Yesterday I reread a 2016 article from Christianity Today entitled “Why the Local Church Is Trending Up.” The subtitle is, “We needn’t be afraid about the future of our congregations.”
I don’t know many devoted followers of Christ who are not somewhat concerned about the future of the local church, particularly in America. I find that much of this discouragement has to do with culture in America rather than what’s actually happening in our local congregations. There seems to be quite a contrast between appearance and reality concerning the growth of the church.
Let me give you some trends of what’s happening around the world.
First, the Christian church is growing and has been since its foundation. Think about these statistics: in AD 100, there was only one Christian for every 360 non-Christians in the world. In the first 1000 years that number had grown to 1 in 270 but by AD 1500 the number had dropped to 1:85. Since that time, the growth rate has continued to rise with the ratio hitting 1:21 in 1900, 1:13 in 1970 and 1:2 today. About one-third of the world’s population is Christian today.
We have reason to praise God for His goodness. We also have reason to thank Him for calling out missionaries. There has been an explosive growth in missions. The twentieth century was the greatest century of missions ever. Today, the number of missionaries around the world totals about 400,000.
Think of these astounding figures. Because of missionaries and indigenous churches, the number of Christians in Africa is nearly 50 percent of the population, which makes up 25 percent of the world’s Christians.
By 2030, Africa may have 40 percent of the world’s Christians and China may have more Christians than any other nation.
If nothing else, all of this shows us we have hope. It also shows we can trust Jesus’ promises that we would be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).