Tuesday, April 22, 2008

May all the nations praise you , O God

Evangelical Christianity is growing faster than any other religion in the world. Most Christians now live in the "global south" (previously referred to as the developing world or third world). In 1949 there were an estimated 1 million Christians in China; today there are 80 to 100 million. The growth rate of Christianity in India has increased from 1.6% to 3%, to currently about 6%.

In the 13th century Kubla Khan asked for 100 learned men to come to the Far East (China) to teach Christianity. After World War II, General Douglas MacArthur asked for a thousand missionaries to go and preach the gospel in Japan. The church failed both challenges.

Currently, half the missionaries going out are from the "global south", and half from the "western world." Here are the percentages from each area:

North America 39%
Europe 11%
Asia 36% (Korea is the number one missionary sending country in Asia).
Africa 6%
Latin America 5%
The Pacific 3%

Notice that North America and Europe combined are the source of 50% of the missionaries sent out; the last four categories (the "global south") also add up to 50 %.

Some churches in Africa are made up of over 20% orphans and widows. More and more churches are serving the homeless, the jobless, the addicted, and those without a Bible or Christian neighbors or relatives. Many churches only have a Bible or two among the whole congregation. These are some of the great challenges of the church today.

The Biblical model of discipling the nations, especially as seen in the Acts of the Apostles, (or perhaps more accurately "the Acts of the Holy Spirit") is evangelistic church planting. In this model, people and prayer are much more important than programs or property. God uses people who prove the greatness of their God and give Him the glory. Prayer is the primary "strategy."

"Look out among the nations, observe and be astounded, be amazed; for I am doing a work in your day, which you would not believe, if it were told you."--Habakkuk 1:5 (The Modern Language Bible: The New Berkeley Version, Zondervan Publishing House)

"Send us around the world with the news of your saving power and your eternal plan for mankind. How everyone throughout the earth will praise the Lord! How glad the nations will be, singing for joy because you are their King."--Psalms 67:2-4a (Living Bible, Tyndale House Publishers)

"I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth."--Isaiah 49:6 (KJV)

"All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the governor among the nations"--Psalms 22:27-28 (KJV)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Africa: the challenges and the progress

In Africa the most important challenges are considered by most experts to be governance related. Corrupt and totalitarian regimes have resulted in wars, revolutions, conscription of child soldiers, genocide, slavery, and other atrocities.
However, in many countries in Africa there are challenges of a physical nature which may actually be the primary challenges:
1. Tropical diseases. For instance, malaria kills more than 3 million people each year in Africa, more deaths than from AIDS or any other infection. Malaria is also the top killer of children under 5; about 75% of malaria deaths in Africa are in children under 5. Only 5% of Africa's children sleep under mosquito or bed nets. Malaria, by itself, accounts for 10% of all Africa's disease burden.
2. Agriculture. Crops are dependent on rain, and since there is no irrigation in the dry areas like the Sahel, famines, food shortages, hunger, and malnutrition are frequently seen.
3. Infrastructure. Lack of roads, ports, airports, power plants, and sanitation are pervasive problems.

Yet, there are also many positive developements:
1. The poverty rate has dropped 6 percentage points in the past 7 years.
2. The economic growth rate has been 6% per year in recent years in sub-Saharan Africa.
3. The struggles against AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, measles, smallpox, polio, black fever (visceral leishmaniasis) and guinea-worm disease have all produced some results, in some cases impressive results. Anti-retrovirals and treated bednets are now available to many more people, because of recent initiatives.
4. More children and women are in school.
5. More women are engaged in the political process.
6. The Achievement in Africa Leadership Prize, established by Sudanese billionaire, Mo Ibrahim, as part of his foundation, is giving $5 million annually to a democratically elected sub- Sahara African leader. The leaders will be judged by how they perform in eight categories, including the security of citizens, the rule of law, economic opportunity, and political freedom. To collect the prize the leader must leave office when the term ends, with no cloud over the tenure in office.
7. Evangelical Christianity is growing. These evangelicals in Africa are more optimistic about Africa's future, and are very involved in the positive developements occuring. Growing churches, some of these being megachurches, have been a very positive influence for good.

