It’s impossible to even summarise the connections and strategies that emerged from this gathering, so I’ll offer just one. The Church of an Asian country have a strategy to send over 20000 missionaries by the year 2030. That sounds all good and well, but they are actually making it happen! During the conference, the delegation from this country met with groups from every region of the world, asking how they can partner together to see this dream become a reality! In the near future we will see this become one of the top missionary-sending nations in the world! This is just one example of a considerable number of partnerships that forged during the gathering, and I’m privileged to be part of it all.
The State of the World
I thought you’d be interested to hear some details from a “State of the World” presentation by Operation World. Their figures are, of course, just estimates, but they certainly challenge us about the reality of the world we live in. It’s essential that we have clear understanding of our global context, as this informs our on-the-ground local efforts. Here’s some highlights.
Only during the 1990s did we gain a somewhat complete picture of our global context. We know better than ever where the church is, where the church still needs to go, and what the church still needs to do.
More people have become believers in the last 25 years than at any other point in history, and the number of unevangelised people has dropped from 50% in 1960 to 29% in 2015. However, due to population growth, the actual number of people who have no access to the Gospel is growing daily - we're actually starting to lose ground!
Likewise, Christians have made up a third of the world’s population for the past 100 years, but where that third is has shifted. In 1960, 19% of evangelicals were from Africa, Asia or Latin America. Today it’s about 78%. And the global number of evangelicals has increased from 3% to 8%.
Global mission has changed from being “the West to the rest” to what’s being called polycentric mission: missionaries are being sent from everywhere to everywhere! This means the world’s cross-cultural mission force is now more diverse than ever – in terms of location, nationality and ethnicity as well as methods and organisations. Perhaps this will involve recognising NZ as not only a ‘sending country’ but also a mission field for missionaries coming from places like Africa and Latin America – we’re in desperate need of outside voices to call us back to God and his mission.
Out of the 200 000 who move into cities every day, 80% end up in slums. Over 1 billion people now live in slums – one out of six people – yet less than one out of 500 missionaries work in slums.
We’ve seen significant decline in global poverty in recent years. Only about 10% of the world live in ‘extreme poverty’ – though that’s 700 million people! And 85% of those living in poverty are located in unevangelised regions.
1.2 million children are victims of human trafficking each year. 80% of trafficked people are women and children, the majority trafficked for the sex trade.
The migration challenges we see today are merely the tip of the ice-berg. Over the next 40 years migration will be the context for much human need and conflict – and for ministry opportunity!
About 81% of the world’s non-Christians don’t personally know a Christian. Even if we can’t all go – and we still need many more people willing to go to the ‘difficult places’ – we can all be involved in the urgent task of praying for God’s world.
We live in an age of unprecedented change, unprecedented complexity and unprecedented uncertainty; the challenges the emerging generations will face will be unlike those ever seen before. But this is also an age of unprecedented opportunity. Let’s make the most of the open doors God has placed before us!