We can see pockets of vitality – the
presence of ethnic congregations and
immigrants are signs of life. Within Catholicism and evangelicalism, population
numbers would probably be on the decline far more rapidly if not for immigration. Immigrants generate new congregations.
If one argued secularization might reverse, immigration can become a major
source of that reversal. The story has yet
to be written.
The other thing I would say quite theologically is that the Spirit of God is much
larger than any sociological or empirical
data. There are things that go well beyond
the social sciences that can take these
theories and turn them on their heads. I
don’t want to offer false hope that we can
expect that to happen, but within the
broad secularization narrative there are
signs of life.
FT: Why did you begin the Flourishing Congregations Institute at Ambrose?
JT: There are two ways into this conversation about religion in Canada. One is the
secularization theory that I talk about in
The Meaning of Sunday. The danger of that
is you lose sight of the signs of life.
The reason for launching this institute
is to say, “Where are the signs of life, and
what is going on within those organizations and congregations, and what can we
learn from them?” How can we mobilize
that to pastors and church leaders?
The biggest challenge I have with The
Meaning of Sunday is that pastors and
church leaders invite me to speak to them
about the content, but it’s a very sobering
reality and it’s not overly optimistic or
There are good news stories happening
across the country. They aren’t well
known. They’re not known across the
spectrum. We want to take this more appreciative inquiry approach to find out
what is working well, what stands out,
and then to try to mobilize and share
those findings in practical ways with
The Canadian piece is really important
for us. There are a lot of churches that are
well intentioned and want to do well, but
THE FT INTERVIEW