Faith Today: We have this idea that evangelical
congregations are doing better than other
churches. Is this even true?
Sam Reimer: It is true. And their comparative vitality and durability distinguishes
them from mainline Protestant denominations like the United Church, Anglicans,
Presbyterians and Lutherans – which all
started declining around the mid-1960s.
In contrast, Evangelicals in Canada are
reasonably stable during a time when a lot
of churches were declining.
F T: Why is that?
SR: There are a bunch of reasons. Birth-
rates (how many children they have) and
immigration – those are the reasons
churches grow, according to sociologists.
But [birthrates won’t help Evangelicals
much longer because] the birthrates of
Evangelicals have largely declined to
where they’re closely matching the birth-
rates of Canadians on average.
Immigration is turning more toward
other world religions, and so that’s not as
good a source as it used to be.
Evangelicals have gained because they
are big on evangelism, and have been able
to gain some of the most committed of
people who have left more liberal churches.
FT: Some say Evangelicals are just 20 years
behind the mainline, and will face the same
issues of decline. Is that what you think?
In 2009 Sam Reimer and Michael Wilkinson interviewed the
lead pastors of 478 evangelical congregations across Canada.
The churches were from five denominations – Pentecostal
Assemblies of Canada, Christian Reformed, Mennonite
Brethren, Christian & Missionary Alliance and the four Baptist
Conventions in Canada.
The two scholars – both sociologists, Reimer at Crandall
University and Wilkinson at Trinity Western University –
wanted to dig deep into evangelical church life in Canada.
They researched the nitty-gritty such as budgets and sermon
topics, but also topics like clergy well-being and the big,
big question of why evangelical churches seem to be faring
better in today’s Canada than their mainline cousins.
Faith Today spoke with SAM REIMER about the research,
recently released in their book A Culture of Faith: Evangelical
Congregations in Canada (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015).