"What should we do with Toronto's superfluous churches?" asks a blog post. "Toronto used to be known as a City of Churches. However, since the 60s, most churches in the downtown core - particularly the more mainstream churches - have seen dwindling attendance." Although this post was written in 2010, the number of church buildings being converted into condos has only increased.
Welcome to Toronto. I love this city, and I want to see the gospel take root like never before. The reality right now, though, is one of need:
- Toronto has lost many of its churches. While some churches are thriving, many need renewal.
- Despite the church planting activity, we need to plant at least 300 churches by 2041 just to keep pace with the population growth. That's without making much of an evangelistic dent in the city.
- You are 1.5 times more likely to meet a Buddhist than a Baptist in Toronto.
- Most in Toronto have not rejected the gospel. They've never heard it.
Downtown, the need is even greater. The population has doubled downtown in the past 40 years. There are few evangelical churches downtown, though, and their combined attendance is lower than that of one large church (People's Church) in north Toronto. It's notoriously hard to plant a church here. Some estimate the percentage of evangelicals in downtown Toronto at 1%, lower than some mission fields. Entire communities lack any gospel presence.
Stephen Um said this of Boston, but he may as well have been speaking of Toronto:
Because of the hyper-mobility, and after that, the secular culture, ministry in Boston generally takes longer and is more expensive. Campus ministries will generally have 20 students rather than 100, and church-planting efforts will generally take twice as long to start seeing fruit. To be effective in ministry here, you need to have a long-term vision, even if you are very gifted.
I'm encouraged that God is sending people to Toronto who love this city and who have a long-term vision. I'm praying God sends more.
This is the spiritual condition of Toronto. Please join me in praying for this city.