church and the Canadian culture

I attended a teaching session with David Fowler, church planter in Durham Region who has done extensive studies of the Canadian culture and its implication for the shape and ministry of the church. Some of the key points that I got out of this session were…

(1) Canada is not the US – There are significant differences between attitudes and values of Canadians and our neighbours to the south. Despite these differences, Canadian church leaders often uncritically adopt and/or mimic the practices of the American mega-churches. He used the example of the use of advertising, and how Americans (in general) are still more positive toward churches and will respond to advertising campaigns more than Canadians. He asks the question as to how helpful it is for Canadian churches to rely on the methods and models of Saddleback or Willowcreek, or other successful American churches.

(2) Its tough to be in the GTA – David’s studies have indicated that the GTA, and especially east GTA, is resistant to the church more than any other area in Canada. The least churched and the hardest to reach. Too hard to go into the details, but the impression was convincing and unsettling.

(3) No more business as usual – In order for the church to spread the message of Jesus, we have to evaluate and change our models and methods. Not just programatic changes, we’re talking core changes in the very shape and concept of the church! Another program will not help. I was left wonder, is there much hope for the church as we know it? Thankfully the God-factor tips the scale in our favour… but still.

(4) Church is a bad word – Canadians (and people all over the world) are skeptical of anything having to do with the church. They’re into spirituality and religion big time, just not in the church. Too many scandals, too much judgmental attitudes and hypocrisy. Left me thinking, maybe we should drop the word “church” altogether. Like the word “gay”, its original meaning is lost on us today because its new meaning has taken over. Is the new meaning of “church” too negative to salvage the old meaning?

(5) Canadians have no time – Time concerns (ie not enough of it, too busy) is the #1 concern/fear of Canadians. Can you imagine inviting them to get involved in all our programs and projects, and to give up their Sunday mornings? For that matter, have we as Christians succumbed to “busyness”? The word busy is also an acronym BUSY – being under Satan’s yoke. How often do you use the word busy when describing how you are doing?

(6) Spirituality yes, church no! – Its not that Canadians are not into God… they are, big time. They are dabbling in all kinds of spirituality, and open to the supernatural. They just don’t see the church as a likely place to meet or experience God. This is prime time for the message of Jesus, but the vehicle chosen by Jesus to communicate it has become ineffective – and needs an overhaul.

That’s all of my reflections for now. Will think about it some more, but I am eager to hear from you what your reactions/reflections might be.

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