OXFORD, England (WEIS) – A broad analysis of trends in world evangelization by the international director of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization predicts the largest response to the Gospel between now and AD 2000 will be in Latin America, India and China.
Tom Houston of Oxford, England, estimates that by AD 2000, there could be 50 million new believers in Latin America, 40 million in India, and 30 million in China.
Houston’s forecasts entitled, A Scenario Status of World Evangelization, 1991-2000, are in the final stages of editing for possible publication by Missions Advance Research and Communication Center (MARC) in Monrovia, Calif., USA.
Houston says research by David Barrett, Patrick Johnstone and Frank Kaleb Jansen shows that Christians are only marginally increasing their percentage of the world population by 0.1 percent per annum. Barrett is author of the World Christian Encyclopedia, (1982), Johnstone is author of Operation World, (1986), and Jansen is author of Target Earth, (1989).
The “Scenario Status” is forecast in what Houston describes as “relatively homogeneous regions,” with data on the status of world evangelization in various countries within each region. In each section, Houston also summarizes key factors and trends which affect evangelization in that region.
The greatest response to the gospel, he says, will be in Latin America where 50 million new believers are anticipated. Currently members of Protestant/Evangelical churches comprise about 11 percent of the population. Houston predicts evangelical churches will continue to grow because of the Biblical message and warm fellowships they provide. About 75 percent of the evangelicals are Pentecostal.
Houston also forecasts fast growth of “mega-churches” like the Jotabeche church in Santiago, Chile, and the Vision of the Future church in Argentina. He says eight Assemblies of God churches in Brazil report memberships of 20,000 to 110,000.
Houston projects the possibility of 40 million new Christian believers in India, or five percent of the population, if the Christian churches can respond to the barriers they face. “India has the people resources, the education in its leadership, and a great story of contributing to nation development,” Houston observes.
China and the Soviet Union
In China, the phenomenal growth of Christianity will continue, but at a slower pace than in past decades. Houston projects 30 million new believers in China, or three percent in 10 years.
In post-Marxist republics of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Houston cites 18 trends and characteristics which could lead to as many as 20 million people turning to Christ in the next 10 years.
In Southern, Eastern and Central Africa, Houston projects a total of 11 million new believers in non-Islamic parts of Africa. “Churches (in East and Central Africa) have struggled and grown incredibly in spite of, or perhaps because of adverse circumstances,” Houston says. “The churches will continue to grow … because they are the only element of hope in a bad situation.”
In describing church growth in Indonesia, Malaysia, Comoros, Brunei and Maldives, Houston believes “achieving a 20 percent of population professing faith in Christ should be possible in 10 years. That would mean about 24 million converts.”
Other Islamic sections of the world where response to evangelization is 10 percent of the population are in the African countries of Niger, Guinea, Mali, the Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and South Sudan. Houston forecasts about 23 million new believers there. If there is a major and unexpected favourable shift in the Islamic political scene in Pakistan and Bangladesh, Houston said there could be as many as 20 million people who might come to faith in Christ in those countries.
Challenges that face the Gospel
Houston says that poverty and literacy are significant factors indicating where the gospel needs to be preached. Low literacy rates call for a strong focus on the spread of literacy and use of non-print media in Christian communication, he observes.
In response to the scenario, Houston says Christians concerned about world evangelization should focus on the great blocks of resistant peoples, the greater openness to the gospel in light of the changing face of Communism, the challenge of secularism, migration, urbanization, poverty, injustice, corruption, and the mobilization of laity.
He also urges Christians to focus on “the concept of all the people of God in one place having a total strategy for evangelizing the place where God has placed them that puts the churches and the parachurch organizations in joint harness as different expressions of the one people of God.”