For the past 2,000 years, every so often the expansion of Christianity and global missions takes a dramatic turn. Many factors contribute to these shifts, and since I am no expert, I will just focus on observations as it pertains to my recent participation in the Every Nation World Conference, called EN 2010.
Nearly 20,000 were in attendance at this year’s conference, hosted in Manila, Philippines, and well attended and supported by the Filipino delegates. An estimated 3,000 were from other countries, representing around 60 different nations.
It is interesting to note that 100 years prior to EN 2010, a similar event took place in Edinburgh, Scotland called the 1910 World Missionary Conference. This event defined much of what has happened for global missions over the past 100 years. According to historians it was significant beyond measure. Of the 1,200 dedicated delegates, nearly 1,000 were from Britain or the US.
Something happened at Edinburgh that could have been the start of the present day Geo-Ethnic Church shift. They changed the old motto of missions from “West to the Rest” to “Everyone to Everywhere.” They saw what was coming which is exactly what I experienced at EN 2010. It is a radical shift in who we are as a people and what our future is going to look like. It is as if the world has turned.
Our Keynote speakers at EN 2010, with the exception of two of our founders (Pastors Rice and Steve) were not American or white. They were Indian, Filipino, Chinese, Iranian, African and Australian (okay, Darlene is white too, but definitely not American).
This really is a new world for us. And no one is complaining. Actually, many of us can say, it is a relief to feel the force of faith rising from the Southern Hemisphere and I expect this is only the beginning.
Recently I have been riveted reading a book called, The Future Church: How Ten Trends are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church, by John Allen. Although it is a book written for Catholics, I really think the trends are very similar to what the Protestant churches are facing as well.
In essence, one of the key trends is how the demographics of the church have gone through a significant change from vastly Northern Hemisphere (Europe and N. America) to mostly Southern. Allen anticipates the real possibility of a “third world Pope” on the near horizon.
The Southern Hemisphere is on the rise in Christ while Europe is having a “crisis of faith” (p.60). In one sentence it’s summed up like this: “The center of gravity shifted from the North to the South.” (p.17)
Also of note is the 2002 Pew Global Attitudes Project which surveyed people around the world regarding the importance of their faith. Indonesia, Nigeria, India and the Philippines ranked highest, while the Czech Republic, France, Russia and Germany ranked lowest. The USA was somewhere in the middle, sort of in the balance right now. European nations, once the cradle of the Reformation and Renewal, have gone astray. Scholars have called this trend in Great Britain “radioactive decay.” (p. 61). Fortunately, Asians, N. Americans and Africans are sending missionaries there.
So what are the key takeaways from all of this?
1. Southern Hemisphere, this is your hour. It is your destiny to have and spread revival. It is your hour to provide much needed leadership for much of the world ripened unto harvest. Your outward focus is critical to help the global church get our eyes off ourselves. Your commitment to preach, teach and live the Gospel in a biblical framework has brought about so much good fruit for the Lord. Your expansion in the world will continue to grow brighter and brighter so that all may hear and we may go where the light is seen dim and His voice is heard small.
2. Northern Hemisphere/Global North, God is not finished with us yet. As we return to the basics of prayer, preaching the Gospel, and faithfulness to the Bible we can be restored to our rightful place of massive kingdom expansion. With a renewed faithfulness to the Word of God, we will reject the prevalent theology of self-helps, “church-lite”, and bogus emergent church stuff that has spread like kudzu. Let us simply pick up our cross and follow Him into spreading the Gospel and planting churches. It is this simple. Less attachment to this world and our “parish” and more attachment and affection for the world to come, will make all the difference.
3. Finally, let us keep learning from each other. In the spirit of helping one another, living in a global learning lab and “flat world” as Friedman calls it, let’s provoke one another to love and good deeds. We have all been so blessed by the excellence of the South Africans, the passion of Asia, the fire from Africa and South America, the prayers of the Koreans, the music from Australia, the supernatural faith from China, and in fairness, the support from the West. Not to leave out any nationalities, but the point is we all learn from each other as our many cultures unavoidably bring forth different aspects of the glory of God.
For many of us at EN 2010, we saw the world turn in Manila. It was awesome to observe the favor and delight of God evident on so many humble heroes. At the same time, we are all standing together “shoulder to shoulder” (Zephaniah 3:9) pursuing God and reaching for the Harvest as never before. As a result we all rejoice together, praise together and honor Him together knowing our best days for the Gospel are still ahead.
“Then will I purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him shoulder to shoulder. Zeph. 3:9