Category Archives: Evangelism

Least and Most Religious Countries Worldwide

A global survey by WIN/Gallup International has ranked the U.K. as among the least religious countries in the world along with Czech Republic, Sweden, Japan and China. Only 30% of Britons describe themselves as religious; 53% are not religious, and 13% say they’re atheists. In the U.S., only 56% said they are religious; 33% are not, and 6% identify as atheists.

Worldwide, 63% claim to be religious, 22% were not, 11% as atheists, and 4% did not give an answer. Morocco, Georgia, Bangladesh, Armenia and Thailand made up the list of countries where people most often described themselves as religious. The total number of religiously unaffiliated people in the world is 16% and is projected to drop to 15% by 2050.

Click the picture below to see the breakdown of the world’s religions.

religion

Lopsided Missions

percentunevangelizedpercountry

According to an article in the November 2013 edition of Christianity Today, 400,000 Christian missionaries were sent in 2010 from one country to another.  The breakdown of who sent them and who received them is very interesting – and reinforces the missions strategy of my church.  Here are a few interesting and revealing stats:

The top 9 receiving countries received more than 1/3 of the world’s missionaries – but are home to only 3.5% of the world’s non-Christians.

The United States sent 127,000 missionaries and received 32,400 – which reveals that some countries see the United States as their mission field.

32,400 is the most missionaries any country received – making the United States the #1 receiving country of missionaries.

After the United States, the top senders were Brazil (34,000), Spain and France (21,000), and Italy and South Korea (20,000).

After the United States, the top receivers were Brazil and Russia (20,000), Congo (15,000), and South Africa (12,000).

Among other things, these numbers reveal that the large majority of missionaries are still being sent to countries where the gospel of Jesus has already taken root and where an indigenous church already exists.  And this concerns me – and it concerns many others who have a heart for missions as well.

I’m not saying that already-reached countries should not receive any missionaries, but what I am saying is that countries where there are large unreached people groups should be considered first.

The problem with countries like this is that they are difficult places to get into and to live, but the difficulty should not stop mission agencies and missionaries from trying.  At my church, we’ve committed ourselves to spending our mission dollars on and sending our missionaries to the unreached people living in hard to reach areas.

This has come with its set of unique challenges, but we’ve also seen the gospel break-thru among people who have never heard the gospel before.  As a matter of fact, among an unreached people group we targeted 20 years ago, we’ve seen an explosion of the gospel take place – to the point where now over 1000 home churches exist!

If you are a pastor, a missionary, or a Christian with a heart for missions (something every Christian should have, by the way), please consider focusing on the 4 billion people in this world who have not been reached with the gospel rather than focusing on the 3 billion who have.

Good News? Really?!

In Luke’s gospel, he calls what John the Baptist preached “good news.”  (Luke 3:18)  However, the news that Luke called “good” included burning in an unquenchable fire.  (Luke 3:17)

firechaff

John preached that when Jesus comes, He will separate the wheat (those who repent and follow Him) from the chaff (those who don’t repent and follow Him).  Jesus will gather the wheat and protect it from the unquenchable fire, but he will gather the chaff and throw it into said fire.  Luke calls this “good news.” Really?  Good news?

Truth is – sin leads to death (an unquenchable fire).  The good news is that repentance changes everything.  Repentance evokes the protection (the salvation) of God, which was won by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  You can’t have good news without first understanding the bad news.

Theologian Darrell Bock explains, “The preacher must bear good news as well as news that exposes sin. A preacher of God’s message must be balanced in delivering both messages. Forgiveness cannot occur except where one realizes responsibility for sin and repents of it.” (Luke: The NIV Application Commentary, p. 117)

Are you proclaiming the good news in its entirety?
Carefully.
Tactfully.
Lovingly.

The good news isn’t good without the bad news too.

What Is Our Message?

Preparing to preach the New Testament book of Galatians.  In it, Paul passionately defends the true message of the Gospel against the false message that had crept in to the churches in Galatia.  I’m doing a lot of reading in preparation for this series, including reading Prodigal God by Tim Keller.  It’s a short book meant to lay out the essentials of the Christian message using the account of The Prodigal Son from Luke 15.  Here’s a quote I came across that made me stop dead in my tracks…

The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avaunt-garde ones.  We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people.  The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church.  That can only mean one thing.  If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message Jesus did.  – Tim Keller, Prodigal God, Pages 15-16

MEGA Mega Church

There are big churches, and then there’s the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea. Started with 5 people in 1958, it puts the “mega” in megachurch with a membership of 800,000. On a typical day 200,000 will attend one of seven services along with another 200,000 to 300,000 watching them on TV in adjoining buildings or satellite branches. While some other churches may be losing members, this one just keeps growing. The main sanctuary holds 21,000 people packed to the rafters 7 times every Sunday. Each service has its own orchestra, its own choir, and its own pastor. There are hundreds of assistants. Each service is translated into 16 different languages. The church has missionaries in 67 different countries. Every morning at 4:30, people come to church to pray for 1–2 hours, and all-night prayer meetings take place on Friday evenings. Most members tithe 10% of their income to the church. 60 years ago there were about 50,000 Christians in South Korea. Today it’s more than 10 million, and almost 1 in 10 was baptized in the Yoido Full Gospel Church.

