Mistaken Identity

The Need Next Door

I couldn’t pass up the chance to tease some teen-aged young men. They were right on me and another teacher from the Christian school where I taught, and though we couldn’t see their faces, they were obviously afraid to ride. We began to banter with the young men who looked no older than thirteen to put them a little more at ease. Just before the ride took off I said, “You’re not a couple of little girls are you?” When the ride finally came to an end, we congratulated the boys on a fine job, and, to my dismay, one of the “boys” turned out to be an eighteen-year-old young woman. Her hair was cut shorter than mine, she was wearing a muscle shirt and had the voice of an early teenaged boy. We had a case of mistaken identity.

I was born and raised and pastor in the great nation of Canada. I love my country, but our nation suffers from religious mistaken identity. If our nation has a fault, it is that we do not identify ourselves well. 

Let me clear up some misconceptions: Canada is not blanketed with snow year-round, only a quarter of the population speak French, and we don’t conclude every statement with Eh? But we are the second largest land mass in the world, and we have a population of thirty-five million people, 80% of which live within two hours of a U.S. border. We have very little poverty, socialized medicine, and many of our buildings have steeples on top of them. There are many things that would identify our nation to be much like America, and you might believe our country is as Gospel-saturated as America. But this is not true.

Canada was introduced to Fundamentalism just over fifty years ago. There are approximately three hundred independent Baptist Churches in all of Canada. There are more than twice that in the state of Ohio alone. The average attendance of a Canadian independent Baptist church is about forty people, and the largest church has about six hundred on Sunday morning. We are thrilled with what God has done in the last half century, but there is much more that needs to be done. 

While visiting many great churches and pastor’s conferences in America, I learned that most Americans do not know of the great need in Canada. Because we speak the same language, use a dollar currency, and have many church buildings, many believe we have a nation evangelized with the Gospel. I was told recently that Canada was the fifth most evangelized nation in the world, but less than 5% of our population declares themselves to be evangelical—that’s just two million people. This leaves 33 million people who either don’t attend church or don’t attend a church that preaches the Gospel. As a pastor—as a Canadian—this is overwhelming. How will I reach my people?

In just fifty years we have come a long way. We have a great network of churches and two good Bible colleges, but we are spread out over 6,700 miles from coast-to-coast.

I know that many will read this and say, "What about this country?" or "What about my country?" There are many places on this continent and around this world that have a desperate need for the Gospel—that is no mistake. But don’t be mistaken about the need right next door.

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