This article originally appeared in the December 8, 1997 issue of Christianity Today.
We stand only a few years away from the end of one millennium and the start of a new. Never has the Christian church faced so many challenges on so many fronts—political, social, demographic, economic, philosophical.
In response to these challenges, the church today often seems paralyzed and confused, torn by division and uncertainty. Instead of becoming salt and light in the world, we have been content to withdraw into our separate ecclesiastical ghettos, preoccupied with our own internal affairs and unconcerned about the deepest needs of those around us. In the eyes of many, religion has lost its relevance and is little more than a quaint relic from another time.
In spite of the difficulties, the twenty-first century could mark the greatest evangelistic advance in the history of the Christian church. In order for this to happen, however, the church (in all of its diversity) must embrace the challenges it faces and must mobilize every possible spiritual and physical resource to declare the gospel that has been committed to us.
OF A NEW CENTURY
In the years leading up to 2000 and beyond, at least four trends in particular will pose a special challenge to Christian evangelism.
Uncontrolled urbanization. When the twenty-first century dawns, the world's population is expected to total a staggering 6 billion people—approximately three times the number of people living at the dawn of the twentieth century. At least half of those people will be living in large cities—uprooted from their past, mobile, often struggling for survival in the midst of extreme poverty, and potentially explosive politically because their dreams ...1