Let's Try Toronto: An Interview With Daniel Yang

Daniel Yang is planting Trinity Life Church, a new church in downtown Toronto. He's an American who's moved into Toronto to serve.

I'm grateful for Daniel, and that he was willing to answer my questions.

You're not originally from Toronto. What led to you planting a church here?

That’s right. I’m was born south of Chicago and at the age 9 my family moved to Detroit. I spent most of my childhood and teenage years growing up in inner-city Detroit in one of America’s most dangerous zip codes. I left for university, got married, started a career in engineering, and bought a home in the burbs.

Our move to Toronto is somewhat of a long story. And I often joke that moving here was the most spiritual decision I ever made because I essentially leaned over and asked my wife, Linda, “Where do you want to raise our kids?” And she replied, “Let's try Toronto.” There was more to it than that, but really that was what I needed to hear from her to confirm what I felt God already stirring in my heart.

Most Canadians don’t realize that Detroit is the closest large city to Toronto if you don’t count Hamilton. It’s closer than both Montreal and Ottawa. So as a kid, I grew up coming here for weekend getaways and the occasional Chinatown Pho trip. In 2007, while I was still working as an engineer, I took my wife and kids here on vacation and we loved it as a family. Growing up as a refugee immigrant, we fit in well.

Before moving here, I did all my stats research and realized that Toronto —
 and all other Canadian cities — are in a desperate need of Gospel renewal and a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit. Our call to Toronto is definitely no less than that. But I’ve always had a realization in my heart that my greatest disciples are my four sons:  Justin, Conor, Joel, and John-Abraham. I want to expose them and their faith to a global, pluralistic, and diverse society. That’s the reality of the world we live in. So planting a church in a global and diverse city like Toronto is one of our best ways we figured out as parents to disciple our kids for the world. We’ll see how they turn out in the next couple years! But none of this diminishes our genuine love and concern for seeing Torontonians people come to know Jesus and walk in the abundance of their identity and destiny in Christ.

What do you love about Toronto?

There’s just so much to say about Toronto. I love the creative energy it has. I love that people move here to try to make a difference. I love that all the nations are here. I love the food! I love what God has done here in the past and the sense that He’s doing something new in our time. But Toronto's also paradoxical. Some of the things that make it great are also what makes it complex and overwhelming. The values of creativity and social good can bring a level of pressure and anxiety that'll exhaust even the most well meaning people.

I love that Toronto is open minded and I can appreciate certain aspects of its liberalism. I don’t have in mind the social/political issues that tend to divide the conservatives from the liberals. But what I do appreciate is that because of its openness and inclusiveness, there’s a greater variety of people that sit at a table to address societal issues. And more often times than not, that has allowed guys like me — an evangelical pastor — to sit down as well.

How would you describe the spiritual condition of downtown Toronto?

I don’t want to circumvent this question, but let me answer it a different way. Before I moved to the city I was praying and a term came to mind: neo-urban-charismaticism. It’s the idea that the Spirit of God must release and activate his gifts in the Body of Christ in a new and fresh way. It’s true that Toronto is more secular than most North American cities, but I try to stray away from the gloom and doom mentality. (But to be honest with you - there are times when you can physically feel the gloom and doom.) And I’m not just trying to be an optimist. I really do believe that we can pray in faith that the Spirit of God move in a fresh way. That prayer may fall on a ripe harvest field or it may fall on a valley of dead bones. Either way, the Spirit of God can bring life out of it. So I often find myself praying, “Come Holy Spirit” the same way the first century churches prayed Maranatha.

What have you learned about how to minister here?

I’ve only been here three years, but I hear the lessons get better after the third year! So far I’ve learned that you can only give what you receive. If you want to give the Gospel, you must receive it and consume it in large amounts yourself. If you preach community, you must truly and genuinely invest in and enjoy the one you’re in. If you preach rest and resistance to the city’s stronghold of fear and anxiety, then you must re-orient your life around a different principle than the one most others rely on. You have to douse and drench your identity in the Trinitarian God and believe that's enough to carry you through whatever season of ministry you’re in.

How would you define "ministry success" in downtown Toronto?

Hear God’s voice. Trust Him. Obey Him. It sounds cliche, but most times that’s what keeps me going. “Am I obeying as far as I can discern?” If I can answer “yes”, then I have to believe I’m “successful” in the ministry.

