What better than a fully engaged evangelical church?
By Bruce J. Clemenger. Reprinted with permission from Faith Today (July/August 2017). Subscribe to read more of his columns.
Freedom of conscience and religion are the first two freedoms mentioned in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Canada is a big country salted with welcoming evangelical communities of grace witnessing to the love of God in their neighbourhoods. Some are growing, others are not.
But growth itself is not always the best measure of impact. I recently met a pastor ministering in a declining church. He is the go-to pastor when people are in crisis. He functions as the town’s chaplain, ministering to people when they realize they need something more – a connection with the transcendent they have ignored, with a God who listens and cares.
From rural communities to large cities, you’ll find communities of Christ followers worshipping God and serving Jesus by serving others in the power of the Holy Spirit.
What other association or institution in society offers such an intergenerational, intercultural, transsocial and economic community oriented around the sanctity of all human life, the inestimable worth of everyone regardless of ability or age, speaking truth in love, repentance and grace, expressing the love of God in word and deed?
The Body of Christ across Canada is blessed with a multitude of passionate, wise leaders and institutions serving God in education, evangelism, Bible engagement, global mission, inner-city care, international relief and development, mentoring and leadership.
We are connected, and we have work to do.
Our country has seen steady decline in church attendance for decades – from the late 1940s, when close to 70 per cent attended weekly, to today when we see 12 per cent.
Over the years many of those who did not attend church still affirmed basic Christian beliefs, but increasing numbers no longer do so. Now those who seek to live out our Christian faith beyond our homes and churches are met with indifference and sometimes hostility.
In 1967 the official celebration of Canada’s 100th birthday on Parliament Hill included hymns, Scripture readings and the recitation of the refrain, "We rededicate ourselves to you, O Lord." The premise was that God had given Canadians a rich land and had blessed us.
Canada is still a land of tremendous promise. Many continue to come here to find refuge, peace and hope. We must not take for granted the opportunities and freedoms we enjoy. It makes sense we exercise and defend them – we Evangelicals are as diverse ethnically, actually more so, than other Canadians, and are more accepting of the public display of non-Christian religious symbols. We understand and respect deep religious conviction in a secular society.
Many around the world marvel at our diversity and relative peace. We are known as irenic collaborators and generous problem solvers, able to navigate diversity and manage difference well. Evangelicals find ourselves positioned to mediate between people of different faiths, including people of little faith. We respond generously to the needs of others.
And certainly we need peacemakers and caregivers in our society. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report, the beginning of the murdered and missing Indigenous women’s investigation, the warnings and pleas in the reports of the provincial advocates for children and youth, our society’s willingness to provide assistance in killing when we have yet to provide good quality palliative care, caring well for a slowly aging population, increasing mental health issues among our youth – all these point to systemic issues which require focus and resolve.
In caring for others what institution is better poised to make a difference in people’s lives, and address both the presenting issues and underlying problems?
In Canada’s 150th year our best gift is a fully engaged church – communities of grace and truth, love and compassion, forgiveness and redemption, bearing witness to the Good News of the gospel which offers healing and restoration.
Bruce J. Clemenger is President of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Please pray for our work and support us at www.TheEFC.ca/Donate or toll-free 1-866-302-3362.
Author: Bruce J. Clemenger