I received this from Elmer Towns recently. Enjoy.
My first wife Ruth died approximately four years ago and I resigned as Dean from both the School of Religion and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, but remain active as Vice President and Co-Founder for Liberty University. I have traveled to 19 nations (invited by national churches and groups, not through Western mission agencies), and I have spoken in foreign churches and for graduations in ministry-based educational training centers). I have read extensively what God is doing in the world. The attached are observations about the future of Christianity from a Western perspective.
What God Is Doing In The World
1. Explosion of multisite churches around the world. One church (with one pastor, governance, and DNA) located in multiple locations with a singular vision and values. This new strategy of church planting is a possible way to finish the Great Commission.
2. National Fellowship of Born Again Pentecostal Churches of Uganda, Africa, is a church of 22,000 and Bishop Alex Mitala has begun over 10,000 additional new churches in past few years.
3. World Harvest Center, Suva, Fiji, Suliasi Kurulo pastor; (the world’s 164th poorest nation) has planted over 5,000 churches throughout the islands and other nations. The home church has 5,000 people.
4. Bethany Church of God, Surabaya, Indonesia, seats 25,000 with a weekly attendance of over 140,000 worshippers not including its 600 daughter churches in every island of the nation. The pastor told me, “Even though we are the 5th largest nation in the world with the largest Muslim population there are more Pentecostals in our nation than any other in the world.”
5. Word of Hope Church, Manila Philippines, David Sobrepena, is pastor of the church that seats 4,000 with attendance of 70,000 each week in multiple services and home groups, not counting attendance in 60 satellite churches. Plans to have 250,000 through home cell meetings.
6. Jotabeche Methodist Pentecostal Church, Santiago, Chile, seats 14,000 with 120,000 worshipers in the Central Cathedral, and 20 temples (attendance 2,400 each) and 80 churches averaging 100, and multiple missions. There are multiple church complexes like this throughout different cities in Chile with approximately 5 million in Chile.
7. The Full Gospel Church, Seoul, South Korea, Yonggi Cho, founder, had 760,000 members; the largest single church since Pentecost. It had 34,000 home cells, and 50 satellite churches. When Cho resigned 10 years ago, all satellite churches were released to be independent churches; now the mother church only averages 300,000 members.
Where is Christianity in the World?
1. Global South: refers to Latin America, Africa, and most of Asia.
2. Western Christianity refers to the United States, Canada, Europe, Russia, etc.
3. The Oriental Crescent refers to churches in China, South Korea.
4. Media has identified the world politically and culturally into the West and the East (Russia and allies). The rest is called Third World.
5. The dominant strength of global faith no longer resides in the Western world.
6. The fastest growth of Christianity is in the Global South, not traditional Western Christianity.
7. In 1900, African Christians comprised about 10 million (about 10 percent of Africa’s population). By 2000, there were 360 million Christians in Africa (just under 50 percent of Africa’s population). In 2014, there were 500 million Christians in Africa. By 2050, there will likely be one billion Christians in Africa.
8. Fifty years ago, evangelical Christianity represented about 1% of the population of Central and South America. Today, evangelicals represent approximately 10 to 20 percent, some nations it is 30%.
We are living through one of the greatest ages of change in the history of Christianity . . . wider, and faster than the era of the Reformation itself . . . change . . . produces tumult and turbulence as a sign of growth and health and birth. ~Philip Jenkins, PhD Cambridge University is Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, The Next Christendom: The Rise of Global Christianity.
1. As Christianity has grown in modern times in the Global South, (Africa, Asia, and Latin America) and the Oriental Crescent (Indonesia, China, South Korea, India) much of that story has been told in the Western media in terms of conflict. ~Philip Jenkins
2. The untold story in media (Christian and secular) is the expansion of Christianity in the Global South.
3. Westerners assume African and Asian churches suffer from ignorance, lack of education, lack of church sophistication, or represent only elementary church methods and practices.
4. Westerners believe religious, economic, and cultural Bible terms are foreign or irrelevant to non-Westerners.
5. Asians and Africans assume the opposite, they believe their societies operate in ways in which the social, economic, and cultural terms of the Bible are relevant, i.e., they readily accept and follow the authority of the Scriptures.
6. The fastest growing churches across Africa tend to be associated with the poor and the hungry.
7. Christianity is currently a religion of the poorest in African nations.
8. A person living in poverty connects with certain realities of life in Scripture.
9. Read the epistle of James twice; once with “Western eyes,” and then with the “eyes of the global church.”
10. Churches that practice healing, deliverance, and spiritual warfare are not found typically in mainstream Western churches. These are practiced in growing churches in the Global South.
11. Mainstream churches in the West seem to focus on overthrow of social injustices, not focused on healing, deliverance, and spiritual warfare. Churches in the Global South believe social injustice can be changed by personal regeneration.
12. Global South churches treat liberation and deliverance the same. Any church that does not offer the healing of body, self, spirit, and society is only offering a partial message.
13. Western Christianity tends to focus evangelism on media (television evangelism advertising) and attract seekers through music and methods that lead to persuasion. Global South focuses on evangelism by relationship.
14. The Roman Catholic Church has declined in Western Christianity (not elsewhere).
15. Almost every church group (denomination) is seeing a shift to the Global South.
16. While the numbers of believers are increasing in the Global South, the money is in Western Christianity.
C. How Christianity Thrives in the Southern Asia Crescent (the Orient)
1. Christianity is not the faith of the poor, uneducated, and illiterate.
2. Christianity appeals to a wide variety of groups in different forms.
3. Some of the most influential areas of Christian growth are in very prosperous areas.
4. The most successful churches in the “Oriental Crescent” are those that appeal to professional and technological groups.