But in terms of what it means to establish a ministry legacy in downtown Toronto - I think the most important thing we can ask ourselves is, “Is what we’re leaving behind going to help the next generation?” If the kids in our church who remain in our church over the next few years grow to learn how to live in the Father’s delight, live under Jesus’ Lordship, and are led by the Holy Spirit in community — I have no doubt in my mind that whatever I did to contribute to that will receive a, “Well done good and faithful servant."


Comment

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

The City of Borrowed Gospel Ethics: An Interview With Dan MacDonald

Dan MacDonald is one of the first Toronto church planters I met. He pastors Grace Toronto, a downtown Presbyterian (PCA) church. I'm grateful for his ministry, and for his willingness to answer my questions.

I've heard you say that there are harder places to do ministry than Toronto, but
not many. Why do you think this is true?

Did I say that? If our context is North America, I think that is fair. There are three things that come to mind, that jump out at me when I read your question.

The first is, that the speed of life in a busy global city makes doing anything (other than work), well just... hard. Everybody is not just busy, they are slammed, gasping for air and margin.

The second reason is that Toronto has such a powerful culture. I grew up in Montreal and spent almost a decade in Vancouver, but they don’t seem to have anything close to the force of the Toronto culture. By that I mean, Toronto really tries to squeeze you into its mold, in terms of values, priorities, outlook, and cultural zeitgeist, much more powerfully than other Canadian cities do. New York is the only North American city where I have seen the like. And so fighting for a fully-orbed Christian world and life view is tremendously strenuous.

The third reason, and I don’t think I will say this well, but I will try — the third reason, is that Toronto is a really successful, magnetic, counterfeit version of the gospel promises. Toronto has affluence without too much inequality, diversity without much racism, safety without being dull, excitement without being dangerous. Toronto, more than any other city I have lived in or experienced, has borrowed gospel ethics, re-articulated and re-configured them in secular expressions, and done better than just about any global city in the world in balancing all these things. Almost every conceivable cultural good that Christianity promised other cultures throughout the centuries — freedom, equality, dignity, safety, etc. — Toronto has delivered on, without any self- conscious reliance upon God. Toronto is not just a secular city; it is proud, with some justification, of the cultural achievements it has earned while being avowedly secular. And that makes it a very spiritually complacent city. They think they have got it figured out.

Tim Keller, in a private conversation a few years ago, put it succinctly: "no matter how much New Yorkers pride themselves on being a secular city, in the United States, Christianity is still a creditable world and life view. In Toronto, it simply is no longer."

How would you describe the spiritual climate of Toronto?

My answer above probably spells this out as much as I can. The climate is intensely secular, spiritually apathetic or passive-aggressively hostile to Christianity. We are in a spiritually pulseless place, generally speaking. This has its obvious implications for evangelism, but what caught me off guard was its corrosive effect upon Christians. Discipleship in Toronto is far, far different than other contexts, partly because the culture — the ‘world’, in biblical terminology — has never been this enticing, or intimidating, in any context I have ministered before. I was stunned at how much Christians in this city struggle with temptations, and with upholding basic Christian disciplines, ethics, and priorities. Like the effect of Mordor on Frodo, this city wears down disciples of Jesus. Now that I have been here long enough, I can testify from personal experience that this is true.

What does ministry success look like in downtown Toronto?

Good question! I think it really depends upon your calling, and gifting, and God’s particular providence upon your life. For some laypeople, it might be staying faithful to Jesus through the temptations of the street. For a pastor or a church, ministry success is so hard to measure. The population of the downtown core seems to turn over about every 6 years, so if you are a downtown church — and you and I both are such — you must be prepared to have a massive turnover in your church pretty regularly. We feel at Grace as if we have people for a time, and it is precious, and then we will release them to gospel ministry in other churches and other cities. Ministry success is seeing fruit in the lives of the people you minister to, and watching them soar often after they have left you.

What keeps you going despite the challenges of ministry here?

The electing love of my Father, the redeeming grace of my Redeemer, the encouraging work of my Paraclete. And my wife. Seriously. And the opportunity to express Christ to a needy and strategic and beautiful city.
    
What are your hopes for this city? How would you like people to pray for it?

Pray that Toronto would become a place of shalom, a place of spiritual, and economic, and cultural renewal after the pattern of the glory and love of God and Jesus Christ.


