This past week, our church was running Hamilton Impact – a one-week intensive Evangelism training program. Three churches in Hamilton partnered together to make it happen: West Highland Baptist Church, Hughson St. Baptist Church, and Lightway Church – which is a plant out of Hughson. These events started in Toronto, and are a partnership between a church and Operation Mobilization, which provides teaching on evangelism and various world religions. For example, this week we studied Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Roman Catholicism, and visited a mosque, a Sikh gurdwara, and a Hindu temple. In the evenings the participants go door-to-door in the neighbourhoods around the partner churches and go through a simple survey with people which often leads into spiritual conversations and an opportunity to clearly share the gospel.
I learned a lot this week. First, I learned that door to door evangelism, despite suffering from a major image problem, does work. I was able to clearly share the gospel with quite a number of people that I’ve never met, leave quality literature with them, and have truly meaningful interactions that I would never have had in the normal course of my daily life. We are still compiling statistics, but it was pretty clear that the more affluent and more Canadianized the people were, the less they were open to talking. But thankfully the neighbourhoods around Lightway and Hughson St. are full of an amazing diversity of peoples from literally all over the world. This kind of diversity can be easily found in Toronto, Vancouver, Hamilton, Montreal, and other major gateway cities in Canada. It seems to me that these people are for the most part not on the radar of conventional churches in those cities.
During the week we met people who had Christian neighbours and yet who did not actually know what a Christian Bible was, who Jesus is, or anything else at all about Christianity. And, even more amazingly, they were eager and curious to find out more about this Jesus.
I have read and listened to a lot of pastors and urban church planters in the USA and have actually never heard anyone mention reaching out to Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, or Buddhists. After this week, I’m blown away by that fact. I don’t know the demographics of American cities, but it’s quite possible that they don’t nearly have the immigrant population that we have in Canada. If that’s the case, then we Canadians need to make sure we don’t take all our cues from our American brothers, but that we seek the Lord and develop strategies that are appropriate and effective for our specific context. More and more, I am convinced that the Canadian context demands that churches in the cities be intentionally multi-cultural, and very discerning to avoid causing unnecessary cultural offense. Christians need to be educated about other cultures and other religions, and taught to extend hospitality and love to new Canadians. Instead, I often see fear-mongering and ignorant email chains about how the Muslims are taking over our government and schools. We need to do better than this. As one participant this week commented: ignorance breeds fear and intimidation, but knowledge brings empowerment.