While the Western church grows richer it is gradually edging itself to the margins of society.
We’ve shown little numerical growth in two decades and some studies show it dipping into negative territory—furthermore our society is more polarized than ever, mostly over issues pertaining to morality. That’s the bad news.
Have you noticed that what non-believers deem moral is often that which is biblical but recently neglected by the church?
The good news is that the non-Western church is multiplying quite rapidly.
In 1960, 30% of evangelical churches were in non-Western nations; by 1997 that figure became 70%. The real growth of Evangelical Christianity in recent years has been in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In 1960, non-Western Evangelicals were about half as numerous as those in the West. By 2050, only about 20 percent of the world’s Christians will be non-Hispanic whites. Most of this ties directly to church planting.
Philip Jenkins, in his excellent book, The Next Christendom adds, “Soon, the phrase ‘a White Christian’ may sound like a curious oxymoron, as mildly surprising as ‘a Swedish Buddhist.’ Such people can exist, but a slight eccentricity is implied.” However, Christianity currently grows faster than Islam, worldwide. By 2050, there should still be about three Christians for every two Muslims on the planet. Some 34 percent of the world’s people will then be Christian, roughly what the figure was at the height of European world hegemony in 1900. David Garrison’s book, “A Wind In The House Of Islam,” shows that Jesus is at work in the Islamic world, independent of Western efforts.
Even the concept of foreign missions is changing. By the 1950s, two-thirds of the 43000 Protestant missionaries in the world hailed from the United States. Today America accounts for only a small percentage of overseas missionary personnel. While Non-Western Christians are still sending missionaries, two of the three largest churches in Europe were planted by Nigerians. One huge Nigerian church, can claim more than 6,000 church plants outside its home country. South Korea has now 12,000 Protestant missionaries serving in other countries, more than any country other than the United States.
Better yet, the 2006 goal of the Chinese underground church was to place 100,000 missionaries into Muslim lands along the old Silk Road between Mongolia and Jerusalem. Though many struggled and returned, this mostly bivocational and underground “army of worms” still looks like a tsnumi when held up to the estimated 40,000 to 50,000 American missionaries working overseas today. And, the largely rural Chinese church is migrating to the cities as jobs become available. Since they naturally form churches this becomes another form of missionary activity.
Worldwide Church Growth Is Strong
Worldwide church growth is rapid. This is especially crucial in China as it emerges as the dominate player in the geopolitical world. It is estimated that between 20 and 30 percent of China’s population will be evangelical Christians by 2030. In 1960 there were 24 nonbelievers for every believer in the world. Now there are only six. By tomorrow, there will be 175,000 more Christians than there are today in 238 nations around the world.
But, We Still Hold The Money…
Unfortunately, the less and less Christian West still controls the wealth and power of the world. And we aren’t using it in ways that further the kingdom. Our fascination with bigness still trumps our efforts at multiplication.
With a little imagination, we could overwhelm an entrenched enemy by ramping up our numbers. To do so will require “manufacturing” thousands of new churches. It’s a tough call and a daunting task. But, it can be done.
The challenge here points mostly toward church planters—I mean people currently planting new churches.
Face facts, you have more vision than the next guy or you wouldn’t have taken up the challenge to plant. It will take people like you to generate the momentum necessary to change the Western church. You need to think of multiplying your church even as you launch it…
Agree, disagree? Please leave a comment below or contact me directly.
Adapted from “How To Multiply Your Church”