We Have no Lasting City: Ethnicity and the Church in Canada

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The Church is the only truly multicultural or multiethnic institution. I really don’t have a problem with churches in Canada singing a song in Dutch for the same reason that I don’t have a problem with a church in Canada singing a song in Punjabi. Let’s say a Reformed Church sings Ere zij God at Christmas time. This could be a beautiful expression of the multi-ethnic nature of the catholic Church. But then of course the question is: is this church just as ready to sing in one of the languages of the many ethnic groups who might want to join this Church?


Toronto is among the 10 most ethnically diverse cities in the world. The population of the Greater Toronto Area was listed at 6.418 million in 2016. I’m not even sure if we can call it multicultural since all these cultures start meshing together.


When we think of the Church, we should avoid thinking of it in terms of ethnicity. There is no Dutch Church, there is no Chinese Church, there is no Punjabi Church, there is no Canadian Church. There is only the Church: the blood-bought bride of Jesus Christ, the one world-wide family of God. Yes, there are practical ways to think about spreading the this kingdom of God, and sometimes that might mean worshiping in a specific language in a multi-ethnic society. Sometimes that means singing in a couple languages in a multi-ethnic society. Sometimes that means singing in the primary language of that multi-ethnic society.


In the Scriptures we are told that we have no lasting city (Heb. 13:14), we are called exiles (I Peter 1:1), and we are told that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). This does not mean that there is no value in working for the good of our temporary cities and national landscapes. This is not retreatist theology. But it helps us to look at our present situation with a bigger view in mind. It removes the glasses of warring tribes and puts on the glasses of the kingdom of God. These verses are to help us see with more clarity.


In 2011, Canada had 6,775,800 foreign born individuals. There are many ethnic Churches that are popping up everywhere all the way from Punjabi to Spanish to Filipino. Mosques, Temples, and Synagogues are everywhere. The goal of the church is not multiculturalism, but the worship of God according to His Word. But the call is that all men, every tribe, nation, and language bring their gifts before Him. Canada is increasingly a vast mission field. Canada is also teeming with the prospect of Reformation and Revival. The harvest is great (Matt. 9:35-38), but the workers are timid.


Is the vast influx of immigration from various countries a sign of decay and the crumbling of North American culture? I would argue that immigration is bringing a shot of sanity to our heads in a culture that is killing itself. The number of Chinese and Punjabi intellectuals at our universities should put those born in North America to shame. The fact that Churches aren’t wading into the cultural and intellectual debates of the day with the good news that Jesus is Lord should put Christians to shame.


Some might talk about racism. I deny the terminology (I prefer to talk about families or ethnicities than races), but I understand a bit of what people feel. I have heard comments that make me very disheartened. While these comments are separated by a number of people, the variations of apathy and thoughtlessness in between are saddening. We really have no lasting city, and God calls all men, everywhere, to repent (Acts 17:30).


As Churches continue to proliferate in Canada, there is nothing wrong with having a Dutch, German, Jewish, Nigerian, Punjabi, or Chinese background. If we are in Christ, then we are a new creation (II Cor. 5:17). The issue isn’t to be not-Dutch, not-Indonesian, not-Canadian, or not-Mexican. The issue is to be the Church, and the Church is a lot bigger than one ethnicity or one family. It is not to be governed by culture, but by God’s Word.


In fact, through repentance and faith, the Church is kind of like a family reunion following all the break-up and damage that the sin of Adam and Eve has caused. When somebody has been baptized into Jesus Christ, there are no strangers or aliens, but we are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:19). And one day we will join that multitude that no one can number from every tribe, nation, and language before the throne and before the Lamb and we will cry out with one voice: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9-10).



I wrote this blog post. I would suggest taking a look at what my Dad also writes about this on page 4 of this document from the Mid-America Messenger.

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