"Canadians want a sense of genuineness," he says. "They're not so interested
in a big, entertaining church. Church isn't part of their background--it's not
a social thing. Genuine relationship with God is their biggest concern."
Churches in Canada, where only 7 percent of the population belongs to an
evangelical church, might provide believers in the United States with good
models for reaching out in a culture that is not so much hostile as it is
apathetic to the claims of Christianity. Here, Christians have learned that the
key to pointing non-believers toward Christ is showing them evidence of a
genuine relationship with God--a truly transformed life.
The college-age class is the fastest-growing segment in Blackaby's church.
He has baptized 16 people in their early 20s in the past year, none of whom
come from religious homes. "Our young adults talk about God a lot," said
Blackaby. "And because they're 'cool,' their peers listen to them."
"This is genuine!" is a comment Pastor Alan Braun often hears when
unbelievers visit his church in Penticiton, British Columbia. Abundant Life
Christian Fellowship has outgrown two buildings and is ready to add a second
Sunday morning service to accommodate its continued growth. "The biggest
advertisement we have is changed lives. The best evidence of a church's success
is the transformed lives it produces," Braun said.
"Our people are authentic and real," said Pastor Lou Leventhal of Lakewood
Baptist Church, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Lakewood is the only successful church
plant--of any denomination--in that city in the last decade.
"I try to model transparency," Leventhal said. "It's not bragging about your
sin, but being honest about your struggle. People are looking to see if God is
real and if the Christian faith is relevant. Nobody--well almost nobody--comes
to our church because they are religious and have always gone to church."
Lakewood rents worship and education space from a community center and has no
plans for a building.
Another pastor, Jamie Osborne of Spring Valley Baptist Church, Kelowna,
British Columbia, says, "It helps us to not have a building. That way we're not
limited by space."
Spring Valley outgrew its building two years ago. Being structure-free is also a cost reducer that
allows Spring Valley to broaden its leadership team.
"The corporate CEO model doesn't work in Canada," Osborne said. "Because of
the way we govern ourselves, shared ministry broadens the base. There's no one
person (pastor) to latch onto." Within three years, Spring Valley will have
four couples sharing the leadership.
Relationship evangelism--friends bringing friends--is the best way to win
people to Christ, according to Jeff Christopherson, pastor of Mountain View
Christian Fellowship, Calgary, Alberta.
"People are looking for friendships and relationships. People are lonely. We
reach as many people by addressing their loneliness as we do by ministering to
their spiritual hunger," Christopherson said. His church is growing because the
warmth of the members attracts the unchurch-ed, and once they come to Christ,
they bring their friends, he said.
Most of the pastors polled agreed that people are interested in learning
what the gospel can do for them in a practical way. Will it improve their
marriage? Will a relationship with God guarantee good health? Will their teens
avoid the minefield of drugs and promiscuity by accepting Christ? Questions of
theology, debates centered on religious practices, and spats about whether the
church sings choruses or hymns are of limited importance to the person truly
They add that prayer precludes everything. Regularly seeking God in fervent
prayer is critical if Canadian Christians are to fulfill the Great
"Our church's prayer is that people experience God when they come in," said
Pastor Mel Blackaby. "Amazingly, prayer has more impact on the members than on
the visitors. Because God expresses Himself through His people, prayer empowers
church people to respond effectively to visitors and to reach out to their
neighbors and friends."
Connie Cavanaugh lives in Cochrane, Alberta.
Toronto is the world's best mission field. Serving as Vice President,
Executive Officer for Administration at the Bank of Nova Scotia's head office,
I spend a lot of time in downtown Toronto. It's a tough place--people are
caught up in their careers and in making money. The spiritual dimension is
I try to help people who don't know God to see He is real and His Word is
At 50 I've worked my way up the corporate ladder in 27 years with the bank
of Nova Scotia. Although I grew up attending church, my connection to God was
Church was a good environment, the people were nice, it was a social thing.
The idea of making a personal commitment or having a personal relationship with
Jesus was totally foreign.
Eventually, after marriage and the birth of our only child, Alison, who is
now 18, I dropped out of church for a few years. When Alison was in elementary
school, we attended a Baptist church, but it wasn't until I met architect Byron
Carter that I began to understand there was something missing in my life.
Byron's deeply committed walk with God and calm servant's heart convinced
me. I wanted to know more.
Byron and I began hosting lunch-time Bible studies and prayer times in a
bank conference room where I worked, and three dozen people showed up.
At a private lunch meeting one day, I told Byron that I was leaving my wife.
Byron opened his Bible and, for 30 minutes, read scriptures that talked about
marriage and family.
I was completely turned around. I experienced conviction for the first time,
not as a negative thing, but in a releasing way. Three months later, I
responded to an altar call.
I desire to be of service to my colleagues now and look for opportunities of
personal crisis--death, divorce--to minister to my co-workers.
Jesus Christ can make a positive, huge impact on day-to-day, real-life
problems. I am challenged by that to bring the Word of God into everyday
situations where I can help someone the same way Byron helped me.
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