Have you ever felt like that? It seemed as if everyone was against you. Maybe everything was going wrong and you were feeling the dread of what was next.
Some of us fall into depression just thinking about, “Why?” We dwell in its place. It’s a place of worry. It’s a place of anxiety. It’s a place of fear. No one is healthy in these places. Maybe you know this place more than others.
Jehoshaphat did not dwell in the place of fear. He did have fear, but he immediately “set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. He did not go through this alone. All of Judah sought the Lord!
God answers prayer! He said, “you will not need to fight in this battle.”
This was God’s answer to their prayers: “Be still, and know that I am God;” Psalm 46:10 ~NKJV
Neither do you need to battle. Just pray!
After much prayer and fasting, the Spirit of the Lord spoke: “And he said, ‘Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.’” 2 Chronicles 20:15-17 ~NKJV
I’ve been thinking about this subject, because we have a model. Our model is the first century church, which witnessed the biggest explosion not just in numbers of believers, but in power.
One thing we learn from that experience is that the church grows in numbers and effectiveness – not to mention to the glory of God – in times of persecution. Like these.
But let’s start at the beginning. What did Jesus teach His church to do?
I think it’s worth noting that His first instruction to His disciples, who numbered no more than a few hundred or thousand, was not to do anything except keep it together, be a comfort to each other and teach others.
They were ready to go restore the Kingdom to Israel. In Acts 1, He told them to forget that for a while. That would have to wait for Him to come back.
What was the first instruction from Jesus?
He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father in the form of the Holy Spirit.
It wouldn’t take long. Jesus evidently knew that – because once the power fell upon them, this was their next and only assignment: “And ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
They would have to figure the rest out for themselves, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and all Jesus taught them.
It wasn’t the only time Jesus had given them this instruction. He also did so in Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
It would seem to me we already learned two important lessons about the role of the church:
Make sure you are working under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Then, as Frank Sinatra would say, start spreading the news – the Good News, that is.
There are all kinds of debates going on in the American church today about “church planting,” “church growth strategies” and “how we must seek a new approach today with Christianity in decline.”
But I wonder if we’re going about this in an entirely wrong way.
For starters, if the goal is to reach the uttermost parts of the earth – not to mention our own neighborhoods – are we really waiting on the Holy Spirit? And are we really focused on evangelism?
I’ve heard that American-style “evangelism” largely consists of attracting people away from other churches. Here the American church is like one big revolving door. Some churches grow, others do not. Some wither away, others grow stronger and bigger. Yet neither of those ends has much bearing on what Jesus commanded us to do.
So, what did the first century church do?
Exactly what Jesus said to do.
They waited, got empowered and they turned the world upside down. Was that just for then?
I wonder. What I do know is that their church didn’t look like ours.
They met together. They prayed together. They ate together. They worshiped together. They comforted each other. They discipled. They edified. They fellowshipped. They glorified God. And they recited or read the Scriptures.
In the American church, we’re watching the clock. People can’t wait to get out of there.
I recently read that one large mega-church built a multi-lane overpass to ensure that they could get everyone out of the 35,000-attendee parking lot within 30 minutes of the close of service.
In how many churches have you experienced evangelism training or expeditions?
Isn’t that the urgent mission of the church? Why don’t we do it? Do you know I was 21 years old before anyone ever evangelized me – in America? Am I that unusual? What are we waiting for? Who are we going to recruit to do it, if not us?
That’s why the light is going out in America – because the Christian culture, which was healthy and vibrant in America when it was founded, has been ceded over to the world.
Meanwhile, what about elsewhere? Where is the church exploding? Where it is persecuted. You know that. That’s where the Holy Spirit is. That’s where miracles are taking place today – in China, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.
There have been some notable revivals in the U.S. over the years – but not one for some time.
Another thing we learn from the first century church is that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).
Does that still work?
I know it does for me. That doesn’t mean it works for everyone. Unless you believe everyone is going to be saved, nothing is going to work for everyone.
But I find it deeply disturbing that some pastors believe we should stop emphasizing the Word. Some say we should drop the Old Testament pretty much altogether. They say we should tell stories and attribute them to people rather than the Word of God.
