2023: The Fellowship’s “Year of TRUTH” (John 17:17)
2022 was cast as The Fellowship’s “Year of JOY” (Zephaniah 3:17). After experiencing a two-year pandemic, we rejoiced in being able to gather together and experience some of the “much fruit” Jesus promised in John 15. Some highlights over the past couple years (September 2020-August 2022):
- 15 new career Fellowship International missionaries appointed
- 55 new Fellowship Chaplains appointed
- 82 professions of faith in 2022 through our Onside outreach ministry
- 35 new Francophone church plant partnerships
- $3.99 million in FAIR donations
- $6.3 million in legacy and investment in our Fellowship Foundation
- 16 new church plants in 2022 with 122 new church plants between 2010-2022
We have much to rejoice over. God is good. And God has blessed the ministry of our local churches in so many ways.
However, we also sense there are hairline fractures in the progress of the Church in Canada. The exponential rise of secularism. COVID-19 exposed the suspicions we already had concerning the depth and breadth of discipleship in our churches. The mass exodus of young adults, with 2 out of 3 millennials raised in our evangelical churches leaving the past decade. There have been extraordinary leadership failures and documented church abuse cases flooding social media. Surveys on Biblical literacy in the Church is discouraging.
In the “State of Theology” 2022 survey conducted by LifeWay and Ligoniers, the news is pretty staggering:
- 65% (or two thirds) of Evangelicals AGREED that everyone is born “innocent in the eyes of God”, and so, the Biblical concept of original sin is called into question.
- Universalism is the next natural step when 2/3 of church attendees hold this diabolical view of the human condition.
- Why bother sending missionaries or make disciples if everyone is innocent and going to Heaven?
- 48% (or half) of Evangelicals AGREED that God changes, and so, His truth claims “evolve & adapt” to the changing times. Besides not being Biblical—why would anyone want to trust this type of god?
- 26% (or one quarter) of Evangelicals AGREED that the Bible contains “helpful myths” and should not be taken literally.
- This rising disbelief in the Bible’s truth claims helps us to understand why many Evangelicals in North America, particularly millennials, believe that religious faith is a subjective experience rather than an objective reality.
- 38% of Evangelicals AGREED that religious belief is a matter of Personal Opinion; not Objective Truth.
- It’s no wonder we’re witnessing Evangelicals and their Churches moving in directions we didn’t think possible a generation ago, where:
- 58% (or half) of Evangelicals AGREED that God accepts the worship of all World Religions – particularly the three Abrahamic Faiths.
- 37% (or one third) of Evangelicals AGREED that gender identity is a matter of personal choice despite an individual’s biological sex at birth.
- And 28% (or one quarter) of Evangelicals AGREED that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behaviour does not apply today.
It is for this reason I prayerfully designated 2023 our Year for Truth and chose John 17:17 (ESV) as our theme verse: “Sanctify them in the truth; your Word is truth.”
This theme will be reflected in my weekly blogs, our national magazine THRIVE, our National Conference in 2023, and in our careful journey together to consider our Affirmation of Faith which has served us so well for seven decades. How do we remain true to God’s Word and not be tempted to stray into one of two ditches while travelling on the “narrow road”? The two ditches are Isolationalism and Judgmentalism.
Let me briefly share these two Pastoral Concerns:
- I pray we chose not to isolate ourselves by removing ourselves from society as our culture becomes increasingly hostile to the Gospel. Will we be willing to be misunderstood, even maligned, because of our orthodox Biblical beliefs, values, and behaviours? Will we isolate ourselves or will we boldly engage, speaking the truth in love?
- Secondly, I pray we not choose to become overly judgmental with the broader evangelical family in Canada, some of whom have begun to align themselves with overtly progressive views and agendas. Will we embrace a less than courteous neo-fundamentalist posture where we attack, berate, and virtue-signal, or will we unashamedly continue to proclaim Biblical truth and remain good neighbours within the family?
My pastoral concern is—while we remain vigilant and don’t capitulate—that we don’t slip into either of these two extremities: becoming indifferent to societal engagement by isolating ourselves, or becoming grumpy, disagreeable cousins only known for what we’re against and not what we’re for! Both extremities exude a “defeatist” spirit, a subtle acknowledgement that we have lost — that we are in fact on the “wrong side of history” as our detractors accuse. And it’s an unsavoury acknowledgement that we’re being marginalized and squeezed to the periphery of society – treated suspiciously and not taken seriously as equal players in Canada’s great “pluralistic” experiment – within pluralism we have an equal voice.
Do we still believe Jesus is the Hope of the world? Canada’s great Hope? Then let’s be reminded that Jesus said in Matthew 16:18b (ESV), “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
- Together let’s remain unashamed of a Gospel that is unquestionably counter-cultural.
- Together let’s continue to believe the power of the Gospel to transform spiritual orphans.
- Together let’s stop viewing current social trends as roadblocks, but rather as opportunities for mission.
- Together let’s promise one another that we’ll envision bold, impactful ministries in our neighbourhoods.
- Together let’s redouble our efforts in making disciples who make disciples – embracing the principle of multiplication, not just addition.
- Together let’s remain advocates for the downtrodden, the poor, the marginalized, and the despised.
- Let’s continue to tell the truth in the spirit of Jesus:
- A spirit that remains on mission even when misunderstood for our values and beliefs.
- A spirit that proclaims “A Gospel Voice” when “Our Shifting Culture” dismisses us and maligns us as bigots.
- A spirit that remains faithful – chooses not to capitulate and decides to go against the flow of “conventional wisdom”.
- A spirit that honours and glorifies the Lord.