The last two years have been fraught with pastors writing articles about how difficult their job in during these trying times, because any decision they make will divide their church, whether on Branch Covidianism, leftist politics, or sexuality. Additionally, The Gospel Coalition has been at the forefront of simping for tyrannical governments worldwide. James Seward, a pastor that effectively closed his church for 15 straight months because the government told him to, penned another article relating to the subject, A Word to American Christians from a Pastor in Canada. He begins by talking about how Canada is further down the slippery slope than the United States before blaming Americans for the ineffectiveness of Canadian pastors as a whole.
Imagine you are walking a tight rope, both arms outstretched to help you maintain balance. You need both arms, but oddly one of those arms has a 50 lb weight attached to it. As a result, finding your balance is tricky. That’s what it’s like to be a Canadian pastor. And American Evangelicals are that 50 lb weight.
This is a lazy mentality, which is to be unsurprising for someone who didn’t do their job for over a year.
Let me explain. The Canadian Evangelical community is fledgling even while robust. We are under-sourced and under-funded. We have no metaphorical mega-watt radio signal that broadcasts and amplifies across Canada. We have no big conferences, no robust but distinctly Canadian parachurch movements, and little in terms of magnetic/destination seminaries. Even our denominations are small.
I’ll admit there’s something beautiful about this. There’s something pure about Canadian air that’s mostly free from celebrity and powerhouse institutions. But there are challenges.
The aspiring Big Eva writer decries the lack of a uniquely Canadian Big Eva, yet fails to recognize how the lack of celebrity influence should actually embolden pastors to preach and follow the world not ferment disobedience.
Meanwhile, the American Evangelical media behemoth comes upon a Canadian pastor or story that serves American interests well. And the volume on that one pastor or story gets turned up, which is helpful for the United States. But when our neighbour’s music is turned up to normal for them, it’s extremely loud for us.
It’s like having a guitar which only has one string connected to the soundboard. Even though all the strings get plucked, the sound ends up distorted. It’s like crossing a tightrope with a large weight attached to one of your arms. It throws off the balance. The way American Christians use Canada often makes our work here that much harder.
American Evangelical media, like Evangelical Dark Web, have focused primarily on two pastors in Canada: James Coates and Artur Pawlowski. And they do serve our interest well in promoting defiance of lockdowns in more hostile environments; thus embarrassing the pansy pastors who would not do so facing much less severe consequences.
Perhaps I could explain this dynamic with a hypothetical scenario. Suppose a law passes in Canada that labels certain kinds of preaching as “hate speech” and thus illegal. Virtually all Canadian evangelical churches are appalled and oppose the new law. These churches and their leaders begin coordinating their collective response. Given our limitations (and our temperament), the response is slow-developing and careful. It’s also shaped by our understanding of the unique culture and government of Canada.
Meanwhile, there’s a pastor with a history of divisiveness that has hurt our fragile cooperation – we’ll call him Billy. Billy mocks our Canadian commitment to process, calling his fellow pastors cowards. He conducts an outdoor service, invites the press, and preaches a jarringly candid sermon that defies the law. As a result, he’s arrested on the spot (a terrible outcome, we’d agree).
At this point churches in Canada are best off operating underground because that is the only way to do so boldly without being arrested. Pastors like Seward are perfectly content to appease the world publicly. But rest assured, Billy is right. And if more pastors were like him ten years ago, it’s a wonder how much different Canada might be.
So the American Evangelical bullhorn starts blaring his story. Billy becomes a quasi-celebrity in the States. His voice and perspective is amplified. Suddenly, pastors all across Canada – already struggling to navigate their way through a horrible situation – are forced to answer questions from their own congregants about why they aren’t taking the approach Billy has taken.
Now we get into the real motivations. James Seward isn’t doing his job and congregants, true believers, will eventually start asking questions as to why you aren’t doing what is clearly right, like following the lead of James Coates. This same phenomenon happened in the United States. The news reporting by Grassroots Evangelical outlets is devastatingly effective in getting these questions raised in congregations which pastors cannot stand. They do not want this level of accountability.
Billy’s perspective rockets up the charts, far eclipsing the stable, trusted voices that have proven their godliness and fidelity through years of faithful work. Billy and his fringe approach do not stay on the fringe. He dominates our miniscule airwaves. He sucks the oxygen from the room. Instead of forging a way forward tailored to our Canadian context, we spend a good deal of our limited resources providing a nuanced assessment of Billy.
In Canada, being a Christian is a fringe belief. That is how far gone their culture is. And this Gospel Coalition writer is complaining about fervent believers upsetting their dead faith. The church in Canada is the Church of Sardis in Revelation 3, and The Gospel Coalition prefers to keep it that way.