The church in South Korea is primarily a “white collar” church, i.e., middle and upper class Christianity. In the Global South, Christianity appeals to the poor. See Korean Revival of 1906, and the printing of a simple Korean grammar book by Samuel Moffatt, a Ph.D. graduate of Princeton University. This grammar book created 22 consonants (similar to Hebrew) and was read in parallel lines, rather than vertical pictorial characters. It was used in Presbyterian schools, and influenced Korean students to think in cause and affect relationships, hence prepared the way for Western approach to Christianity. Moffatt’s book instructed students to learn phonetically letters and speak them out. These Presbyterian schools influenced and contributed to a middle class culture.
D. Christianity is a Modernizing Faith
1. The newer emerging Christianity is modernizing parts of the world where it is growing.
2. Women’s roles are not restricted as seen in foreign culture, but they are a force in transforming their cultures.
3. Foundations are being laid for civil societies and government (the church was the foundation of American democracy).
4. Churches emerge that believe in healing, purity, and economic political stability.
Forty or fifty years ago, everyone was predicating the end of the church . . . killed by urbanization, modernization, industrialization. You come back today and it is exactly those factors that have been most responsible for the growth of churches . . . taught their believers ways of coping in an industrial world . . . they are the ultimate social and cultural revolutionaries. ~Philip Jenkins
5. Christianity not only heals societies but also brings growth, stability and liberation from former tribal thinking and acting.
How Christianity Got Here
A. Identificational Terms
1. Interface: where users connect with the operating system.
2. Gutenberg world: the historical primary technology was print and written sources.
3. Google world: the value of relationships and connection via social media (IT, Internet Technology).
B. From Gutenberg to Google
1. The world has transitioned out of the Gutenberg world into a Google world.
2. Google world: Experiential, Participatory, Image-rich, and Connective.
3. The interface of today’s world is E.P.I.C.
4. The Gutenberg world was rational; today’s world is experiential.
5. The Gutenberg world was logical and linear encouraging people to “intellectually comprehend and understand.”
6. Google world people want to experience God.
7. The church can better interact with the world today by shifting to become more experiential rather than just intellectual as a basis of outreach.
8. We are in a taste and see world. People want to experience God, not just have rational thoughts about God.
9. The Gutenberg world valued individual performance; now people value participation.
10. People live in a “karaoke” culture centered around interaction not just receive listening and observing.
11. The church must shift from performance of the gospel to participation in the gospel.
12. Gutenberg world was communicating words, but now people value images.
13. Today’s culture is picture-rich, image-driven.
14. The advertising industry utilizes storytelling with images more than words.
The World Is An Oral Learner
Over half of the third world countries cannot read or write. They are illiterate, or functionally illiterate. They are best reached by telling the story of Jesus, not explaining doctrines or sermon explanations. They understand Jesus. After He changes their lives, they are motivated to learn to read (the Bible).
15. The Gutenberg world focused on the individual, but now the focus is on connecting people, i.e., relationships.
16. Social media has caused a shift to a connectional society.
17. Today’s world focuses on community, which is the nature of Christianity.
18. The church can better reach the world by focusing on community (church planting) than focusing just on individuals.
What Shall We Preach?
1. Jesus is the Word. “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, NLT). When you think of Jesus the Word, He has two identifications.
a. Objective, Jesus is Who is described on paper identifying the Person represented.
b. Subjective living, Jesus is real in our experiences.
2. The Word is both the Bible and Jesus, “I am alive forever and ever” (Rev. 1:18, NLT), “For the Word of God is alive and powerful’ (Heb. 4:12,NLT).
3. Jesus is the truth, “I am the truth” (John 14:6). Truth is living which defines a subject in life. Truth is objective; it is consistent with itself and corresponds to the real world.
B. Presenting The Case
1. The Guttenberg West had presented Christianity in words and doctrine. The Global South/Oriental Crescent has presented Christianity as a person in relationships.
2. Doctrine divides while a person draws/attracts.
3. Jesus chose His disciples, “Follow Me.” However, the church has asked people to adopt a set of principles, practices, rituals, rites, creeds or conducts . . . Christianity is relating to a person.
4. The heart of Christianity is a relational God who will relate to us.
5. We need to introduce people to Jesus by a living relationship (cells, house churches, family evangelism, etc.).
6. Jesus redeems and restores three broken relationships; with God, with ourselves, with others.
C. What We Must Have Done
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, (ethnic groups) baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.Teach these new disciples (in assemblies) to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20, NLT).
1. Missional component – Go.
2. Result component – make disciples (followers).
3. Geographical component – cover all places on the earth.
4. Influential component – influence all cultures with Christ.
5. Salvational component – all people can have a relationship with Jesus.
6. Relational component – God has planned our salvation relationship in an assembly (church) with other believers where all believers will together worship, learn, serve, and fellowship.
7. Repetitive component – once a church is planted to obey this original command, plant another church to repeat the process and complete the command.
8. We must plant reproducing churches that multiply.
D. The Focus of Our Message
1. Make disciples of “all nations” means making disciples of and in all cultures, by learning a culture, living in a culture, and bringing people to Jesus in that culture.
2. God wants you to make Jesus incarnational in your culture.
3. Christianity spreads as a seed that grows differently in different cultures, just as a seed planted in different soils has a different taste (hydroponic tomatoes), although there is a similarity of taste from that seed.
E. Why The West Has Not Been More Effective
1. Wrong attraction – “Come to our church building.”
2. Wrong proposal – learn truth in propositional words instead of in a Person Jesus Christ.
3. Colonialism – All Christians should have our culture (Western).
Christianity is unique to all the religions of the world because it is
the only religion where truth is a Person (Incarnational).
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Elmer L. Towns
Co-Founder, Liberty University