Comment

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Toronto as a Ministry Incubator: An Interview with Barry Parker

Barry Parker is rector (senior pastor) of St. Paul's Bloor Street, an Anglican church in downtown Toronto. I'm grateful that Barry was willing to answer some questions about ministry in Toronto.

You've served as Rector at St. Paul's Bloor since 1998. How would you describe the spiritual condition of downtown Toronto?

What you see day to day is urban veneer. I think urban Toronto is spiritually elastic and that often exhibits as pluralistic, materialistic and secular. However, when you scratch the surface in any way—whether it be honest interaction, a crisis, or general life exhaustion—our experience is that there is a deeper hunger for hope, meaning and purpose.

A lot of downtown churches, like St. Paul's, began when Christianity was conflated with Christendom and held a privileged position in the culture. What adjustments are necessary as we adapt to a context in which the church has lost much of its influence?

All of our historic systems, structures and understanding of ministry, the positional authority of the pastor for example, are going or gone in this post-Christendom era. Adaptability in numerous small and seemingly irrelevant ways instead of the big large group connections now are the norm. The historic attractional model of ministry, open the doors and they will come, is gone. Even the missional movement has been co-opted by expediency and innate institutionalism. In other words, we always seem to inevitably try to program or package all aspects of ministry. I think the organic contextualization of the unchanging Gospel of Jesus Christ is the way forward. It is messy, challenging, yet faith inducing.

We can learn lessons from churches in places like London, New York, and Seattle. What are the benefits and dangers of applying these lessons here?

The benefit is that we can see what ministry looks like on the ground to help us think/reflect through what we need to do where we are in downtown Toronto. As a caveat, where we look matters. I think London and the U.K. are a decade farther down the secularization road than the U.S. I see Americans as still culturally religious, even in the NW & NE. Hence I find it more profitable to lean into the British experience than the vast majority of American material.

The real danger is that we often look anywhere else but where we are planted in panic or trying to find an easier way to do ministry. We habitually think that ‘they’ have the solution/answer/ministry I need because it looks easier somewhere else than the challenges of where I am planted.

What does ministry success look like in downtown Toronto?

I don’t like the word ‘success’ as it is fleeting and inherently secular. However, effectiveness through relational evangelizing and formational discipleship is crucial. This includes missional engagement, dynamic worship, Gospel community, contextualized service, whole life learning—all bathed in prayer.

It's easy for us to love Toronto because we live here. Why should others care?

Urban ministry is the proverbial canary in the mine. Contra the Canadian joke, it is not that Toronto is the center of the universe. Rather, Toronto increasingly reflects the urbanization and globalization of our day with all of its complexities, challenges and humanly limiting/flourishing lifestyles and worldviews. It is a ministry incubator of sorts.


Comment

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

As Toronto Goes: An Interview with Bert Thomson


Bert Thomson is pastor of Every Nation GTA, a downtown church that meets on the University of Toronto campus. He's served in churches in Calgary, Nashville, and now Toronto.

I'm grateful for Bert's ministry. When I visited Every Nation GTA, I saw the video below, and I wanted to share it with you. Bert's also been kind enough to allow me to ask him some questions about ministry in Toronto.

Bert, you've started, built, and led ministries and churches in Canada and the United States. How is Toronto different?

Bert and Sheila Thomson

Bert and Sheila Thomson

Toronto is the first city where we have lived and ministered where the city itself is both nationally and even globally connected. Vancouver, Calgary, Nashville are known more by the region they are in.

Toronto's multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society is really, really unique. We get use to this diversity after a while, but we need to keep drawing the lens back and see this phenomenon.

How would you describe the spiritual climate of downtown Toronto?

Spiritual but not Christian. I found out early not to make the mistake of insinuating that Torontonians are not spiritually interested! People consider themselves very spiritually enlightened. They might not have a high regard for the church but many people look to other sources for self-help and personal guidance.

There are also some strong misconceptions and/or bad experiences with church that some people in Toronto are carrying. One person commented, “after the intense pressure of working in a dog-eat-dog work environment, why would I want to go get beat down on Sundays?”

The cultural saviors of education and success are very powerful. On the surface, people don't have obvious needs for Jesus.

Given this reality, how is ministry different here?

When people meet us, they really need to see us as good news people. One the things my wife and I heard on a regular basis when we first arrived in the city was, “We really like your energy!” We took that as a compliment and worked from there to show where our “energy” comes from!

