Good news about sharing the Good News

In case you missed the June 18 ‘Reigniting Hope: Sharing the Good News in Canada in 2024’ webinar, you can watch the video here and check out the summary here.

A survey of more than 800 church leaders from a wide range of denominations across Canada revealed the “unexpected and encouraging” fact that 72 percent of them have witnessed an increase in spiritual curiosity in their neighbourhoods and communities.

A fuller report will be coming later this month.

Presenting the one-hour event were Shaila Visser, National Director of Alpha Canada, along with Dr. Joel Thiessen, Director of the Flourishing Congregations Institute.

Three areas in particular showed signs of hope:

  1. Perceived increase in spiritual openness
  2. Growing prioritization of sharing faith
  3. Increased clarity in mission

Following are a few comments from the presentations:

  •  What gives you hope?:

Shaila Visser during the webinar.

Shaila Visser: There’s been a significant shift over the last few years in the country. I think people are tasting it, seeing it. We’re seeing stories . . . about this observable change that many of us haven’t experienced in at least our lifetimes, and maybe the lifetimes of our parents, where we’re seeing more and more interest from people coming new to Canada, born in Canada, who are asking really important questions about purpose and meaning. . . .

The question I want to ask, coming from [Joel’s research and what leaders are seeing]: regardless of your position in the church, as a volunteer or a paid staff member or what your role may be, do we have eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit is doing in our time?

And so I really want to use the phrase ‘Look up!’ Are you noticing what the church leaders are reporting? Are you noticing in your neighbourhood? And are you participating in what God seems to be doing through His Spirit across our nation, which is blowing a wind of discontentment with the world as it is and wanting something more?

  • Do you notice a spiritual hunger among new Canadians?:

Joel Thiessen during the webinar.

Joel Thiessen: On the immigration piece, one of the things we often forget is almost half of new Canadians already identify as Christian and are part of faith communities. And then there are some signs among new Canadians . . . younger Canadians attending more regularly than in the past.

Shaila Visser: I was at church at few weeks ago, and literally I’m hosting, I’m welcoming people in through the front door, and someone says, “Hi, I’m new here, I’ve never been to church, I’ve just immigrated from India. I don’t know what to do.”

I’m asking him his name, where he’s from – my family’s from India, so we’re having a lovely conversation. (He happens to be from my home town in India, which I think is quite amazing, that he walked into our church and I was hosting.)

I said, “How long have you been in Canada”. He said, “Since midnight.” I said, “Midnight, like it’s 10:15 now.” He said, “Yes, I just landed.”

“What brought you to church?” He said, “Well, I’ve just come to a Christian country and I’ve never been able to explore Christianity, and so I’m here to just learn.”

I think we’re hearing that story more and more – that people expect, ‘this is a Christian country,’ so those who haven’t come, as you said Joel, from a Christian background, are actually coming here having lots of questions.

  • Final thoughts:

Joel Thiessen: Some of my research on those who say they have no religion – we’ve talked about this as a growing group in Canada – is you find that more people who say that they have no religion have not been raised in any kind of religious home.

So I think what that means is they aren’t necessarily reacting against a religion that they were raised within. Potentially – and this is one of the things I want to track moving forward – it creates a different landscape for being open and curious, etc, because they’re not reacting against something.

Go here for the video and to download the Reigniting Hope summary. A more detailed report will follow soon from Alpha Canada.

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