Marc Nzikobari is an African pastor who came to Canada 5 years ago. He is from Burundi, a relatively small country with a population of less than 10 million people, which is found between Congo, Tanzania, and Rwanda. Having had had theological education in Africa and been in church ministry for more than 15 years, Marc sensed God’s calling to Canada. Now in Toronto, as a bi-vocational pastor, which means to have a day job in addition to ministry, Marc is pastoring a house church he planted among Burundian community. The Burundian community in Toronto is quite small in number, and many Torontonians would not even know that it exists in Toronto. Marc, however, within only 2 years of his ministry in Toronto, was able to plant the house church and start his vibrant outreach ministry among Burundian families.
Marc’s example is an illustration of the development of a global diaspora. Diaspora refers to ‘a scattering and gathering of peoples’. Many in the world are leaving their homeland (either voluntarily or involuntarily) to stay or settle down in other countries. This global movement of people is changing the ethnic, cultural, and religious make-up of many places and, presenting opportunities and challenges to Christians around the world. For example, 41.7% of immigrants who arrived in Canada between 2001 and 2005 were Christians. One outcome of this is new Canadians such as Marc who come to Canada and start churches (known as New Canadian Church Planters or NCCPs). New Canadian Church Planters’ role in Christian ministry is becoming ever more important as Canada accommodates more foreign-borns, and as these different people gather and form communities.
1) Growing Diversity of Canadian Population
One notable feature of Canadian population in recent decades is the sharp increase of the visible minority population. According to the Employment Equity Act of Canada, visible minorities are defined as ‘persons, other than Aboriginal persons, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour’. The 2006 Census revealed that Canada had more than 5 million visible minority people constituting as much as 16% of the nation’s total population. It is anticipated that, by the year of 2031, the visible minority population will increase up to 30% of the Canadian population.
(From “Canada’s Ethnocultural Mosaic, 2006 Census”, by Statistic Canada, 2008, p.12)
A visible minority person is not necessarily from a foreign country. There are visible minorities who were born in Canada or whose family has lived in Canada for several generations. However, the majority of visible minorities in Canada are foreign-borns. In 2006, about 66% of visible minorities were immigrants from outside Canada. This chart below shows that most visible minorities from Asia, Latin America, and Arab countries were born outside Canada.
(From “Canada’s Ethnocultural Mosaic, 2006 Census”, by Statistic Canada, 2008, p.15)
When we discuss ethnic or cultural diversity of Canadian population, we can also observe a change in immigration pattern. In the latter part of the twentieth century, immigrant demographics of Canada changed significantly from European to non-European. The figure below shows that, while the proportion of Europeans among Canadian immigrants has decreased since 1981, the proportion of Asian immigrants has had a steep increase. In 2006, the number of Asian immigrants, for the first time, exceeded the number of European immigrants.
(From “Projections of the Diversity of the Canadian Population” by Statistics Canada, 2010, p.17)
The immigrants from Asia, Africa, South America, and Caribbean countries are expected to grow in number. Consequently, Canada’s population will become increasingly diverse.
2) Ethnic Communities of Canada
When people of different cultures and ethnicity come to Canada, they gather and form immigrant communities. In urban centres of Canada such as Toronto, it is not difficult to find ethnic communities where particular people groups are living and doing business together. These places accommodate supermarkets, restaurants, service agencies, and religious organizations specific to the ethnic group. China town and Greek town in the city of Toronto are examples of the regional ethnic community.
Ethnic communities are not always visible or distinctive to outsiders. Some ethnic groups are too small in number to become visible or some others just do not tend to live very close to each other. However, every ethnic group in Canada, including the one hidden or unknown to outsiders, has a network within itself. Through this network, members of the ethnic group socialize or share information and resources for Canadian life. The bond of the ethnic group is strong that their network reaches and is effective even across geographical boundary. For example, it is a common pattern of immigration in Canada that individuals immigrate following their family and friends who have immigrated to Canada before them.
It is a well-known fact that ethnic groups in Canada is diverse in nature. More than 200 ethnic origins have been identified in Canada. However, one thing that is not being noticed well about Canada’s ethnic groups is their ‘size’. There are 18 immigrant communities in Canada which are more than 100,000 in number. Canada has become a place where big chunks of different ethnic groups are found together.
Two figures below show how diverse and large Canada’s ethnic communities are. The first figure represents where foreign-borns of Canada are from. More than 100,000 Canadian population respectively identified 18 countries of origin. The second figure below demonstrates 21 different mother tongues spoken by more than 100,000 people in Canada.
(From, “Diaspora Nation: An Inquiry into the Economic Potential of Diaspora Networks in Canada”, by Maurice Britan & Serene Tan, 2013, p.47, 56)
Immigrant communities in Canada are not always precisely divided by the country of origin or native language. Yet, data above still offer good sense about the size and diversity of ethnic communities in Canada.
