By Brian V. Sullivan
Each field of endeavor has its own demands and challenges. Those of us who have engaged in “foreign” evangelism know the impact of culture, custom, and current political rule on the people we are trying to reach with the gospel. It is imperative that we remember our role in any field is to instill the principles of Christ and sow the seed (the word of God), clearly and plainly, so that it will bring forth fruit to the glory of God. Our role in foreign evangelism is not to make the people of another nation conform to the status quo of home, or to impose our idealistic, societal values upon them. In fact, most people in other nations would resent the fact that we might try to “Americanize” them, or “Canadianize” them. Faithful servants of God should seek only to get them to conform to the teaching of Christ as found in the word of God.
Canada is a difficult but not an impossible field for the gospel. Those who labor in this field know that one of the first essentials is patience, and those who support the workers in this field must also have a measure of patience in expectations. Works in this part of Canada are making advances but in many cases it is slow. A lot of the effort in Canada involves “unteaching” people (taking away the false ideas of denominationalism) in order to discover a suitable foundation upon which to establish truth. Catholicism continues to be the dominant religion, but most towns and cities have a variety of religious pursuits within them including Protestant, Pentecostal, Reformed, and Evangelical groups, along with a host of the more widely known cults. Multi-culturalism has brought with it a proliferation of Eastern religions including Hindu, Islam, and Buddhism. Humanism has permeated many minds and in turn it has created a “no God except self” concept that finds little time for absolute truth (through the teaching of the Bible).
A goodly portion of the population claims some religious affiliation but may not actively pursue it on a week to week basis. Throughout the years, the truth has made advances in Ontario, but aging, death, and moves to other locations have impacted our numbers. The challenges are many, but the gospel is still the power of God unto salvation, Christ is still the needed Savior of all mankind, and souls are still being reached through the ongoing efforts of the faithful in this part of the world.
Through correspondence with the brethren in various works in Ontario, we were able to determine that a variety of efforts are being put forth to reach and influence their communities. Here are some of the methods being utilized: (1) personal contact and invitation (family, friends, neighbors); (2) newspaper articles; (3) correspondence course ads and studies; (4) follow-up on visitors; (5) computer web sites; (6) computer e-mail distribution; (7) teaching bulletins by mail and e-mail; (8) door-to-door work; (9) fall fairs or exhibitions for distribution of tracts and correspondence courses; (10) mail drop distribution of information; (11) special meetings; (12) sign boards; (13) home studies; (14) taped sermon and Bible class message distribution; (15) debates; (16) mailing of tracts or leaflets; (17) announcing special sermon topics; (18) holding Bible studies at Senior citizen homes or institutions; to name a few. The general consensus is that personal contact is still the most effective method of evangelizing. It reminds us as well that our words and deeds must be harmonious. Christ must be seen in us (Gal. 2:20), for others to ask the reason for the hope within us.
The Lord’s Work In Ontario Canada
When we were approached about writing this article, we immediately determined to contact those laboring in the field and to solicit some responses from them on their own work and activity. Almost everyone contacted responded, and if we were to record everything they wrote, we would need a whole issue devoted to the cause of Christ in Ontario alone. Out of that material, this writer has picked several statements from each that would give an idea of what is happening in that respective work. We have arranged the churches alphabetically. We will identify the town, followed by the average attendance on Sunday a.m. (indicated in numerals and brackets), identification of the preacher or workers there, and then a few statements regarding the work in each place.
Bancroft: (20 members, many teens; located in Northeastern Ontario) — Larry W. Fuller (Canadian married to a Canadian) works in secular work, yet regularly preaches and teaches). “Although we don’t enjoy the blessing of a full time evangelist, growth has been consistent with about eleven (11) members added in the past three years.”
The church here has helped encourage and develop several preachers over the years including: Chuck Bartlett, William Stewart, Larry Fuller. Several members who lived in Whitney and were part of the Bancroft church, are now involved in the new work there (see details under Whitney).
Garden City (45) (St. Catharines area, closest to Niagara Falls) — Roy Diestelkamp (American married to a Canadian). “Our number is made up of men, women, and children, from one to eighty-nine years of age. Nine men are active in our worship and work.”
Glencoe (12) (South-western Ontario area) — Neal Bahro from Jordan, James Sullivan from Smithville: Canadians, single, both working in secular work and preaching on weekends here. “The church here has provided a situation where many young men have gained their first preaching experience over the years. It continues at the present to encourage younger men in their development by providing opportunity for preaching and teaching.”
Hamilton (25) (Niagara Area) — Steve Rudd (Canadian married to a Canadian). “This church was started from scratch by Steve and Loreen Rudd and three others who came from Alberta. For the first two years, we met in our dining room. Then we put an addition on our house and met in the walk-out basement that sat thirty-five. After eight years, we rented a building on a main street. It has served us well for the last two years. It has been a tough slow work, but the people we do have are strong, committed, and participate in the summer evangelistic fairs.”
Jordan (85)(Niagara Area) — Joshua Reaves (American soon to marry a Canadian). The church here has remained dedicated to truth through the years. Several other churches in Ontario exist today as a result of the groundwork laid by the brethren from here or by peaceful swells who went out from Jordan (viz. Wellandport, Garden City in St. Catharines).
