I recently had the joy of having coffee with a man I consider to be among the very finest preachers in Canada today. I won’t mention his name; I think he would be embarrassed. I have on a few occasions been blessed to sit under his ministry. He is an outstanding Bible expositor, but there is more. Every time I have heard him speak, I have sensed the awesome presence of our God.
All that to say, last week’s coffee was a delight. Our conversation discussed a number of issues. We both had the joy of being taught by Daniel Fuller, and we reminisced regarding our old professor who had made a profound impact on both of our lives. We spoke about the new Nashville Statement and expressed our appreciation and gratefulness for a clear unambiguous statement about gender identity. (see cbmw.org) We also spoke of the crying need for evangelism, and the necessity of reaching Canada’s lost. We ended by praying for each other and then went our separate ways.
Since that meeting, I have been thinking about one aspect of our conversation. It has to do with “low hanging fruit.” By that, I mean people in Canada who are particularly easy to reach with the gospel and yet have been neglected. I am speaking most specifically of Canada’s large immigrant community.
In a 2016 U.S. survey, the largest ever of its kind, researchers analyzed findings regarding people’s denominational identity. Of the 14 findings, the survey found that white evangelical Protestants are now in decline. That is hardly news. The survey also found the population of evangelicals to be aging. But from my vantage point, none that should not discourage us. People of European background are making up a smaller part of the national pie. When I go shopping in my city’s mall, white European faces are the minority. The same is true of all of Canada’s major cities. While our rural areas remain predominately European, the country as a whole is in the process of a major transition. Why would we think, therefore, that white evangelical churches should be in anything else but decline.
But consider the opportunities. Chinese immigrants are very receptive to the gospel. So are Iranians. People from the Philippines, who make up the largest immigrant group in Canada, are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. Other immigrant groups, although historically resistant, are very open to spiritual conversations. If you doubt me, try having a conversation about Jesus with a European Canadian. Now try having that same conversation with an Indo-Canadian. He or she might not be receptive to the gospel, but talk about God and His ways is valued and respected.
Those facts alone should ignite Christian leaders to direct their evangelistic efforts in this country. And that brings me back to my conversation with my pastoral friend. Fruit that is high up on the branches is hard to reach. But ripe fruit on low-hanging branches is there for the taking. Since the low hanging fruit is a greater and greater part of the Canadian landscape, why should we not see, with Jesus, that the “fields are white unto harvest”?
What is required are more churches in Canada’s major cities, concentrating specifically on “new Canadians.” These are people who are looking for a place of belonging and are ready to hear new ideas. How sad if we only complain about the potential fruit located so high on the branches, all the while ignoring the low-hanging fruit.
Just a thought.