I think, by now, almost all Christians in Canada think that the Canadian church is in a period of great decline. Whether we think the primary cause is our own failures as a church, the increasing hostile secularism of our culture, or some combination of factors, most of us think this is not our finest hour. Furthermore, we have fallen off the “radar” in the wider Canadian culture.
In short, we have lost our influence. There are reasons for thinking this is the case.
Consider the evidence.
In 1955, 60% of Canadians aged 15 and older attended church at least once a week. Today that number is somewhere around 10%.
In essence, we have lost half of our entire country in about a 60-year span of time! That news, in itself sounds devastating. But we are not done.
In January 1988, Canada became the only western country in the world to lift all restrictions on abortion. In 2004, then Prime Minister Paul Martin added to the “Hate Crimes Law” any statement that could be construed as hatred of homosexual people. In that same year, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could change the legal definition of marriage. Then in early 2005, this became law. Christians have now been put in the uncomfortable position of arguing why the biblical definition of marriage is not “hateful and discriminatory.”
From all this evidence, it seems that the “de-Christianization” of our country has been rapid and now fully complete. So much so, that Thomas Mulcair, leader of the federal NDP, and possible future Prime Minister, argued in a 2013 interview that evangelicals were both “un-Canadian” and may even be advocating values that are illegal in this country.
As dismal as all of this sounds, let me offer just a glimmer of hope.
The reality is that while we may think that there is no hope for the Christian faith, in fact what has been decimated in recent years are the large mainline denominations.
Remember that these are the same groups that have become known for denying the inerrancy of the Bible, and also for denying major Christian doctrines – including the virgin birth, the full deity of Christ and his substitutionary death and resurrection. In short, they have denied the gospel.
And these denominations are now but a shadow of their former selves.
So by denying the gospel, what mainline churches succeeded in doing was to destroy the faith of those who attended, as well as destroying their own denominations in the process. It’s not so much that secular culture has wreaked havoc on the church, but rather we are witnessing the mass apostasy of many so called “churches” across the country.
In contrast, evangelical Bible believing churches comprised about 8% of the population in 1931. As of 2009, they comprised 11% of the population.
Now, this is not a revival by any stretch of the imagination. But, on the other hand, biblical Christianity is certainly not dying and going away. Rather, the evangelical movement is making modest increases and gains.
So, what is the lesson?
It is only when we remain faithful to an unwavering commitment to God’s inerrant Word that the faith will not decline – even in the face of a hostile and aggressive culture.
But if we deny the essentials of our faith, we will destroy the faith of millions and destroy our churches in the process. This is the time to be bolder and more confident than ever in the good, glad and saving news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must never doubt that the historic Jesus of the Bible really is King and Lord.
Long after Canada has passed away, the faithful church of Jesus will remain. We are on the side of history.