October 20, 2020

It’s a Small [Christian] World [in Canada] After All

small-world1Yesterday there was a list posted of 100 fantastic Canadian Christian women leaders. It was posted in response to a list of 101 [Mostly American] Christian Women speakers. The authors of both lists recognized their own limitations in creating these lists, and both agree that there are many other names that should have been included.

One thing really caught my attention when I read the names on these lists. I only knew two names on the names on the [American] speakers list, but twelve on the Canadian list. Furthermore, two on the Canadian list are direct acquaintances, and probably half of the women on the Canadian list are acquaintances of acquaintances.

It really reminded me of how small the Canadian Christian community is. If I turn on the TV, I get one Christian channel. The other multi-faith channel is currently in the process of being re-branded to “focus on more general entertainment programming for the 45 and older demographic.”

In my immediate community of 25,000 there is no evangelical church of more than about 60 people. Most of the mainline churches are struggling in similar ways. So if you are an evangelical christian in my community you have three choices: Attend a small struggling Pentecostal church, attend a mainline church, or attend a church outside of the community. I have tried all three of the options and have settled on number three. I posted a few weeks ago about how difficult I find this, but really don’t have much in the way of alternatives.

I should note that the picture in Western Canada is quite different to that in Eastern Canada, or at least in the larger urban areas of Western Canada.

Is my story uniquely Canadian? Or do some of our American or overseas friends find themselves in similar situations? What is life like in your neck of the woods? What kind of options do you have when it comes to church and Christian community? If you would rather just comment on either of the lists, feel free to do so as well.


  1. My Canadian wife from Ottawa whom I relocated to the Bible Belt confirms your thesis that the Canadian Christian community is indeed quite small. She can smell a believer at 20 paces….

    Rev. 2:8-11 ;o)

  2. I have only heard of 10 of the woman on the American list and my computer is not letting me open the list of the Canadian women.

  3. Klasie Kraalogies says

    As you said, totally different picture here in the West. My small SK town of 1400 people have 3 churches, with at least2 of those consisting of more than 60 members.

    But all 3 are Mennonite…

    In the larger area (Saskatoon and the surrounding towns, hamlets and acreages, concisting of about half a million people)there are many, many churches, some bordering on megachurches, of all kinds. They just finished building a new Catholic cathedral, the Holy Family Cathedral. But the older mainlines struggle – the United church in particular. A gourgeous sandstone church, Third Avenue United, is currently up for sale, downtown.

    And before I forget, there are a fair amount of Orthodox churches too- Ukranian, Russian, OCA, AOCNA etc. Of course, many people here are decendants of Ukranian settlers.

    • Unless you get out to the coast, then megas just don’t seem to work. There have been several that grew, they hired new staff, then everyone moved on. Being in a mega subscribes to a mentality that is pretty repelled by many Canadians. Canada is more of a live and let live view of life than a conformity culture. With Megas you have a pastor (or two) telling people where to give their money, which missions to support, etc. Most Canadians are happy to support what they personally want to, without feeling forced or pressured. Building projects and expansions drive as many away from a church as one can gather through an expansion. People tend to reject a ‘McChristian’ mentality. At least that is my view. When I was in Alberta, though, it felt more an ‘us’ against ‘them’ mentality. That created a desire for Christians to band together against the world, in BC, Christians are more integrated as a part of the culture – many Christians are union members, others would prefer to be, so the anti-union, bib-business feel mega-church evangelicalism doesn’t stick too well.

      • Agreed. Though there is room in Canada for *some* mega-churches, but I think that’s more because they’re in a place where the population can handle. For example, in Ottawa the Metropolitan Bible Church is a HUGE church that won’t stop growing. And I think it’s cause it’s one of the few churches that cares about the whole Christian, and different ways people connect to God. For example they offer times to give back to the community, numerous classes on teaching heavy book stuff (i.e. inductive Bible study, Christian doctrine, Christian history, etc.) as well as good ways to reach young people. But I think that’s a joy of being in Ottawa- has things for everybody. 😀

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  5. Ryan Mahoney says

    Nile the problem in America is different, our family’s situation is similar to yours. In our area there are two megachurch options of the non-denom type. One of those me and my friend deconstructed via a website, so that’s not an option. Really, after completing my grad degree at Wheaton the mega non-denims weren’t an option anyway. We have a host of EFree churches that are lesser versions of the high production, attractional mega non-denoms. And then a bunch of small, demographically old magisterial Protestant churches, and with a four year old son those places would leave him with no community. But, one hour away there is a suburb that has multiple robust Anglican, Presbyterian, or Lutheran Churches. So, depending upon where you live in America, it may be no different.

