a mission field called canada
I love the words of the Psalmist, found in Psalm 72:8, which read:
…and He shall have dominion from sea to sea.
While the author was not explicitly referring to the geographical boundaries of Canada when writing these words (at least, I assume they weren’t), I love this prophetic picture of the current and future rule and reign of God over our nation. And it’s one I often find myself dreaming of, longing for, praying to become reality in our day.
Today, from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, and all the way northward to the Arctic, missional opportunities abound in our own backyards.
While the denominational family I’m part of (The Christian & Missionary Alliance in Canada) has identified a handful of global regions to focus our international mission efforts, the reality is, living on mission and multiplying disciples everywhere does not just mean way “over there” in distant lands, or in the 10:40 window.
Rather, multiplying disciples everywhere includes right here, at home in Canada, too.
Canada is a mission field. Did you know this?
Today, wherever you’re located across Canada, you are surrounded by hundreds, thousands, if not millions, of people who have yet to discover the person of Jesus.
And not only is Canada home to millions of domestic born men, women and children who, for whatever reason, have not yet chosen to follow Jesus, or who, in today’s post-Christendom era, have maybe never even heard His name preached or been given an opportunity to respond to the gospel, but Canada is also changing by way of immigration.
You see, the nations have and are coming to Canada.
If you didn’t know, between now and the end of 2022, Canada – which currently boasts one of the world’s most diverse international student populations with 186 nations represented in 2017 – anticipates housing approximately 1 million international students while they study abroad.
By 2023, Canada aims to welcome more than 1.23 million new permanent residents.
By 2031, it’s estimated half of Canadians will be a first-generation immigrant or have at least one parent who is.
By 2036, it’s estimated one-third of Canadians will speak neither English nor French as their primary language.
And for years now, Toronto, ON, with more than 50% of its population foreign born, has been recognized globally as the world’s most multicultural city.
For more statistics like this, or to explore the changing reality of Canada, go to rekindle.tv/love-local-explore.
Again, the world is coming to Canada. The face of our nation is changing. Canada is a mission field.
Did you hear that? Canada is a mission field.
Let me rephrase that. Canada is our mission field. Did you know this?
Another staggering statistic on immigration is the amount of people groups that now live in Canada from the many hard-to-reach places around the globe.
If you didn’t know, right now, over 165 unreached people groups call Canada “home”.
What this means is that 165+ nations and people groups once inaccessible with the gospel are now here, living amongst us, in our cities and neighbourhoods and regions – perhaps even just across the street or over the fence from where you’re sitting reading this now.
For more on unreached people groups, check out this helpful video titled, What is a UPG?
The nations aren’t just coming to Canada... They’re already here!
And they are waiting.
Waiting to be befriended by you. Waiting to be loved and invited into your home to share a meal, to share life with you and/or your family. Waiting to be reached with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Canada truly is a nation of nations, a nation of many different people groups and psychographics. And as followers of Jesus, surely we have an obligation to be mission-focussed people, reaching the least reached, multiplying disciples everyone, not just way “over there,” but right here, at home, as well.
And so, I ask you: Who is mindful of the many new Canadians arriving each year to our country?
Who’s attempting to reach and disciple the hundreds of thousands of international students studying here for the next few years?
Who is bringing the gospel contextually to the hundreds of unique people groups that are now here in Canada in a way that they understand and can engage with?
Is your Church?
And then there are the “nones”… And no, I’m not referring to Catholic sisters.
I’m talking about the one-quarter of Canadian adults and one-third of Canadian teens who say they have no religious affiliation – over half of whom come from religious homes or backgrounds, the most predominant of these being Christian.
If you didn’t know, this group of “nones” is the fastest growing religious group in Canada, and recent statistical data would show this group is only going to grow larger in the years to come.
For the most current statistics on “nones” and religious identity in Canada, check out Joel Thiessen and Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme’s 2020 publication, None of the Above: Nonreligious Identity in the US and Canada.
In light of this, I ask you: Who’s thinking about the “nones”?
Who’s intentionally attempting to reach and disciple this growing crowd?
And what does good news sound like, look like to this unique people group, anyways?
Again, the face of Canada is changing. And not just ethnically, but religiously as well.
Are you viewing Canada as a mission field, ripe with opportunity?
Are you mindful of the many different people groups, pockets of society and geographical locations around the country where Christ is not yet known? Where a church does not yet exist? Where people have limited, little, or possibly even no access to the gospel in a language or context they understand?
