Target has failed in Canada. And I can’t say that I’m surprised. But it’s not because I know much about retail. My notable retail experience includes three years working at Smart Set in Southcentre Mall during high school. I was excellent at folding t-shirts for the 2 for $25 table. Oh, and I worked the music department at Chapters back in the days of music departments with old-fashioned items like CDs. Bless.

Nope, a retail giant analyst I am not, but what I do have I offer to you: regular old church experience.

Most of my childhood and teenage years as a neo-charismatic Christian in western Canada can be characterized by an almost identical exercise: a big American name comes to Canada to Reach Canada for Christ™, plant a church, and then in rather short order, heads back over the border, usually while blaming us for the failure.

That sounds a bit bald and harsh, but I don’t mean to be. It’s simply been my experience. So first, let me say this: I’ve seen church plants succeed in Canada. Many of them, in fact. Some of them followed the Church Planter Handbook that must exist somewhere (i.e. don’t even TRY unless you have $100K in the bank and a rockin’ worship team) and others have been messy organic and unlikely. All of them bring me great joy. I love to hear of new churches opening around us – we are a people of abundance, not scarcity! Also worth noting is that in the midst of these imperfect scenarios, there were lives changed, people saved and set free.

And yet this has been my experience and so I admit, I’m a bit wary now of outsiders coming into Canada as self-appointed missionaries to Reach Canada For Christ™. I’m not quite at the “get off my lawn” stage yet though. So when news broke today about Target’s abject and utter failure to expand into Canada, I began to think this morning about how church planters to Canada (or even within Canada) can learn from the Target failure.

So off the top of my head, here’s a few connections I made between Target and outsider-church-planting in Canada:

1. Target tried to open American stores in Canada. That sounds a bit silly when I write it out but here’s what I mean: Americans often tried to start American churches in Canada. They wanted churches that looked like American churches and they wanted people who thought like Americans. And then there would be frustration because we weren’t, well, American. We didn’t worship like Americans, we didn’t have the same values at times, we thought differently or had different context. It felt like we spoke different languages. For instance, I’ve seen American preachers get so frustrated because we listen to sermons instead of hollering back. Or would import a lot of American teaching or values cloaked in Jesus-y language, conflating the two. Instead of adjusting for that difference, the leadership often just tried harder to make us fit their version of Christian. It felt more like they were trying to colonize us into American Christians than make disciples. The kicker? when they quit and left, it was always with the parting shot that it was our fault. We didn’t play by their rules.

2. Target was out of stock of the essentials. When people went to Target, they simply never found what they actually went there to get. It’s hard to miss this metaphor for the church in Canada. Often what we have to offer as a church isn’t what people actually want. Canada isn’t the United States and we aren’t Europe either. Each community has its own religious history and even that changes drastically from neighbourhood to home. For instance, I grew up in a post-Christian pocket of western Canada where I didn’t have a single Christian friend or teacher to my knowledge. Meanwhile, folks my age here in Abbotsford mostly grew up either Mennonite or Sikh. (And yes, I’ve learned to appreciate both Indian food and Ukranian food.)

3. Target went too fast. In less than a year, the retail giant created 133 stores and a few distribution centres. From a church perspective, I saw many church planters fail because they also went too fast. They landed and set up shop quickly. They weren’t part of the community, they had no friends, they didn’t take the time to live among us and with us. They had no base and they often kept a strong line between “them” and “us.” Instead of becoming part of our lives, instead of developing a theology of place, they simply parachuted into our lives and then, when it didn’t go well, they left us. And just as the retail workers at Target are left in the lurch, our small congregations were often left to scatter in the aftermath, trying to find healing as best they could. At times, it was devastating. There are many friends of mine from that season of life who have simply given up on church because of these flash-in-the-pan experiences. We felt expendable: useful when they had their big big plans for their big big ministry launch but when things got tough, we were left behind. They didn’t love us and it became obvious. We were a project, not people.

4. Target refused to allow people in Canada to lead. Like most retail giants, leadership isn’t valued as much as management. We often saw the church planters come with Their Vision and Their People and Their Six Month Plan: we were there simply to execute their plan. Our input was not required. The planter was The Man of God, we were the dumb yet adorable sheep here to be led, not to co-lead or contribute. There wasn’t a teachable spirit to the leadership which is interesting to me now, twenty-odd years later, because I remember the folks there and there were some incredible leaders among them. It seems like a dehumanizing waste to turn them into pew fodder or cogs for the machine. There are bigger questions here about discipleship, leadership, and the purpose of the church, of course, but I’ll leave it there.

5. Target didn’t connect to the communities where they set up shop. The leaders often didn’t consult the area churches, leaders, or believers. They simply showed up and started without a thought for other believers already labouring in that field. They didn’t take the time to become part of the team – maybe because they thought they were above the team? who knows. Our church communities might be small but they are strong. I often joke that here in western Canada, if you’re a Christian, we either know you or we know someone who knows you. Our world is small and there isn’t anywhere to hide. Burning bridges is harder when you have a small community of believers. That small community is one of our great assets – we cheer each other on, work together on projects, and avoid competitiveness with each other (speaking generally, of course). I love how churches in our area work together so well, so often particularly when it comes to major events or causes. But by not connecting to their community, these leaders often missed opportunities to learn and to be part of something amazing.

I’ll miss Target in theory. I feel incredibly sad for their employees today.

But the truth is that I didn’t shop there either. 

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A Lament for Nigeria
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  • I think this can be applied brilliantly to most cross cultural church experiences. Listen first. Acknowledge that different isn’t bad. Listen again. Teamwork makes the dream work. That kind of heavenly stuff.

  • Tracey

    Love your blog but as an American this reads a bit hostile to me. I guess I understand the point you’re trying to make, but some of the language used seems a little anti-American. The reference to colonizing is a slightly offensive and as an American Christian, I can tell you there are a great many of us who prefer to listen to the sermon and not “holler back”. To me, this is an article that serves to alienate your American audience, not to unify or help with understanding.

    • Well, rats. That wasn’t my intent at all. I had to write about Americans to Canada because that was my experience and connection.

      • Tracey

        I understand, I was just a bit taken aback I guess….maybe too defensive. I have no doubt there are cultural differences, it just seemed to be putting us all into one category. We aren’t all like that. I still love your blog and I love the beautiful words you pen! God’s blessings and peace to you.