Do we no longer believe in the Word of God? Are we ashamed of it? Are we ashamed of doing exactly what Jesus told us to do?
I don’t have all the answers, but I do have one.
Do you think there is a more important book than the Bible anywhere on earth?
Do you think getting people to crack it open would generally bring them closer to the Lord – maybe even get them saved?
Do you think God has changed His mind about the way He spoke the world into existence and revealed His plan to His children?
Is there really anything new under the sun?
Or, is it time for the church to start following instructions? Has the salt lost its savor? Or are we ready to be the salt and the light in the world again?
By the way, that’s one of the things the church is supposed to be.
Matthew 5:13-16: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
That’s right. The church is supposed to glorify our Father in heaven.
We’re supposed to be Jesus’ heavenly bride. We’re His children if we are doing His will – yes, even in this age of grace. We all fall short of the mark, but the mark goes beyond salvation, does it not? Does He not take pleasure in us when we are obedient to His call, holy and surrender all to Him?
I don’t consider myself an expert on the church. But I do know how I came to know and love Jesus – and love Him more every day.
I would like everyone to understand that – not wishing that anyone would perish.
And that’s why I took several years to research and write “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament.” I wanted people to see what I see when I look at the Bible – the most miraculous book in the whole world, one that has stayed the test of time, one that is fully integrated, singular in purpose, abounding in wisdom, cohesive and without contradictions, one supernatural message of repentance, revival, redemption and restoration from Genesis to Revelation.
It’s all about the Word. It will always be about the Word – whether its written on our hearts, etched in our minds or seared in our souls.
Jesus told us all to be evangelists. And that’s what I am doing right now.
I want to share “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament” with you because I think it might open up the Scriptures to you, with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, bringing you not only the keys of everlasting life, but a place of honor in His Kingdom.
Note: “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament” by Joseph Farah is available in both hardcover and e-book versions.
Palm Sunday is quickly approaching and with it, the Palm Sunday service. We often view this time as Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem (and it was!) but it was also something so much more than a surface-level victory march. The palm fronds, the massive crowd, the fact that Jesus wept, all pointed to a more complex meaning than we often realize. Considering that a few short days later what we assume would be the same general crowd that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with a hero’s welcome would cry out for his crucifixion tells us something more complicated was going on in their Palm Sunday praise.
Corrie ten Boom was once asked if it were difficult for her to remain humble. Her reply was simple. “When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on the back of a donkey, and everyone was waving palm branches and throwing garments onto the road, and singing praises, do you think that for one moment it ever entered the head of that donkey that any of that was for him?” She continued, “If I can be the donkey on which Jesus Christ rides in his glory, I give him all the praise and all the honor.” Mark Schaeufele in A Messiah Who Serves.
For much of Jesus’ ministry He urged people to be quiet about who He was. When He healed he told people not to say anything, when He confronted demons who recognized Him as the Son of God He told them to shut up. That’s because it wasn’t time for Him to declare Himself as the Messiah. On Palm Sunday the time had come. Tom Fuller in The Significance Of Palm Sunday.
Billboards were not around. Telephones were not invented. The only way that they could have known that Jesus was coming was by word of mouth. That is impressive if you had all those people coming without our modern day advertisement ideas. Dan Borchert in Palm Sunday.
He came in peace to give the people peace. They preferred salvation from taxation to salvation of their souls – and so in a few days they would prefer Barabbas to be freed instead of Jesus. Jesus could see that this was their mindset, and so in the midst of this praise, with people waving the palm branches like a national flag, Jesus wept. Paul Wallace in Palm Sunday.
If Jesus knew that a donkey was waiting for him in the next town, he certainly knows what’s down the road for you. You may not know how that medical test is going to turn out but Jesus does. Nor may you know whether or not there will be any decent jobs for you when you get done with your education but Jesus already has in mind how he plans to provide for you. Understanding that Jesus knows all things gives us confidence to follow his directions. Though Satan would have us believe otherwise, living by Jesus’ words will never send you on a fool’s errand. Daniel Habban in Ponder The Palm Sunday Paradox.
