That "noble experiment," however, has already been tried. It was conducted with great intentionality in Russia, China and Korea during the 20th century and led to the starvation, slaughter and suppression of millions of lives. Yet people in those same parts of the world are now flocking into house churches, refurbished cathedrals, corporate offices and storefront worship centers by the tens of millions, passionately seeking the generative seed of the Christian gospel. After nearly a century of state-sponsored atheism in Russia, 74 percent of the population now self-identifies as Christian. In 1900, Korea had no Protestant church and was ruled "impossible to penetrate" by mission organizations. Today, there are 7,000 churches in the city of Seoul alone, one of them numbering 750,000 members.
At the turn of the 19th century, the southern portion of the African continent was only 3 percent Christian. Today, 63 percent of the population is, while membership in the churches of Africa is increasing by 34,000 new members every day.
In Hindu India, 14 million of the 140 million members of the "untouchable" caste have become Christians. More people in the Islamic world have come to Christ in the last 25 years than in the entire history of Christian missions combined.
In Islamic Indonesia, the percentage of Christians is now so high (somewhere around 15 percent) and the number of megachurches is growing so quickly that the Muslim government will no longer print the statistics.
Back in 1950, there were only a handful of evangelical Christians in Brazil. Today, more than one-fifth of the population self-identifies as Protestant. The Catholic Church in Brazil has experienced a profound revival too, going from 50 million adherents in 1950 to more than 134 million today.
All the talk these days is of the coming influence of China. Yet, as two writers from the Economist recently asserted, there are now more self-avowed disciples of Jesus in China than members of the Communist party. David Aikman of the New York Times points out that every year there are ten million more converts to Christianity. Even the most conservative estimates suggest that China will soon become the largest Christian country in the world.
Much is also made of the global expansion of Islam, but Christianity—not Islam—is the fastest-spreading faith on earth. By 2050, there will be three Christians for every two Muslims worldwide.
Across the planet, followers of Jesus are increasing by more than eighty thousand disciples a day. Five hundred and ten new congregations of Christian worshipers form every day, which is 3,750 every week. The irony is that, except for the Middle East (where it was born) and Europe and America (to whose civilization it gave birth), Christianity is expanding everywhere today (see John 4:44). To put it simply, the gospel of Jesus is going out and growing up.
Join in the Spread
It is essential to remember all this as we begin to think afresh about our work as witnesses today. Without this larger perspective, it is easy for those of us who live in places where the gospel message is not apparently prospering to think that the human heart is just too hard and the heat of opposition just too blazing for the work of Christian witness to succeed in our times. We can be tempted to withdraw into a private piety and give up the dream of life-changing influence on others. But God has not given up his plan to extend his kingdom in the community where you live (Jerusalem), the region where you work (Judea), the areas you try to avoid (Samaria), and to the very ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). As John Piper remarks,