        • 20sixletters

          Tracey, I didn’t actually think Sarah sounded hostile at all (though I guess I would hate to read an article criticising how my country plants churches so I get how you feel). I think, these comments about American church plants are ones I’ve heard time and time again and people do feel a little like they’re being colonised quite a lot, probably with the coming of chain stores as well as with church plants! I think it’s an awareness of cultural differences that goes a long way… sometimes I’ve found that conversation just doesn’t happen. I’m an immigrant myself in a church that’s planted from my part of the world, so it’s something I’m pretty aware of! 🙂

        • Sarina

          As an American minister living in Canada, I would say that this blog post is spot on. There are huge cultural difference between Americans and Canadians that Americans are completely unaware of. We have a tendency to come across as colonizing without realizing it because of the cultural differences. I find it helpful to read this so that I can be reminded to slow down, live in the community, make friends, build relationships and see what God does. God is doing amazing things, but very differently from how God has worked through me in the U.S.. Thank you for posting this! (I didn’t shop at Target Canada either…lol!)

      • Anastasia Crookston

        If I may 🙂 I was really impressed by this article. I work in cross-cultural missions in France and see this all the time, in my own heart, in my colleagues’ behaviour… and without a single American on the team! The problem is our need to transform the other into ourselves, in order to validate our own self-identity. That’s where colonisation and mis-guided missions come from: same problem, different manifestations. You’re totally right to make the link there. I would encourage any American readers who found this offensive to read it rather as a commentary on cross-cultural issues than a commentary on Americans or American church culture, which it really doesn’t seem to be to me. The issue is the appropriateness of the culture in another context, not the inherent value of that culture. Hope that helps! I love your blog Sarah, keep writing for us liberal/feminist/non conventional missionaries… we need people like you! Makes us feel less alone.

      • Roda

        Wow, it didn’t read that way to me at all. Tracy must be a more sensitive soul than I. Maybe it’s because I live in the Detroit area and watch Canadian TV? 😀

        I think you make excellent points. I agree wholeheartedly.

      • fm85

        I think your perspective is really good. I do agree that all American Christians are not the same (as Tracey noted, the “hollering” is not common to many churches in the US). Having lived in a few different cities at varying distances from the US/Canada border, I tend to think of cultural influence in the church in gradients – (i.e. I grew up in the Midwest and I think I’m probably culturally more like a Canadian than a southerner.) I went to a church in Texas where feedback, dancing during worship, and generally being very expressive was normal, to the point that it sometimes felt expected. Growing up in Wisconsin though, that always felt weird a bit weird to me – we tend to be more understated and stoic. Now that I live back in the Midwest, I find myself less outwardly expressive than I became in Texas, and I’m okay with that. Ultimately what I’ve learned (and am still learning) is that your heart disposition toward Jesus is way more important than how it outwardly expresses.
        All that said, I think Jesus met people where they were, and so its extremely important to understand the culture you’re planting into and not try to force fit your cultural ways onto another group of people. Colonization is part of America’s history (not here to debate the merits or lack thereof, its just fact!) and so the way we do things – even church planting – sometimes has that flavor. But that’s not Jesus. I just think some of us in America have a hard time separating some of the nuances there, and “don’t know what we don’t know,” so to speak. We mean well, but we need to tread thoughtfully when entering a new culture and recognize that Canada is not just America North!

    • NathanMichael

      As an American living in Canada, I can see both sides of this. I can both understand American operation models and understand the needs and perceptions of Canadian culture. I know for my American family and friends some issues are hard to recognize and thus hear. But outside perspectives are necessary. “It is scarcely a fish that would discover water.” As for the topic of colonialism and the effects of its worldview on Christian thought within the USA, do know that many American theologians are discussing this issue at length as they recognize it as a significant issue that needs to be addressed.

    • t_l

      As a tribal member living in America, I read this and laugh. This is the same thing that happens on reservations and not always by churches but often so.’Theology of place.’ Love that. Is that all Sarah Bessey or is that from another work? So awesome.

      • 20sixletters

        I love it that you commented, I often wonder what Native Americans think about some of the discource that comes of of the US (I’m a NZer from a pretty bi-cultural part of the country so I think I naturally gravitate to thinking about indigenous people and their experiences). You used the present tense in your comment, does it still happen?

        • t_l

          Yes it still happens, definitely. The flip side is people coming in, trying to learn our stories and then feed us back how Jesus is relevant to us. Um. That’s not cool either. But at least those folks are trying. It would be much better if our own people just led the churches, but the ravages of boarding school ruined many minds for Christ and recovery is slow.

          • 20sixletters

            Wow that’s really interesting. Sounds like you have a real place there to have a voice? I think the whole of your country would benefit from understanding your story better too.

      • Naomi Purdy MD

        I would have to say that these points apply to many other areas in addition. I am a family practice physician that has just moved to Las Vegas and am trying to figure out how to do good medicine in this new culture. So far, the member of the medical community that has impressed me the most is the medical assistant that I worked with in a practice I just left. She is Navajo and has many of the qualities that I would love to see all around me, much that come from her culture. Love of community, respect for elders, great work ethic. I think I can apply every one of the points made in this article as I work to develop an excellent family practice here in Las Vegas. That is what God has called me to do.

    • Jerrine Regan

      And yet, colonize is what we do…think Haitians wearing long sleeve shirts and ties to church. Was that part of their original culture? Of course not. Yet that’s how Americans see “real” Christian churchgoers and so the natives must conform…This is part of colonization.

    • SwissMiss

      I completely felt the same way reading this! Really hurtful and rude. My family is half US and half Canadian. I can tell you that most Canadians do not feel this way. They are very loving and see North Americans as Canadians and US citizens. Equally loving people, brothers and sisters in Christ. It need feels right when someone tries to define a country by a few people. I have lived all over the world and I can say that people are the same every where. Equally, unique and different in every country.

      • Dave Dulmage

        I love my American friends and family members. As Canadians, we could not have better neighbours. I don’t see any intent in this discourse to be hurtful, but I understand that there are significant cultural differences. I have travelled all over the world on business and lived in the USA for five years when my employer opened a new subsidiary there. One thing I learned was that one needs to be respectful and sensitive to the cultural differences, wherever one is involved.

    • I find myself fascinated by those who take offence to this post. And I can’t help myself thinking about the way in which, in some ways, this is actually a post so very in line with Jesus Feminist thinking. When we call for equality amongst men and women, it seems to me that we are calling for equality amongst peoples. It seems to me we’re calling for the reconciliation found in Christ.

      I wonder what it is that allows us to call for a subversion of inherent gender inequality through the lens of Jesus’ liberation, but then stops short when the same power dynamics are at play in larger economic and cultural systems that play the same game.

      I’m grateful for this post, Sarah, and for the way in which it pushes back at the colonialism and patriarchal mindset of those who want to equate American Christianity with Christianity. I’m also grateful for the way in which it pushes me to bump against my own assumptions about what so-called Canadian Christianity looks like in dialogue with our Indigenous brothers and sisters who we have subjected to the same sorts of things.

