Continued from last month
Beginning around the early 1800’s until approximately World War II, the major evangelistic and missionary efforts to carry the Good News about Jesus to the rest of the world originated in institutional churches of the United States and Europe. That is no longer true. The bulk of global missions efforts now originates outside the Western Church.
Western nations are now becoming a major missions field for missionaries from other nations! Moreover, many foreign evangelists are now targeting North America and Europe as major unreached evangelistic fields. It is one of the most significant paradigm shifts in all of Church history!
In 1900, the majority of all authentic Jesus believers were found in North America and Europe. Now, 100+ years later, two-thirds of all Jesus believers are in Asia, Latin America and Africa. For example, 100 years ago there were perhaps 500,000 authentic Jesus believers in all of Latin America—from Mexico to southern Chile. Today, there are 40 million Jesus believers in Latin America! The figures are even more staggering in Asia and Africa. 40,000+ people become Jesus believers each day in China. South Korea’s population is almost 75% Jesus believers, contrasted with fewer than 2% of them being Jesus believers in 1900. In Japan, since 1980 hundreds of thousands of her teeming millions have committed themselves to Jesus. Other Asian nations, even Viet Nam, are experiencing similar explosive growth in new converts to Jesus.
“U. S. News and and World Report” (November 22, 1993) featured an article “The Lure of the Orient”, stating that the world’s economic center of gravity has now shifted to Asia. So, too, has the world’s spiritual center of gravity shifted to Asia (and to Latin America and Africa). The Christian “world” western Jesus believers live in today is far, far different than the Christian world of a few generations ago. On one hand, this paradigm shift is good news: the efforts of past generations of western missionaries have succeeded; a large part of the non-Western world has been penetrated with the Good News about all God has done for humanity through Jesus.
On the other hand, the Western Church is no longer strong and healthy in relation to the Church in the rest of the world. In fact, Dr David Yonghi Cho, pastor of the world’s largest Christian Church (800,000+ members!) in Seoul, South Korea, stated recently that the Western Church is the Korean Church’s “ailing elder brother.”
Let’s consider a few more examples of the Church’s paradigm shift before we consider ways to “treat” the ailing elder brother and restore it to its former health and vitality. The traditional Western Church is largely middle class, middle aged, conservative and “defensive.” By contrast, the Church in the remainder of the world is poor, full of teenagers and young adults, and on the offensive spiritually. This young, powerful Church is keenly attuned to the stark realities of poverty, hunger, political oppression, and the supernatural realm.
The North American and European Church has a monocultural view of the world and of reality. The thriving Church of Asia, Africa and Latin America has a multi-cultural, pluralistic view of life on planet earth, allowing them to be much more flexible, innovative, and sensitive than the Western Church to the massive movements and strivings of people worldwide—and is much more open to ethnic multiplicity. North American and European missions activities and methods are fast becoming relics of the past. In contrast, the Church of Africa, Asia and Latin America has developed a 21st century global vision and is taking the Good News about Jesus to the unreached, using methods and logistics undreamed of by the West. In addition, they espouse and practice a concept of “power evangelism” in ways generally unknown and unrivaled by the Western Church of the past few generations.
Restoring The “Ailing Elder Brother”
First, the western Church needs to welcome and embrace those “foreign” missionaries and evangelists who are now streaming to the West. Western Jesus believers need to radically shift their own paradigms and come to understand the reality of the sweeping changes which have occurred since World War Two. The “ailing elder brother” must understand it can no longer practice business as usual. The traditional Western church which worships within four walls of a church building at 11 a.m. Sunday morning is no longer worshiping and ministering to God and the masses of unreached people in an effective manner.
For example (as noted last month), the rapid growth of the so-called mega-churches of the West is misleading. Reliable surveys disclose that 60 to 95 percent of the numerical growth in churches that average 400 or more members is due to “transfer growth,” not to new conversions. In contrast, the explosive growth of Third World mega-churches is due almost completely to the influx of new converts to Jesus. Also, the Western Church can survive—and thrive—only by abandoning traditional clergy and laity roles. The clergy must equip and train so-called laypersons to do the full work of ministry. Laypersons must be freed to minister in creative and ingenious ways where the unreached are—not where they are invited to come once a week on Sunday morning.
It is still true that most personally meaningful events in the lives of ordinary Western citizens occur at home; in addition to its regular services, the western Church must incorporate regular meetings in homes. Next, the Western Church must yield full equality to women in ministry, leadership and service. Finally, instead of exclusively initiating and supporting more missions activities based in North America and Europe, the Western Church must begin to support and assist more non-Western, indigenous missions activities. The Western Church must share its expertise, training, and resources with non-Western missions. Western Jesus believers must serve them and become partners with them, allowing them to assume full leadership while the western Church remains in the background as helpers and supporters.
