Growing up in a rural town in North Carolina, I would hear people say, “What happens in California will eventually get to us here in North Carolina.” The accuracy of that statement could certainly be proven right or wrong but it did seem as if California was the practical window into the future for my generation. I would argue that today that position of futuristic positioning has moved to our neighbors to the north and in particular Canada’s most influential city; Toronto.
The story of Toronto is one of great history but for the plight of evangelical Christianity one that is also sad and dark. In 1885 William Holmes Howland, a renewed man of God through the preaching of William Rainsford, ran for mayor under the slogan Toronto the Good. Howland’s campaign slogan was, “Let us keep the city, a God-fearing city, and I would rather see it thus than the greatest and richest city in the continent.” That was 1885, this is 2011.
Toronto Church Planting reports that 5% of Ontarians attend an evangelical church. Baptists are the largest of those groups at 2.4% of all Canadians however, 2/3rd of Baptists never attend church. According to Operation World, the number of Anglicans and Protestants of all types has decreased from 45% in 1950 to 11% currently. In a recent article highlighting statistical data from 100 years of census reporting, Richard Allen Greene from CNN reported that organized religion in 9 countries will be driven toward extinction. Click to read. One of the countries Greene cites in Canada.
I certainly have no way of proving that what happens in Toronto is coming to North Carolina, but recent trends in North Carolina certainly seem to be indicating that at best we are losing ground and at worst we are heading toward a Toronto the Good scenario right here in our state.
It is in this time in which I believe we find ourselves needing to partner with our Canadian brothers and sisters to establish a beachhead in Toronto that will have lasting Kingdom results in both Canada and North Carolina. I believe that the church who engages lostness in Toronto will be the same church that engages lostness in North Carolina. The time to act is now.