Two years ago, who’d have imagined we’d be in our situation today?

It’s been a tough road, an uphill battle. As ministers, we’ve taken some hits. We’ve seen casualties as congregations have divided and as colleagues have stepped out of ministry. We’re weary and we’re increasingly wary of every supposed signal that this season might be ending.

I get it. I’m tired and I’d be lying to say this season hasn’t taken its toll on me. But despite my weariness, I’m optimistic about the future of the church. And I’m convinced more than ever that YOU matter.

Why am I so optimistic?

Because we’ve been here before.

In this season we’ve dealt with disease, social injustice, political dysfunction, and perceived government overreach. Jesus and the earliest Christians had a word for this situation. They called it “Tuesday.” Or “Wednesday,” or “Thursday,” or any other day of the week. Similarly, our shift to a post-Christian and an increasingly secular society is nothing new. On one hand, it brings us nearer to resembling the pre-Christian world of the early church where religious liberties could not be demanded or taken for granted. On the other hand, as Australian pastor and culture critic Mark Sayers repeatedly remarks, increased secularism has ebbed and flowed throughout history, often as a precursor to renewal.1 Sayers believes the western church is poised for renewal. And I see renewal’s seeds sprouting already in our emerging leaders.

Because we have quality emerging leaders.

Recently, Carey Nieuwhof posted his concern about the “brain drain” occurring as quantities of established Christian leaders exit ministry. In part, their departure simply aligns with demographics as the Baby Boomers reach the age of retirement. But the impact is conspicuous in Christian ministry where the average age of a senior leader is late 50s and where we’ve seen the pace of departure accelerate since COVID.

Nieuwhof cautions, “The next season of ministry is going to require the best and the brightest leaders the church has to lead into the future.”2 I agree that the church needs bright and adaptive leaders, but “bright” isn’t enough. These leaders must also be passionate about Christ and deeply, spiritually formed. Thankfully, I see these traits present in the two groups of leaders emerging today – Generation Z and new Canadians

Generation Z has only ever known a world that’s perpetually unstable socially, politically, economically, and now medically. They’re adaptive, faithful, and resilient. Many liken Generation Z to the conscientious “G.I. Generation” who kicked-off the 20th Century3 and who were marked by the Spanish Flu, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, two World Wars, and introducing world-altering technologies like radio, telephone, and automobile.

New Canadians account for most of Canada’s population growth. And although many are not Christian, those Christians born outside of Canada tend to be more conservative and devout in faith than many born in Canada.4 As Canada’s established churches plateau and decline, we see adaptive, resilient, and faithful multiethnic leaders emerging who prophetically recall us to our first love (Rev. 2:4). Besides emerging leaders, you’re making a difference, too.

Because you’re making a difference.

It may not always feel like it, but you ARE making a difference.

Even before COVID, I was burdened for the challenges facing the church. The world seemed chaotic, capricious, dark. I was given a vision of our little churches as stars – pinpricks of light in infinite darkness.

Think about it.

When we gaze at the night sky, we see the stars, not the light years of darkness that separates them.

Looking at stars photo credit Greg Rakozy

Paul commends us to “shine like stars in the world” amidst a crooked and depraved generation (Philippians 2.15). God’s plan has never been for his church to eradicate all darkness, but simply for each to contribute one small point of light. Each point of light disproportionally illuminates much larger sections of darkness, and produces more lights as people are drawn from the darkness.

So as you persevere in this dark season, YOU MATTER.

Your light produces new lights. You are providing for the future. And you make me optimistic.

Thank you.

Jeromey Martini, President

1 See Reappearing Church: The Hope for Renewal in the Rise of Our Post-Christian Culture (Moody, 2019).
2 Carey Nieuwhof, “Is It Time to Quit Ministry? How to Tell If your Time as a Pastor Is Over” Carey Nieuwhof (blog) 2021/10/06, https://careynieuwhof.com/is-it-time-to-quit-ministry-how-to-tell-if-your-time-as-a-pastor-is-over.
3 E.g., Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace, Generation Z: A Century in the Making (Routledge, 2019).
4 Reginald W. Bibby, Joel Thiessen, and Monetta Bailey, The Millennial Mosaic: How Pluralism and Choice Are Shaping Canadian Youth and the Future of Canada (Toronto: Dundurn, 2019), pp. 181-92.