By Russ Mitchell
Russ is field director for One Challenge (OC International) in Romania – www.oci.ro.
Perhaps the best known verse from the Bible is John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
These 25 words well summarize the message of the entire Bible. God loves all the people of the world. He does not want anyone to perish, but to have eternal life. God gave his Son, Jesus, to deal decisively once and for all with the consequences of sin which cause people to perish. But only those who believe in Jesus have eternal life.
Not only is this Good News for perishing people, but for those of us who already believe in Jesus, it helps us view the world from God’s perspective and helps us understand our part in God’s eternal plan. So the intent of this article is for us to look at our world from God’s perspective and consider our response to God’s amazing love.
What do you know about the world God loves?
The world that God loves has over 6.8 billion people and daily grows by 229,000 people – over 80 million people a year. Let’s try to visualize 6.8 billion people. If everyone in the world stood shoulder to shoulder, the line would circle the globe 85 times. Or if you were to shake hands with all these people at the rate of 100 people a minute, it would take you nearly 130 years to greet each person. That is a lot of people! Yet God loves them all and knows each one.
So what do you know about those who believe in Jesus?
Today people are believing in Jesus at an unprecedented rate.
- An average of 178,000 people a day hear the message of redemption in Christ for the first time – 65million people a year.
- Every hour, more than 3,500 people decide to follow Jesus Christ.
- Each day 85,000 people across the globe come to faith in Christ.
- In China 25,000 per day accept Christ as Savior.
- In Africa 20,000 each day believe in Jesus.
- In India nearly 20,000 people a day turn to him.
- More Jewish people have embraced Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah since 1967 than all the years between 100 AD and 1967.
- More Muslims have come to faith in Christ in the last 30 years than any time in history and most of these have come to Christ since 9/11.
- The number of Evangelical Christians is growing two times faster than Islam and three times faster than Hinduism or Buddhism.
- On average 3,500 new churches open every week around the world.
Thus we are living in a time of great global harvest.
The Growth of Christianity in the Global South
The last 100 years saw incredible progress in the spread of Christianity. In 1910 80% of all Christians were found in Europe and North America. Today, due to the growth of Christianity in the Global South, over 60% of all Christians are found in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The “center” of Christianity has moved out of Europe and North America and now rests in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In the last ten years for every one new believer in North America and Europe, there are 30 in the Global South. Amazingly Spanish is the most common language spoken by Christians.
Several areas have seen a profound transformation in terms of Christian growth.
In 1910, 9% of Africa was Christian. One hundred years later nearly 50% of Africa is Christian. In the middle of the African continent the change has been more dramatic shifting from 1% to nearly 80% Christian.
In 1900 Latin America had 50,000 Protestants. By 1980 they grew to 20 million Protestants. In 2000 there were 100 million Protestants in Latin America.
In 1949 China had less than one million Christians. Today officials in the Chinese Government estimate that there could be as many as 130 million Christians in China. There are now more Christ followers in China than in the United States!
In 1900 South Korea had no Protestant churches. Today 30% are Christian and some of the largest mega-churches in the world are in South Korea.
In 1979 there were 500 believers in Iran. In 2008 there were one million.
In India the number of Christians has doubled in the last 7 years from 50 million to 100 million.
In spite of this amazing progress, there still remains much to do.
Just how many people do believe in Jesus?
If the world was made up of ten people, and we were to ask each one, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?” we would hear the following responses:
Three would say “Yes, I am a Christian.” These represent 2.2 billion people in the world today. This is not to say that all these are true believers having eternal life. A good number of these are Christians in name only. They have some association with a church. Perhaps they were baptized as an infant or occasionally attend a Church service. They know something of the message of the Bible. But they do not have a personal faith in Jesus that results in having eternal life. The largest concentration of nominal Christians is found in Europe and Russia.
Four others would say, “No, I do not believe in Jesus.” These 2.6 billion people have heard of Jesus, but have not yet said “yes” to his offer of eternal life.
But three would ask, “Who is Jesus?” This group of two billion people has never heard of Jesus. In fact, they have very little opportunity to hear about him. Where they live there are very few churches and few Christian workers. It is likely that these people do not even know a Christian. Perhaps the Bible is not even in their language. These are the least reached, cut off from the influence of the Good News.
What is the conclusion of our survey? More than seven out of ten are perishing! Three have never heard of Jesus. Four say they do not believe in him. And in the most optimistic case, three out of ten people in the world might be true believers, having eternal life. How do you suppose God feels about this situation?