It Could Happen!
No one but God knows for sure what the future holds. But what could happen if the explosive church growth we have seen in the past 25 years continues into the future? What can we hope for? What can we pray for? "It Could Happen! Looking Back at 1991" is the dream of student Todd Johnson...
What an exciting year 1991 turned out to be! The Lord did far morn than any of us could have hoped for or expected. With the tremendous advances in the student movements in India, Brazil, South Africa and Japan, not to mention what has happened here in the U.S., we now have morn mason than ever before to believe that them will be A Church For Every People by the Year 2i))O." Let roe try to recount some of the major events of this past year.
Mission Advances Around the World
The Evangelical population of Guatemala has continued to grow steadily. The latest figures show that Guatemala is now 38 percent Christian. This figure, though encouraging in itself, does not reflect the recent widespread renewal movement among Catholics.
In the French revival it is estimated that over one million people became Christians in 1991. This would bring the grand total since 1988 to nearly three million new believers. As would be expected, this has had a profound effect on the church in Europe. both Catholic and Protestant.
The greatest surprise in frontier missions this past year was the tremendous response to the Gospel on the part of Malaysian Muslims. The change in Malaysian government early who labored faithfully in the oppressive circumstances of the 80's.
Bibles began pouring into the country shortly after the coup and church planting work among Muslims received a powerful boost The Malays are now becoming Christians faster than fanatical Muslim groups can persecute them. In some areas near Terengganu, Muslims are afraid to travel because of the mass conversion to Christianity of several Muslim villages. The Malays will be having their first Christian convention in history later this year (June 6 through 12).
The scam that the Libyans received in the American Libyan crisis in November 1989 evidently opened the doors wide open for the gospel. Of course, it was Latin Americans who brought the gospel, and they have had tremendous success. At least 35 new churches have sprung up among Libyans in 1991 and at the rate they are growing, Libya cook! be 20 percent Christian by the year 1995.
This has caused quite a stir among other Muslim nations. The visits to Libya on the part of several Muslim dignitaries and not a few mullahs and other religious leaders has only served to spread this infection' back to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and North Yemen. Once again, the rapid and spontaneous growth of the chinch in these Muslim countries has been the church's 'salvation" as Muslims have been reluctant to persecute Muslim converts for fear of international pressure.
Perhaps the most spectacular statistic of all is the fact that them is now no Muslim country in the world with Christian populations less than 5 percent of the total. Ten short years ago there were many.
In the Hindu sphere there have been amazing breakthroughs in the last year.
Whereas mass movements to Christ in India in the past have been primarily among animist¬tribals, from 1989 to 1991 more Hindus became Christians than all the animists in history put together. As a result, the Christian population in India has passed the 10 percent mart Dr. Donald McGavran estimates that half the peoples of India have now been influenced by the present movement. As a result of the unprecedented response to their appeal in 1988 to get started on a thousand new translations.
By 1990, Wyclifle has over 7,000 people on the field now double the number of only 15 years ago. A spokesman for the Global Mapping Project, headquartered at the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena. California, said the flood of new tribal converts has been to great, they are six months behind in long conversions. The story in China is well known. The "Unnewhed Peoples 1991" chart put out by the USCWM reflected some of the progress made in the 80's as the blue (unmatched) portion of the chart was significantly smaller than the previous (1989) chart. Yet growth is so rapid, Dr. Ralph Winter of the U.S. Center for World Mission estimates that by the year 1995 there will be no people group in China still unreached. Thailand, the stronghold of Buddhism, saw several major groups of people become Christian last year. Once again, it was not Westerners, but Koreans and Japanese who laid the foundations for this movement Thailand is only 7 percent Christian but the rate of growth of the church is higher there than any other place in the world except India.
The North American Protestant
Mission Force now stands at 135,000 with well over 38,000 of these directly involved in frontier missions. NonWestern missionaries number over 65,000 with close to 30,000 of these involved in frontier work
The latest figures from the USCWM show that 1.1 billion people in approximately 10,000 people groups ate presently unreached. However, these remaining peoples were allocated on an international scale at the joint IFMA/ EFMA meeting held in December 1990 and the World Consultation on Frontier Missions Continuation Meeting in June 1991, The agency leaden in attendance at those meetings laid plans to engage all 10,000 remaining unreached peoples by the year 1995.
