The Challenge for the Global Church

Global Christianity faces similar challenges. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, between 2000 and 2010 Islam grew at 1.86 percent annually while Christianity grew at 1.32 percent annually. In 1910, Christianity made up 34.8 percent of the global population. In 2010, that percentage declined to 32.8. In 2017, Kent Parks estimated that 29 percent of the global population is outside of the reach of the gospel, a number that has grown from 24 percent in 1990 (2017). Today, there are more people than ever who will not have an opportunity to hear about Jesus Christ. In 1900, there were only 880 million people to reach with the gospel. Today there are 2.1 billion who have not heard the name of Jesus.

Alongside of the sheer numbers of people who do not know Christ, global Christianity is challenged with resourcing missionaries to go to where the gospel has never been. Barrett and Johnson (2010, 2001) estimated that $29 billion was given to foreign missions in 2010 which is an average of about $12 a year per Christian, up from $7.80 per year in 2001. Less than 2 percent of all money given for missions is spent reaching the 2.1 billion unevangelized.

Not only is resourcing missionaries a challenge, recruiting missionaries willing to go to where the gospel has never been is equally challenging. In 2001, there were 416,000 foreign missionaries. That missionary force grew to 468,000 in 2006, but has declined by 17 percent to 400,000 in 2010. Despite what seems to be a large missionary force, most missionaries are deployed to majority Christian countries (Barrett and Johnson, 2010). Alongside of the shrinking numbers of missionaries, in the United States, we are confronted with a millennial generation who is more confident that they are gifted to share their faith than past generations, yet increasingly believe they should not share their faith with others if the goal is the other’s conversion (Barna Group 2018).

Resourcing and recruiting missionaries is only overshadowed by the exporting of a Western theology and ecclesiastical structure that believes it is the correct model for all of Christianity. Roland Allen reminded us nearly a century ago that the Holy Spirit who guides the Western is the same who guides believers in other countries (1912). We should fully expect the theology and church polity that emerges from different cultures to look different than the West. Just like the cultural issues in Ephesus were different than those in Corinth resulting in theological expressions that made sense in those places, so the cultural differences between Dallas and Dehli are different and we should see unique expressions of theology emerging in both places.

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