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I will admit it. I feel like Daniel, except that I haven’t gone anywhere! Daniel, you will recall, was taken as a captive from Jerusalem and brought into Babylon. It must have been an overwhelming experience. The language had changed, the culture was dramatically different and, at every turn, he found his faith in conflict with the wider world in which he now lived.

Unlike Daniel, I haven’t gone anywhere. Even though I’ve had a fair bit of opportunity to travel abroad and my wife and I have lived in California for four years, I’ve lived in my birth country for the most part; indeed I only live some 50 kilometers from where I was brought up.

And yet, I feel as if I’ve been taken to a strange land in my lifetime. I remember my early childhood experiences in church. We sang from a hymnbook, as did every other church in North America. I could have travelled from my home in rural British Columbia to a city in Florida, and wouldn’t have thought it even slightly strange that a church in that part of the U.S. would have sung the very same hymns that I had sung in my home church. Furthermore, even though theologies between churches differed, especially among those who held to infant baptism, I would have expected the same general beliefs and practices among all evangelical churches that practiced believers baptism.

But this was not only my experience in church; it was also my experience in the wider culture. My early memories of public schools consisted of the same ritual that all Canadian school children went through. We began with a reading from the Old Testament, then the New Testament, a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, followed by the singing of “O Canada” and “God Save the Queen.” I remember the very first class I got in sex education. We were divided between boys and girls. I remember being asked if we (the boys) would ever marry a girl who was not a virgin. I remember every single boy in my class saying with confidence that they would not. On that basis, we were asked if we thought the girls would think the same way. We all agreed they would.

But things changed quickly. The morning school ritual changed. Sex education changed. And in my church, we were hard at work in transforming from hymns to choruses. (That was accomplished with no little conflict!) And the wider culture changed. The roles of women changed. The understanding of our sexuality changed from the sexual revolution to the acceptance of gender as a fluid concept. All the stores, which used to be closed on Sunday, were now all open. The Internet changed the way in which we communicated with each other. The products we consume changed dramatically, including where it was grown or manufactured. The concept of the family changed. And so also, the nature of an evangelical church changed.

I am not arguing that all was well in the olden days, for it most assuredly was not. There was a fair bit of racism, especially in the church. Traditions often replaced orthodoxy, even when we didn’t know it. And for me personally, I find living in a multi-cultural environment to be exhilarating. I for one do not long for the days when we were all white and European. When it comes to evangelism, I find one can have far more honest and engaging conversations with people who don’t claim to be Christian, than was once possible when everyone just gave verbal but not heartfelt approval to the Christian faith. So, whatever else – don’t think of this as a hankering after the olden days.

But some things must not change. Indeed, we must fight for these things and be willing to die for them. More next week!

Dr. John Neufeld

Dr. John Neufeld

Dr. John Neufeld is the national Bible teacher at Back to the Bible Canada. He has served as Senior Pastor, church planter, conference speaker and educator, and is known both nationally and internationally for his passion and excellence in expositional preaching and teaching.

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