If you want a picture of the state of Christianity in Canada, consider the following:
- Weekly religious service attendance in Canada is in a free fall from 67% in 1946 to 11% in 2013.*
- The categories “never attend a religious service” or “have no religion” are the fastest growing categories between 1996 and 2013. In fact, they are the only categories that are growing.
- 24% in Canada claim no religion, compared to 10% who identify as evangelical — the latter number being one that would be unimaginably high in my community.
- 3% read the Bible daily. An additional 5% read the Bible once a week or more.
- 66% generally support the legalization of euthanasia.
- According to sociologist Reginald Bibby, immigration accounts for most of the growth in our churches.
- You’re more likely to meet a Buddhist than a Baptist in Toronto.
Toronto used to be called Toronto the good, the city of churches. Now many of those churches are being converted into condos and lofts. Nobody would say that the church is much of an influence on society anymore.
But that’s not the whole picture.
I’ve never met so many church planters in Canada before. I’ve never seen so many denominations working together to advance the gospel. I’ve never seen networks like C2C start with a burden for revival, and a lack of concern for who gets the credit. Then there are the pastors who are doing the hard work of revitalizing churches that were started in a very different context.
I attended a small meeting yesterday at Exponential, an annual church planting conference in Florida. The meeting was organized by Church Planting Canada. Exponential usually has a very American flavor to it — not a bad thing, but very different from Canada. But yesterday it took on a Canadian feel as church planters and network leaders met to talk about what God is doing in Canada. Though the spiritual climate is challenging, and our numbers are small, I sensed optimism in the room, and a hunger for God to do something new.
Pray for Canada. God is doing something. Someone yesterday compared it to the small raincloud that Elijah saw when he prayed for rain (1 Kings 18:44). It’s small, but maybe there’s more coming.
I hope to see it in my lifetime.
*The stat about 1946 church attendance came from George Gallup, as reported by Reginald Bibby in this article (PDF). However, it seems unbelievably high.