Yesterday was Easter Sunday. Over two billion Christians in congregations all over the world followed a tradition that is thousands of years old. The pastor, priest or leader cried out in a triumphant voice, “Christ is risen!” And the people responded with joy, “He is risen indeed!” It is because of the truth of this simple affirmation that the world, with all its many troubles, has hope today. For over 2,000 years Jesus Christ and His church have been the hope of the world.
But for some unfathomable reason the media has fallen in love with Islam. I am reminded of the media’s love affair with Bill Clinton which - even though mercifully he is no longer in office - continues today. No matter how much he lied, bungled, cheated on his wife or betrayed his country and his oath of office, to the press he could do no wrong.
It is the same with Islam. Muslims can slaughter Christians by the thousands, as they have done in the Sudan, without a harsh word from the mainstream media. Their clerics (known as Imams) can incite violence and murder against the West without fear of criticism from the talking heads on TV. Muslims the world over danced and cheered on 9-11, but the media continues to refer to Islam as the religion of “peace.”
If we were to judge the state of religion in the world today by what the press reports, we would make two (incorrect) conclusions: Islam is rapidly growing and will soon be the dominant religion in the world. And Christianity is on the retreat.
But as John Berry, who pastored a church in Florida with me likes to say, “I cheated. I peeked at the end of the Book. We win!”
Fully one-third of the people on earth today describe themselves as Christians. (This includes all types of Christians, Protestant and Catholic, evangelical and liberal.) According to the article, “Christianity, By the Numbers” (see LINK below) in 1910 there were 558 million self-described Christians. Today, 2.2 billion of the 6.9 billion souls on earth say they are Christians, 50% more than the number of Muslims.
When John Berry (who is from South Africa) spoke at one of our Easter services, he told us that Christianity is growing on the African continent at an astounding rate, the fastest in the world. There were 8.7 million African Christians in 1900; in 2010 there were over 500 million African Christians. David Barrett (no relation) has for 20 years published the "Annual Statistical Table on Global Mission." He says that by 2025 there will be 600 million African Christians. Weigel calls the growth of Christianity in Africa, “…nothing short of astonishing.”
In fact, Christianity is the dominant religion in five of six continents (see LINK below, “Worldwide Adherents of All Religions”). In only one continent, Asia, do Muslims outnumber Christians.
But Asia is another area where Christianity is making tremendous inroads. In an article about the growth of Christianity in Korea, for instance, Andrew E. Kim writes, “Today about one third of South Korea's 45 million people are Christian - 11 million Protestants and 3 million Roman Catholics.” The world’s largest Protestant church is in Seoul, South Korea. And in the article “The Rapid Growth of Christianity in Kazakhstan” we find that in the past 10 years, evangelicals in this tiny Central Asian country just below Russia have grown from 10 to over 10,000.
In North America, 85% consider themselves Christians, and in South America, a revival among Protestants has pushed that number up to 93%. But some of the most encouraging data uncovered during the research for this article concerned young people.
An article on CBN.com describes a Christian youth rally in San Francisco where Christian teenagers were encouraged to resist a popular culture that glamorizes drugs, violence and sex. About 25,000 young people attended the two-day rally sponsored by Teen Mania Ministries. What was amazing about this rally was that so many young people attended such an event in possibly the single most anti-Christian city in our nation.
San Francisco's heavily homosexual Board of Supervisors condemned the rally as an “act of provocation” by an “anti-gay” group that aimed to "negatively influence the politics of America’s most tolerant and progressive city." Only San Francisco would classify a group as “anti-gay” simply because it was Christian. Assemblyman Mark Leno said of the evangelical, "They’re loud, they’re obnoxious, they’re disgusting and they should get out of San Francisco." To which I would add, “They’re courageous and they’re great!”
While many church leaders bemoan the fact that 72% of youth today describe themselves as “spiritual” rather than “religious,” I don’t see that as a negative. We’ve all seen enough of religion that has no life. Young people see through the empty rituals and traditions of so many churches today. They’re looking for churches where real, Biblical preaching and teaching meet their longing for life-changing experiences with God.
I don’t know about you, but I find all of this very encouraging. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “…I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!” Jesus Christ is risen - indeed! And His church is rising in the world today in preparation for His second coming. Be ready.
(PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Special thanks to Pastor John Berry for his expert research for this article.)
San Francisco Christian Youth Rally Draws 25,000
Christianity, By the Numbers
A Christian Boom
Worldwide Adherents of All Religions by Six Continental Areas
Major Religions of the World