Within the space of about an hour the other day, I received two articles. One, from LICC, was called, “The Census Results: Should We Panic?” and the other, from Christianity Today, was entitled, “Finding Your Place in the Global Mission Field.”
Both present the same sobering picture and both provid the same exciting potential. The sobering picture is that the proportion of people calling themselves Christians is shrinking. The census data from the UK shows that those who self-describe as Christians dropped from 71% in 2001 to 46.2% in 2021. The historic role that Christianity has played in politics and culture is changing dramatically and it is obvious to most Christians around the world. COVID certainly played a part in that, but it isn’t entirely the fault of COVID.
At the same time, both tell the story of the church changing the way we define missions, from global to local. It tells the story of missions in North America and argues that perhaps the church gathered has made the Great Commission too complicated. We have emphasized “going” by sending individuals or groups on short- or long-term mission projects to other parts of the world, rather than a local approach. The article in Christianity Today says this:
Arguably, the most effective missionaries are the local pastors and Christians working day in and day out to minister to their communities. These local missionaries have organic relationships with the people in their care and a built-in knowledge of language and culture that allows them to convey the love of Christ effectually.
When you are local, you understand the language, the culture, and the protocol in order to be effective. It is easier and more cost effective to have every Christian be equipped to be the church every day of the week rather than raising support to send someone halfway around the world. While there is a growing awareness of the need for this equipping of all members, there continues to be a clinging to the old model of missions. We certainly have seen that in the work of Discipling Marketplace Leaders. Changing the paradigm of the church gathered to the church scattered is not fast or easy.
But changing this model could reverse the trends that we are seeing of the decline of Christianity in the world. Understanding that evangelism isn’t something you do like a program, but rather it’s the life that you live, can be transformational. We have the opportunity to fulfill the Great Commitment, Great Commandment, and Great Commission every day of the week while at our workplaces. And we have certainly seen that in Discipling Marketplace Leaders with testimony after testimony of what God is doing in and through His members when they are equipped to be the church in their workplace!
The article talks about the Lutheran Hour Ministries changing the way they do missions to include this. At DML, we continue to see more churches and denominations recognizing not only the potential but the need for this change, not only for the benefit of the world but also for the benefit of the church, both local and global. We believe in 2023, there will be significant movement in this direction in several key denominations in Africa.
God is moving His Church and is calling us to remember the purpose of our creation: to glorify Him by bringing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, little by little, day by day, for every person who claims Jesus as Lord and Savior.
As we come to the end of this year, we look forward with excitement to what God seems to be doing in His global church. Our sixteen local teams are working hard across Africa, Nicaragua, and India to help this word go out. If you would like to share in this message going further, please consider a year-end gift to Discipling Marketplace Leaders. We have a generous donor who has offered to match gifts up to $30,000 through December 31st. We about two-thirds of the way there right now and so there is still time to join the effort! Please join us or email me for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org).