faced when they welcomed into the faith so much of the country in the decades surrounding Confederation. On the sesquicentennial of the nation, it is far too soon to sign off on the story of evangelicalism in Canada.