Jan
25

Reflections Part 2: We Must Recognize and Respond to the Areas of Greatest Need

written by JD

If I had a nickel for each time I heard a church planter say, “My city is the most unreached city in the country,” or “My county is the most unchurched county in the nation,” I would be a wealthy man. . . . Okay, maybe not wealthy. . . . But I would at least be able to buy one of my children a piece of gum from the gumball machine.

The reality is many of our claims and missionary strategies are not grounded in reality.

This post is the second in a series of “Reflections” based on my report “From 35,000 to 15,000 Feet: Evangelical Statistics in the U.S. and Canada.” If you are interested in reading the first “Reflection,” you can find it located HERE.

Please note:  This post is based on the original report from the 15,000 feet perspective, and not from the ground level.

According to the U. S. Religious Landscape Survey of 2008 released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, among all U. S. adults, Evangelicals consisted of 26.3% of the population (see page 5 HERE).

We must realize not all U. S. states are evangelically equal.  While you can check the PowerPoint presentation for information on your state, below is a table of the least evangelical states, along with the corresponding evangelical church to population ratio.

U. S. States With Less than 10% Evangelical Pop.

STATE

TOTAL EVANGELICAL PERCENTAGE

EVANGELICAL CHURCH TO POPULATION RATIO

Connecticut 2% 1:7403
Massachusetts 2% 1:8078
New Hampshire 2% 1:6088
New Jersey 2% 1:7540
Rhode Island 2% 1:8454
Utah 2% 1:8589
Vermont 2% 1:4349
Maine 3% 1:3783
New York 3% 1:6607
Delaware 5% 1:3628
Nevada 5% 1:5124
Pennsylvania 6% 1:3014
California 7% 1:3760
Hawaii 8% 1:2898
Maryland 8% 1:3655
Idaho 9% 1:2193

As we continue to lower our “altitude” on the U.S., we are able to focus on some of the major metro areas.  Again, you can check the PowerPoint presentation for information on other major U.S. metro areas.  However, when considering lostness, here is a table of 29 U.S. metro areas consisting of a 5% or less evangelical population.

U. S. Metro Areas With 5% or Less Evangelical Pop.

U. S. METRO AREA

TOTAL EVANGELICAL PERCENTAGE

EVANGELICAL CHURCH TO POPULATION RATIO

Provo-Orem, Utah 0.6% 1:18,427
Pittsfield, Massachusetts 1.5% 1:9640
Barnstable-Yarmouth, Massachusetts 1.5% 1:8889
Providence-Warwick-Pawtucket, Rhode Island 1.7% 1:8230
Springfield, Massachusetts 1.9% 1:9814
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-CT-PA 2.3% 1:8517
Salt Lake City-Ogden, Utah 2.3% 1:9808
Boston-Worcester-Lawrence-Lowell-Brockton, Massachusetts 2.5% 1:7786
New London-Norwich, Connecticut 2.5% 1:6477
Hartford, Connecticut 2.7% 1:7557
Albany-Schenectady-Troy, New York 2.7% 1:5837
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, Pennsylvania 2.8% 1:6577
Burlington, Vermont 2.9% 1:6630
Dubuque, Iowa 3.1% 1:6857
Glens Falls, New York 3.1% 1:4288
Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazelton, Pennsylvania 3.1% 1:4733
Utica-Rome, New York 3.4% 1:4837
Philadelphia-Wilmington-Atlantic City, PA-NJ-DE 3.6% 1:5704
Syracuse, New York 3.7% 1:5049
Bangor, Maine 3.8% 1:3535
Portland, Maine 3.8% 1:4580
Laredo, Texas 3.9% 1:4598
Reading, Pennsylvania 4% 1:4018
Rochester, New York 4.1% 1:5084
Binghamton, New York 4.4% 1:3504
Reno, Nevada 4.6% 1:4715
Salinas, California 4.7% 1:3686
Lewiston-Auburn, Maine 5% 1:4152
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 5% 1:3978

Please notice the substantial difference between Provo-Orem, Utah area and the other areas.  Provo-Orem, Utah comes in with the least evangelical population (.6%)–not even 1% Evangelical, and one evangelical church for every 18,427 people.

Now comes another sobering reality.  While there are several states and metro areas represented, notice how many spaces on the two tables listed above are from the northeastern part of the country–the location of many strong churches, awakenings, and revivals of yesteryear!

A question to ponder:  How does a region go from being a place of great Kingdom expansion to containing some of the least evangelical areas on the map?

O Canada!

Determining evangelical numbers in Canada is a challenging process.  Rick Hiemstra with the Centre for Research on Canadian Evangelicalism has written on this topic.  You can find his articles HEREHERE, HERE, and HERE.

As we turn our attention to our northern neighbor, we see some similarities with U. S. locations and some substantial differences.  Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk in Operation World: 21st Century Edition notes that Evangelicals comprised 10.8% of the Canadian population in 2000 (updated and revised edition, 2005, pg 144).  Hiemstra sent an email to me estimating the average evangelical percentage across the provinces being 12%, with Quebec consisting of 2-3%.

Selected Canadian Metro Areas With Evangelical Church to Pop. Ratios

METRO AREA PROVINCE EVANGELICAL CHURCH TO POPULATION RATIO
Quebec City Quebec 1:23,331
Saguenay Quebec 1:21,733
Trois-Rivieres Quebec 1:9508
Montreal Quebec 1:8688
Sherbrooke Quebec 1:8668
St. John’s Newfoundland 1:6718
Ottawa-Gatineau Ontario 1:6129
Oshawa Ontario 1:5381
Toronto Ontario 1:5229
Great Sudbury Ontario 1:4764
Calgary Alberta 1:3818
Windsor Ontario 1:3773
Victoria British Columbia 1:3674
Hamilton Ontario 1:3654
Kingston Ontario 1:3604
Halifax Nova Scotia 1:3539
Edmonton Alberta 1:3420
London Ontario 1:3351
Vancouver British Columbia 1:3269
Thunder Bay Ontario 1:3214
Winnipeg Manitoba 1:3169
Regina Saskatchewan 1:3148
St. Catherine’s-Niagara Ontario 1:2390
Saskatoon Saskatchewan 1:2331
St. John New Brunswick 1:2099

I have had the privilege to travel throughout Newfoundland, the Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia, and visit some of these locations.  There is truly a great need for the gospel in Canada.  An examination of this table clearly shows that the top five metro areas are located in Quebec.

As I noted in Reflections Part 1 and in the report, need is not the only determining factor in wise missionary strategic planning.  However, need IS a MAJOR factor in developing our Kingdom endeavors.

Many times the Spirit leads based on information He reveals to us.

It is one thing for us to be ignorant and not know where to go; it is another matter when we know where to go and remain where we are.

What do you think?

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