    • Steve

      I am an American missionary that has served in the UK for 11.5 years and you are spot on with the post. The majority of missionaries c

    • Karen

      Tracey: I find it interesting and unfortunately, predictable, that you would find any comment that points out a flaw in |American thinking as “anti-American”. I sincerely ask you to question your thought process if you are offended by mild challenges to a collective way of thinking. How can you know you are doing something incorrectly if nobody ever points it out to you? (and seriously, the amount of anti-Canadian stuff in your media is outrageous and laughable, so lighten up!). A number of Americans live near me and/or attend my church, and/or visit frequently. It continues to amaze me that it seems beyond their comprehension that we don’t think like Americans. A fundamental difference between Americans and Canadians is that as a society/culture in whole, we know that Canada is A great country in the world, but not THE ONLY great country in the world. I wish that ALL people in the world could truly understand that every culture is unique and has tons to offer the world. Once a person truly believes that they can learn from other cultures, they enter that culture humbly, are accepted more fully, and grow as a person. Sarah was not hostile at all.

  • Can I add a sixth? Target didn’t give people a reason to go there.

    In the U.S., Target was competitive with Wal-Mart (but you felt a little better shopping there). In Canada, the prices were higher, and there was nothing that separated it (price, experience, inventory) from what I could find anywhere else. When I was looking for something, there was nothing that would draw me towards it.

    It’s similar to your second point, but slightly different. If Target didn’t give me a reason to go there as opposed to searching elsewhere, why would I?

  • Hannah Schaefer

    As an American, I really resonated with this. I know how we have a bad habit of thinking our way is the best way, and the Target/church planting thing sounds exactly like that. Classic us. Thanks for sharing. <3

  • Emily

    I love this! The points that you made are spot on, and can relate to urban ministry within the states as well.

  • Tammy

    As a dual citizen who has lived in Canada for a long time I totally get this. I have gone to ministry conferences in the US and there is a lot of good stuff to learn but I have also seen Americans come in to Canada with big ideas but without taking time to understand the local culture. Not everything translates well.

  • JennaDeWitt

    This is so interesting to me because it seems like they really did know their audience here in the American South. Everybody shops at Wal-Mart, but they hate it. So Target creates a less chaotic, hectic and stressful environment to buy the same items. Some things are more expensive, yes, but the general consensus is that they are higher quality, healthier and worth the extra cents if for no other reason than we didn’t have to go to Wal-Mart to get it. The lighting, noise level, colors, organization, branding… all leads Target to be jokingly called “Tarjhey” (as in, it is a fancy shop with a French name. lol) and be referred to as something “basic” girls obsess about along with Starbucks, leggings, T Swift, etc. It’s amazing to me that the same company could be considered almost fashionable (if a big box store could be cool, they have certainly achieved it here) while failing so miserably in other places. I suppose we could contrast it to McDonalds, which has a bad rep here but adapted to every city it lands in so that now you can get a localized version of a Big Mac pretty much anywhere in the world.

    • Good point. It’s perhaps the difference between localization and franchising the world at the core?

      • Valerie

        Target is based out of Minneapolis, MN—which seems like it should culturally work better with parts of Canada than the American South? I just find this stuff fascinating. 🙂

        • JennaDeWitt


      • JennaDeWitt


  • Valerie

    As an American transplanted to the Maritimes, I was very happy when Target came, and saddened today to hear that it’s failed. Our store didn’t have the inventory issues I’ve read about, and I didn’t notice much of a difference between the US and Canadian stores, which seems to be a point of contention. I’ve always liked how Target champions and partners with independent designers—both Canadian and American. The fact that they give back locally is also a big selling point with me. Also, I was really happy to see their partnership with TOMs at the end of the year. My alternatives for well-designed merchandise are Indigo/Chapters and Superstore/Joe Fresh…I’m glad to be supporting Canadian stores, but they aren’t local to me either.

    I totally don’t get the animosity I read in CBC comments regarding Target—why would Canadians be championing Walmart? Nearly all the chains in my city are American imports—but somehow Target earns a special kind of ire. I get what you are saying about church planting, and agree in that context, but I’m not sure that it really translates to the specifics of this situation with Target.

    Interestingly, we attend a NewFrontiers church, which is an import from the UK, and a good number of our congregation have immigrated from the UK to be part of the church. The (Canadian) Elders regularly seek counsel from and willingly put themselves under the teaching of British leaders. All that to say, from this experience it feels to me like Canadians might have less issues with imports from the UK than the US.

    At the end of the day, it’s probably a good thing for me that Target will be closing its doors here—I need less excuses to be a consumer, for sure…but this post reads to me as unnecessarily triumphant. I’m still feeling out what these national identities mean. I guess I’m just hoping that the Target stores out West were really bad enough to warrant the response that I’ve seen from Canadians online.

    • Andrea

      I totally agree with you Valerie. I take it further that Canadians set out before they even arrived, to hate target. I chalk it up to Canadians being prideful, stick in the mud people who would not welcome a new kid simply becausethey were American. Yet oddly, cdns have a crazy devotion to wal-mart. Personally I prefer target and think all in all they are the better co. . But cdn shoppers are stubborn and with our noses in air we say “good riddance” It is a sad day for retail in Canada and a day online shopping makes a huge win. My comment is really trying to point out that us Canadians aren’t so nice and throw a lot of hate south. I am tired of the air of ? we spew forth.

      • LethalAmbiances

        “I chalk it up to Canadians being prideful, stick in the mud people who
        would not welcome a new kid simply because they were American.”

        There’s some truth in that. I tend to be suspicious of American stores moving into Canada, especially ‘new kids’, as it were, largely because there is a risk that their competition will hurt Canadian companies. I don’t apologise for that; America owns enough of the world already.

        Which brings me to my main point: yes, Canadians are a bit hostile towards American ‘intrusion’ into Canada. But that hostility comes from somewhere. When you move into someone else’s space – their country, their home, their community, their family, whatever – you should be adapting to them, more than asking them to adapt to you. This applies to international missions across the board, as well as to intercultural or social justice work within a single country. When I go to someone’s house and they are all eating with their hands, I don’t ask for a knife and fork – I watch what they’re doing, and try to do the same. If I go to someone else’s country, I should do my best to learn their language – whether that means taking French lessons, or just learning not to flinch when I hear someone casually described as ‘coloured’. And I will screw up in that process, but it’s better to screw up while making an honest effort than to simply demand that the world bend around me.

        Americans are not the only ones who try to impose their culture, their food, and their assumptions on those they visit – not by a long shot – but they do tend to do it a bit more than most. Again, there’s a reason for this. The more dominant and widespread your own culture is, the less practise you will have at adapting to other cultures, and conversely, the more you will have to prove your willingness to do so when dealing with people of other cultures. American culture is very dominant, and as a result, it is going to be more challenging for Americans to do cross-cultural ministry*, just as it is more challenging for white people to do racial reconciliation.

