QUEBEC, Canada (Christian Examiner) -- Evangelical churches have experienced an attendance surge among French-Canadians in Quebec, a demographic evangelicals long considered the largest unreached people group in North America.
"It's an awakening of younger Quebecers who are responding to evangelical faith in their Québécois context," Gerry Taillon, National Ministry Leader of the Canadian National Baptist Convention, told the Christian Examiner. "They have never responded before."
Ninety-one percent of Québécois consider themselves Roman Catholic, said Taillon. But for the majority, Catholicism is cultural identity rather than a religious belief system.
A common phrase in Quebec is, "Je suis catholique mais non-practiquant." In English, "I am Catholic, but I do not practice the religion."
During Quebec's Quiet Revolution in the 60s, Québécois left the Roman Catholic Church in droves.
"Since then, all religion has been seen as backward and oppressive," Taillon said.
Generations later, Quebec is a spiritual vacuum.
Of the nearly 6 million french-speaking Québécois, fewer than one percent consider themselves evangelical Christians. More than 1,000 communities in the province have no evangelical churches. These numbers are drastic even by national standards, as 5-7 percent of the total Canadian population claim evangelical beliefs.
Yet the spiritual climate may be thawing.
"Because there is a religious vacuum among the under 25s, [church planters] figured out a way to express evangelical faith in the indigenous context," Taillon said.
Quebec is the only predominately French-speaking province, and most Québécois see themselves as a distinct people group with a unique cultural identity.
As in most intercultural missions, evangelicals must adapt their methods to fit the culture.
"Some would say it is more difficult for a Canadian [missionary] to adapt to Quebec than to the United States," said Taillon.
While Quebec used to be known as a church plant graveyard, it is now home to some of the fastest growing churches in the nation.
Church planters have embraced Quebec's language, music, and other aspects of its cultural identity in order to make church relevant to Quebec's youth for the first time in decades.
La Chapelle, an evangelical church in Montreal, ran an attendance of 300 for its Sunday service within two weeks of its launch in April 2013. Today the church averages 750 on Sunday mornings.
"I am happy about what God is doing," said David Pothier, pastor of La Chapelle. "But we need more. And more. And more."
Twenty-five people were baptized during La Chapelle's worship service Nov. 9.
Several other churches in the province have experienced similar growth, with the majority of churchgoers in their mid-twenties or under.
"Now our fastest growing churches are in Quebec," said Taillon. "God is moving in incredible ways."