As the writer of Hebrews asserted, Christ calls his witnesses to present God’s message of hope despite all opposition (Hebrews 12:3). Today we face an articulate and assertive army of anti-theists who are deeply embedded in our academic institutions and who trumpet their worldview even through the organs of entertainment. They declare that if we could just leave religion behind and build instead on the innate genius and goodness of humanity, we would have a better world.
That “noble experiment,” however, has already been tried. It was conducted with great intentionality in Russia, China and Korea during the twentieth century and led to the starvation, slaughter and suppression of millions of lives. Yet people in those same parts of the world are now flocking into house churches, refurbished cathedrals, corporate offices and storefront worship centers by the tens of millions, passionately seeking the generative seed of the Christian gospel.
After nearly a century of state-sponsored atheism in Russia, 74 percent of the population now self-identifies as Christian. In 1900, Korea had no Protestant church and was ruled “impossible to penetrate” by mission organizations. Today, there are 7,000 churches in the city of Seoul alone, one of them numbering 750,000 members. At the turn of the nineteenth century, the southern portion of the African continent was only 3 percent Christian. Today, 63 percent of the population is, while membership in the churches of Africa is increasing by 34,000 new members every day.
In Hindu India, 14 million of the 140 million members of the “untouchable” caste have become Christians. More people in the Islamic world have come to Christ in the last twenty-five years than in the entire history of Christian missions combined. In Islamic Indonesia, the percentage of Christians is now so high (somewhere around 15 percent) and the number of megachurches is growing so quickly that the Muslim government will no longer print the statistics.16 Back in 1950, there were only a handful of evangelical Christians in Brazil. Today, more than one-fifth of the population self-identifies as Protestant. The Catholic Church in Brazil has experienced a profound revival too, going from 50 million adherents in 1950 to more than 134 million today.
All the talk these days is of the coming influence of China. Yet, as two writers from the Economist recently asserted, there are now more self-avowed disciples of Jesus in China than members of the Communist party. David Aikman of the New York Times points out that every year there are ten million more converts to Christianity. Even the most conservative estimates suggest that China will soon become the largest Christian country in the world.
Much is also made of the global expansion of Islam, but Christianity—not Islam—is the fastest-spreading faith on earth. By 2050, there will be three Christians for every two Muslims worldwide. Across the planet, followers of Jesus are increasing by more than eighty thousand disciples a day. Five hundred and ten new congregations of Christian worshipers form every day, which is 3,750 every week.21 The irony is that, except for the Middle East (where it was born) and Europe and America (to whose civilization it gave birth), Christianity is expanding everywhere today (see John 4:44). To put it simply, the gospel of Jesus is going out and growing up in Pando-like proportions.
Daniel Meyer, Witness Essentials: Evangelism That Makes Disciples (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Connect, 2012), 32–33.
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