How Far are ‘Evangelicals’ Willing to Go to Impact Canada?

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Lunch with Dr. Reginald Bibby should come with a warning label: “CAUTION: The next 60 minutes could mess with your mind!”

This week I had the privilege to connect with Dr. Bibby, Canada’s foremost authority on religious trends. And indeed I discovered that time spent with this sociologist from the University of Lethbridge, author of such titles as Fragmented Gods, Unknown Gods, Restless Gods and Restless Churches, pushed my thinking in directions that were both intriguing and unsettling.

“Scott, what would it take for Canada’s evangelical churches to help equip churches in the mainline and Catholic traditions?” Dr. Bibby could see, I think, that the question had rattled me a bit. “I’m not talking about ecumenicalism. But there are leaders with evangelical doctrines within the mainline and Catholic traditions. And they need help.”

churchI nodded in agreement with this obvious truth. Although the outward expressions of our churches can look very different, many liturgical churches are led by passionate Christ-following leaders who long to see their congregations come to a saving faith in Jesus.

Dr. Bibby continued. “Scott, I just spent time with a group of Catholic priests in Toronto. I told them stories about some of the innovations that evangelical churches are pioneering. A lot of these are churches connected with your ministry. As I described what these churches are doing, these priests are saying, ‘Oh ya…we should try that too!’

I believe there is openness for many mainline and Catholic leaders to receive help from evangelical church leaders.”

I’ll be honest, my thinking is very much still ‘wet cement’ on this, but I’d love to engage in a conversation. Let’s face, it, we talk about ‘denomination walls coming down’, but usually we mean that pastors from Baptist churches are now open to hanging around with pastors from Alliance or Mennonite Brethren churches.

But if we were to take Dr. Bibby’s ideas to heart, we may have to ask even deeper questions, such as:

  • Can God transform Canada only through evangelical churches?
  • Leaders whose trust is in the redemptive work of Christ on the cross are found in evangelical, mainline and Catholic churches. What would be the benefits of working together? What are the risks?
  • How do we start a dialogue?

Let’s have a discussion on this. I can’t wait to hear what you think.

the author

Scott Cochrane


  1. Hey Scott,

    This is my first post. I’m one of those evangelical ministers Reg Bibby describes: ordained by and serving in a mainline denomination. First of all, know that you are already helping me out. I don’t use many of the worship or leadership resources created by my own denomination; instead I use evangelical resources from other denominations and organizations.

    I’m delighted that I’ve been able to attend several Willow Creek Leadership Summits. This summer four of us attended from my congregation. Next year, about 10 of us will attend. Thank you for your leadership ministry and for allowing Christians of all denominations to belong to the Willow Creek Association.

    Yours in Christ,

  2. Greg, I’m so encouraged by your comment. It should be noted too that there’s a another important side to this conversation, and that’s the role that the mainline churches can and do play in strengthening evangelical churches. I believe that the more we can embrace both sides of the conversation, the greater the Kingdom impact will be.

  3. Scott,

    Great thoughts, I enjoyed tim’s follow up to this at Innovate in Moncton

  4. Rev. Cowper, thank you for your comment, and for your participation in Innovate.

    As you can see, I wrote this post in the fall of 2010, right at the time God started working through Reg Bibby to really get Willow Creek Canada serious about equipping leaders outside the walls of the evangelical world.

    We continue to seek God’s leading in this, but we’re encouraged by the positive response we’re receiving from both evangelical as well as Catholic leaders.

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