        But just because something is harder for you does not mean the world is being unfair to you. Nor does it mean the work isn’t worth doing – just that it has to be done slowly, and carefully, and with lots and lots of input from, and respect for, the people in whose space you are moving. Target made a promise of doing just that…but from what I’ve heard, they didn’t get as far as putting it into practise.

        I’m not saying ‘good riddance’ to Target. Like Sarah, am sorry to see so many lose jobs and have their lives disrupted. But, like Sarah, I also didn’t shop there.

        *And yes, Canada is right behind the US by this metric, especially English Canada. Everyone doing cross-cultural ministry needs to keep an eye on this, and especially those from wealthy western nations.

  • Elizabeth Sullivan

    Lovely post. My (American) family spent a couple years in Canada when I was young. Both moving up and coming back were harder than I expected because there are subtle cultural differences and they are not apparent on a vacation or brief visit to Canada.

    • That was our experience, too. I’m Canadian, married to an American, and we’ve both “done time” on each other’s sides. And both of us found it harder than we expected!

  • This is a good word here, Sarah, and applies to to our experience in Western Europe as well… thank you for this vivid reminder!

    • Thank you for you guys and the good work you do!

  • Dan

    How about, church isn’t a big business and shouldn’t be compared to a big business, run like a business or thought of as a business. It may ‘succeed’ but it won’t be a church. It will be a business and make money and build buildings and leave people empty. And they will leave…

  • 20sixletters

    This is a really excellent analogy. I have a friend in Madrid who often says the same thing about the American church plants there, they mostly fail because they don’t try to understand the culture and impose their own on the Spaniards and wonder why no one wants to hang with them. For example, Spanish know how to drink and not get drunk, having wine with dinner etc is a normal part of their culture. The church planters would come there and try to make rules about drinking and condemn people for it like they would in the States. It doesn’t work! I really love how Hillsong plants in Europe, I’m part of Hillsong London and have lived in Sydney too and while the heart of the church is the same, there are subtle differences to do with culture that just work. In London we hang at the pub after church, this would be unheard of in most churches in NZ and Australia, but it’s how we socialise in the UK. Church planting is really hard, I was part of a church plant for a few years so I know. But, you have to understand and be part of the local culture for it to work.

  • You really bring up a point that I constantly forget: Canadians have different values than Americans. I feel like since we’re close together and kind of sibling/friends, as far as countries go, we would be similar. But I think maybe we’re more like the UK (historically), with our desire to colonize everything and make it take our own form. Other than being politer and milder, what would you consider some differing typical Canadian values vs. American? Now, I’m really curious.

    • Iryssa

      There are large differences with regards to our views on Socialism (Canadians expect a certain amount of socialism, while south of the border they are much more wary of it), the Right to Bear Arms issue, and obviously regarding military and war.

      I think by and large the US sentiment tends to be largely guided by *freedom,* while Canada tends to be guided by *peace*.

      • LethalAmbiances

        “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” vs. “peace, order, and good government”?

        • LethalAmbiances

          Actually the more I think about it, the more that description seems to fit. A lot of the more specific differences that come to mind at that question ultimately fall under that umbrella.

        • Iryssa

          Haha, you know, that kinda nails it 😉

    • LethalAmbiances

      I think peace vs freedom sums up a lot of it, actually. Well said, Iryssa.

      These are, of course, all broad generalisations, but in my experience, Canadians tend to have a much more negative view of politics. American politics are very dramatic, with powerful ideologies behind them. In Canada, although there are significant ideological differences between the parties, most Canadians want parliament to pass a budget and be quiet about it.

      Canadians place a lot of value on not bothering people. As a result, we tend to be more conformist than Americans in public matters, and less conformist in private ones. As a result of *that*, more things tend to be private. Religion, for example, is seen as a private issue: you are free to practise it where and how you like (including in public places), and it would be rude and bothersome to try and stop you, but drawing other people into it (with unsolicited religious conversations, or by allowing it to inconvenience them) is also rude and bothersome, and will be met with hostility.

      As Iryssa points out, Canadians are also more likely than Americans to focus on equality of outcomes rather than equality of opportunity (though still much less than in other countries.) This is reflected in our greater friendliness towards socialism, but I think it’s also behind some of the “politer and milder” than you pointed out. I think Canadians are a bit less individualistic than Americans (though again, still much moreso than many other countries.)

  • Mia

    Love this. Can I be an honorary Canadian? I don’t like hollering back either. 😉

  • Susan Conatser

    I’m curious what Canadian values are different from American values?

    • Iryssa

      I’m not sure all the cultural differences can be summed-up in “we have this value while you have this other value.” It’s not so cut-and-dry, though there are *a few* examples. Socialism is one that comes to mind. In Canada we accept and even *expect* a measure of Socialism, understanding the benefits of it while maintaining enough freedoms to counter the pitfalls. You’ll find there are not many Canadian mothers, for instance, who would gladly submit themselves to a system where her decision to bear children must be at least partly based on whether she can afford the medical coverage (hospital births, prenatal and postnatal care are part of the package in our socialized medical system), while there are not many US mothers who would happily trust their children to socialized medical care.

      Another example is the right to bear arms. This is something that is deeply ingrained into the culture of many parts of the US, and any kind of government interference with a man or woman’s weapons is considered a dangerous attack on freedom. In Canada, it’s in many ways a more complex question. Few Canadians these days feel it must be the right of the general populace to own and/or carry a firearm. Those reputable people who do own them tend to be farmers, hunters, military personnel, and law enforcement officials. Relatively few outside those categories would even take the time to consider owning one. I can’t even imagine having one in the house while I have small children to raise. To me the idea is almost frightening. To many Americans the idea of NOT owning one or not being allowed to is equally frightening.

  • Sarah M

    While I didn’t read the comments, I did find this really fascinating! I’m an American living in Canada (husband born and raised here, I’m from Nebraska) and I have noticed that NO ONE goes to Target here, which is really funny to me. BUT–living in a really populated area (we live in Surrey and the next big WA town after the border is Bellingham, 30 minutes away) that Target was N-U-T-S- Nuts with Canadian shoppers. In the American Target. Can you explain that one? The exchange rate is really bad right now, too!