Our lives, the roads we walk lead us to either follow behind Christ, singing his praises, or going before him, laying palm branches and cloaks. Missionaries go ahead, paving the way as Jesus rides in to hearts by His gospel. Then pastors, teachers, and congregations follow behind, praising God for his kingdom that has come. Edward Frey in The Pathway of Palm Sunday.
We like control; God, it seems, loves vulnerability. If we haven’t touched and united with the vulnerable place within us, we’re normally projecting seeming invulnerability outside and judging others for their weakness. Paul Andrew in Palm Sunday And Good Friday.
He is at once, a righteous God and a Savior. He is full of grace and truth. God is the just one, who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Do you see the holy love of God? Were God merely holy, we would have been destroyed. Were God merely love, the lack of discipline would destroy us. A holy God cannot disregard wanton rebellion and a loving God cannot disregard His children. But a God of holy love will do what no one can imagine. Michael Deutsch in The Road To The Cross!
At the heart of Palm Sunday is Jesus’ desire to bring peace into our lives and to be willing to carry whatever burdens in life that are weighing us down. But the only way Jesus can complete his desire, is for us to allow him to march in and take over without having to fight us all along the way. Have you ever told God, ”you can march over there, but don’t come this way because I’m not yet ready to surrender.” Where ever Jesus is not fully welcome in our lives, is where the real battle is taking place for our attitudes. We’re doing all kinds of things hoping to find some peace, but God is saying, until you get your attitude together right here, you shall not have peace as you seek for it. Rick Gillespie-Mobley in Choose Your Attitude.
Jesus knew that the religious leaders were out to get him and yet instead of slinking into the city under the cover of darkness he rides triumphantly in a manner that is bound to reveal him as messiah. Denn Guptill in Making A Messiah, Palm Sunday.
In times of war conquerors would ride in chariots or upon prancing stallions. But in times of peace, the king would ride a colt to symbolize that peace prevailed. So, for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem upon a colt is to declare that He is a King proclaiming peace. Melvin Newland in Palm Sunday – Jesus Was Weeping!
The Christian church was born in the very city where Jesus was publicly killed and buried. The belief in a resurrected Jesus had to be authentic to take root in Jerusalem and grow to encompass the whole world. The Christian church is now the largest institution that exists or has ever existed in the history of humanity. Clearly, this would have been impossible if the resurrection was a story. Don Hawks in Who Is Jesus? — A Palm Sunday Lesson.
Now when Jesus approached and saw the city, he wept over it…Clearly, there is this sense of purpose that drives Jesus toward Jerusalem. But don’t misunderstand this clear, resolute purpose for being defeated. Joey Nelson inPalm Sunday – Luke’s Journey Notes.
One of the scariest questions in the Palm Sunday story…. How will I respond when Jesus comes riding humbly into my life? Will I recognize the time of God’s coming to me? Will I recognize and welcome God’s personal visit? Marty Boller in Palm Sunday: How Will You Respond?
But Jesus didn’t even make it through the gates of Jerusalem unscathed. In that holy city he was beaten and then taken outside to be crucified as if he was some kind of criminal. But this wasn’t a tragic mistake. This had been God’s plan. Just as squeezing a tube of whitening gel will produce the thing your teeth needs to get rid of the yellow stains, squeezing blood from Jesus was the one thing we sinners needed to whiten our sin-blackened record! Daniel Habban in Psalm 118: A Palm Sunday Preview.
The people were throwing their coats on the ground before Him. Maybe in the crowd there were some of the people Jesus had healed. Maybe in the crowd were some of the thousands He had fed with just 5 loaves of bread and a couple of fish. Maybe in the crowd were some who had seen some of the many other miracles Jesus had performed. Perhaps many in the crowd that day would have heard Jesus preach and teach before. Perhaps they had listened to Jesus and their lives had been changed. But, some people were not feeling the same way, some it seems, thought that the crowds were taking it a little too far.Dean Courtier in Palm Sunday: Jesus Began To Weep.
Have you heard that crowd of noise in your life? What has your answer been? Do we join the crowd, or step out of the crowd and take a stand for what we know is true? Because a day will come when we aren’t part of any crowd anymore. A day will come when we are one on one with the Creator of us all, God the Father. And we will be judged, not on what we did as a crowd, but what we did as individuals with His Son, Jesus Christ. Stephen Buhr in Who Is This? A Message For Palm Sunday.
