Nov 15, 2016 | Brad Stewart
“When we share the gospel in a way that builds on the stories and beliefs that the culture already holds as true, the message connects. God is at work here, but that doesn’t mean it’s quick or easy.” – Brad Stewart
I grew up on Canada’s West Coast. Before university, I had never been farther east than Edmonton. All I knew about Québec growing up came from the news: the referendum, the Bloc Québecois, the separatists. My opinion of the Québécois was that they were “those whiny people who want to rip my country apart.”
So in my second year of university, when I found out that Dorrie, a Saskatchewan native and also a staff member on my campus, was moving to Montréal to help start P2C-Students there, the first thought that came to me was:
“Why on earth would anyone ever want to go to Québec?”
By this point in my studies, I was thinking about missions work–both short and long term. To get a taste, I wanted to do a P2C missions trip, and going to a country closed to foreign missionaries excited me. I had my eye on either East Asia or Desert Rain.
So how did I wind up spending a summer in Montréal instead?
Moved By the Realities of Our Least-Reached Canadians
After talking to Dorrie, I started to hear more and more about the need in Québec. How less than one percent of Québécois were believers in Jesus. How many people struggled with depression. How Québec had the highest divorce and suicide rates in Canada. How the Québécois were the largest unreached people group in North America.
So when another staff member on my campus invited me to consider a missions trip in Canada, the choice was easy. And I could still experience the adventure of cross-cultural ministry here at home–I didn’t even need to speak French!
During the mission trip orientation in Montréal, I learned a lot about the history of Québec. Did you know that until 1960, 96% of Québcois went to Catholic Mass at least once a week? Or that by 1970, that figure had dropped by more than half? The bleeding of church-goers was done by the 1980s, but only because church attendance couldn’t fall any further. There were a lot of reasons for the shift (they call it “The Quiet Revolution”), but one of them was a deep bitterness towards Christianity, stemming from belief that the Catholic church had been holding the people back for centuries.
I Knew I Was Walking Away From God
But numbers are one thing; real life is more… well, real.
That summer, the spiritual void in Québec began to hit me. On the Fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Québec’s national holiday, the students on the missions trip split up to meet people with the hopes of initiating spiritual conversations in the city’s parks. My partner and I wound up speaking to Jean, a man in his early 60s–which means he would have been a high school student during the Quiet Revolution.
As we spoke to him about his journey he shared with us his own story. “For me and my friends,” he told us, “the idea of leaving the church was the same thing as walking away from God. And we decided to do it anyway.”
I was amazed when he said that. What could bring even one person, much less an entire society, to the point of saying, “I am so fed up with what I’ve seen of the church that I’m willing to give up on God altogether?”
That question drove me to find an answer–which led me back to Québec after university. But that’s a story for another time.
“What could bring even one person, much less an entire society, to the point of saying, ‘I am so fed up with what I’ve seen of the church that I’m willing to give up on God altogether?'” – Brad Stewart
When Faith Should Be In A Museum
Two generations after the Quiet Revolution, we still live with its fallout every day. But even though Jean’s generation passed their bitterness on to their children, it stopped there. Today’s university students aren’t resistant to faith, but they have no spiritual context to understand it; just a vague sense that the church is something from another time.
There is a prevailing opinion that the Québécois are closed to Christianity. Personally, I don’t think it’s true. Changing the world, building a better society, finding freedom and seeking true happiness: these are all part of God’s ultimate plan. They are also the strongest cultural narratives in Québec.
When we share the gospel in a way that builds on the stories and beliefs that the culture already holds as true, the message connects. God is at work here, but that doesn’t mean it’s quick or easy. A Québécois’ journey to Jesus starts a lot farther away than most Canadians. They need friends to walk alongside them and to help make the gospel real.
Spend Your Summer Learning Community & Context
And those are our two biggest goals for our P2C-Students summer mission trip, Montréal 2017: 1.) learning to live in a missional community where we will accompany curious friends as they seek truth, and 2.) learning to contextualize the gospel to the culture we live in. We hope that what we learn this summer will not only change lives in Montréal, but will also give us the tools for a lifetime of effective ministry, whatever culture, career, or city we find ourselves in.
So, who would ever want to go to Québec? I would. And I hope maybe you will too.