We must be sure to connect with what we agree with — i.e., things that people are passionate about that are actually kingdom realities. If we jump too quickly to how we differ, we can lose them.

We must also build a bridge of relationship to get beyond the veneer of apparent success. Many couples are in conflict. Families have many problems. Many people struggle with personal issues like anxiety, depression and addictions of all sorts. You have to seen as a person they can trust.

In other words, we need to reach out more than ever. You just don't get much traction with a Sunday service and traditional church programs. Ministry Monday to Friday is the key. Dwelling among the people is a must.

What does ministry success look like in downtown Toronto?

First of all, survival! I heard from a Toronto church planter that in the last number of years 20+ plants south of Bloor Street have already failed. It takes more time than in other cities where I have been involved in church planting. I've found that it takes a lot of outside financial support to keep going because of the expense of living here and the lack of built-in Christians who are just looking for a church to attend. After three years, we are still not financially self-sustaining.

Success is also seeing real unchurched, non-Christians find Jesus! When we baptize new believers, all the pain and struggle comes into perspective.

When we hit a point of spiritual momentum and the hard work of pioneering will move to the phase of disciples making disciples.

Ultimate ministry success will come when we can reproduce and plant another church. We hope that this will come within the next couple of years.

We love Toronto, in part because we live here. Why should others who don't live here care about this city?

It is a wonderful place! Torontonians are amazing; they really care about making their city better.

Toronto's influence throughout the nation is undeniable. Its population is greater than B.C, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba combined.  All the major banks are headquartered here. The stock exchange is here. All the major television and media outlets are here. There are more than 250,000 university and college students in the GTA.

For Canadians, we all must realize that as goes Toronto, so goes our nation.

Comment

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

From Canada's Bible Belt to Toronto: An Interview with Tim Strickland

This month I'm focusing on Toronto. My first post, Understanding Toronto, explains why. I want you to care about Toronto, and to pray for churches and church planting here. I'm even hoping some of you will consider moving here to serve.

As part of this short series, I'm pleased to interview some pastors and church planters. The first is Tim Strickland, pastor of Waverley Road Baptist Church in Toronto.

You pastored a larger church in western Canada. What made you come to pastor a smaller church in Toronto?

The place where I was pastoring, Three Hills, Alberta, is one of the most churched communities in Canada, but Toronto is one of the least. I felt like I was away from the area of greater need, and I wanted to get back to the front lines.

Two guest speakers we had at our church out west, The Prairie Tabernacle, influenced me quite a bit. The first was Joe Boot. Joe had come to preach during an apologetic series we were doing, and he had recently left RZIM Canada to plant Westminster Chapel in Toronto. I admired him leaving a significant position to do church planting in a difficult place, and it inspired me. Second, Dr. Nelson Annan, my former preaching professor at Tyndale, and also the former Pastor of Bayview Glen Alliance Church in Toronto, came and preached at our missions conference. He challenged us to focus on reaching the cities of the world, as the world becomes more and more urbanized. It made me think about the needs of the city, and Toronto in particular.

On a personal level, Toronto is my home town where I was raised, and I had started to miss it. One time when I was visiting from out west, I got stuck in traffic on the 401, and I actually enjoyed it because it felt like home!

The opportunity came to pastor at Waverley Road Baptist Church, in the Beach neighborhood of Toronto. It was a small struggling church whose glory days were decades behind her. At first I wasn't interested, but God obviously had other ideas and moved my heart to pursue the opportunity and accept the call. It hasn't been easy, but I'm so glad I did!

It has been an amazing four years as we have seen the church start to be revitalized. I now have opportunity to preach and interact with unbelievers all the time, and to share with an amazing team of people at our church in re-establishing Waverley as an evangelistic lighthouse in the Beach.

What have you discovered about the spiritual condition of downtown Toronto?

A former church building converted to a condo

A former church building converted to a condo

I have come to believe that many people living outside of urban Toronto have little idea of how post-Christian it has become. Toronto was once known as "The City of Churches," but it is now all too common to see churches turned into condos, and many of the great old church buildings are half empty, and not preaching the gospel.

