This is the last in a series of blogs on the Global Connections conference in May 2016, From Where I’m Sitting, where we sought to explore mission from different perspectives. You can listen to the talks on the Global Connections events page. I had the privilege to seek feedback on what was heard on the last morning and made a wide range of points.
The last point to raise was: “We must not forget places where Christ is not known”
One sad thing about mission today is that the growth of the church is not consistent. Yes Asia now has large numbers of Christians compared to 100 years ago but with such a huge proportion of the world’s population, the percentage of people self-defining as Christians of the total population is small at just 8%. OK – maybe China is an exception, but Asia as a whole just doesn’t begin to compare to sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.
There are still vast numbers of people especially in parts of the Middle East and Asia who have never heard of Christ and many countries still where Christians are few and far between. Indeed some countries have seen Christian fleeing elsewhere due to war and conflict and persecution such as Iraq and Syria.
Yet according to the Atlas of Global Christianity, 85% of all Christian mission is aimed at other “Christians”. Much mission deployment is still trying to sustain the growth of the churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Other research reveals that as many as 86% of all Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists do not personally know a Christian.
One attempt to address this has been a focus on “unreached people groups” or “unengaged people groups”. I have a major problem both practically and theologically with how some people deal with the issue of unreached people groups with the sole focus on ethnicity and language alone. Yes this is important but middle class Buddhists in Japan have few Christians among them, middle class Hindus and Sikhs seem almost impossible to reach. We need something more nuanced now people are mixed up in an urbanised world.
So in my mind, much too much of what we call mission focuses on “Christians”. There are more people alive today that do not know of Christ or experienced Christian care or even met a Christian than ever before. We cannot ignore this and something needs to change.
So a key and final question: “Is ensuring we serve the hard places a key part of our mission and church’s strategy?”
Do look back at the various blogs in this series. It contains many challenges. However life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyse you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are. Let’s not let the challenges of the changes in mission and the church worldwide paralyse us, but spur us on to new ways of engaging in God’s mission in God’s world.