This post was first published December 17, 2012. -ed.
At this time of year we’re used to fighting against the tendency to let the busyness of the season blind us to the true meaning of Christmas. It’s easy to get preoccupied with the party and completely lose sight of the One we’re celebrating.
But that’s not merely a modern problem—many people at the time of Christ’s birth were too busy to realize what was going on. In fact, virtually the entire city of Jerusalem missed the first Christmas, but not for the reasons you might think.
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” . . . So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. . . . The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. (Luke 2:8-20)
Out of the whole of Jerusalem society, God picked a band of shepherds to hear the news of Jesus’ birth. This is intriguing, because shepherds were among the lowest and most despised social groups. The very nature of their work kept them from entering into the mainstream of Israel’s society. They couldn’t maintain the ceremonial washings and observe all the religious festivals and feasts. Yet these shepherds, close as they were to Jerusalem, were undoubtedly caring for sheep that someday would be used as sacrifices in the temple. How fitting it is that they were the first to know of the Lamb of God!
More significantly, they came to see Him. No one else did. Though these shepherds went back and told everyone what they had seen and heard, and though “all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds” (Luke 2:18), not one other person came to see firsthand. Only some lowly shepherds did not miss Christmas; everyone else in Jerusalem did.
I find it remarkable that Christ was born in Bethlehem and almost no one in Jerusalem took notice. Bethlehem is only a few miles away—literally within walking distance—and Jesus’ birth was the fulfillment of all that the nation of Israel had hoped for. But the entire city missed it.
Why did Jerusalem miss Christmas? The answer, in one word, may surprise you: religion. The people of Jerusalem were very religious. Jerusalem was the hub of religious activity in Israel. The temple was there, and everyone who wanted to make a sacrifice had to come to Jerusalem. The people were so busy with religious ritual that they missed the reality. Consumed with the activity of their feasts and festivals and ceremonies, preoccupied with washings and legal minutiae and other externals, they missed the whole message.
In short, they were busy worshiping the right God in the wrong way. They were caught up in the externals of true religion, but they had abandoned the heart of their faith. Jesus didn’t fit their system. They looked for a Messiah who would be a conquering hero, not a baby in a manger. They hoped for a leader who would support their religious system. Jesus opposed everything it stood for. The Sermon on the Mount proved that. He offered truth that would free them from the tyrannical, demanding, oppressive, legalistic religion the scribes and Pharisees had hung on the nation. But the majority of people were so established in their religion that they wouldn’t listen.
People like that are the hardest to reach with the good news of salvation. They are so determined to earn their own salvation, to prove they can be righteous on their own, that they cannot see the depth of their poverty.
Religion can be a deadly trap. Ritual and rules enable people to feel spiritual when they are not. I have talked to countless people newly converted to Christ who testify that although they were active in this or that church for years, they never truly knew the reality of salvation. Religious activity is not synonymous with genuine righteousness. Religion will damn people to hell as surely as immorality. In fact, Scripture tells us Satan’s ultimate trick is to disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). And so he can use even religion to make people miss Christmas.
Less well known was a voyage by Columbus to the Gold Coast in West Africa in 1481, sponsored by King John II of Portugal. In contrast to the Eurocentric myth of disorder and barbarism prevalent in Africa, during this voyage Columbus encountered civilized communities and well-established states with very complex social, political, and economic structures. At the time of Columbus’s visit, the most impressive medieval Muslim Moorish (West African) empire, Songhay, was still in existence. Its noted center of scholarship, Timbuktu, the home of the world-renowned higher educational institution, the Sankoré University, still possessed a great deal of its splendor. Columbus who visited the Portuguese fortress of Elmina on the Gold Coast, was impressed by the riches of the land, especially its gold. But as an explorer, Columbus learned valuable lessens in geography and oceanography.
This undoubtedly sparked his interest in a voyage westward across the Atlantic, which he erroneously believed would take him to India and establish direct access to the coveted riches of the Orient. More importantly, Columbus’s voyage to West Africa may have laid the groundwork for the first contact between that part of Africa and the Americas. A few West Africans were said to have returned with him to Europe and eventually accompanied him on his voyages to the New World between 1492 and 1504. Some scholars, however, have suggested the possibility of an African presence in the Americas before the arrival of Columbus.