I often say that I am the pastor of the largest evangelical church in The Beach, which is a Toronto neighborhood of 21,000 people. It's true, but it's not all that impressive! It actually illustrates how little gospel presence there is in the city, for there should be many strong evangelical churches in our neighborhood, but there are not. In a comparably sized community outside Toronto, there could be 10-15 Evangelical churches, and we would be one of the smallest. Yet in The Beach, we are the biggest. On a typical Sunday we hit 60-70 people, up from the mid 40's a few years ago. It's progress, but there are so many more people to reach! I estimate that on a given Sunday that less than 1% are attending a local evangelical church in The Beach.

Looking to the broader downtown area, things do not look much different. From The Beach, across the downtown core, to High Park, there are about 800,000 people (about the population of Winnipeg). There are relatively few evangelical churches, and fewer that are growing. The two largest I know of have about 600 people each. In comparison, Barrie, a city of only 150,000 an hour north of Toronto, has four evangelical churches with around 1,000 people each, and many other churches as well.

There is a lot of talk about all of the other religions in Toronto, but the census group that is growing the fastest is "no religious affiliation." It's over 40% of my community and growing. Toronto residents used to report being almost 100% Christian (in the broadest sense), back in the 1950's but it's now barely 50% Christian and dropping. In just two generations we have moved from being Christian to post-Christian.

I've thought a lot about what happened over the last two generations, and to simplify, I see two basic causes:

  1. Exposure to non-Christian religions gave nominal Christians justification to leave the Christian faith and become secular in their outlook.
  2. At the same time, too many believers left the city. The next generation of believers now raise their families in smaller suburban cities and towns like Barrie, Guelph, Oshawa, and Uxbridge, leaving Toronto without a strong evangelical witness.

This all sounds discouraging, but I still see hope and opportunity. Despite Toronto being a post-Christian city, we find that God is giving us many opportunities for outreach with people in our community. We are finding that there is often an openness to spiritual things, especially for their children. For example, we run a Christian kids day camp in the summer and between 50-75% of kids who attend are not regular church goers. We host a Family Day warming station as part of the community celebration and see hundreds of people come through and be exposed to our church and our people. And local community space is at a premium, but we have lots of space in the church. Each week we have hundreds of people in our building for groups ranging from girl guides to fitness clubs to a men's group. A lot of our opportunity is for pre-evangelism, but it's where we have to start, and we try to take whatever opportunities God gives us.

Given the spiritual condition of Toronto, how should the church respond?

First, every church in the city must see itself as an evangelistic mission station. Our mission is the re-evangelization of Toronto. We must be focused. Everything else is secondary. We cannot see our churches as primarily for Christians. We cannot spend our time debating nuances of secondary theological issues. We cannot continue to struggle with church governance structures that were designed for farming communities in the 19th century. We must focus on the evangelistic mission Jesus gave us.

Second, we desperately need godly spiritual leaders who will be supported and encouraged in leading churches to renewal and health, as well as planting new churches in hard places. We need gifted pastors who will choose to pastor a church of 50 in the city instead of a church of 300 in the suburbs, or who will plant a church from scratch, recognizing that it may be a multi-year process to grow beyond 100.

Third, we need some believers to move back to the city. Churches like the one I pastor are working hard, and there is plenty of opportunity for ministry, but we need more workers. And new church plants find it difficult to build their core teams, because of there are not enough strong churches who can hive off 50 people to kick-start a new church. Like Jesus said, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. We need believers to move back, likely in some organized way, as suburban and small city churches challenge their people to be missionaries and move back to the city where their grandparents used to live. I know many will say that it's too expensive, and I respond like this: You are right, it is too expensive, and no one can afford to live in urban Toronto, except…. 800,000 people do somehow afford do live here. You can afford to live here, just not with a two car garage and 2,300 square feet. You might have to move to a townhouse or a condo, but you can do it.

Fourth, we need churches that have struggled for years to hand over leadership to leaders who are skilled in church renewal. To paraphrase one church renewal expert: Any pastor who is smart enough to lead your church in a turn-around is also smart enough to know not to come to your church, unless he is given free rein to lead. Right now more pastors are interested in church planting than church renewal. Think about what this means: Most guys would rather start with no paycheck and no people but freedom to lead. So they choose to plant rather than get bogged down in a struggling church that stifles their leadership. There are a lot of struggling city churches that could be moving forward, but capable pastors will not consider coming, because they know the present leadership would not let them lead. That needs to change.

