Lessons from the Church in Eastern Canada: Success in a Post-Christian World
*Editor’s Note: Tim Cook is a RENEW.org regional director in Nova Scotia, Canada. As a church planter in a heavily post-Christian context, he has much to teach us all about how to keep focus and maintain joy despite societal shifts away from Christianity. I recently caught up with Tim and picked his brain about making disciples in a post-Christian world.
Q: Could you tell us your background doing ministry in Canada?
I was baptized at the Halifax Christian Church in 2006. I got very interested in church and ministry very quickly and became part of the ministry team as a leader in the creative arts. Then I started studying remotely at Maritime Christian College, not because I wanted to go into ministry but because I wanted to learn more about the Bible.
I got on a bus tour with MCC and went to New Hampshire and caught the church planting bug as I saw churches planted and growing in a place that looked a lot like Canada. The people in New England introduced me to Church Solutions Group. And I invited CSG to come to Halifax to help us cast vision for outsiders. They came and ended up asking me to join them.
In all of that, I was really catching the church planting bug. In 2014, we launched the Crossings Christian Church in Dartmouth. We had a great time in a church that grew like crazy, but then it crashed and burned a couple years ago. I got connected with Bobby Harrington, and he asked what my discipleship plan was. He helped me with some resources. And I’ve been a part of RENEW.org since its inception, being involved in learning communities and serving as a RENEW.org regional director.
Q: What does church success look like in a post-Christian world?
From my perspective, we estimate that less than 5% of the population in Metro Halifax attend church. The number of churches over 500 people pre-COVID would be 6-8 at best. Post-COVID might be 3. So a change I see happening is that people aren’t thinking, “Hey, I need to go to church on Sunday.” I was coaching basketball for a group of girls and said grace before a meal at a restaurant, and they actually didn’t know what I was doing.
In my perspective, success in a post-Christian world looks a lot like the Acts 2 church. I don’t see big Sunday morning gatherings. I think it happens more as a missional community that eats together and goes out in daily lives, praying and fasting, and sharing the gospel with the intent that they’ll do the same. When that starts moving, my vision is that if that happens in a couple spots in Halifax, then we could get together for a worship gathering once a month and celebrate what God’s doing.
Q: What makes it hard?
There’s a huge cultural difference. When we go to Delaware, we’re just amazed that it says “In God we trust” on their money. There are signs on the side of the road that talk about Jesus. Church parking lots filled. There are people praying in restaurants. Here, it’s so post-Christian. Even the government is post-Christian. It’s very spiritually dark. You can feel it.
Our community is an affluent area. And if we were to talk about how to feed the homeless, there are none. Everyone has everything. Fancy cars, nice homes, swimming pools. But most of my kids’ friends have single-parent families. It’s the biggest need we have in this community. The people I talk to—it’s the relationship, money, and health issues. Addictions. A lot of sexual brokenness.
Q: If you had one piece of advice to give to the American church, what would it be?
Focus on disciple making. You catch what you fish for. If they came for the great show, they’ll often leave as quickly as they came. If there aren’t strong relationships being formed, there’s no opportunity to equip people to help you carry out the mission.
In my perspective, success in a post-Christian world looks a lot like the Acts 2 church.