How are we doing?
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you…” ~Jesus Christ
Two thousand years ago, this is the task that Jesus left for His disciples. Today as His church, the question we must ask ourselves as followers of Christ is, “How are we doing?” The only way to measure our effectiveness is to measure ourselves based on His original commission. Are we making disciples, baptizing and teaching in ALL nations?
According to Pew Research, there has been an explosion in population growth of almost 400% in the “developing” world, sometimes referred to as the third world. Likewise, the church in these countries has also grown from 9% to 23.5% of the overall population. This accounts for 60% of the world’s Christians.
However, a closer look shows us that only 10 nations around the world hold one-half of the world’s Christians and 90% of all Christians live in a country where Christianity is the major religion. Over the last 100 years, there has been a significant decline in Christianity among “developed” nations like the United States and many countries of Europe, with the total Christian population dropping from 87% to 69%.
So in reality, the growth of Christianity has not kept pace with population growth overall and is down several percentage points from 100 years ago. One could say that the church has not effectively done the “WHAT” of Christ’s commission or the “WHERE” because we still have almost no impact on at least 25% of the countries in the world, not even considering individual people groups.
So the big question is what do we do about it?
Stay Focused. First, having been involved in world missions for over 40 years, I’ve noticed that the church, individual and corporate, tends to get easily distracted from Christ’s commission. Making disciples can often take a back seat to our “humanitarian” efforts. It’s like we are putting the cart before the horse.
For example, a major trend affecting many Christians and churches is the social justice issue. Social justice by definition is “promoting a just society by challenging injustice and valuing diversity.” Don’t misunderstand me, I believe that Jesus himself challenged injustice and valued diversity. I believe that He had compassion on those who were poor and hungry, naked and sick. I believe that a major part of the local church’s responsibility is helping the needy and should be a part of each Christ follower’s life to do these things. But until Jesus returns and establishes His “Kingdom” on earth, sorry to say, there will never be a “just” society, regardless of our efforts.
However, I am convinced that Jesus’ focus on making disciples set up a system that would accomplish these humanitarian goals, not through an institution, but by individuals practicing His example. True disciples of Christ will take care of widows and orphans. They help those who are really in need. My intent is not to criticize what others are doing; in fact, I applaud good works and compassion. Global Action helps churches in developing nations realize that part of their mission as a church is to show the love of God by reaching out to those in need in their communities.
Back to the question of “What do we do about reversing the downward trend of Christianity?”
Make Disciples. Very simply, the church has to go out and make disciples. We have to share the good news of Christ. Then those disciples will help others grow in the Lord and do the same.
My charge is this… if we concentrate on helping others mature as Christ followers, they will exemplify Christ and take care of others, physically and spiritually. If we just ask people to give us their money so that the church will take care of society’s needs, we will make passive Christians, not disciples. Just a thought…