Where is the Church? Where is the Mission Field?
PERHAPS THIS PROMPTS YOU TO ASK, “IF THAT IS THE CASE, WHERE ARE THEY?” When you look around New England, it seems like the number of Christians is shrinking, not growing.
Is Christianity growing or is it shrinking? It depends what part of the world you are talking about. In his book Making Sense of God, Tim Keller addresses the misnomer that secularism is about to stamp out religion. Quite the contrary. According to the Pew Research Center, “the world is expected to become more religious – not less.” Keller says, “demographers tell us the twenty-first century will be less secular than the twentieth.”
If that is the case, where are they? If half of the Christians who ever lived are alive right now, where are they?
One way to answer this question is to recognize how everything has been turned upside down. Quite literally that is true. The center for Christianity is no longer in the north and in the west. The center of the church is now the global south and the east.
Mark Knoll puts it this way: “If you were a Christian Rip Van Winkle wiping a half-century of sleep from your eyes and tried to locate your fellow believers, you would find them in surprising places...that would not have seemed possible when you fell asleep.”
Consider what happens on any given Sunday around the world.
- More Christians attend church in China than all of so-called “Christian Europe.”
- More Anglicans attend church in Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda than did Anglicans in Britain and Canada and Episcopalians in the United States.
- More Presbyterians were in church in Ghana than in Scotland.
- The largest attended churches in England and France were black churches. About half of the churchgoers in London were African or African-Caribbean.
There are several observations to make from what God is doing in the world.
- What God is doing in the global south and the east has been truly remarkable and has been the fruit of the missionary movement that came from the west.
- Today, God is now starting a mission movement from the global south and east to the west. Today there are 15,000 foreign missionaries working in Great Britain. Most of these missionaries are from Africa and Asia.
- When you think of the mission field, do you think about your own backyard? Do you think of New England? If ever there was a case for church planting, it is this. What God has done in the global south he can do once again here.
Perhaps we need to start thinking like a missionary. Perhaps we need to see our backyard as a legitimate mission field.
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