Looking ahead to mission opportunities
There is much cause for rejoicing in the Body of Christ as we look forward to a new year. Never before have we been so close to fulfilling the Great Commission as we are today. As we turn another calendar year, we can continue to anticipate remarkable Christian growth and witness as missionary and ministry efforts increase in momentum throughout the world.
Missiologists agree that when Jesus said, “Go, make disciples of every nation,” he was referring to every ethne or ethnic/people group. And there is every reason to believe that the dynamic witness that began on Pentecost will continue to increase. Many examples of national revivals have been cited as evidence of this. Wycliffe in the 15th century, the Reformation in the 16th, the Puritans in the 17th, the Wesley-Whitefield (and Booth) revivals in the 18th and the evangelical in the 19th. The Welsh and Pentecostal revivals at the beginning of this century propelled America toward rapid conversion and growth.
As Patrick Johnstone points out in The Church is Bigger than You Think, nations are coming under the influence of the Spirit of God. He cites East Africa in the 1940s and ’50s, Korea in the 1950s and ’60s. In the 1970s and ‘80s, Johnstone writes, “came massive turnings to God in China and in Latin America which decisively shifted the center of gravity of evangelical Christianity away from the lands that were for centuries its birthplace, haven and prison.” This is particularly exciting because “During the last 10 years, more were added to the evangelical community, through new-birth conversions and birth into evangelical families, than the population on the earth in that Pentecost year.” Roughly 11 percent of the world population, or one in every eight people in the world is a Bible-believing Christian.
Not only is the global church bigger than we think, but our Army is bigger than most people realize. At least that was one of the lessons we learned as we spoke with hundreds and hundreds of college age students at the Urbana Convention (see article on page 1). Represented as exhibitors were over 500 agencies, schools and organizations. As we browsed among our fellow exhibitors, it became increasingly clear that the Army has a much larger scope of ministry opportunities than most represented there. Our inner city and rural ministries, our international corps, educational and medical ministries all pointed to the expanse of opportunities for people to be engaged in the global harvest. In fact, IHQ participated for the first time. Commissioner Keith Banks and Major David Jackson had a listing of nearly 100 positions in over 40 countries that needed immediate filling.
However, as exciting as the Christian growth rate is, it is equally sobering to realize that roughly 10,000 ethne, or people groups have no viable Christian witness. This means that this year almost 13 million people will die having never heard the good news of Christ. They will have never heard that in Christ there is fullness of joy, and abundant life. They will never experience the thrill of worship or the cleansing renewal of the Holy Spirit.
I’m always glad to read that Christian books are popular in the secular market. Ranked the fifth bestselling book of 2003, Rick Warren’s, The Purpose Driven Life certainly penetrated the market. I hope its message penetrates the hearts of the readers. He describes Christians in two categories. Worldly Christians, those who pray primarily for and about themselves, and world-class Christians, those who consider the needs of the world. He suggests, “World-class Christians are the only fully alive people on the planet. They wake up each morning expecting God to work through them in fresh ways.”
Warren’s reminder is that “world-class Christians know they are saved to serve, and made for a mission.” I trust that in 2004, our hearts will be renewed with joy as we see the Body of Christ grow. But may we also keep God’s mission, and our responsibility to “Go, and make disciples” prominent in our daily activities.
Tell it in the east and in the west
Tell them of the one you love the best.