Few will argue with the fact that we live in a world that is shifting and changing continually. To illustrate this reality, London will soon become home to the largest mosque outside of the Middle East. Similar scenarios can be seen throughout the western world. For some this is a cause of great concern, anger, or even despair. Without a global Kingdom perspective, these responses are understandable. If we take a look at what God is doing around the world, though, we find much to give us hope and encouragement.*
Even in parts of the world that most Christians deem “enemy territory,” in recent years the true Enemy has been taking some pretty severe hits. Since the beginning of the Iraqi war, more than 5,000 Muslims have turned to Christ in Iraq, with dozens of growing churches being birthed across the region. Similarly, pre-9/11 Afghanistan knew 17 Muslim background believers, while today there are more than 10,000. In neighboring Iran, where there were as few as 500 Christ-followers 30 years ago, national pastors suggest this number could now be one million. Perhaps this is due in part to satellite television making gospel broadcasts available at all times in that country; living under a repressive fundamentalist regime may also have some influence.
In Egypt, it’s the JESUS Film that’s increasing in circulation. Whereas in the 90s, sales averaged 3,000 per year, in 2006, the Egyptian Bible Society sold 600,000 copies, as well as 750,000 audio Arabic Bible and 500,000 Arabic New Testaments. Other programs reach a more global audience, such as broadcasts from Norway that can be found on the radio, TV, and the internet. A surprising population where these are received well is among Arabs in the US and Canada, where in the span of a few months, as many as 30,000 have responded with interest in coming to Christ.
Several countries are also seeing a drastic shift in the percentage of the population that is Muslim. Some countries, like Indonesia, don’t even want to know what those numbers are anymore. The last religious census there revealed that 20% of the population chose to be registered as Christians. That was over 30 years ago. In Ghana, the number of those who claim Islam as their religion dropped by 25% in the past ten years. Also in Uganda, the percentage is down from 22% Muslim 25 years ago to around 6% today. The Ugandan church now sends missionaries to places like South America, Japan, and the United States. Meanwhile, a growing missionary force is coming from Latin America, the majority of which goes to serve in the Muslim world.
What this should tell you is that God is continually building his kingdom. As many as 160,000 people a day hear about Christ for the first time, and roughly 3,000 put their faith in him per hour. Two hundred years ago, only 25% of the world’s people had the chance to receive the gospel. Today that number is flipped, with those who haven’t heard about Christ being only 28%. This is great news! When we look at what remains to be done, God wants us to take heart and be encouraged – and then get to work. There still remain 1.5 billion people who have never heard the gospel even once. 6,700 people groups have no indigenous church movement. These numbers can feel overwhelming, but God has provided ways to move forward. More and more of these unengaged peoples come right to our doorstep every year, with migration allowing previously inaccessible people to be our new best friends. There is also room for us to grow in going ourselves and giving to support those who do. The current number of missionaries from the US is half of what it was 25 years ago. It’s time for us to reverse this trend. Besides this, the amount of money given to missions around the world is often surpassed by the amount embezzled by Christian leaders. In light of all that God is doing, it would make more sense to increase our investment in his kingdom work than to relax our involvement.
In our ministry to Muslims, we can move forward with greater awareness that God’s Spirit is moving. Will we move with him?
* Facts and figures taken from Joshua Project’s Global Report, Spring 2007 and Summer 2007.