3) New Canadian Church Planter (NCCP)
Having a large number of foreign-borns and ethnic groups in Canada is a challenge to Canadian church. People from different cultures including those from so called ‘the 10/40 Window’ or ‘unreached people groups’ are living among us. These different people will be making up larger portion of Canadian population. Therefore, how to respond to the reality of ethnic population has become a crucial concern for Canadian church.
New Canadian Church Planters (NCCPs) are the ones who can contribute significantly to the ministry for ethnic groups. NCCPs come to Canada with “a burden to evangelize…and at the same time searching to improve their education and lifestyle”. As newcomers to Canada, often times, New Canadian Church Planters lack resources for life and ministry. However, the experience and passion in church planting, in addition to the knowledge of specific culture and language, give NCCPs potential for their ministry in Canada.
The work of New Canadian Church Planters are already being manifested to be fruitful. The products of their ministry are seen in the areas of ‘missions to the diasporas’, ‘missions through the diasporas’, and ‘missions beyond the diasporas’. First, NCCPs are doing ‘the missions to the diasporas’ by reaching out to their compatriots and planting churches among them. As Marc’s example in the introduction of this paper shows, the immigrant church planters are effective in finding a network of ethnic groups and reaching out to people of their own ethnic origin. Most ethnic churches in Toronto are being planted by church planters and pastors belonging to the ethnic group. Second, some NCCPs are engaged in ‘missions through the diasporas’ that they evangelize their kinsmen in their home country or diaspora in other countries. For example, one Arabic speaking church in Toronto, which was planted about two years ago by an Arabic NCCP, has purchased a broadcasting facility in order to produce gospel materials in Arabic language. The church is planning to spread their gospel materials to their home Arabic countries using the local network. Third, some New Canadian Church Planters are practicing ‘missions beyond the diasporas’. They have vision for not only reaching out to their own ethnic groups but also to broader Canadian community. These NCCPs and their churches choose to become intercultural in ministry. Green Hills Christian Fellowship Toronto Church, which was planted by a Filipino pastor in 2007 and planted 5 other churches in its first four year, shares a vision with its planted churches to be missional and multicultural. These churches are intentionally crossing the ethnic boundary in ministry.
The presence of diasporas in Canada has brought new realities and new opportunities for Canadian churches. Nations are truly on their doorsteps. Canadian churches need to appreciate the significance of this phenomena and respond properly to it. New Canadian Church Planters are people Canadian churches need to get to know and cooperate with. When New Canadian Church Planters and Canadian Churches come together for mutual learning and collaborative relationships, we will see the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20) realized, right in our neighborhood.
 Lausanne Occasional Paper no. 55, “The New People Next Door”. Available from https://www.lausanne.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/06/LOP55_IG26.pdf
 Statistics Canada, 2013. “Analytical Report: Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity in Canada”, p.22. Available from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/91-551-x/91-551-x2010001-eng.pdf
 Statistics Canada, 2010. “Study: Projections of the Diversity of the Canadian Population: 2006 t0 2031”, p. 23. Available from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/91-551-x/91-551-x2010001-eng.pdf
 Statistics Canada, 2008. “Canada’s Ethnocultural Mosaic, 2006 Census”, p.13. Available from http://www12.statcan.ca/census-recensement/2006/as-sa/97-562/pdf/97-562-XIE2006001.pdf
 Statistics Canada. 2008. “Canada’s Ethnocultural Mosaic, 2006 Census”, Available from http://www12.statcan.ca/census-recensement/2006/as-sa/97-562/pdf/97-562-XIE2006001.pdf
 Maurice Britan & Serene Tan, 2013. Diaspora Nation: An Inquiry into the Economic Potential of Diaspora Networks in Canada. Available from http://mowatcentre.ca/diaspora-nation/
 David F. D’Amico, “Ethnic Ministries in Urban Setting”, Review and Expositor, 92 no 1 Winter 1995, p.39-56, p.42
 Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, “Scattered-to-Gather: Embracing the Global Trend of Diaspora”, 2010, p.27-29. Available from https://www.global-diaspora.com/scattered-to-gather-free-download
The terms, ‘missions to the diasporas’, ‘missions through the diasporas’, and ‘missions beyond the diasporas’, refer to types of diaspora missions. They were defined in the official document of the Diaspora Issue Group of the 3rd Lausanne Congress, Cape Town, South Africa, 2010., ‘Scattered-to-Gather: Embracing the Global Trend of Diaspora”
 Ibid, Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, p.28
 Narry Santos, 2013. What’s a missionary doing in Canada? The story of Greenhills Christian fellowship. In Green shoots out of dry ground: Growing a new future for the church in Canada, 97-110. Wipf & Stock, P.101, 102
Tyndale Intercultural Ministries Centre
Note from the author: As we strive to improve our service to our readers, please send your comments (however short or long) about this article to firstname.lastname@example.org. All comments will be treated respectfully and in the strictest confidence.