Columnist David Guretzki reflects on an anniversary that can help us plan for the years to come
Have you ever heard of a 2,000th anniversary?
Believe it or not, we are on the verge of one in the not-too-distant future.
I’m talking, of course, about the bimillennial anniversary of the betrothed bride of Jesus Christ in 2033. Talk about a long engagement!
What will the state of the Church be in 2033?
If Jesus doesn’t come back before then, I think most of us would be thrilled to see the gospel taking root in places it has never been before. There are still thousands of unreached people groups around the world. With technological advances in artificial intelligence, we hope that the task of Bible translation will result in fewer and fewer without God’s Word.
What will the Canadian Church look like in 2033?
Pessimism is too easy. Virtually every national poll reports shrinking numbers of people identifying with Christianity. The EFC’s latest poll indicated only 6 per cent of Canadians identify as Evangelicals, while mainline Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox shares of Christianity also continue to shrink. The trajectory isn’t promising.
What will turn the tide? What needs to change to see not only a Church growing in number and proportion, but a Church vibrantly living out its calling to be salt, light and hope in our world? What’s it gonna take?
What needs to change to see a Church vibrantly living out its calling to be salt, light and hope in our world?
As we launch into the decade before the Church’s 2,000th anniversary, let me humbly suggest four big things.
First, we need to remember that without the Holy Spirit, we can do nothing. When that first band of Jesus believers huddled in the upper room after Jesus’ ascension, what were they doing? "They all joined together constantly in prayer" (Acts 1:14). Virtually anytime the Spirit is poured out in renewal and revival, it is universally preceded by prayer. Are we praying together, as Acts reports? Imagine a Church visibly united in prayer!
Second, let’s keep doing what Christians have always been doing since Pentecost – "preaching the word wherever they went" (Acts 8:4).
Many still think and act as if preaching the Word is a task restricted to the ordained, to the preachers and professionals. But the Church in Acts didn’t have buildings and professionals. Proclaiming the Word was for every believer, everywhere.
Interestingly, we may have an advantage over the Early Church. The everywhere of a technological age is smaller than ever. Even in places where Christians are prevented from preaching in public, the Word can be preached, whether through cell phones, internet or indeed the presence of national believers in homes and cell groups where we would think there are none. Here in Canada we also need to start imagining how we might train believers to preach "everywhere," and not just in church buildings or small groups. Everywhere must include – strategically and wisely – schools, hospitals, care homes, work and where we gather for play.
Third, we need to repent of and judge ourselves for our failed moral behaviour long before we’re called upon the proverbial carpet. In view of ongoing moral failures of Christian leadership – whether pastors, professors and authors, organizational leaders or everyday parents and grandparents – we can’t possibly think the Spirit will move while we persist in leaving our own houses in disorder. In Peter’s sharp words, "Judgment begins in the house of God." If we continue to fail here, we will continue to be a blight to the name of God and His gospel. As much as accountability structures are necessary, we will continue to see leaders fail until we realize a leader’s walk with Jesus is infinitely more important than his or her credentials, degree, strategy or experience.
Finally, we need to lean into the beauty of being the suffering Body of Christ. Even though many of us would deny being prosperity gospel proponents, close self-examination of our patterns of life may reveal otherwise. We have so long enjoyed the blessings of a prosperous society that we barely know what to do with suffering. But as cracks in the social safety net expand, as economies sputter, as demands for quick and final solutions to medical and mental suffering grow, and as there seems to be no end to places where Christ’s gospel is unwelcome, the Church will need to learn afresh the blessing of taking up our crosses and suffering for the sake of the gospel. It is not enough to know Christ and His resurrection without also sharing in the fellowship of suffering (Philippians 3:10). In affluent societies the privileged are still novices at suffering, but we ignore it at our own peril.
Christians are called neither to be pessimists nor optimists. The former sees the negative in even the cheeriest situation, while the latter ignores the reality of a fallen world. We are called to be loving, faithful and hopeful people. So let us hope, pray and yes, act for the glory of Christ’s gospel to be ever more evident in Canada as we approach that great and grand anniversary in 2033.
FaithToday.ca/CrossConnections. Photo of pray and preach stickers by Nathan Dumlao
is the EFC’s president and CEO. Read more of these columns at