    • Iryssa

      I think when it comes to Targets close to the border that it has a lot to do with the *stock* they carry in American stores (which is to say cool stuff at good prices) vs. what they have carried in Canadian stores (which is to say not much). Honestly I was disappointed when Target came to Canada that it wasn’t more like American stores as far as what they had in stock. They were so disorganized higher up, I think, that they never were able to stock the stores the way they should have. There’s a slideshow here that shows evidence of this issue: http://globalnews.ca/news/1341807/target-canadas-biggest-headache-bare-shelves-gallery/

  • This is brilliant and I think it has application far wider than the American/Canadian context. How many times has this scenario played out throughout the history of “Christendom”, where the great and benevolent christian missionary traveled to a ‘heathen’ country expecting to replicate their own superior culture? Or how many times have christians from a wealthy part of town planted a church in a ‘disadvantaged’ suburb without first befriending the people or asking them what they actually need? I believe that unless we cultivate the heart of a servant, we run the risk turning people into projects and failing to achieve our “target” – pun intended 😉

  • Scott Jones

    Thanks for this. I’m currently involved in a church re-planting process. I wonder, why was Walmart successful in Canada and Target not? Any thoughts? http://www.forbes.com/sites/walterloeb/2013/03/07/walmart-carrefour-tesco-metro-successful-global-growers-what-can-we-learn-from-them/

    • a thought: Walmart sort of snuck in a bit at a time – and then they were everywhere. When we ‘Canajuns’ shopped in the US, the prices at Target were cheap even with the $ exchange. But here (I hear) not so much… people expected the same experience as cross border shopping and didn’t get it… which doesn’t relate to Sarah’s analogy at all (sorry!)

  • Context is everything. I’ve lived in 1 territory and 7 provinces (several different times). Maritimers are different from the Quebecois and the Ontarians, who are different from the prairie folk, and the west coasters and Yukoners are all different again. There are subtle rules and customs and attitudes that don’t translate well between locations.

    When I’m up north, I miss the history of the maritimes, and in Ontario I missed the openess of the Westerners. None of this is “good” or “bad”… it just IS.

    To be sensitive to context is Hard Work. And requires a humble spirit. And a willingness to change perspectives.

  • Still snickering at the trademark logo after “Reach Canada for Christ”!

  • Alex Marees

    It seems to me that if you wanted to write an article on why American church plants in Canada fail; you should have just written an article on why American church plants in Canada fail instead of trying to use Target as a metaphor. On points 1,4 and 5 you are really grasping in some of the correlations you tried to make between the two. I don’t think Target’s downfall was that they didn’t connect to the communities where they set up shop. They failed because their prices weren’t low enough and they didn’t carry the same stock that they do in their American stores. That’s it.

    Look at Walmart. Walmart isn’t successful because they have connected well to their communities. In fact, the opposite is usually true. Communities protest and lobby against Walmart coming to their towns because it usually means a devastating blow to local businesses. But the people in those towns still shop there. Why? Because they have the most stuff for the lowest price.

    Also, I don’t think Canadians were bothered by Target hiring Americans to run the operations in Canada. We all know that Target is American just like we all know Walmart is American. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you have the most stuff for the lowest price.

    I guess what I’m arguing is that Target failed in Canada not because they weren’t Canadian. Just the opposite actually. They failed because they weren’t American enough.

    That being said, I do agree with you on points 2 and 3.

  • Emma Logue

    As a faithful (American) reader, I’ve always enjoyed reading your blog and Jesus Feminist spoke greatly to me. I’ve now been married to Canadian and enjoyed Canadian way of life for 4 years now and I have come to respect and love it. I love that Canada can be so opposite of States and I feel so blessed to have two countries now. I will be the first to recognize that America isn’t always the best in every aspect and has many faults and have stood up for Canada on several occasions- as if it were my homeland. I do empathize with you that you have been a part of the great “American experiment” and have probably some residual hurt. I am sorry for you.
    However, I found the analogy to be very wanting and though you express your thoughts I find this is a platform for a good ol’ American bashing session.
    I feel this was evident in your choice of words “colonize” and though you have pointed out that Americans were resposible for creating the “them and us” dialogue- you have you perpeptuated it in here!
    You have previously been so graceful in your writing- I feel maybe this wasn’t completely thought through.

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  • SarahPinault

    I live in Maine and find much the same things as you do. When we were hiring a pastor several years back, about 75% of the applicants turned me off with their talk of the great northern mission field and needing to come up here to save us. “For instance, I’ve seen American preachers get so frustrated because we listen to sermons instead of hollering back.” Absolutely, people in Maine listen and then ask questions. We wrestle with our scripture. A lot of preachers we’ve had come up here, seem to want you to yell Amen but not actually question anything. I’ve seen some of this too, thought not everyone expects that. It’s just a different culture. You also really struck the nail on the head with that last point. “The leaders often didn’t consult the area churches, leaders, or believers. They simply showed up and started without a thought for other believers already labouring in that field.” What we need right now, is support and missionaries to work in our churches, helping us with the work at hand, not setting up shop to show us how to do it. Thanks for this.

  • Reminds me of American and Dutch missionaries coming to Belgium, which still has incredibly few evangelicals no matter how hard some people tried…
    I have to think on your individual points here…

    • And even if it offends some, I can add here that I also think that ‘colonize’ is indeed a very good description of how American missionaries (even in other Western countries) in a lot of cases not just bring ‘the gospel’ but also interweave a lot of American stuff in it that they very proudly want to bring to the ends of the world. Which doesn’t work very well here on the old continent, especially not in Flanders…

      (American Christianity does not have a much better reputation than aggressive Islam for a lot of people here. It’s even seen as backwards and dangerous by a lot of secular people. Evangelicals used to compare themselves favorably with catholics and say ‘we’re not like those irrelevant old farts. Now in the days after Bush with your tea party the current pope is much more in favor with non-Christians than anything related to Christian America…)

      And the handbook methods that work in the US (or even in Holland sometimes) don’t work here at all anyway… You can’t expect most of those strategies in a cynical post-catholic country… I don’t know what works, but none of those things seem to do much. Evangelicalism is still marginal here.
      (Except for among African and South-African immigrants where especially pentecostalism is still growing, but those communities are more enclaves of their old countries.)

      I don’t think the church is supposed to be a business anyway. How do you call a body that’s become a business…

  • andre_lefebvre

    SOME AMERICANS COULD BE OFFENDED, but it’s unfortunate if it would deter from the core analysis about church-planting and cookie-cutter imported methods applied indiscriminately. Sadly it’s been a reality, and still is, that there are church plants being started by people from various countries, in areas like Africa, South America, Canada, etc., that follow a strict franchise model (I call them ‘denominations’) and experience limited growth. And some of the points you make, Sarah, are sadly affecting many churches still, whether or not they were founded by Americans or not.

