Home > Reviews > Review – The Future of the Global Church : Patrick Johnstone

Review – The Future of the Global Church : Patrick Johnstone

I’m delighted to review this rather striking and solid A4-size Hardback. Well produced, it’s quite simply magnificent; a Magnus Opus. It’s visually stunning and highly significant for the whole Christian community; a broad sweep of Christian endeavour through the centuries culminating in a ‘pause point’ of where the worldwide church finds itself today.  In some ways its underlying thesis harks back to an earlier era and gives the impression – perhaps correctly – that the Church in the West has largely lost its mission imperative. Consequently much of the book is devoted to the unfinished task of world mission.

Patrick Johnstone has done the Christian world a very particular service both with this new title and also previously as the main compiler and editor behind six previous editions of the indispensable prayer guide, Operation World, now in its 7th edition (2010) under Jason Mandryk. OW has been translated from English into 16 languages and has sold over 3m copies worldwide.

Johnstone’s latest book attempts to make sense of our world, its history and religions through the lens of evangelical Christianity. There is an element of futurology here. Its stated aim is ‘to better prepare Christians for ministry in the 21st century’.

You will learn much. The scope of the book is immense but its structure is cleverly thought through, making it straightforward and compelling. Every page is packed full of maps, charts and statistics – all food for meditation, prayer and discussion. This is a colourful, colour-coded visual interpretation of masses of otherwise impenetrable data distilled into clear chapter and subject headings making the book a delight to browse. Throughout, shaded boxes contain ‘Food for Thought’ items and a ‘Burning Question for Today’.

As Christians, we can so often trot out ‘facts’ which are no longer true or worse still are ‘half-truths’. We become lazy because it takes effort to update our knowledge. This book means we no longer have any excuse to not understand the complexities, needs and opportunities of the planet which we call home and its people whom God created and loves. All praying individuals should purchase a copy and keep it alongside their Bible and newspaper. In my view, this is a ‘must read’ for all Christians but especially for those with any kind of responsibility in Church leadership.

‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15)

Here is a brief tour of the main sections of the book:

1. Demography – the Nine Global Challenges and Trends

  • Population – by 2050, growth will be mainly in countries that are Muslim or African
  • Urbanisation – the top 10 mega-cities will soon all be in Asia and Africa
  • Migration – people of European origin are shrinking and the Muslim population is spreading
  • Health – looks at disease hotspots, healthcare and the ongoing challenge of HIV/Aids
  • Climate change – the impact of weather patterns, volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis’
  • Economy – considers the global distribution of wealth and the impact of corruption
  • Energy resources – shortages can only increase as the gap between demand and supply grows
  • Politics – issues of freedom, conflicts, civil liberties and human rights
  • Water resources – access could prove the most critical factor leading possibly to ‘water wars’

2. History – 20 Centuries AD

  • 2,000 years of Church and secular history displayed graphically over 42 pages – awesome!
  • Significant dates, progress and setbacks for each century – all noted on one-double page spread

3. Religion – the Major Streams

  • Christian 32.5%, Muslim 21%, Atheist or agnostic 15.5%, Hindu 13.5%, Buddhist 6.6%, Eastern, animist or other 10% 

4. Christianity – Six Megablocs

  • Catholics (48%), Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, Independents and Marginal’s
  • The USA and Brazil are the countries with the largest Christian majorities

5. Christianity – Renewal and revival

  • Need for renewal is due to (1) nominalism and (2) attitude to the centrality of the Bible
  • Seven trans-confessional systems: Traditional Churches – Sacramental, Formal, Liberal and Syncretic.  Renewal movements: Evangelical, Charismatic and Pentecostal
  • Six major ‘awakenings’ are documented from the Moravians in 1728 onwards. Pentecostal growth started at turn of 1900’s and Charismatic renewal developed from 1960 onwards
  • Dangers of renewal: (1) withdrawal from politics and (2) emphasis on prosperity and healing

6. Christianity – Evangelical explosion

  • Explicitly, for Johnstone, this growth provides the needed thrust for world evangelisation
  • Note – there are more than 70 adjectives used to describe the broad term ‘Evangelical’
  • Evangelical growth globally has shifted from the North and West to the South and East
  • Massive growth is forecast across Asia but ongoing heavy decline in Europe
  • The Top 4 countries (2000) for Evangelical growth are: USA, China, Nigeria and India
  • China is fast becoming the Evangelical giant – with numbers soon likely to exceed the USA
  • Interestingly, the previous Catholic countries of South America have become Evangelical

7. The Unevangelised

  • Johnstone classifies the world into 7,000 languages, 15 ‘affinity blocks’ and 250 ‘people clusters’
  • ‘Preach the Gospel to all Nations’: possibly 2 Billion out of 7 Billion have never heard the gospel?
  • The least evangelised countries are sub-Saharan, the Arab world and the Horn of Africa (Somalia)

 8. The Future of Christian Mission

  • Sending Countries: USA 95,000, India 83,000, S. Korea 21,500
  • Receiving Countries: India 42,000, USA 20,000, Brazil 7,000
  • UK (2010) – sent out 6,400 and received 4,100 missionaries
  • There are approx. 16,300 missionaries working in Muslim countries
  • Main Mission Agencies: Campus Crusade 9,900 (128 nations), Gospel for Asia 9,500 (9 nations)

Some interesting observations by Johnstone along the way:

‘The Reformation was strong on Biblical truth but light on prayer, revival and evangelisation. It had an undeveloped missiology’

‘European empires acted as a bridge for the Gospel but the full flowering and growth of indigenous biblical Christianity came only after Colonialism ended’

‘The grim legacy of the Crusades impacts Christian witness even today’

‘Muslims can view Christians in the west as pork-eating, fornicating drunkards’

‘Nearly all the unreached countries have Muslim majorities’

‘Islam will be one of the formative ideologies of the 21st century and will not just fade away’

‘The decline of Christianity throughout Europe is a great concern’

‘In the 1950’s the term ‘missionary’ was a title of honour. Now it’s a badge of embarrassment associated with imperialism and intolerance’

‘In 2011, the world population reached 7 billion. In 2006, there were 6 billion mobile phones in the world!’

 ‘No doctoral programmes, techniques, strategies, management styles or fundraising expertise can replace a humble godliness and dependence on the Holy Spirit’

The Future of the Global Church

Patrick Johnstone

2011     240pp

Authentic Media Ltd

Hardback ISBN 978-1-85078-966-6

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