As I have had my head down this week working with some members of the church to find ways to staff our Sunday School and Junior Church ministries, I have been discouraged. Even though our church is small, we still need many people to teach, provide childcare, lead youth groups and worship and mission outreach. Too often the responsibilities of ministry are shared by too few. The good news is that the people stepped up again and we have a solid staff of servants in place for the fall programs. When I went to bed, at last, after the final meeting this week, I was still discouraged. Why was it this hard? When was the next meeting at which we would be scrambling to find other people to fill other ministry slots in the church? I was tired and on edge, as I had my head down (not so much in prayer as in discouragement). As I had my head down, I was focused on one small congregation in one small town in one very large state. As we went over and over the names of people in this church, I was wondering how so few people can be expected to do so much. Maybe the answer was to just do less. To cut out and cut back. To make things easier.
This morning I picked up my head and found a new book that I began to read and it lifted my spirits. Mark Noll is a historian who teaches at Notre Dame. His newest book states that - with all the startling changes that have taken place in the last century -nothing less than a new history of Christianity is needed. He does not purport to write that history, yet, so much as make Christians aware of what has happened while we have been doing other things (like having our heads down looking for Sunday School staff). In the past 50 years, the shape of worldwide Christianity has shifted dramatically: This Sunday more Christians will attend church in China than in all of "Christian Europe ( think: in 1970 there were no legal functioning churches in China); this Sunday more Anglicans will attend church in each of several African countries than in Britain, Canada and Episcopalians in the USA combined, and Nigeria will have several times the number as those other African countries; this Sunday more Presbyterians will attend church in Ghana than in Scotland and more will attend the Uniting Presbyterian Church in South Africa than in the USA; this Sunday more people will attend Brazil's Pentecostal Assemblies of God than will attend all the Assemblies churches in the USA; this Sunday eight times more people will fill the Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea than will attend Canada's largest ten churches.; this Sunday Roman Catholics in the USA will worship in more languages than at any other time in American history; this Sunday the largest church in Europe will meet in Kiev pastored by a Nigerian Pentecostal; this Sunday more Catholics will attend church in the Philippines than in any European country; this week 15,000 foreign missionaries were hard at work evangelizing people in Great Britain; the largest chapter of Jesuits in the world is no longer in the USA but in India.
Then this: More than half of all the Christian adherents in the whole history of the church have been alive in the last hundred years! Close to half of all the Christian believers who have ever lived are alive right now!
If that doesn't lift your head up to praise God.... knowing that in our small place on the planet we are part of one of the most amazing and magnificent movements of God in our history .... and we get to be part of it!