Protestant Religious Survival

Protestant Religious Survival

Question: Is religion alive and well or struggling to survive in Canada?

Rev. RICK REED is senior pastor at the Metropolitan Bible Church in Ottawa.

It’s neither. On one hand, religion seems to have fallen on increasingly hard times. Stats Canada’s 2009 General Social Survey reveals that the percentage of people claiming “no religion” has risen to 23 per cent (up from one per cent in 1971).

On the other hand, the majority of Canadians, especially newer Canadians, still claim some religious affiliation. In addition, sociologist Reginald Bibby has found that the “no religion” category often proves to be a temporary category. His Project Canada national survey revealed that, over a five-year period, one in three people who claim “no religion” re-affiliate with a faith group. Over 10 years, that number rises to two out of three.

You might assume that since I’m a pastor, I am rooting for religion to be alive and well in Canada. But actually, my deepest desire is not to see people become religious. After all, the Bible makes it clear that it’s possible to be very religious and still spiritually lost.

Jesus’ most severe rebukes were reserved for the most religious people of His day (Matthew 23:1-39). The apostle Paul told the citizens of Athens that though they were extremely religious they were still spiritually separated from the one, true God (Acts 17:22-33).

What people need most is not religion; they need a relationship with God. The Bible says this relationship with God is available to all who admit their spiritual need and put their faith in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:7-9).

It’s true that those who have entered a relationship with God through faith in Christ will often act in ways that are considered religious: they attend church, pray and give generously of their time and money to help others. But what is really alive and well in their lives is a relationship with God. And that’s what matters most.

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