This article was originally published by Presbyterians for Renewal and is republ...
A movement that’s building
God is doing some amazing things in the world today! The body of Christ outside the West has grown far faster than in the West in the last century, to the point that two thirds of all followers of Jesus in the world today are in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Presbyterians here in the US have been part of God’s work as we’ve sent messengers with good news into all the world over the last 150-200 years.
One example of this exciting growth is the Muslim world. David Garrison, in his excellent new book A Wind in the House of Islam, traces the history of voluntary movements to Jesus among Muslims since the beginning of Islam 1400 years ago. Garrison defines a movement as either 1000 baptisms or the planting of at least 100 new churches over a 20-year period. He found the first two movements didn’t come until late in the 19th century. Then 11 such moments occurred in the 20th century, and 69 in the first 12 years of this century! He estimates that the total number of people in the 82 movements is somewhere between two and seven million.
God at work here at home & across the world
One reality facing ECO churches today is that Muslims are not just in other parts of the world. For many of us, Muslims live next to us in our own communities, along with people from many other places and religious backgrounds. We tend to look at these people with mixed emotions and attitudes—fear, compassion, anxiety, disgust, or love. As His followers, Jesus calls us to see them through His eyes, as people who are precious in His sight, who need to know and love and follow him, just like everyone else—including us!
ECO has a healthy emphasis on seeing churches engage in their local communities in creative ways. As you seek to do this in your community, are you including those whom God has brought to us from other parts of the world? In many places in the US today, God has brought people from countries and ethnic groups where we can’t send “missionaries” in the traditional sense. Instead we can reach out to students, to people working for multi-national corporations, or to people who have come here as refugees. We can be part of what God is doing in the world, right here at home!
At the same time, we can’t forget those who aren’t here and who need to hear the good news of Jesus. David Garrison tells us about the two to seven million Muslims who have come to faith in Jesus in the last 125 years or so, especially the last 25 years. He also goes on to emphasize that this is less than one half of 1% of the world’s Muslim population! We need to be part of engaging the other 99.5% of Muslims as well as others who need to know and follow Jesus.
If we are going to be truly balanced in our ministry as ECO churches, we need to include both local outreach and international outreach in sharing the good news of Jesus. What about creative ways to connect the two? What about connecting with other ECO churches and non-ECO churches to be part of what God is doing—right in our own communities, or on the other side of the world? We’ll look at more specifics on how we can do this in future blogs, but for now, here are a few things you can do today:
- Rejoice in what God is doing in enlarging the body of Christ by including “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9)
- Look at your own community with eyes that see opportunities in the midst of the challenges brought by those from other cultures around you
- Pray for God to use you and your church in the ongoing spread of the kingdom, both in your community and throughout the world
- Pray that ECO will be known as a community of people who care about the world and engage the world, for Jesus’ sake