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Secularization forces change in language of evangelismcomment (0)

February 5, 2009

By Martine G. Bates

According to Canadian writer and speaker Connie Cavanaugh, sharing the gospel seems easier in the United States than in her native Canada. “When I travel in the U.S., the vocabulary of Christianity is much more prevalent,” she observed.

Cavanaugh’s observation is supported by the Canadian census. A census taken in 2001 addressed issues of religion, revealing that the religious landscape of the nation is growing increasingly secular. Before 1971, less than 1 percent of the population reported no religious affiliation. By 2001, that number had risen to over 16 percent.

Western Canadians reported even higher numbers with no affiliation: 35 percent of British Columbians reported no religion, while Alberta had 23 percent; Manitoba reported 21 percent and Saskatchewan had 19 percent.

A related statistic from Statistic Canada’s General Social Survey reported that actual church attendance is much lower than reported affiliation. According to data from the survey, “attendance at religious services has fallen dramatically across the country over the past fifteen years.” In 1985, 22 percent of adults reported never attending church; in 2005, the number rose to 30 percent. This cultural change has an impact on the way Christianity is introduced to people. Cavanaugh, who is from Cochrane, Alberta, in western Canada, is the wife of National Ministry Leader Gerry Taillon. Cavanaugh pointed out, “I would never use words like ‘saved’ or ‘Lord’ to a stranger in an airport [in Canada].”

Cavanaugh said that people in the United States, on the other hand, are more accustomed to words “that we only use in church in Canada.”

“Americans are more open about sharing the gospel,” she said.

In increasingly secular Canada, Cavanaugh noted, “A born-again politician would try very hard to keep that out of the public eye because it would be a hindrance to getting elected and a flashpoint for criticism on virtually everything he does or doesn’t do.”

Hard work by Canadian Baptists and their partners is paying off, however. Among the largest Protestant denominations, all are down — except Baptists, the only one of the large denominations showing an increase over the 1991 census. The largest Protestant loss was among Presbyterians, with a drop of 36 percent.

In contrast to the other Protestant denominations, Baptist numbers were up nationwide by 10 percent. All four of the western Canadian provinces reported gains in Baptist numbers, ranging from 8.5 percent in Saskatchewan to an astounding 28 percent in British Columbia.

Cavanaugh said, “Because we are growing so rapidly and planting so many churches, we are constantly in need of leadership. Our most desperate need is for godly leaders for existing churches and new church plants.”

Cavanaugh, who wrote the “A Slice of Life” column for HomeLife magazine for five years, is also the author of “From Faking it to Finding Grace,” available through Harvest House Publishers. Her Web site is at www.conniecavanaugh.com.

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