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"All I Want for Christmas … "
If you could give the church one gift, or prod it in any one direction, what would that be? Ten Canadian Christian leaders respond.

Remember that old song that went "All I Want for Christmas is my two front teeth"? You won't find any teeth on this wish list. But we did ask Canadian Christian leaders what they wanted this year for Christmas—for the Church. Here is how we posed it: "What is your dearest wish for the Canadian Church? If you could give the Church one gift or prod it in any one direction, what would that be?"

And here are their wishes.

Lorna Dueck

"I wish churches could have a passion for effectively reaching people who do not yet have a relationship with Christ. I think we need to figure out a way to combine our activism with our relationships. Let's figure out a way to offer church programming that's built around authentic relationships—events that are suitable for non-church people.

"I think we're still trying to adjust to what that looks like for a post-modern, post-Christian culture in Canada."

– Lorna Dueck, executive producer, Listen Up TV/Media Voice Generation

Dave Toycen

"Our common challenge in a time of international terrorism and instability is to continue to be confident as Christians in our message of love and reconciliation. We have to be prepared to take risks in reaching out to the various parts of the world and to individuals who, for whatever reason, are alienated, angry and even expressing hate. We have to be prepared to share the Christian message in a loving and caring way."

Dave Toycen, president and CEO, World Vision Canada

Margaret Gibb

"Real prayer is lacking. Prayer is revolutionary. It revolutionizes lives, transforms churches and nations. It's the powerhouse of the Church. I believe in prayer. But I also believe, from my years as a pastor's wife and now running a parachurch organization, that we need to be the hands, the feet, the eyes and the heart of Jesus in our communities.

"There's too great a gap between the Church and the community. The community can almost exist without the Church because people can always find caring resources in community support groups. Every community is packed with support groups. The Church should be there in the heart of the community reaching out to people. The Christian community needs to step outside its four walls and begin outreach in the community. Just being Jesus in the community and serving wherever we can, can be transformational."

Margaret Gibb, president, Women Alive

Brett Andrews

"While I think some of our churches in Canada have made great strides in becoming more relevant and lively by using language and music and practices that are more effective in attracting people to our churches, I fear we have produced many shallow Christians and not many deep disciples. We have placed so much emphasis on asking people to 'come' to our churches that we have neglected the mandate of Jesus to 'go' to our world and make disciples who know Christ deeply. Many people have become bored in our churches because they're underchallenged. This is particularly true of younger generations. As well-known Evangelical Tony Campolo has said, 'We will lose this generation not because we have made the Gospel too difficult but because we have made it too easy.'"

Brett Andrews, director of leadership development and resources, Youth for Christ, Canada

Michael Patterson

"My dearest wish would be that the denominations have a more intentional opportunity to dialogue, share ideas and come together in an ecumenical sign of unity so we can address the issues that are confronting our society. We tend to focus on those things that differentiate us—the differences in theology, for example—rather than trying to identify and celebrate the things that unite us, which would be a common belief in Jesus Christ as a resurrected Lord who came to give us new life, new hope, new beginning and salvation. We don't pay enough attention to that."

Rev. Canon Michael Patterson, director of evangelism, Anglican Diocese of Niagara

Barry Buzza

"I'd give the Canadian Church a sense of purpose. Just as an apple tree was created to produce apples and a sheep was created to produce wool, so every living thing that God created has a purpose. In turn and above all other created things, we humans have distinct and unique purposes that fit within the framework of God's overall purpose. The same principle applies to individual churches and nations. We each have a defined purpose, appointed times and God-ordained boundaries. I believe God has endowed us here in Canada with the gift of peace. Because peace only comes through Jesus, the Prince of peace, we the Church are in a unique position to extend peace to the nations of the world. My prayer is that each of us believers would find our personal place within that larger Canadian purpose as a peace extender."

Barry Buzza, pastor, Northside Foursquare Church of Coquitlam, B.C.

Laurence J. Barber

"My desire is that the churches in Canada become more missional. In being missional, churches move beyond their own spiritual consumerism of trying to meet the wants and needs of those who already now Jesus. They move from a come-and-dine mentality to become cross-bearing followers of Jesus, hearing His call to 'come and die.' Missional churches seek to move beyond catering to those seeking the good primarily of themselves and their own families. Missional people look for churches that include prayer, sacrificial help and giving—not only for those already gathered but also for their community and for the world.

"Maybe this can happen as churches in Canada both 'tell' and (perhaps more importantly) 'show' the holistic, full, new-creation welcome and embrace, and also the love and justice, truth and concern that the Gospel brings to all people in all areas of life."

Laurence J. Barber, director of missional initiatives, Baptist Convention of Ontario & Quebec

Ron Unruh

"I wish for an invasion by God's Spirit into the Church. I'm deeply concerned about the lifestyles of believers having become so similar to those who have no faith at all. Over the years we've done a lot of preaching and teaching but somehow the translation of biblical principles into life is failing. I think nothing short of a reawakening is what the Church needs today. We are just not influencing broader society in terms of ethics and morality and so on."

Ron Unruh, president, Evangelical Free Church of Canada

Rod Wilson

"It seems to me that the Canadian Church is making mistakes on both ends of the cultural continuum. On the questionable side of the continuum there is an accommodation to success-oriented approaches to ministry where the number of services, size of staff, square footage of buildings and measurable goals have become the new standard for accomplishment. On the other side, legitimate cultural issues like the arts, entertainment, media, technology and the environment are not seen as inherently spiritual so are not brought under the canopy of God's kingdom values. I would love to see the Canadian Church leave the former side of the continuum and cleave to the latter one."

Rod Wilson, president, Regent College

Bruce J. Clemenger

"My hope for every Evangelical in Canada is that they personally see the life-changing power of the Gospel at work in the lives of others—to see lives changed through an encounter with Christ.

"My wish for churches in Canada is that each one embrace a compelling vision for the transformation of its neighbourhood and come to have a clear sense of at least one need in its community to which it, as the local expression of the Body of Christ, can become a healing agent through the power of the Gospel. I would want each member to be involved personally in a life being impacted and transformed by the Gospel.

"We are to be salt and light. We are also to be leaven—that which when kneaded into flour can produce something that is nourishing, life-giving, good to the taste and smell."

– Bruce J. Clemenger, president, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Andrea Davis is a freelance writer in Toronto, Ontario.

Originally published in Faith Today, November/December, 2006.




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