Please pray for Africa. I suggest you start by praying for a country, or a people group: its leaders, its churches, its people, etc. Perhaps a country where you have friends or acquaintances, or where your church has missionaries, would be the best place to start.

The Christian's Trademark is Love (1 John 2: 7-11)

Coca Cola, McDonalds, and Nike are the best known brands or trademarks in the commercial world today.
The outstanding trademark (distinguishing characteristic) of the Christian is love- love for his brother in Christ, and also for his fellow man created in God's image.
Barriers of nationality, social standing, race, and gender are torn down, in and through Christ. There should be such a spirit of forgiveness within the body of Christ that nothing can part us (just like in the marriage vow).
Without true repentence, it must be noted, there can be no true forgiveness.
If you are an unbeliever, you are walking around in the dark like a blind man.
Martin Lloyd Jones, the great evangelical preacher of mid-20th century England, sayed that the way of the world is to hide itself, frequently in a mask of superficial chivalry.
The power of the gospel is in the magnitude of the grace of God, and in the explosiveness of God's love! And, this power should also be seen in our love to others, through Him.
Let us in the church truly love one another.
Let no divisions of social standing, or race, or nationality, or physical differences rob us of our unity; we have the commonality of the same Savior and Lord.
Let us be willing to give up our perceived freedom, in order not to be a stumbling block to a perceived weaker brother in Christ.
Christ (and the cross) focused worship, will be followed by action. Love will flow to one another. Love for God will be translated into love for our brother.

Acknowledgement: Parts of a sermon preached on the text 1 John 2: 7-11 by Pastor Andy Lutz in early March, 2008, were the basis of much of these notes.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mission quotes, prayers, reference books for "world Christians"

God does not call every Christian to be a missionary, but He does call every Christian to be a world Christian. John Piper defines a world Christian as one "so gripped by the glory of God and the glory of His global purpose that he chooses to align himself with God's mission to fill the earth with the knowledge of His glory as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14)."

The following are some of my favorite quotes, spanning 2700 years, that exalt God and His mission in the world:

Jesus Christ: "Just as the Father sent me forth, so I send you."-John 20:21b

The Apostle Paul: "It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation."-Romans 15:20

The Prophet Isaiah: "Here am I; send me."-Isaiah 6:8

Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullian (CA. 160-225): "See how those Christians love one another."

St. Basil the Great (ca. 329-379): "Remember, O Lord, all who in heathen lands are under instruction for Holy Baptism; have mercy upon them and confirm them in the faith; remove all the remains of idolatry and superstition from their hearts, that being devoted to Thy law, Thy precepts, Thy fear, Thy truths, and Thy commandments, they may grow to a firm knowledge of the word in which they have been instructed, and may be found worthy to be made an habitation of the Holy Ghost, by the laver of regeneration, for the remission of their sins, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

St. John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407): "Remember , O Lord, this city wherein we dwell and every other city and country, and all the faithful who dwell in them...Grant unto us Thy mercy and loving-kindness, and grant that we may with one mouth and one heart praise and glorify Thy great and glorious name, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, now, henceforth, and forever. Amen."

St. Augustine of Hippo (or, Latin name, Aurelius Augustinus, 354-430): "A whole Christ for my salvation, a whole Bible for my staff, a whole church for my fellowship, and a whole world for my parish." "You made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You."
"...grant that we whose lot is cast in so goodly a heritage may strive together the more abundantly to extend to others that we so richly enjoy...to the fulfillment of Thy holy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

St. Columba (or Columcialle, ca. 521-597): "For the love of Christ."

St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226): "Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words."

Ramon Llull (or Ramon Lull or Raymond Lully, ca. 1235-1316): "He who loves not lives not; he who lives by the Life cannot die."

