This Sunday Night at 6pm (Lobby Open for Coffee and Conversation with Staff, Pastors, Elders) 6:30pm (Meeting Begins) we will have our State of the Church Meeting. You can expect to get an overview of last year’s ministry as a church, hear stories of God on the move, and get the latest on our current position, plans, and prayers. (See that preacher’s skill at alliteration!) But none of that is what I want to write about today.
What is the state of the church? How is the church? If we look beyond the walls of Covenant into our community and the world, how can we answer this question? Is God’s church waxing or waning? Rising or falling? Does the church still have a compelling mission today? How about a mode of being… does the church know who and what it is so deeply that it rests in its identity?
My questions are broader than my capacity to answer, but in these few paragraphs I’d like us to think about a few points. Let’s start with a data point.
The Global Church’s Population Center Has Shifted
According to research by Lausanne,
“The percentage of the world that is Christian has changed very little over the last 120 years. In 1900, 34.5% of the world was Christian; in 2020, the figure is 32.3%. This relative stability, however, masks dramatic changes in Christianity’s demographics… 82% of all Christians in 1900 lived in Europe and North America; by 2020 this figure had dropped dramatically to 33%”
You can read more here.
Meanwhile, the centers of Christianity are increasingly urban, not rural as some in North America might assume. This is because of the large predominantly Christian cities in the global south. What is the #1 language of Christians worldwide? Spanish!
In some regions, Latin America has a rate of protestant Christian conversions that rivals Europe at any point during the Great Reformation.
The Present and Future are Less Anglo
Not dismissing that God may revive faith in Europe and North America, it is likely that the future of theology, church growth, missions, and all things Christian will be far less Anglo than they are even today. We can expect to see the major Christian Universities, scholarly works, missions’ strategies, church models, and everything else to be led by Asian, African, and Latino/a Christians in this century. To get the best Christian education you will need to move to Africa, Asia, or Latin American and learn Chinese, Spanish, and Korean. Even if God revives the Anglo West, this shift will likely still occur within our lives and those of our kids. This ethnic movement is an aspect of Christianity that is unique among the world religions. It is not a factor for despair (as it often sounds in Western churches), but one of great hope. “Christianity,” before it was known as anything other than “following Rabbi Jesus,” was a very rural, Judean phenomenon. Then a regional Jewish sect. Then a global minority religion in a Hellenized world. Then a global majority religion in an Eastern centered world and Roman ruled world. Then a global religion in a Western centered world. Next it will be a global religion centered in the Southern and Eastern regions. (What comes next? A Lunar or Martian colony that leads the way? Only time will tell…)
It’s probably obvious, if not altogether easy to assimilate, that Jesus’ great work of saving all the nations does not mean that he needs a Euro- or Anglo- or American- led church any more than he needed an ethnically Jewish led church. Westerners aren’t “cut out,” or thrown away, but the posture of missions that is often patronizing must change. (It will change). World missions from the global West are now, more than ever, about handing a baton of global church leadership to our brothers and sisters in Asia, Africa, and Latin America while continuing to pray that Eastern Europe and the Pacific might one day lead the world stage of Christian faith. (Please Lord!)
God’s Mission is Working Out Just as He Said
Although we may feel a regional or cultural sense of loss at the regression from Christianity in America and Europe, God’s plan for worldwide redemption is moving forward. The state of His church is alive and well, just as Jesus is alive and well. We can take great comfort and be encouraged to continue our own worship and acts of justice and mercy with full confidence. So this week, while we pray and celebrate the very small scope of the State of Covenant Church, let’s keep our eyes also on the foreground of God’s massive movement throughout the world!
The State Of Our Church
• 6pm - Lobby Open for Coffee and Conversation with Staff, Pastors, Elders
• 6:30pm - Meeting Begins)
• Available Live for Online viewing.