Which nations must western believers begin to aid and serve in their missions efforts? Currently (early 21st century) the top ten missionary sending countries from the non-Western world are India, Nigeria, Zaire, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Kenya, Brazil, the Philippines, Ghana, Zimbabwe, and South Korea. I predict that in the not-too-distant future, China will top them all as vast numbers of missionaries from the “Sleeping Dragon” begin to march forth to carry the Good News about Jesus to the unreached peoples of the world. Concerning China, I invite you to read another teaching on this web site entitled Shang Ti and Sinim.
Right now, those top ten nations have the missionaries to send forth; the western church has the money to support them, money which non-western Jesus believers will accept as long as western believers make no efforts to use the money to control them. They even want western believers to work side by side with them as helpers, co-laborers, educators, thinkers, and theologians—as long as westerners don’t seek to control! Can the Western Church humble itself enough to serve in those capacities? After all, western Jesus believers are used to being in charge. A significant paradigm shift, indeed!
The face of the worldwide Church has changed—markedly and permanently. How should those in the western Church respond to this change? More than anything else, they must humble themselves and become servants to the non-Western Church. Western believers must make room for power-full, new, non-western leaders who don’t look, act, talk, and think like we do. We must learn to submit to their God-ordained leadership. One of those non-western Church leaders I refer to is Pastor Joseph Prince from the New Creation Church in Singapore. You can view his type of pastoral leadership and some of their church services at josephprince.org. The western Church must give money. Those in the West have been tremendously blessed with enormous wealth in comparison to the relative poverty of most people in the rest of the world. God holds the western Church responsible and accountable for their wise management of that great wealth. Western believers must share their wealth with non-Western brothers and sisters who are carrying the old, old story about Jesus in such power-full new ways to the unreached people of the world—including the unreached in North America and Europe.
Change Is Not Coming. It’s Already Here!
Yes, there has been an historic paradigm shift in the worldwide Church of Jesus. No, those in the western Church have not been left out nor left behind in God’s great plans and purposes for humankind. But their roles and status both at home and abroad have changed forever. They must accept that change, adapt and fashion themselves to it, and return to the mainstream of God’s worldwide evangelistic and missions activities.
Western believers must remove their heads from the sands of time, stand tall, and stride forward hand-in-hand with the amazing new masses of non-western believers whom God has called to proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the world as the 21st century marches rapidly into the future of Church history.
Jesus said He will build his Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against its forward movement. It’s not the gates of hell western believers must be concerned with.
Rather, those in the western Church must ensure they are not the ones standing in the way of the march of the rest of the worldwide Church as it seeks to bring all the world’s people into God’s glorious Church marching down the corridors of the 21st century! For example, those western European Jesus believers living around 300 A.D. who were forced by Imperial Roman edict to begin meeting in special Church buildings rather than in homes probably had a very difficult time changing from “church in the home” to “attending” church in a church building.
It probably took them a while to feel they remained authentic Jesus believers after they began meeting in Church buildings with all the activities and events that began to accompany such meetings—after hundreds of years of having met exclusively in homes for worship, service, and ministry. Those early Jesus believers would no doubt understand and sympathize fully with the mindset displacement many western Jesus believers are presently experiencing as they move from church buildings to the church also meeting in homes. My own view for the “church in the now” is a compromise view: yes, meet weekly in homes, but also meet with other believers in a church building once a week, each type of meeting fully connected to the other for maximum impact on those who are not yet believers in Jesus.
“Hallelujah! God has finally begun to totally reign over all creation and all humanity. Let us be glad, rejoice, and Give God the glory due Him, because the marriage of Jesus to his completed Church has finally come. The Church has prepared herself with fine, bright, pure, linen, representing the righteous acts of God’s people. Greatly blessed are those invited to the marriage feast of Jesus, the Lamb of God!” –paraphrased from Revelation 19 in the Bible
To Think About This Month
“The Church of Jesus is not composed of perfect people—especially me! Why, then, do I get so upset if a fellow Jesus-believer in the Church sins or offends me? We in the Church have a long way to go before we will be Jesus’ perfect bride invited to His marriage feast. In the meantime, I must remember that no Jesus believer is yet whole and complete (including me!). Let’s be patient and forgiving of one another. We’re all still God’s works in process!”
Life Enrichment Services, Inc
Revised and Updated November 2020