  6. If they are popular, then the chances are good that I don’t want to hear (read) them.

    The theology of ‘glory’ always seems to draw a crowd.

    The theology of the Cross seems to disperse the crowd.

  7. Can’t resist commenting on a post about options to church attending. Broadly speaking, the topic sends me back to Internet Monk’s three posts about the coming Evangelical collapse( which is generally misunderstood outside this blog). Most here know who he thought was going to increase and vice versa. Personally the best way to talk about it was best represented to me by Clark Pinnock. That is, we have been blessed to congregate and be influenced with many types-( in order historically) Evangelical Lutheran, United Methodist, Juventude Metodista, Pentecostal, House Church, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Wesleyan Methodist( All of this mainly because of our geographical location and mission status. We moved ( retired?) to this neck of the woods in 2008. We are in rural northeastern Ohio. In a small town with United Methodist and Assembly of God buildings. Honestly the theology here is what was called the Christianity of our time in “When I am Weak”. This is the fourth largest old order Amish community in the world. We could go 4 miles to a Mennonite fellowship, but we really are not radical( in the reformational definition). We could drive to a town 25 miles north or south for a usual array of Mainline, Catholic, Pentecostal, or Evangelical. We are most attracted to a new building with a group of 200, that call themselves Bible Church 15 miles north.
    The truth is we are more like butterflies at this stage of life. We flit off to our grown children and their families, or to our brothers and sisters. We’re happy to go to their church. Or for some of our family, we are happy to go to their social club( bar). Full truth be told, going to the Bible Church up the road is more like “get in the game and put on your game face” than anything else. We’re not invested in people in any community other than family. Never thought it would be like this. Don’t think we should be like this. Really think we are open to relationships with people in our community, but the get togethers at school, town hall meetings( dances), church, auction barn every Monday, coffee at the local corner store, volunteering at small community center are not depth type. All this my take on the way it is overall.

  8. David Cornwell says

    We moved to a rural community about seven years ago, Several small towns are nearby. However, in the city we left behind, we were members of a mainline downtown church, that we had grown to love for a number of local reasons. All our friends are there, the worship service is good, and the pastoral care offered to the church and community is way above average. However the denomination it belongs to leaves me cold in most ways.

    In the local rural community where we now live there are many churches. The mainlines are still around, but most are growing old and have become very stale. There are a variety of independent community churches. One of them was formed when an angry Methodist pastor split his congregation and started a new church. I won’t attend a church that was formed out of anger. That spirit stays on forever.

    The one large United Methodist Church is saddled with big debt over a decision to build a new building to house community activities, and to start a contemporary worship service. Plus it is now divided, with one service in the old structure, and one in the new. The older congregation is angry. The younger, much poorer in several ways. I won’t say more because I know some of the people, and have to respect the predicament they now find themselves in. The pastor is charged with leading them out of this debt, servicing a large plant, healing hurt feelings, preaching in two totally different settings, and avoiding a heart attack. Pray for him.

  9. In my area (very near west burb of Chicago), I have several options for Catholic and Orthodox worship. I have not one but 2 synagogues to choose from. There is a Reformed Christian church down the street that used to be Dutch Reformed. There are a bunch of Holiness charismatic type iglesias around me that appeal to the large immigrant community in the area. There many black Protestant (non-denom, IMB, and AME mainly) evangelical churches. There are the usual mainlines (UCC, Episcopalian, Lutherans of various stripes).

    But if you want a non-mainline, non-ethnic, non-charismatic evangelical church, I’m not sure where you’d find it other than driving out to Willowcreek. There are some small Bible churches, but to be honest, they attract a mainly older crowd and are usually small in our area for a reason.

    Oh and there are the ever-present church plants, but they don’t seem to ever last very long.

  10. In the Episcopal church, the Kevin Bacon rule applies. It is freaky crazy how there are really only 2000 of us and we all know someone who knows the other person.

  11. Being in NH places me in the southern part of northern New England. When we first moved back here (I grew up here) in 2003, after 22 years on the Midwest, we joined an Evangelical Covenant Church. It was a 15 year old church plant that failed to gain any real traction and in 2009 we voted to dissolve the church. That in itself was tragic and wrenching enough, but then my family spent almost 2 years in a wilderness with no home church. The experience was extremely frustrating for me – not so much about the church choices though. We actually had several good options within easy driving distance. What was frustrating was trying to balance the desires of my family for certain kinds of church experiences with the realities of geography. We ended up taking part in a congregation that meets in a high school auditorium 40 minutes away — but the key part is the home group that met every Thursday for dinner, bible talk and prayer.

