Canada Is a Big Mission FieldAlthough 60 percent of Canadians believe in a Creator God, the Church needs to think more seriously about mission in Canada.
A new survey announced this past July shows that fully 60 percent of Canadians believe God is the Creator. The survey “shattered the myth that Canadians had long ago put their faith strictly behind the scientific explanation for creation,” according to Canadian Press (CP), which co-operated with Decima Research on the poll.
Despite our Christian heritage we have a big mission field at home.
According to CP it’s surprising to realize most Canadians still believe God had at least some part in creation.
It may not surprise you that six in ten Canadians affirm God’s role in creation. But we can all be grateful if this survey helps correct those, especially in the media, who talk as though Canada were mostly atheist.
Similarly, the survey offers a corrective for those who assume most Canadians accept a version of evolution that leaves God out: less than 30 percent believe that. In fact almost 30 percent of Canadians believe that God created humans within the past 10,000 years. A final 30 percent hold a compromise position: that God guided an evolutionary process over millions of years to create life.
Let’s think about that first group of three in ten Canadians who do not recognize God as Creator in any way. That number should surprise few of us – it is consistent with prior polls that have shown 20 to 40 percent of Canadians can be sceptical about God.
But occasionally we need a reminder about how significant this portion of the population is. Thirty percent. Is that not proof the Canadian Church needs to think more seriously about mission and evangelism? Yes, in Canada. Despite our Christian heritage we have a big mission field at home.
Does this survey not indicate the need for Christian leaders across the nation to get together and take powerful steps to reach Canada with the Gospel? Yes, we should continue mission work everywhere on the globe but this must include Canada as well.
The survey shows a special lack of faith in Quebec. What can be done to quench the spiritual thirst of French Canada? There are creative and dynamic ministries in Quebec but more prayer, wisdom, planning mission and creativity in ministry will not hurt.
This emphasis may seem pessimistic – after all, shouldn’t we celebrate a 60 percent belief in God? The reality is actually a bit different when you got statistics on what Canadians believe about God and how this translates into practice.
For example, a Reader’s Digest survey done in 2003 noted that only 18 percent of Canadians state God is both loving and righteous. What does this say about the depth of biblical truth across the nation? The Digest survey also noted that 55 percent believe in karma, almost 30 percent believe in astrology and 18 percent believe in witchcraft and spells.
When it comes to talk versus action, polls show both Americans and Canadians are better at giving the right answers than taking part in regular prayer, charitable work and mission, not to mention church attendance.
By the way, there is a practical way to sense the power of church life in Canada, at least in terms of public worship. Go downtown on the night of a sporting event or music special and watch the traffic flow. If you are in Toronto when the Jays or Leafs are playing, you can tell just by traffic on the major routes. Sad to say there are no major traffic problems on Sunday mornings.
We don’t want to make too much of surveys but neither do we want to ignore or minimize the realities they expose. In terms of ultimate truth issues, this current survey comes at a critical moment in intellectual and religious life. I wrote earlier this year about the new atheism and Richard Dawkins. I was hoping his form of aggressive and militant atheism would decline quickly. It is not happening. In fact, Christopher Hitchens’ new book God Is Not Great has reached top bestseller status. The new atheists are making quite effective missionaries. God gives them liberty to pursue their goals. He calls Christians to follow a truer mission in the name of Jesus.
James A Beverley is professor of Christian thought and ethics at Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto.
Originally published in Faith Today, September/October 2007.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2007 Christianity.ca.