Many long-time members are now limited due to health or age, but the work continues onward. Younger ones are arising to take on more of the responsibility. Several men from here are fully capable of doing appointment preaching or teaching, and do it where and when needed. This church has supported Jack Maddocks so that he could take part in teaching efforts in India the past two years, as well as making efforts to reach others at home.
Kingston (4) (Limestone Church of Christ) (Eastern Ontario) — William Stewart (Canadian married to a Canadian). “Limestone is entering its second year of meeting and working together in the city of Kingston. We have had a number of contacts in the past year, some who have meet with us for short periods of time, and one who was baptized. Unfortunately, she shortly thereafter left the faith. We look forward to good things as the Lord blesses our labors in this corner of His vineyard.”
London (23) (South-western Ontario) — Brian V. Sullivan (Canadian married to a Canadian). “We are just now starting to make inroads into the community. Three precious souls have recently been added here by baptism, and another one by moving. The work is continuing to take on a university city appearance with several different countries represented in our number (Canada, Philippines, Bermuda, Barbados, Romania). We are averaging three visitors at each Sunday service, and two or three at each Tuesday study. Our men are taking a greater part in the services now.”
Peterborough (12) (Eastern Ontario) — Peter R. McPherson (Canadian married to a Canadian). “Work began about seven years ago when my daughter and husband moved here. This is the only church of Christ (of any kind) in the city. Our attendance over the years has ranged from a high of around 25 to what it is now. We have had a few move-ins and some to move away. We have restored three to the faith who lived in this city and have baptized eight. At the present we are meeting in the heart of the city at the Rubidge Retirement Residence. We have had our ups and our downs, but we must be optimistic for the future of the church here. Though we are presently small, it is a fairly strong nucleus and we continue to look and pray for new growth. Behind every face we meet, we see a soul for whom Jesus died.”
Smithville (30) (Niagara Region) — Chris Nicholson (Canadian married to American). “My wife and I have been with the congregation for eleven months. Since that time we have seen two additions by moving (traveling to worship with us), one by baptism. Two other visitors have expressed their desire to worship with us on a regular basis (one has previously been baptized and the other has agreed to further study).Besides these mentioned, a couple of those who attend on a regular basis have not yet obeyed the gospel, and our prayer is that they will soon decide to put on Christ in baptism.”
South River (40) — James D. Nicholson (Canadian married to a Canadian). “This work began on April 1, 1979 by the grace of God, supporting twenty-five Sundridge members with their children. Several of this number were South River residents and they welcomed a new work in their community. The work has cycled through seasons of growth, maturity, slow down and recovery like all other churches. Several gospel preachers have been developed over these years, and one new work was spawned from this congregation. There is limited opportunity for work in this area, and young people are being drawn away to distant cities for further education and employment. Consequently, we lose a large percentage of our young people, but they remain faithful and become strong leaders in other congregations. There have been at least eighty baptisms resulting from the start of this work at South River.”
Timmins (30, over half are young people) (Northern Ontario) — Local men preach and teach. “In the last couple of years the men, who are doing the preaching, focused much of the efforts on worshiping God in spirit and truth. As a result the congregation has become more confident and joyful for their faith and have also come to realize that each one can make a difference in sharing their faith. For the past few months now we have been focusing our teaching on reaching out to save the lost. We’re all excited to see what this will bring us.”
Wellandport (56) (Niagara Region) — Michael Stephens (American married to a Canadian). “The church at Wellandport has a good mix from young families to elderly couples, all eager to serve the Lord. Over the last few years we have seen a gradual growth in our number. This year we have had three baptisms and are working on a few more. The best tool we have for evangelism has been active members. The last twelve baptisms we have had have been friends, family, and next door neighbors of our brethren.”
West Toronto (38) — Chuck Bartlett, Canadian married to an American; David Dann, American married to a Canadian. “The church began almost two and one-half years ago and continues to grow. Our joy is the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) effort, with close to forty people still actively working on Home Bible study courses offered at our booth this year.”
Whitney (12 plus) — Larry W. Fuller (see personal details under Bancroft information above). “The Whitney congregation, is a relatively new work that began about two years ago. At the time we had a summer project, where we rented a town hall on Sunday afternoons, invited people, did a Bible study on Mark (16 weeks), and concluded with a short sermon. At the end of the summer, we were rewarded with a new sister in Christ, and have grown since then to a new local church with twelve members now. God has given substantial increase this summer with four baptisms. We are excited about the unity and desire evident in all the members, and as an evangelist it is my intention to teach these members to become strong spiritually, zealous and capable of teaching.”
The cause of Christ is alive and well among these churches in Ontario. Several other Canadian preachers are doing effective works in the United States and we rejoice in their further development and the work they are doing there. Some from Ontario have been involved in special teaching efforts in China, India, and Romania in the last five years. May we encourage each of those who is helping support those laboring in this field to continue to uphold their hands, and like the farmer that James spoke of, patiently wait for the early and latter rains. The seed is being sown, but only the Lord can provide the increase. We rejoice in his blessings of this past year and each one is looking onward and upward as he grants us a new year in which to serve him.
Box 430, Fonthill, Ontario, Canada firstname.lastname@example.org