Are we winning or losing?
According to the U.S. Center for World Missions, Christian evangelism in the last 100 years has reached a growth curve which is now increasing exponentially. Comparing the ratio of Christians per unconverted people in the world, the following statistics have been noted:
- In the year 100 A.D. (70 years after Jesus Christ’s ministry began), there was a total of one believer for every 360 unbelievers on the planet Earth (or .27% of the world’s population).
- In the year 1000, the ratio became 1 to 220 (or .45% of the population).
- In 1900, the ratio became 1 to 27 (or 3.7%).
- In 1980, the ratio became 1 to 11 (or 9.1%).
- In 1990, the ratio was 1 to 7 (or 14.3%).
The U.S. Center for World Missions defines a Christian as a person who has had a “born-again” experience, attends a church service at least twice a week, and prays at least once a month for world evangelization. In viewing these ratios on the chart below, one can see a rapid increase of Christians toward the year 1900. This dramatic increase shows the impact which the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s, the First and Second Great Awakenings of the following centuries, and the Holiness and Pentecostal Revivals at the turn of the 20th century have had on world evangelization.
The 20th century, however, has shown the greatest growth period of conversions to the Christian faith. Remarkably, this exponential growth has occurred at an even higher rate than the staggering world population explosion. With a tremendous increase in world population has come an even greater increase in the total number of Christians. This great number of conversions has occurred despite great violence and persecutions against the Church.
The 20th century has been termed: “The Violent Century” by some historians, referring to the two great world wars, the Nazi holocaust, abortion, Soviet and Chinese communism killing millions of their own people, famine in Africa, the AIDS epidemic, etc., all happening on a global scale. Despite all of these obstacles, the Kingdom of God has grown and multiplied.
In biblical terminology, a nation or ETHNOS, is not a geopolitical boundary, but a “peoples group” defined by a common geneology, history, culture and language. The U.S. Center for World Missions has numbered at least 24,000 distinct ethnic groups which can be viewed in biblical terms as the ETHNE, “the nations,” or “peoples groups,” that must be reached with the gospel in order to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ: “Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Of these 24,000 peoples groups, there are about 10,000 which have an indigenous witness in the form of a New Testament church made up of people from their own culture. This leaves 14,000 peoples groups which still must be reached with the gospel in order for the Great Commission to be fulfilled. With the exponential growth indicated on the graph below, it is mathematically possible that mostt of these remaining groups could be reached within the decade of the 1990s.
But we should remember the words of Jesus Christ, which have been borne out in the experience of the 20th century: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).