The argument is that some West African people, probably from the Senegambia area, were known to Native Americans prior to arrival of Columbus. The most forceful argument along these lines has been provided by Rutgers linguist and anthropologist Ivan Van Sertima, who marshalled an array of archaeological, historical, and botanical evidence to argue his case. The United States and West Africa: Interactions and Relations pg. 18 Because Columbus has been such an important figure in the collective imagination of Americans, what we make of him affects both how we view our history and imagine our future. In what follows, I wish, first to detangle Columbus’s motivations from the accusations that have been brought against him and then to trace briefly the apocalyptic scenario and the place of Jerusalem that figured so centrally to his quest. To distance ourselves from his religious views obscures how deeply influential they have been, and continue to be in our national and political consciousness. Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem: How Religion Drove the Voyages that Led to America pg. 236
The principal factor which governed Columbus’s life and motivated his activities was—as he put it in a letter to the Spanish monarchs—to spread the light of the Gospel throughout the world and enlist the newly converted peoples in the life-and-death war with the empire of Muhammad. His ultimate goals included the “recovery” of the Holy Land, especially Jerusalem, in preparation for the Kingdom of God. In fact, it was his deep religious convictions in prophecy which, according to The New Millennial Manual, enabled him to convince Ferdinand and Isabella to finance his “Enterprise of the Indies.” And the “Enterprise” was to be the first stage in a new Crusade which would enable the Spanish monarchs to “recapture” the Holy Land and restore the Christian faith there. Throughout his life, Columbus insisted that Providence was always guiding his steps and directing his efforts.
In fact, at the end of his first voyage, and in a letter to the Spanish court dated February 15, 1492, Columbus said that the Bible was his lifetime roadmap for the fulfillment of divine prophecies and the rebuilding of Zion. This letter was subsequently printed and translated into many European languages. In it, Columbus summed up his global program “to conquer the world, spread the Christian faith, and regain the Holy Land and the Temple Mount.” During the last voyage (1502-04), Columbus recorded in his journals that he heard voices and saw visions of God urging him on to carry out His mission. This belief in a Providential mission is what motivated Columbus to so relentlessly pursue his project of the “Enterprise of the Indies.” He wrote:
Who would doubt that this light, which urged me on with a great haste continuously, without a moment’s pause, came to you in a most deep manner, as it did to me? In this my voyage to the Indies, Our Lord wished to perform [a] very evident miracle in order to console me and others in the matter of this other voyage to the Holy Sepulcher [Jerusalem]. To realize the originality as well as the significance of Columbus’s missionary efforts and zeal to fulfill the “prophecies,” one should remember that his campaign preceded the Protestant Reformation and the resulting emphasis on Old Testament prophecies and missionary drive.
This zeal and literal interpretation of sacred prophecies led Delno West to describe Columbus as “the first American hero with all the rights and privileges, myths and legends, and criticisms the title carries.” In his obsession with the rebuilding of Zion and the preparation for the Coming Kingdom, Columbus anticipated the early Puritan settlers of the New World, the nineteenth-century end-times churches and missionary establishment, and the present-day American grand plans for the world. In essence, Columbus’s program is a roadmap for the modern campaign of the Christian Right in America today.
In what is regarded as a first since the last Jewish Temple stood in Jerusalem, Levites have returned psalm-singing to the historic site.
Some 800 members of the Jewish nation’s tribe of Levi “joined together on the stairs in front of the Hulda Gates in the Davidson Center adjacent to the southern wall of the Temple Mount” on Oct. 16, reported Breaking Israel News.
They joined in singing three songs that the historic Levites originally sang in the Temple.
Held by the Old City Rehabilitation and Development Fund, the event was led by Itzik Weiss, as musical director, and Yotam Segel, as conductor.
The psalms were not sung on the actual Temple Mount because of strict restrictions over events that are allowed there, given the site’s management by a Jordan-based Muslim organization.
