priorities for world
Should Be Number One?
jects a cumulative goal of fielding a staggering 138,885
missionaries 25 years from now! This is an astonishing
Whether this incredible vision can be realized without a corresponding growth of the Korean church may
be doubtful, but it is indicative of the vision that infuses
many Evangelicals worldwide are looking
forward to the next lausanne congress
on World Evangelization this October in
cape Town, South africa. here’s part four
in a Faith Today series looking at seven of
the major issues to be discussed.
The past two centuries have been marked by pro- digious efforts to locate, classify and evangel- ize all the peoples of the world. Take Korea, for example.
In 100 years Korea has been transformed from a country with only a few believers into a nation whose social fabric is permeated
with vibrant evangelical Christianity.
In 1900, the total number of Christians
in Korea was just over 42,000 – predominantly Roman Catholic, according to World
Christian Database figures. By 1910 this
figure had risen to nearly 51,000 – most of
this growth being Protestant evangelical.
Today it is 20 million.
In the last 10 years, however, there
has been scarcely any increase in the
proportion of Christians-to-non-Chris-tians in the Korean population, and signs point to a slight
Even as the Korean church may plateau, a strikingly
different picture emerges when one looks at the number of Korean missionaries. The Korean church sent out
93 missionaries in 1979, according to researcher Steve
Sang-Cheol Moon. By 2000 this number had grown to
more than 8,000. Between 2000 and 2006, while Korean
church membership leveled off, the number of missionaries almost doubled to 14,905.
By 2009, according to the Korean World Mission
Association, some 20,500 Korean missionaries were
deployed around the world. Within the next 20 years,
perhaps 20 per cent of all Christian missionaries may
be Korean. A survey of 87 Korean mission agencies pro-
Yet, as impressive as such figures might be, and despite
the prodigious efforts of tens of thousands of international missionaries over the past two centuries, Christian
growth worldwide is not keeping pace with population
growth. Representing an estimated 34. 5 per cent of the
world population in 1900, Christianity’s share has now
slipped to 33. 2 per cent.
While global population growth is projected at 1.23
per cent, growth trends for Christianity are projected to
be only 0.08 per cent.
In the face of such statistics and projections, can there
be priorities for world evangelism? And
if so, what and whose would they be?
This question assumes that God is calling us to establish worshipping communities of men and women who serve
on Earth as the tangible bridgehead of
God’s coming kingdom.
Of course, sanctified ingenuities
(okay, strategies) are a part of that, and
we need energetic evangelism, far-seeing
vision and impressive numbers.
But we do well to remember, first
of all, how Jesus urged his disciples to
“open [their] eyes and look at the fields” (John 4: 35). He
was telling them that the only field to harvest was the one
right in front of their eyes.
This is how Jesus saw the Samaritan social outcast
with her tragic personal story and terrible reputation.
Because of ethnic and religious taboos – which made it
permissible and even commendable to ignore such an
unworthy person – the disciples had not considered her
to be worth their attention!
Far from urging his disciples to gaze far off into the
distance, across the oceans and over the continents, he
told them to do the Father’s will and finish his work by
paying attention to the unlikely people nearby.
Thus the simplest way to express the timeless prior-
ity and authentic modus operandi for evangelism is this:
according to the
some 20,500 Korean