Publication: One-to-One, Winter/Spring 2005
Spiritually, some of the most amazing events in history are happening today! God is working global miracles to fulfill His promise that, at the end of the age, there will be worshipping representatives from every ethnic group in the world standing around the throne glorifying the Father and Son (see Revelation 7:9-10).
He made the same promise to Abraham 4000 years ago, and God will not be proven wrong (see Genesis 12:2-3; Numbers 23:19). Most Christians, even most missionaries, would never have expected God to act in such creative ways to keep His Word. Here are a few current examples….
BACK TO JERUSALEM
When the communists overran China in the late 1940s, many feared that the Chinese Church, the work of two-hundred years of missionary effort, would all but disappear. However, most of the church movement went underground, and became known as the “house-church” movement.
Today, the Bible has replaced Communist Chairman Mao Tse Tung’s “Little Red Book” as the most desired and popular book in China. Most estimates indicate that there are more than 100 million believers in China today-as many or more true, committed followers of Jesus Christ than in all the western nations together! The strengths of the Chinese underground church are their amazing triumph over persecution, and their determination to continue to evangelize no matter the cost. The weakness is that many of these Christians still do not have Bibles or access to sound doctrinal teaching. Our partner mission, Ross Paterson and Chinese Church Support Ministries, has placed hundreds of thousands of books and Bibles in the “house churches” and continues to do so.
However, there is more to the story of the Chinese church than its amazing growth. A movement has now begun among the “house churches” called the “Back to Jerusalem” movement. The concept behind this movement is that the Gospel went out of Jerusalem primarily to the West, and now it has come from the West to China. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese Christians now believe it to be their responsibility to take the Gospel in an ongoing Westerly direction “back to Jerusalem.” That is expected to take them down the historical “silk roads” through India, Pakistan, and the many other “stan” nations, through Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Jordan to the Middle East and the Jews in Israel.
The Chinese are pledging 100,000 missionaries who have been “persecution-tested” and they are beginning to prepare some of them in the languages and cultures through which they will pass. No one knows if this will all come to pass, but if it does, it could be the greatest move toward fulfilling the Great commission thus far!
TOUCHING THE UNTOUCHABLES
India is the scene of another unexpected and revolutionary move of God to reach the unreachable among the Hindu Dalit caste of the “untouchables.” Approximately 300 million Dalits are considered to be the lowest of the low in India, and have been locked into that strata by the Hindu religion for thousands of years. The Dalits do all the dirty work in India, picking up dead animals, cleaning toilets with their bare hands, and every other task no other Indian will do. If you are born an “untouchable” there is no way out but to die and hope to be reincarnated in another form or caste.
Within the last decade, a social movement started to protest the discrimination against the “untouchables.” Dalits began asking, “What has Hinduism ever done for us? Maybe we should begin looking at other religions.” A major conference of Dalits was held in March 2001, in which Dalits were presented with religious alternatives. Though strongly resisted by the government and most other Indians, as many as three million Dalits have become believers, and the trend is increasing. Following is a report sent to me from a very credible leader of one of the largest evangelical missions in India:
“From my point of view the movement among the Dalits is the biggest movement in Church history, with a whole group of people numbering up to 300 million who want out of the Hindu system. Their goal is to move into a community where God loves them. So far they can see that it’s only the Christian God who cares for them. I would say that by now a minimum of two million are in the Kingdom. So much is going on, that in places where there are no churches to point these dear people to, we have had to start our own denomination. In that last year and half we have seen over 830 churches come into being. A few weeks ago I met a brother who attended a meeting of about 10,000 people all coming together to have ‘an Audience with the King’ as they call it where they want to meet Christ the Living God.”
NEW PEOPLE GROUPS
Unreached peoples began to be recognized as a critical mission goal at the Lausanne Conference in 1974. Unreached people groups are defined as “ethnolinguistic groups within which there is no indigenous church movement with sufficient strength to multiply.” At that time, it was estimated there were approximately 14,000 such groups virtually untouched by the Gospel. God ignited the hearts of mission leaders all over the world to make this a major thrust. Today, only a small fraction of those groups remain unreached. To think this has been largely accomplished within three decades makes us realize the fulfillment of the Great Commission is more viable than ever.
AND THERE IS MORE: When you add to these movements the unprecedented explosion of evangelism in the Southern Hemisphere churches (as I reported in the last issue of One-to-One), you realize we may be living in some of the most dynamic days of the history of God’s activity in the earth. The growth in the number of Evangelicals among the Latin American, Asian, and African churches is unprecedented. Africa had 10 million Christians in 1900; today there are 360 million-more than the entire population of the USA. Today, more than two-thirds of the I Evangelicals in the world live outside the USA and Europe. By 2050, there are expected to be three billion Christians in the world, and only one in every five will be an “anglo white” person.
Rejoice Christians! We may be living in the day Habakkuk predicted when he said, “Look at the nations and watch-and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told…. For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea”(Habakkuk 1:5; 2:14).
Scripture Reference: Revelation 7:9-10; Genesis 12:2-3; Numbers 23:19; Habakkuk 1:5; 2:14
Gary Henley is a member of the International Outreach Ministries (IOM) Board of Directors. He served as the President and Executive Director of IOM for twenty years, traveling widely and encouraging missionaries around the globe. In addition, he spent twenty-six years as a church planter and pastor.