ISLANDS OF LIFE
It is hard to be truly missional in a wealthy, post-industrial, social welfare country like Canada. We have free healthcare, and free public education up to the end of high school, and many physical needs, by world standards, are met by the state. In poorer countries, Christian missionaries can provide education, health care and training alongside preaching the Gospel and starting local Churches. The “easy”, “traditional”, and non-controversial ways of being missional are not as needed in Canada as they are needed elsewhere. So what are we to do? I have a controversial suggestion.
The first evangelical and Protestant missionary outreach in Jerusalem came from CMJ (the Church’s Ministry Among Jewish People). It planted the first Protestant Church - Christ Church - inside the old city of Jerusalem, in 1849. Like good missionaries they looked at their context, and prayerfully decided how they could make a difference in the practical needs of their community. One of the things they did was very controversial. They started schools for local girls. This is seen as obvious today, but it was not happening in Jerusalem, and it was controversial when CMJ began to do this.
I think there is a growing need in Canada which evangelical churches can provide, but if we meet this need, it will be controversial. Pope John Paul II coined a powerful phrase - the culture of death. In Canada, the culture of death is getting more and more entrenched in our thinking and our institutions. This culture of death believes in such things as abortion on demand and euthanasia. It denies that human beings have intrinsic value and worth. It increasingly wants to de-legitimize and undermine the normative importance of the marriage of one man to one woman, who seek to live together for life, and are desirous of having children. So, how do we love our country when it turns to a culture of death.
Maybe the time has come for each local Gospel church to become an island of life in its city. Maybe the time has come for local churches to work in harmony on this, so that an archipelago of life emerges in Canada.
To become an island of life will of course involve preaching the Gospel in the context of the whole counsel of God, and preaching the whole counsel of God in the context of the Gospel. This will inherently de-legitimize the culture of death - Jesus is the Life of the world! We will need to preach with great compassion, recognizing that there are people “in the pews” who have had an abortion, or have otherwise participated in the culture of death. We will need to preach in such a way that people know that the word of God confronts so as to connect - “The Lord takes no delight in the death of a sinner, but that they will turn from their wickedness, and live.”
We will also probably need to have a list of doctors who will never euthanize. We might have to train some of our members to become companions who are willing to go to the doctor’s office with people to make sure they do not agree to something that will lead to death. We might have to train people to give solid scientific medical advice before gender reassignment procedures are begun. If we cannot train such people, we could at least have a registry of professionals who will give such advise. We would develop these resources and others not just for our people, but for our city. We would seek to be known in the community as an Island of Life. Is the Lord calling His church in Canada to move towards this? Let’s pray and talk together.