(Painting: "The Ruins of Holyrood Chapel," by Louis Daguerre, c.1824)
In Luke 18:8, Jesus asks a haunting question: "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
I pastor a church in Maine, which happens to be one of the most secular, least church-going states in the USA. America as a whole has a reputation for being a very religious nation, and it still is, but most Christians here would tell you that there is a nagging concern that our society is slipping, little by little, but now with noticeable speed, toward unbelief. Because of this, a lot of Christians live with a great deal of worry about the fate of our faith. Young people seem to be showing less interest in church; a swift tide of aggressive, anti-Christian versions of Islam dominate the world news; secular values that are often perceived as hostile to our faith become mainstream social policy; and non-religious demographic groups ("nones") rise swiftly in our population. There's a palpable level of concern that we are slipping into a new dark age for the faith. The question seems implied in the news headlines we see every week: Is Christianity in danger of vanishing?
The answer, remarkably, is no. Not even close. Quite the opposite, in fact. The evidence for Christianity's startling and continued global growth in the 20th and 21st centuries is so compelling that it makes the title question almost laughable.
Don't get distracted by the fact that all of those rather depressing trends I just mentioned actually seem to be true about what we see on the news here in the US. The truth is, those of us who are dealing with an increasingly secular society in America are, far and away, the exception to the rule. God is doing something incredible among the nations of the world, and the evidence for it is just now starting to emerge into the open light.
|"Allegory of Missionary Work," by Andrea Pozzo, c.1690|
Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be posting a new article every Thursday to bring forward the evidence of these major worldwide movements toward faith in Christ. I'll be gathering together the best statistical evidence I can find, as well as some encouraging anecdotal evidence from the missionaries and Christian workers who are seeing these movements firsthand. Many of the stories I'll highlight, as you'll see, actually come from secular news agencies, which are now also starting to notice these Christward movements.
|"Bechuana Congregation," by the London Missionary Society, c.1900|
- Next week, I'll be posting about one of the most exciting movements: the remarkable ways that untold thousands of Muslims are coming to faith in Jesus Christ. After that, I'll be putting up articles which will examine:
- The dramatic expansion of Christianity in India
- The massive Christian revival sweeping Africa and Latin America
- Movements to Christ among the world's Jews
- The explosive growth of the church in China
- Emerging trends about the deep-rooted persistence of Christianity in the West
- The renewal of Christian theism in academic philosophy and the sciences
I'll end this introductory post with just a taste of what's to come: an infographic from one of the top researchers of statistics in this area, the Joshua Project--notice how, in just the past forty years, the ratio of nonbelievers to Christians has been nearly cut in half.
So don't give up hope. God is on the move.