The Growing Global Church
“ . . . from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”
Maria das Graças protects her eyes against the sunlight while searching for her son among the children playing soccer on a dusty soccer field in a slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Her attentive eyes are an attempt to protect her teenage son from the siege of local drug dealers. He should be in school at this time of the day, but the public school teachers are on strike for better working conditions and wages. There is an ever-present atmosphere of economic instability that shakes the country.
Twice a week though these burdens seem to disappear when Maria and her entire family, putting on their best clothes, leave home to participate in the worship services at their local church. Her insecurities and uncertainties are left behind when she joins the joyfully chants that speak of victory and hope. It was with the help of her local community of believers that she and other women from the church were able to acquire enough money to start micro businesses. Today these women are responsible for half of their respective family incomes.
Maria das Graças represents the typical face of the new Christian church – a church whose skin is darker, has predominantly female members, is located more to the south, and is becoming more Pentecostal. According to researchers, there are approximately two billion Christians alive today – a little less than one-third of the world’s total population. The largest single block is still located in Europe and North America (about 42% of the two billion). However, if we follow current trends of population dynamics and conversions to Christianity, by the year 2025 there would be over 2.6 billion Christians around the world – and over 66% will be outside of the “western world”. Africans and Latin Americans will together account for half the Christians on the planet. This is the New Christendom.
In many ways Maria das Graças is emblematic of this new church. Unlike the current “western church”, the New Christendom is a church that grows without the protection of the State, contains a body of believers without influential friends in high places, is in many instances facing persecution by those in power, and is exercising a power made perfect in weakness. This new Church learned early on that its power is in the message she preaches, not in her messengers.
This young church is not without its own downfalls. The most significant being the temptation for power – the desire to transform this new and growing flock into a political powerhouse and use it as a bargaining chip. Charismatic leaders with almost absolute control over their churches and no accountability at all are all too often the norm. And in Africa and Latin America the so-called “men of God” and their powerful prayers and are becoming a replacement for the old shamans, quickly forgetting the universal priesthood of the believer. This is one of the oldest lies of Satan that echoes to this day in our consciences, “You will not certainly die, . . . your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Genesis 3:4). This New Christendom must be reminded that we are called to have the same mindset as Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5-6), whose message is one of self-denial, emptying of ourselves, and taking up our cross (Luke 9:23).
Despite these pitfalls, the global church is facing a horizon of amazing and exciting opportunities. An increasingly small world presents a chance for believers of all backgrounds to worship together, encourage each other, and share each other’s burdens. Imagine American Christians traveling to African countries for seminary training! Or believers from Latin American countries looking to Asia for new and innovative ways of doing local outreach! By working together and helping each other go farther faster, we hasten the day when people from every nation, tribe, and language will be standing before the throne and before the Lamb praising Him for all eternity! And that day can’t get here soon enough.
By: Wallace Costa