If you doubt that this is true of Canada, read the data again. Do your own digging on this. I assure you; least- and unreached peoples do exist in Canada today.
The truth is, if it ever was, Canada is no longer a Christian nation. The name of and salvific work of Jesus is not common, household knowledge anymore – and not just to new Canadians, but to third- and fourth-generation Canadians as well.
We can no longer assume everyone everywhere in Canada has access to the gospel. Rather, we need to realize that Canada is a mission field, and missional opportunities abound in every province, region, city and neighbourhood.
We must acknowledge this. And we must live in light of this.
So, if you, like me, are desirous to show and share the kindness of Jesus to the many nations and/or people group that likely now share your postal code, your local grocery store or favourite coffee shop, perhaps you’re asking yourself: Where do I even start?
The good news is, you're not alone. I know I’ve asked this question. And lots of others have, too.
Let’s be real. The thought of jumping into this can be overwhelming. Ministry across cultural boundaries can be both intimidating and extremely challenging. But it doesn’t have to be.
While we don’t promise to have all the answers, here at reKindle, our team has recently developed a new online tool we believe will help you and your church answer this question of “where do I start?”.
The tool is called Love Local and it’s been designed around three central themes:
Explore the reality – aimed to help you discover the changing ethnic and religious landscape of Canada and explore the many new missional opportunities that might exist in your region or city,
Expand your capacity – a curation of online resources we believe will inspire, equip and guide you on your journey to reaching the nations here in Canada such as how-to’s on building friendships or starting conversation with new Canadians, or tips on connecting someone from a different culture, and,
Engage the opportunity – an ever-growing list of organizations and ministries that exist to engage the nations with the love of Jesus, and whom you might desire to partner with.
Might this tool be a resource to you as you seek to reach the nations in Canada? We hope it is!
We would love to help you on this journey of exploring the reality, expanding your capacity and engaging the opportunity to love those whom God has brought to Canada from around the globe.
Another potential answer to this question of “where do I start?” could simply be to step out in faith and boldness and invite a new Canadian or international student into your home for a meal.
From personal experience, I can say that this is fantastic starting point.
A few years ago, now, following a prompting from Jesus, I decided to invite my barber, an immigrant from Syria, and his family to join my own for a shared meal. To say both of our families were nervous of this first-time experience would be an understatement.
I remember so vividly how shy everyone seemed at that first night when our guests arrived. The barriers of language and unknown cultural expectations and traditions presented themselves in timidity by all parties.
Yet, after those first few awkward minutes, I also remember how deeply moved this family was to have been invited to share a meal with us. Unbeknownst to us, after three years in Canada, this was their first time being welcomed into a Canadian home. It was also their first time eating at a kitchen table rather than seated on a communal mat on the floor. To say the least, that first meal together – and the next one at their house – was surely a culturally expanding experience!
Since that initial shared meal, however, our families have become close friends, spending much time together in one another’s homes, eating – to the great enjoyment of my kids, on the floor when at their house! – laughing, sharing our different beliefs and faith backgrounds, and even praying together in the name of ‘Isa on numerous occasions. Encouragingly, the last time we prayed together, our friend made the statement, “we know Christian salat (prayer) works.” Isn’t that beautiful?
Our friends have yet to place their faith in Jesus. And we continue to pray for them and for opportunities to share the good news of the gospel. But they have become lifelong friends of ours nonetheless, and friends we love dearly. Even writing this, I’m overcome with emotion for them, longing for this COVID-19 pandemic to end so we might see our friends again in person.
And it all started with a simple act of hospitality, of stepping out of our personal comforts, past our fears and insecurities and lack of knowledge and cultural competency, and simply inviting this family into our home for a meal.
The same can be true of you.
Again, the nations are here in Canada. And they are waiting for you to befriend them. To invite them in. To love them with the love of Christ. And to introduce them to the Creator and lover of their souls.
Will you choose to view Canada as a mission field?
Will you choose to be intentional about reaching with the gospel the many nations and people groups God is bringing here?
Will you choose to step out past your comforts or fears, and truly love your neighbour, inviting them into your home, your family, your life – particularly those who don’t look or sound like you?
And will you commit to equipping your church to do the same?
God bless you as you engage in the mission of God, reaching the least-reached and multiplying disciples everywhere, including here, at home, in Canada.