Fifth, churches need to intentionally seek to reach children. There is so much opportunity with children in the city. Many families are busy with both parents working and they are willing to send them to a church program to provide care and Christian teaching for their children, at an affordable price. They know their kids need some values and they are willing for churches to help.

What does ministry success look like in a place like downtown Toronto?

It really depends on the church.

But first, we need to stop comparing ourselves to some American pastor who planted in Churchville, Oklahoma, and his church grew from him, his wife, his 4 kids and 2 dogs to 3000 people, 50 acres, 10 multisites, and 3 kennels. The soil in Toronto is hard and that type of growth is not going to be the norm. Right now a church of 300 in urban Toronto makes the top ten list of the largest churches. Planting a church and having 50 people after a few years will be a success, because many of those 50 will be formerly unchurched people. I believe that we will start to see churches of 1000 or more once again, but we need to recognize that the hard soil makes growth more challenging.

Also, for a pastor in a city church it can be hard on your ego, as your suburban colleagues measure success in the 100's, while adding staff and new buildings, while you measure success as that new family who came and actually stayed, or that you didn't have to borrow money to pay the bills last month. By the way, I know we're supposed to be more spiritual than that, and not have egos, so you can pray for us city pastors to remember that our calling is different than our suburban colleagues, and our church's success is the Lord's anyways, not our own.

For some dying churches, success will be admitting they don't are not able to turn things around, and handing over leadership to a re-start team, who are skilled in church revitalization.

For other churches success will be committing to an outward focus, in decisions and dollars. I've told our church that when I vote, I vote for the people outside the church, because they aren't here (yet) to vote and we need to care for them above ourselves.

The Leadership Director in our Fellowship of churches, Godfrey Thorogood, taught me to use the acronym C.P.R., Cultivate, Plant, Reap, when it comes to reaching people. With hard soil, you spend a lot of time cultivating hearts before you get to plant the word and reap the harvest of souls. So success for us is often progress in our cultivation, with faith that God will give opportunity for planting and reaping.

There are people reading this that don't live in Toronto, and maybe don't even like Toronto. Why should they care?

Yes, a lot of the rest of Canada doesn't like Toronto. I really noticed it out west, but I notice the same thing here in Ontario, outside the city. Many people see Toronto as arrogant and self-important, unsafe and overpriced, crowded and rushed, and a place where they would never want to live.

I think that attitude is common among believers, who would add 'worldly' and maybe even 'wicked' to the list of adjectives. In short, we've done a Jonah, with Toronto being our Nineveh. We don't like the city, we don’t want to go there, and we're happy to run the other way. With this attitude, it's no wonder we've been moving away for two generations.

But we need to remember that if God loved the pagan city of Nineveh, then he loves Toronto too. Jesus died for Toronto as much as for any other place and we need start loving Toronto like the Lord does. I am often reminded of Robin Mark's song Revival, where he sings about the Lord: "You love this city and You love these streets." I think about Toronto, a city that Jesus loves, right down to the city streets.

Toronto is the largest city in Canada, the financial hub, the seat of the largest provincial government, headquarters for Canadian national newspapers and media outlets, and home of some of the largest hospitals, universities, and museums. Toronto is a political, financial, educational, and cultural center that spreads its culture and values all across Canada. You can’t say you care about the spiritual decline of Canada and then ignore Toronto. One of the reasons our country is in spiritual decline is because evangelicals have vacated our most influential city. The values we are getting spread across Canada are the values we should expect, when the 'salt and light' are absent from the source. If you care about revival in Canada, you need to care about Toronto.

Here are four things we can do:

  1. Love Toronto — We need to share God’s love for the city.
  2. Live in Toronto — As I've said above, we need some believers to move back. In Nehemiah's time, no one wanted to live in the city of Jerusalem, so they actually had to do a lottery to choose one in ten people to live in Jerusalem and repopulate the city (Nehemiah 11:1-2). Maybe we should do the same :), but it would be better if many would offer themselves willingly as missionaries who will live, work and repopulate churches in the city.
  3. Send church planters and renewal pastors to Toronto — I often hear about people planting churches in suburbs and other small cities. That’s great, and no doubt it's needed, but if Keswick or Cambridge needs a new church, then how much more Toronto! If Oakville or Stouffville needs a church renewal pastor, then how much more Toronto!!
  4. Pray for revival in Toronto — We need a work of God here, and we need His people to pray, believe and take action.
2 Comments

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.