    Now I have accepted a call to serve as a pastor of a church in Concord – the capital city of 45,000 population. We are moving into the parsonage. From living out in the woods into a small urban setting is a big change and now I am on the other side of the coin. From trying to figure what church we will be part of, I’m not trying to help others sort out their choices. I am talking alot about making our church a neighborhood church — my vision is that half those present on a Sunday morning will be walking to church. In a region where everyone drives everywhere that would be pretty counter cultural.

    Ultimately, the choices for us weren’t primarily about nuances of doctrine, but more about the church being gospel active and gospel focused. Now I hope to provide that choice for other people, with a different flavor. Pastoral care, Jesus-shaped worship, community life — and let Christ bring to us whom he will.

  12. Christian women leaders? Isn’t that against the law?

    I’m moving up north just outside a village of about 250. It has one tavern and three churches, Lutheran, Methodist, and Evangelical. Five miles north is a village of about 250 with again three churches, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Baptist. Five miles south is a village of about 100 with two churches, Methodist, and Pentecostal. Having rarely gone to church in the past twenty years, my intention is to visit them all, including the tavern. Seems like a good way to get acquainted with the area. I suspect it all looks much the same as it did in 1954.

  13. Here in the capital of Alabama, where the supreme court Chief Justice, Roy Moore (yes, that one), is now tilting at windmills with a crusade for a national constitutional convention to add a one-man, one-woman marriage amendment to the US Constitution, where there is a proposed bill to have teachers open school by reading historical prayers from US House and Senate daily openings, where another bill has moved out of committee to add a state constitutional amendment to allow posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings, you can’t swing a dead cat around your head without hitting a church of some sort. This could be anything from your storefront Miracle Deliverance Temple of Christ Inc., to your brick and mortar evangelical, mainline, Pentecostal, liberal and conservative Anglican, and charismatic churches, to your modern day megachurches. It is a buyer’s market. We Lutherans have less to choose from, if you have a particular view of how things should be. And even within the one we’ve been in for years, there are changes that have been underway to market to those buyers. It makes for some unsettledness in my heart. Never before have there been so many choices, and so little ability to settle in to any of them. The last week’s posts have spoken to me. Thanks to imonk for providing an oasis to read thoughtful things from thoughtful, insightful people, and understand that I am not alone in my uneasy search for figuring out what this is all about.

  14. I joke with my wife that she is from the South. She’s from the Philadelphia area, but there are big evangelical churches everywhere there (among other similarities with the South).

    In New York’s Hudson Valley, there are about 3 evangelical churches near us that aren’t either fundamentalist or tiny. They are also all too conservative for us, so we are at probably the only mainline church in our area that I would also characterize as evangelical. It’s RCA (Reformed Church in America – changed its name from the Dutch Reformed Church 150 years ago) and has its good points and bad points. Good points: no one looks at my wife funny when she says the earth is 4.5 billion years old, even if they disagree. Bad points: people tend to be much more reserved about spiritual matters than in a typical evangelical congregation.

  15. Yeah, but you’ve got Bruce Cockburn. Steve Bell and Jacob Moon, which is better than a hundred crappy American CCM “artists”.

  16. The problem here is (I kid you not) probably 300 churches, but all of them teach essentially the same post-charismatic, Rick Warren/Francis Chan ten-step spirituality and legalism, including the mainliner, like the Lutherans. It’s water, water, everywhere, but none of it to drink. It seems like a day doesn’t go by without another Christian station popping up on the radio, where more of same old same old is heard. I don’t see the benefit of religious freedom which produces such pointless religion. i think one would be better off in a country with a handful of churches, but where true faith is demonstrated – and I don’t mean the Francis Chan type of faux-radicalism meant to draw attention to oneself and make everyone else feel inadequate, where Betty Bowers is more reality rather than biting satire.

  17. I live in Lancaster County, PA. There may be more churches per capita here than anywhere else in the country. It’s sort of the Bible Buckle of the Northeast, and in certain ways an anachronism. Church services, even of the mainline denominations, are generally very well attended compared with where I used to live in northeast New Jersey, although a decline in attendance has set in here, just at has nationally.

    The interesting thing is that American civil religion seems much stronger here than elsewhere in the nation, too, which I get the feeling is connected with 1) the traditional vitality of a God, Country and Family kind of Christianity here among the non-Mennonites and 2) the ironic fact that many of those exiting the Mennonite subculture emigrated not only to the Evangelical churches, but also into a kind of jingoistic American secularism.

    But you’d be hard pressed to walk a half mile in any direction in this county without tripping over a church.