    When you run a faith community applying a business-model, you risk noticing these markers at some point, and they are symptoms of a need for the leadership to move beyond puberty to adulthood. Models should be seen as parameters that can be useful, but being able to recognize life and discipleship and tend to it brings a shift toward mentoring, and too few churches have time and resources for this. Which is certainly very sad and costly in terms of fulfilling the calling of making disciples, not just converts…

    I hope my American neighbours, brothers and sisters will forgive the imperfect analogy with Targey and terms like ‘colonizing,’ but it is a reality that their failure points to things we’ve seen before. It’s not an American thing, per say, but a failure to “relate” and a dependence on a model that has worked before. Some things can’t be exported. (For instance, there are limits to what can be exported from Japanese manufacturing methods).

    We could indeed look at colonization and historic records of the reality it created for tens of millions, when trying to force a culture unto another (and we see this happen with radical Islam).

    Finally, “Build it, they will come” doesn’t automatically work. It’s not to say that some of them are not successful, but those who fail very probably failed on some of those key points. This being said, I wish there was a way to import the methods and successes of some very vibrant communities in the US, which are leading the way in much needed reform of the way of understanding and living out our Christian faith with one another, AND within the communities we live in. Cutting-edge inspiring, they are beacons of hope and offering a clear challenge to living as converts comforting one another in our conversion for decades, as compared to living as disciples and growing leaders, something core to the DNA of Jesus’ Church.

    American friends, don’t take the criticism here as being a negative criticism of the whole of your country. That would be a terrible mistake. It was Target-ed on one corporation and things we’ve seen before. Thank God for America, such a young country with such an impact in this world! I think the main message is – we can learn from our mistakes and modify the way we do things in terms of church-planting and growth.

    Grace and peace,

    Andre Lefebvre

    Alberta, Canada

  • Donna-Jean Brown

    “Pew fodder” – LOL, Sarah! I’m so thankful for your intelligent role as critic of the church.

  • Janelle Wilhelm

    For what it’s worth, I didn’t think the post came off as hostile or anti-American. I am a (white) American, but I think that fact only made me agree with the points in this post all the more. The line “It felt more like they were trying to colonize us into American Christians than make disciples” really resonated with me, probably because that’s exactly what I’ve been seeing for years right here in the U.S. I recently left the denomination I grew up in because I was tired of hearing “ministry” discussed in terms of “How can we make everyone else just like us?” The Target metaphor may be imperfect, but I don’t think Target is the point here. I think these are legitimate concerns for the church to work on improving, and I’m glad to see someone bringing them up.

  • Artist

    This doesn’t just happen in Canada, but in America as well. I’m an American that went to a starter Church from those who came from New Zealand to do missionary work in my State and country. It lastest only a few years after it to failed and is now struggling to barely breath to stay alive. The leader came from New Zealand bringing a team from there to lead and take over the area and gave no regard for anyone else in the area to help in leading, etc like many of your points was made only looking at us like lost sheep and treating us as such. To which when it failed on the top downward it did hurt a lot of people.

    My point to this, is I think it’s anyone from another culture who comes in and trys to be big shot in church planting that causes the church to fail and hurt others in the process.

  • Roda

    I think that this issue has been recognized by some Christian Colleges training students for ministry. I know it is the philosophy of the college where my daughter and soon attended that they are not there to “fix” the culture. They are there to minister and to preach the gospel. I live this philosophy.

    That being said, we Americans are often an opinionated lot. There is always lots of debate and arguing amongst ourselves. It can be hard to remember that this is not how it is elsewhere.

  • Tom

    Canadians did want Target to be more American though. Hence cross border shopping. What they got is not what they expected like South of the border. They wanted lower prices or at least competition to another American giant retailer Wal-mart (who isn’t really much more Canadian anyway).

  • As an American who has consciously chosen to shop at Target over WalMart (I am willing to pay a bit more to shop in a nicer environment and cleaner store, rather than support the Walton family), I find your analogy fascinating and spot-on. My tiny Episcopal congregation has become very involved in homeless issues in our community, and mid-way through the second of a city-sponsored “Homeless Forum” someone from the audience noted that the faith communities were in attendance, as were the service providers, but where were the homeless themselves? It takes time and effort to go into any kind of community and just BE there (as our Bishop calls “a ministry of presence”) to discern what assistance is not only needed but wanted. – Fawn

  • Tina Kachmar

    As someone who has been reading you for a couple years now and loved your book, and thinks you’re adorable and your “tinies” more so, I know where your heart was with this post but for anyone reading for the first time, as an American, it may seem harsh. It seems like a generalization of a bunch of pushy, know-it-alls. And I can say as an American Christian, that doesn’t describe me at all. That being said, you can’t please everyone all the time, but I understand how some could take offense. I, myself, love Target but that’s because I refuse to support walmart because they treat their employees like they don’t matter. Rock on, Sarah!! I don’t “holler back” either, so weird.

  • Jerrine Regan

    Excellent points, Sarah!

  • Target failed in Canada

    It was time for target to go. I only feel bad for the workers. Stores were empty, no stock that was worth buying, no xbox 360 games,

  • Norman H Voisey

    I am a Canadian and have been in the USA for 53 years. I agree with Tracy that there was that comment about hollering back that suggests to me a demeaning atitude. Since Target just announced they were pulling out, perhaps you are guilty of the going too fast to write this article, the criticism of Target. James Michener said he wrote only a paragraph a day. The subject you address is important enough to be more circumspect and if it takes a little time, take it. My wife and I opened 17 new churches (through appointing others) and most of them didn’t last. Our experience told us it is personnel, personnel, personnel.

  • Super helpful read, Sarah. I would go as far as to say that this is not just why church planters fail… these reasons are a huge part of why established churches across the United States are failing. When we make assumptions, funnel leadership and choose ignorance over listening and growing roots in the context that we’re in (or fail to adjust our roots along with the changing culture) our shallow root structure will crumble in the wake of even a small storm. Such a great analogy.

  • Normel

    Number 3 is a great point. I thought this analogy was so good. There’s some good business in there too. Haha.

  • Rose

    I didn’t think this was anti-american or america-bashing at all when I read this (and I was shocked that people felt that way) but then, I’m Canadian. To me, it didn’t feel like Sarah was talking about Americans at all. Rather, it was about Canadians and how we are just different. Not better or worse. Just really, really different. As someone who grew up right across the border from my American cousins, I can tell you the cultures are really different (even when accounting for regional differences and not painting broad strokes), they just are. It’s not a bad thing either. We’ve had a lot of fun with it over the years.

    And colonizing may have harsh connotations but considering the church’s troubling relationship with missions and colonizing (including the Canadian church, mind you. No one gets off scot-free here) I think she was well within her rights to describe her experience that way. How do you know how it felt unless you were in that position?z Just my two cents.