John Wycliffe (ca. 1330-1384): "I believe that in the end the truth will conquer."

Desiderius Erasmus (ca. 1466-1536): "The Scriptures should be translated into all tongues."

St. Francis Xavier (1506--1552): "We are therefore determined to make our way into China at all costs, and I hope in God that the upshot of our journey will be the increase of our holy faith, however much the devil and his ministers may persecute us. If God is for us who can overthrow us."

John Knox (1505-1572): "A man with God is always in the majority."

Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760): "I have only one passion and it is Him, only Him"

Phillip Doddridge (1702-1751): "Awake, my soul! Stretch every nerve, And press with vigour on; A heavenly race demands thy zeal, And an immortal crown."

William Carey (1761-1834): "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God."

Adoniram Judson (1788-1850): "The prospects are as bright as the promises of God."

David Livingstone (1813-1873): "I place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of God." "For my own part, I never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay?...I never made a sacrifice."

James Hudson Taylor (1832-1905): "I shall have no claim on anyone for anything. My only
claim will be on God." "The Great Commission is not an option to be considered, but a command to be obeyed."

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892): "A church that does not exist to reclaim heathenism, to fight evil, to destroy error, to put down falsehood, a church that does not exist to take the side of the poor, to denounce injustice and to hold up righteousness is a church that has no right to be."

Alexander M. Mackay (or Mackay of Uganda, 1849-1890): "But I shall not give up, please God, even temporarily, my plans for the interior, unless all avenues being closed, it would be sheer madness to attempt to carry them out."

John G. Paton (1824-1907): "...if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or worms; and in the Great Day my resurrection body will arise...in the likeness of our risen Redeemer."

William Borden (1887-1913): "No reserves, no retreats, no regrets." "Say no to self and yes to Jesus every time."

Samuel Zwemer (1867-1952): "The prospects for the evangelization of all the unoccupied fields are 'as bright as the promises of God.' Why should we longer wait to evangelize them?...God can give us power for the task. He was sufficient for those who went out in the past, and is sufficient for those who go out today." "He that believes in Christ does what he can not do, attempts the impossible and performs it...What is it but the glory of the impossible!"

Charlotte Diggs ("Lottie") Moon (1840-1912): "God has first claim on my life." "Surely there is no greater joy than saving souls."

George Vicedom: "One cannot pray the Lord's Prayer without having a world map before his eyes."

John Stam: "Where He leads me I will follow. As for us, may God be glorified, whether by life or death."

Jim Elliot: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."

John Piper: "Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate not man."

And here are a few better reference books for World Christians:

Bryant, David, IN THE GAP, InterVarsity Press, 1979.

Castle, Tony, LIVES OF FAMOUS CHRISTIANS: A Biographical Dictionary, Servant Books, 1988.

DeRidder, Richard R. and Roger S. Greenway, LET THE WHOLE WORLD KNOW: Resources for Preaching on Missions, Baker Book House, 1988.

Johnstone, Patrick and Jason Mandryk, OPERATION WORLD: When We Pray God Works, WEC International and U.S. Center for World Mission, 2001.

Moreau, A. Scott, editor, EVANGELICAL DICTIONARY OF WORLD MISSIONS, Baker Books, 2000.

Piper, John, LET THE NATIONS BE GLAD: The Supremacy of God in Missions, Baker Boooks, 1995.

Richardson, Don, ETERNITY IN THEIR HEARTS: Revised, Regal Books, 1984.

Stearns, Bill and Amy, CATCH THE VISION 2000, Bethany House Publishers, 1991.

Tucker, Ruth A., FROM JERUSALEM TO IRIAN JAYA: A Biographical History of Christian Missions, Academie Books (Zondervan Publishing House), 1983.

Winter, Ralph d. and Steven D. Hawthorne, PERSPECTIVES ON THE WORLD CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT: A Reader, William Carey Library, 1992.