Pastor Ed Allen is continuing his Advent series of sermons, "The Savior of the World." Each week, he begins with someone from the congregation telling about their Christmas traditions as a child in a different culture. Today in the 9:00 service, we heard about Bolivia and the Philippines. This is to emphasize that Christ's birth is celebrated all over the world.
Today we looked at this statement:
The growth of the Jesus movement is unparalleled when considering both scope and duration (so much so that it demands our attention).
When the church began, Christianity was wildly countercultural and went against the grain of common customs and the widespread religious mindset. Ancient people had to change their entire worldview (with some exceptions, such as the Jews). They had no categories for understanding what they were being told.
And yet. . .
Here we looked at some statistics. The Jesus movement exploded over the next 300 years. Followers of Christ became 53% of the Roman empire. It was an explosive rate of growth.
This growth happened despite persecution, over the course of centuries. Other religions have experienced growth -- but not like this or over as long a time.
Islam is currently growing at the same rate as the birth rate and has grown in the past from conquest and birth. Hinduism is spreading geographically because of migration.
Christianity has grown through conversion.
Christianity is not a mostly white faith. If anything, it's middle-eastern. Less of the world is unreached than ever before.
In 1910 more than 50% of the world's people groups were unreached. 30% in 2000 and 28% in 2017.
In 2017, both Africa and Latin America passed Europe in the number of Christian residents.
Growth in Africa has been explosive, from a small percentage in some countries to 80-90%. And this is despite 1.8 million martyrs in Africa since 1900. Korea and South America have also experienced explosive growth of Christianity.
But these stories may pale in comparison to China.
In 2004, the official Chinese church had 18 million members, but grew to 38 million members in 2016. The underground church is much, much larger, estimated at 5 times larger.
This growth commands our attention.
What does this mean?
1) It means that Jesus came into the world to be the Savior of the WORLD.
2) If you are standing outside of faith, this story begs you to reconsider. (It's not proof that it's true, but it's significant.)
3) We can stop worrying so much about the condition of the church in America.
God is still in charge; God doesn't need America. God's church is doing fine.
4) We need to remember that our lives are part of a much bigger story -- a story that God is winning.