  • Mary Gemmill

    excellent points which I can relate to Missionaries in the Pacific and Africa …..who made exactly the same mistakes.
    Mary, New Zealand

  • Tim Wright

    Good insights from an American living in the UK for almost 24 years. I think we are so unaware of the cultural baggage that is impossible to leave behind. That is why we need local trail guides to help us interpret and navigate the new culture. What may seem innocuous, can be deadly and transparency can appear manipulative. Bless you.

  • Rohadi

    Does this really still happen? To be fair, I don’t see this kind of church planting happening in Canada anymore. The odd church ‘transplant’ may continue the haphazard pursuit of consumer Christianity, but I can’t think of any recent plant emulating the Target debacle….which is a good thing. Maybe I’m not in the loop.

  • Allen Kleine Deters

    This is great. We are beginning a new plant in Niagara Falls. Before we started anything we spent months in the community using a Community Opportunity Scan to get a sense of the community, it’s needs, struggles and great things is does and stands for. It helped us to know about the services available in the community we are planting in. And just asking the questions to business owners, locals, resource people, city officials and school principles opened up a ton of great conversations. As we were doing the scan we became part of the the local area partnering in some local initiatives and just spending time listening and participating. We are just beginning our first missional community now, almost 5 months later after listening and participating in life here.

  • Bob

    An empty Target store might make a great space for any church group looking for a building!

  • B.Brittain-Marshall

    Thanks for writing this. Ironic that their name is Target, don’t you think, as they did completely missed the Canadian mark. Which serves as a cautionary tale not just for churches missing the mark (easy to get caught up in the ‘programming’ side of things), but for me too as an individual trying to reflect God, that I don’t want to miss the mark or overall goal – that of showing people my Jesus. I like how all your points can apply to us as individuals too.

  • pottergreen

    I think included in this is a reality that retail is dying in Canada and only one major player can survive. In the US CVS and Rite Aid are within blocks of each other, but Shoppers Drug Mart rules in Canada. Similarly with Tim Hortons, I also think the US team read recession in the short to medium term in Canada and as such, adjusting the approach in a recession would lead to further losses, years away from profit. I also think we should not get so smug with our attitude, this is a major hit on jobs in the service industry at a time when the economy is facing head winds. Sears is also at risk.

  • David

    Great post. Thanks for working with the analogy to help show why time, Theology of place, and context matter.
    I’ve planted a church in montreal, Canada and continue to pastor it 10 years later. However, though I’m Canadian I have often been tempted to get caught up in the x-factor from the US.

  • Jeremy Duncan

    It is interesting to see Canadians largely agreeing with the analysis and Americans largely feeling like it was hostile or ungracious. May lend some credence to the article’s hypothesis, no?

    • pottergreen

      Retail history does not support the view of the article. Walmart came into Canada in a similar fashion, taking over an aging retailer (Woolco/Woolworths), retaining some of the former staff. Despite the poor service and darwinistic experience of mob shopping, people flock to it, e.g., price. Newspaper editorials warned of how it would threaten small locally owned businesses and profits siphoned south rather than into the community, of how bulk buying would lead to mass importation of cheap goods and proliferation of the box store model. It all happened.

  • Jim

    Thanks for your blog, Sarah, from an American church planter (in E. Europe and Asia, mainly.) I studied Intercultural Relations at UBC and was really amazed at the great differences between the American value mindset and the Anglo-Canadian value mindset during my time interacting with my fellow students. Though we have similar socialization patterns, at the core of our value systems, we are very different, and it truly takes time in the mode of “learner” to learn how to bridge those differences. I think one of the main problems for church planters in foreign settings is that we do not adopt the role of learner in the new culture. We are too envisioned with something we want to impart (teach) that we often fail to first learn from the culture we are wanting to connect with.

    • Tiffany Boscan

      This sounds fascinating! Is there a book to read about this?

  • Shaun Lynch

    I just got sent this article by my parents as my wife and I will soon be moving to Canada from the United States to partner with a church that is already established and wants to plant more churches. I find this article to be incredibly helpful…I have heard from our friend who is leading that church plant there that nothing is the same in Canada as it is in America, that people are not the same, that strategies cannot be the same, and that even language cannot be the same as it will not be effective if we come in with an Americanized idea of church and try to impart it into the lives of Canadians.

    I honestly cannot thank you enough for writing this article, while my desire and goal of course will be to learn the Canadian culture and to integrate ourselves into it as we are allowed and as we grow into community among Canadians, I must say this is a great head start! It echoes what we’ve already been taught through discussions and it helps prepare my head and my heart for loving the people of Canada and serving them not using them as another American project…so thank you for writing this!

  • Tiffany Boscan

    It seems to me that you are mixing together a few issues. First of all, Target failed for many reasons. However, most of the stores that Canadians shop at are incredibly successful Americans companies – Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowes, Safeway (bought by Sobeys but model maintained), HomeSense, Old Navy, etc. etc.

    If you wanted to write a helpful article how about “Church Planting Success – What every Church Planter Should Know… Being Relevant to Your Community – One Size Doesn’t Fit All – Slow and Steady or If You Build It They Will Come Start Up…

    I didn’t grow up in Canada so I really don’t know (but am very interested in finding out), what American church plants are you referring to? Was there a Saddleback Vancouver or Second Baptist Very Far North Campus? The Victory churches seem to very successful and growing. Southern Baptists not so much – maybe because you aren’t very Southern 😉 Is this a memory of one church your thinking of?

    What you describe in your article is the dying out of the church model that was so popular in the early 2000’s. It had a good run. It’s done.

    This article borders the sentiments of “thanks but no thanks”. I have too many American friends in ministry here in Canada that came to make an impact for Christ in Canada and they do it ground roots, relationally, in the community they are in – not like a bull in a china shop. They have even been refreshed to part from the church model. They have made SO many sacrifices for their obedience. Anyone thinking they are going to bring what they had in the states figures out in a week that it will not fly here.

    The church plants that I personally know of here that have failed (three), did so because of the lack of integrity from their leaders (so I won’t name names). That’s it. Not because the band sucked. But your right about the discipleship necessity in church planting, you should always be looking to the future and growth of individuals as well as the organizational aspect. Without casting the vision and embracing the unique gifting of others, any church will be needing CPR soon.

    When I came to Canada a few years ago, the churchy magazine headlines read that Canadian churches were closing at a rate of one a week. That is enough to cause a shaking up of all the Christians presently located in Canada.

    Anti-American sentiment unnecessary.

