I recently had breakfast with two men I have known for many years. One of them has taken a new position in a para-church ministry, aimed at helping churches reach out to Canada’s growing immigrant population. He told me that he was saddened at how many churches were not responsive to the growing number of new Canadians who have come from countries around the world. After our meeting, this brother sent me an article in which some in the governing Liberal Party are projecting immigration levels close to half a million people a year.
I decided to do some research. In 2015, Canada took in 271,660 immigrants from various countries, up 4.4% from the previous year. 49% of Canada’s immigrants in 2015 came from only five countries. I list them in order of the number of immigrants. 1) Philippines 2) India 3) China 4) Iran 5) Pakistan.
Now contrast these numbers with live births in Canada during the same year. Stats Canada reports that 2015 saw 392,902 births. That would mean that about 40% of our growth came as a result of immigration. Of course, in order to understand the nature of growth, Canada also saw 269,012 deaths in the same year, and so in order to understand the net gain in this country, that number also must be figured in. But that would make the net gain of immigrants to be even higher than the 40%.
Putting it all together, any church or denomination that prays about reaching our nation for Christ that does not have an active understanding and plan for reaching out to people from those five nations simply is not taking its mandate seriously. To simply try to continue to reach people from European heritage who are among the most resistant to the gospel is madness at best.
Because of the high number of people from the Philippines, the Roman Catholic Church has grown remarkably. In the first decade of the 21st century, the Roman Catholic Church grew by about a half a million people. Furthermore, as Reginald Bibby reports, the Catholic Church is the leader of Canadian churches in its ability to retain its people.
But a great many of the Chinese immigrants in Canada are highly receptive to the gospel, as are a great many Iranians, if we became intentional. Since Back to the Bible Canada is beginning its ministry in India, I have memorized a new approach when speaking to Indian immigrants into Canada. I invite them to consider the Christian faith, for it has been in India for 2000 years.
But, putting it all together, I have come to three thoughts regarding the changing nature of Canada, the church and our call to missions.
1. Many cultures that arrive in Canada find talk about God and spiritual reality to be natural and easy. If we befriend immigrants, we can be in a very easy place to share the gospel. It is welcome.
2. Acts 17:26 says that God determined allotted periods and the boundaries of the dwelling places of all peoples on earth. If God determines the times and places where people live, we must assume that He has determined this period of massive immigration into Canada.
3. I believe that, if we have eyes to see it, this could become the greatest period of missions that the church in Canada has seen. Indeed, let’s pray for this very thing.