(Religion & Ethics Newsweekly 1/27/12)

Keys to Reaching Young People

In the summer 2011 edition of Facts & Trends magazine, Thom Rainer, the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, pointed out five big changes he sees coming for American churches.  Here are a couple of his research findings (in italics) followed by a few brief comments by yours truly.

1. Our nation will see the emergence of the largest generational mission field in more than a century. According to our current research, the Millennial generation, those born between 1980 and 2000, will have a very low Christian representation. Our estimates now are that only 15 percent are Christian. With a huge population of nearly 80 million, that means that nearly 70 million young people are not Christians.

2. The dominant attitude of this huge generation toward Christianity will be largely indifferent. Only 13 percent of the Millennials rank any type of spiritual matter as important to their lives. They are not angry at churches and Christians. They simply ignore us because they do not deem us as meaningful or relevant.

3. Family will be a key value for Millennials.  Nearly eight out of ten of the Millennials ranked family as the important issue in their lives. They told us that they had healthy relationships with their parents who, for the most part, are Baby Boomers. Some churches say they are family friendly, but few actually demonstrate that value. Churches that reach both of these generations will make significant changes to become the type of churches that foster healthy family relationships.

Those born between 1980 and 2000 are currently between the ages of 11 and 31.  If the numbers are anywhere near accurate, then there are a couple of things I see as being crucial if this generation is going to be reached for Christ.

Christian parenting.  If we want to reach this generation for Christ, then it may be wise for us to look to minister to the generation ahead of them.  A secular study done in the early 2000’s revealed that the number one determining factor of a child’s religious beliefs and practices once he or she reaches adulthood is the influence of one or both parents.  Parents are the key, so rather than first looking to reach this generation directly for Christ (at least the younger half – ages 11-19), maybe we ought to look at reaching their parents first.

Family Ministry. Churches need to have a strong focus on helping parents raise their children to follow the Lord.  This includes marriage ministry, parenting ministry, children’s ministry, and youth ministry.  All of these ministries must be relevant and must work together to assist parents in the training of their children to walk with the Lord as adults.  Of course, in the absence of godly parents, churches can assume the lead role in helping kids grow in the Lord, but even non-Christian parents must never be excluded from the ministry reach and help of the local church.

Church Integration.  The churches that see the most young adults (ages 18-30) stay connected (to the church and to their faith) are churches that don’t just offer age-specific ministries to young adults, but work diligently at helping them integrate into the life and body of the church as a whole.  Real life is integrated and multi-generational.  Churches that keep young adults separated from the rest of the body are not doing anyone any good. I’m not suggesting that churches do away with age-specific programs for young adults (college and career, etc), but I am suggesting that churches must work diligently to help young adults integrate relationally and in ministry with people from other generations.

These are just a few thoughts off the top of my head.  What are your thoughts as you process Rainer’s findings that I listed above?

The Future of Global Missions

Leadership Network’s Eric Swanson has identified Eight Trends That Will Shape the Future of Global Missions. They are:

1. Mutuality—The future of missions will be shaped by mutuality between East and West, North and South, sending and receiving nations. Churches worldwide are learning to come together.

2. Partnering—Different than mutuality, partnering pertains to projects that require the assistance of skilled co-laborers driven by what indigenous leaders in the country are trying to accomplish.

3. Investing in leaders—Leadership is everything. Wherever good things are happening, a capable and passionate man or woman will be leading the way.

4. Combining good deeds and good news—The level of problem-solving in which externally focused, missional churches are engaged is significantly higher.

5. Greater financial accountability—With all the needs and opportunities in the world, global missions leaders of the future are working to maximize every dollar expended on global outreach.

6. Business as mission—An emerging funding model ties business and mission together. Missional entrepreneurs who are starting businesses and creating jobs in the countries in which they serve.

7. Focus—Churches today are learning to do better by focusing on fewer places of engagement.

8. Technology—With every breakthrough in communication technology, there have been innovators who have exploited that technology to advance the gospel.

(Leadership Network Advance 2/23/10)