See the singing:
“Levites (a Jewish male descended … from the Tribe of Levi) were chosen during the Exodus from Egypt by God to serve in the Tabernacle and, subsequently, the Temple. Some of the Levites in attendance wore special garb intended to be used in the Third Temple. Silver trumpets created for use in the Third Temple were also used in the performance,” the report said.
Three of the 15 psalms that were traditionally sung on the steps inside the Temple including Psalm 121 and 126 were used.
Reported BIN: “The event nearly did not take place. A few weeks before the prayer event was scheduled to take place, the Woman’s Lobby petitioned the organizers to cancel the event as it did not include women. The organizers maintained that the event was intended as a re-creation of a Biblical ceremony that was performed by men in the Temple.”
Fund spokesman Daniel Shukron told BIN it was a replication of a historic event: There was “no audience, no tickets, and no reason to protest.”
Christianity is and always will be a mobile faith.
Often, we forget to consider the spread of Christianity across the globe from a geographical perspective. We read the New Testament with eyes and ears that are largely ignorant to the places Luke mentions in Acts or Paul writes about in the prison epistles.
Most Christians have heard of Jerusalem—the place where Jesus was crucified and risen. The geographical center of the Christian faith was clearly, early on, in and around Israel.
But while the Ancient Near East was the birthplace of our faith, it didn’t just stay there. By God’s grace, the gospel began to spread all around the world. We read about the Ethiopian eunuch who first heard the gospel message from Philip. Some disciples went to Asia Minor, Thomas goes as far as India, Paul tries to get to Spain, etc. Places like Cyprus, Caesarea, Damascus, Greece, Rome, and Carthage are mentioned throughout the book of Acts as Paul and his followers embark on four long missionary journeys.
All that to say, the gospel has been moving and spreading for centuries. The Holy Spirit has compelled believers everywhere to share the message of Christ crucified and risen in places both near and far. As demonstrated by Paul and Christ’s own disciples, this was to include continents and people groups far from the place where the Christian faith was first founded.
Despite this, Christianity has for centuries been associated with the West. Going back just a century ago, Pew Research found that “about two-thirds of the world’s Christians lived in Europe.” This, according to historical estimates by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, is “where the bulk of Christians had been for a millennium.”
But today, these numbers have changed considerably. In 2010, almost a decade ago now, Pew Research found that only a quarter of all Christians live in Europe (roughly 26 percent).
Thankfully, what we’re seeing is not that Christianity is disappearing—instead, it’s spreading and shifting its geographical center.
In 1910, Europe and North America (the West) contained 80 percent of the world’s self-identified Christians. Today, it’s 40 percent and declining. Meanwhile in the 21st century, almost 24 percent of the world’s Christians live in Sub-Saharan Africa compared to less than 2 percent a hundred years earlier.
These changes shouldn’t surprise or alarm us for many reasons. The first of which is this: Christianity is and always will be a message on the move.
This isn’t the first time in the history of the faith that its geographical center has shifted and it likely will not be the last. For centuries, Europe was the center, but after the reformation and the spread of European missionaries and immigrants to the Americas, many would say that the center of density moved to North America.
Now we’re seeing a reengagement of the Southern Hemisphere in the practicing of the Christian faith. At this point, there will likely be more evangelicals in Brazil by 2040 than there are in the United States. I’ve stood on the beach at João Pessoa with 10,000 Brazilians who put their hands out and prayed that they would be a part of a mission for the faith to reach the rest of the world—Africa, Asia, and beyond.
Of course, North America was uniquely impactful on the condition of global Christianity as it currently stands today—few would dispute that. But, the presence of believers and vitality of churches in North America and Europe nonetheless continue to decline in comparison to their respective growth in the Southern Hemisphere.
For those of us living in the West, we must remember never to despair. What we observe happening in our culture and to the life of the church isn’t a done deal—these things are always changing and shifting. The gospel is continuing to spread and people are accepting the message even if it’s becoming harder and harder to see God at work in our own communities.
For our brothers and sisters in the Global South, we pray for God’s continued blessing on the growth of the church. When appropriate, we might even find ways to use our time and resources to contribute to the work that God is already doing in these places.
Believers—wherever they live—should ultimately concern themselves not only with the health and well-being of their place of worship down the street, but with that of the global church all across the world.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, serves as Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.