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  • Bob

    Interesting comparison but even the comparison is wrong. The comparison is being made of a business to a congregation and the body of the Church. The missionary failure is interesting because
    it is compared to business practices. I do not read anywhere in Scripture where it states that evangelists are to use “direct mail announcement techniques to let the people know you are here”
    or “entertaining advertising (preaching) so that they will want to see (hear more). And so on in all the
    man-made business techniques used to make “money”. At no point in this comparison do I see even one mention of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is not in the effort, I can guarantee that it WILL fail. And if these high power American preaches come in using a wonder man designed business plan, without the leading of God the Holy Spirit, it is no wonder that it failed. The Canadiens there that had
    any ot eh Holy Spirit in them, did not sense a kindred Spirit in the condut of the outreach or the worship service. Thus no connection and thus failure. So you see, Target had a poor business
    strategy in that it did not know its customer. The attempts at the planting of Christian congrgations
    tends to fail because the Holy Spirit is not in it and the planters are not listening to the promptings
    of God’s Holy Spirit, they instead tell the Holy Spirit that this is what THEY (the outreach team/group)
    want to do and so God we ask that you do our will (rather than do God’s will) and make this out reach
    really fly so that we may be glorified. They do not realize it but that is what they are saying. While I do
    not know all of the particulars, missionary out reack usually will fail because (too) it is not edifying
    the Body of Christ and i is not for the Glory of God the Father.
    That’s all I have!!!.
    Lord Bless

  • Perspective50

    Hey thanks Sarah. I thoroughly enjoyed your article. I live down in Texas. Unfortunately the same general church leader attitude is pretty common around here as well. It doesn’t appear to me to be a Canada vs US thing. I love the church. It is the pillar and ground of the truth. I attend a couple of times a week and try to conform to the norm as best as I can. But I am the first to recognize I am not very good at the whole church thing. There just appears to me to be a general attitude for US church leaders of maybe being more concerned with the business of the church and not so much concerned with the love of the church. I have never attended a Canadian church so I can’t speak to the general attitude there. So often here the “leadership team” is honored regularly by bringing them down front and heaping glowing accolades upon them for the super Christian work they are doing. Most, if not all, of the input for church direction comes directly from these hand picked “leadership teams.” The general impression appears, again to me, to be that these leaders are spiritually superior to the majority of ordinary pew warmers. You know type. It is the guy or gal that can’t quite get it all together. Their lives are messy. Their hectic lifestyle makes it difficult to regularly attend Bible fellowship groups but they do make church most Sundays. Their spouses don’t fit the mold. Their kids don’t quite measure up. They rob God by not giving the full 10% because they can never stretch their meager finances to cover every need. They are underemployed, and they are waaay under-educated, not enough degrees you know. Loving them involves a great deal of sermon series pulpit browbeating in an attempt to coerce them into getting it all together, which they can never seem to do. They are just not involved enough to satisfy all the needs of the church. I don’t have a better plan and I would hate to live in a place where there are no churches to attend. I love my pastor and my church but sometimes I cry. Sometimes I don’t understand. Sometimes I don’t have enough materially or spiritually to make it all work as expected. Sometimes I don’t have all the answers, and sometimes I hurt. So why would any church leader want my input? Maybe things are as they should be. Or, is there really something to the Biblical admonition to, “set the least esteemed among you” in positions to make the important judgements of the church? Naw, maybe not. You think?

  • Freda Peterson

    I am so sad to hear the mean-spirited venom coming from Christians. I am a Canadian: I lived in the U.S. for almost 24 yrs.and I now live in Canada again. Your article is written as if American church plants were or are absolutely springing up everywhere. I do NOT believe that! The southern church’ parishioners do feel freer to “holler” their praise. ALso I know that Americans do not feel that they need to be self-appointed missionaries to save the Canadians. We all need a Savior. The Americans were wonderful to our family and they love Jesus just like all followers of Christ love HIM. What would Jesus think of such divisive, unkind and bitter words. The whole article came across as showing anger toward the Americans. With that attitude, I wonder if Heaven will be big enough to contain all of us.

  • Danny Ocean

    I believe the author did not intend this, but theres a divisive tone with her story which is disappointing. We have way more in common than not so I think this slow mentality, everyone sticking together “kumbaya” type of Canada is nice but the US has the same in various areas. Companies open and close in the United States and Canada for a host of reasons.

    Now, the same could be said about Christianity. There are many denominations and how they worship. Regardless of denomination Christians have MORE in common than not. Christ uses all of us (if we are open) to spread the eternal Word.

  • Your points are well made, Sarah and completely applicable here in America. You reminded me of a young minister that began his ministry and a church in a rural farming area. He was from “the city” and modeled church hours and activities after his home “city” church.

    After months of struggle, he happened into a conversation with a friendly farmer and his life changed. The farmer suggested the pastor alter the hours and activities to how the dairies and farms operated. The Pastor began visiting his congregation, at work, at 4 and 5 am. Some years later, an older and successful Pastor spoke to a large assembly of young ministers with the same analysis you noted above.

    Unfortunately, one of seventy ministers will adapt but those that do have great works. Isn’t it amazing and frustrating how talented, intelligent people will continuously overlook the simplicity of success and the infallibility of history?

  • jane hawkins

    As a typical “dumb american” I would love to know what some of those striking differences are? What did Canadians want in church that is different from what Americans want? What did they want to buy at Target that Target didn’t offer? How is Canadian thinking different from American thinking? I teach a culture workshop and I would love to know some specific examples of the differences. Your framework is intriguing but can you give specifics? (And btw, I’m 60 and have been in dozens of US churches and never once was I expected to “holler back.”)

  • CharlieWorley

    As an American working with church planting in Canada, I love your blog. It accurately expresses the need to contextualize well and often, no matter where you are from. 5 stars for this one!

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  • Michelle

    Excellent! Thank you. My husband and I are church planters (American) in the States and this is so insightful. Much appreciated.

  • They_Dont_Even_Know_24

    Smart and insightful writing: it’s as if you both read and think about things. Ergo, you have no future in “Christian” media. Here’s another Target Tip: don’t give the departing leader more severance pay than the combined total employees.

  • krismo80


  • Trisha Miller Manarin

    Sarah, thank you for your reflection. I grew up in the North East of the USA. When I went to university in the Deep South, I was frequently asked, by fellow students, if there were Christians in the North? If people believed the Bible in the North? When I spoke in favor of women in ministry and ideas or beliefs differing from the majority, they excused my behavior and would say things like, “that’s because you’re from the North.” I suspect we all have our biases and tendencies – not just from Canada to US but within regions and areas, among various Christian groups. If we could all begin to see the face of God in one another and offer the love of Christ to all, in ways which are contextually appropriate, I suspect our communities would be far more grace-filled.

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  • Amy Flory

    I read this the day after making a huge leap of faith and committing to move from the U.S. to Vancouver to be a part of a church plant this summer. Needless to say, it had me questioning again and fearful that perhaps this isn’t our calling after all. I know this wasn’t your intent, and am thankful now, after working through some of these fears, for your words that will help us to be more mindful of how we go about everything we do. I have so much to learn.

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