The International Student Movement
One of the most unusual mission conferences this year took place in Hong Kong. Hong Kong '91 had over 5,000 students participating in an eighthour conference on missions. What made it unique was the fact that there was no registration, there was no big rally and there was no one specific, identifiable sponsor of the event Organizers of the conference felt that, in view of the recent mass movements toward Christ in mainland China, and in light of the impending takeover by the mainland government, it would be wise to keep a low profile. Consequently, this conference was held in over 100 locations over a six week period. Most of the conference was on 8mm video cassettes which were simply mailed from one location to the next.
Although no official statistics are available, we are confident the conference will provide great impetus to the growing mission movement in Asia.
Singapore sent out 2;500 new shortterm missionaries this past year. That is almost twice the 1300 that went out in 1990. This reflects a new trend among the Singaporian Christians to take precious time off to do ministry in other countries. SCEM (Singapore Center for Evangelism and Missions) reports that 15,000 Christians are now enrolled in a 10 week missions study program. This will have a profound influence on the steadily increasing number of full time missionaries being sent out from Singapore.
The Concerts of Prayer movement in South Africa now involves over 35,000 people a month in 24 cities. Both students and laypeople are participating. Most of them are involved in mission study programs as well.
The student movement in Brazil is phenomenal. 130.000 students were enrolled in mission study courses in 1991. 30,000 went out on short tern, missions, and Brazil has now sent out 16,000 full time cross cultural missionaries.
Japan, which was less than I percent Christian ten years ago, has seen a marked increase of student mission activity. The revival of 1990 was primarily a result of students banding together in prayer as early as 1984. Whole families have been coming to the Lord and Christianity is now considered a Japanese religion. In 1985, Japan sent out about 100 missionaries. Today that number is over 1800. Japanese students were instrumental in forming the Asian Christian Student Alliance for Frontier Missions in 1988, and this year the administrative offices were moved from Singapore to Tokyo. The ACSAFM also gave a tremendous push to the ISLCFM (International Student Leaders Coalition) which until 1990 had not seen much form. Late in 1990, the UFM moved its main office from Pasadena to Tokyo, thus creating closer ties with this movement.
African students rose to the challenge of world evangelization in a special way in 1991. Completing a pattern that began last year, Christian leaders in nearly every African country south of the Sahara have made commitments to send missionaries into each of the four major blocs of unreached peoples. (Editor's note: according to Johnson, the growth of the Church among the Chinese peoples has been so great that as of 1990, the Chinese bloc is no longer counted among the "major" blocs of unreached peoples.) Nigerian Christians lead the way in fulfilling their commitment; they support over 300 missionaries among Muslims.
The U.S. Student and Laymen Movements
The most exciting conference of 1991 was held in Cleveland, Ohio, February 26 to March 1.
Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Student Volunteer Movement for Frontier Missions conference held in Cleveland in 1891, the 1991 conference was jointly sponsored by several campus organizations, although the main support came from SCFT (Students Committed to Finishing the Task). SCFF is now in the vanguard of the student movement here in the U.S. SCFF was founded in 1987 when all the major Christian campus ministries met and agreed upon a standard pledge for students who wanted to join the worldwide missions movement. SCF'l' represents students of all campus organizations who have dedicated their lives to seeing church movements established in every people group by the year 2000. Over 150,000 students have made this pledge and are thus part of SCFr. Thirty three thousand students signed the declaration in 1991 in the U.S. Midwest alone: more than three times the number of signators in 1990.
Equally encouraging was the progress made by the MFM (Missionary Fellowship Movement), MFM was started in 1987 when a group of churches in the Northeast U.S. banded together around a commitment to the "Giant Step" proposal made by Donald McGavran in 1984. These churches hammered out the now famous "Missionary Fellowship Guidelines" used by every church in the MFM. Each MFM church has a monthly Mission Fellowship meeting in which a highly committed group of laypeople meet together to pray and study. It is estimated that there are now 83,000 of these groups in the U.S. representing about 2,5 million evangelicals. The Caleb Senders are now providing support to this group.
LCFT (Laymen Commits to Finishing the Task) which was formed in 1990 as a result of SENDERS who had signed the SENDERS declaration, has seen tremendous growth. Over 75,00000 are part of LCFI' and this group has been the prime mover of mission's education...