“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
- Acts 20:24
In AD 40, it is estimated that there were around 1,000 followers of Christ. Some 300 years later, nearly half the Roman empire, or close to 33m people claimed Jesus as their Lord. There has never been such a rapid growth of a movement in the history of the world. It was, of course, about this time that Constantine sealed what many think was one of the greatest acts in history, he made Christianity the State religion. Really?
What started as movement that persecution, famine, geography or politics could not hold up, grew into an institution that has stood still, almost ever since. That is, until now. While most of the Western church is oblivious, God is moving his church forward like we haven’t seen for nearly 1800 years. That’s right, Christianity, or at least followers of Jesus, are being birthed globally at a scale that is in some cases breathtaking. We are, far and away, the fastest growing ‘religion’ in the world. Few in the West know anything of it, yet all over the world, followers of Jesus are taking seriously his command to ‘go into the world and make disciples.’ Sadly, we are still stuck in church, debating whether miracles still happen today. What a waste.
Consider this story. A woman in a country where the Bible is barely known, came to Christ and immediately set about being obedient, by looking for ways to start a Discovery Bible Study. The only problem was, she had to travel 90mins each way by train to work a 13hr day so she could feed her family. Her solution? She asked the Lord to open her eyes to what he wanted her to do, and then the revelation came. Within weeks, she had 4 people at her seat doing Discovery Bible Study; within months, the entire carriage was doing the same, and thereafter another entire carriage was doing the same thing. These mostly women, also prayed and fasted about their local communities, and as they left the train at different stations, groups would pray and then witness into their local communities. A movement of followers of Jesus began, multiplying rapidly. What a story, one of thousands we can recant.
So then, what of us, why in our own country, is it so hard to see much fruit, why are movements that multiply unheard of? Well, they are happening, albeit slowly. But, it would seem two crucial things make the difference.
Firstly, we simply don’t pray into this enough. As I read stories of movements of Christ being birthed, I see long prayers into the night, day after day, week after week – accompanied by serious fasting. It seems followers in many countries have long recognised that they are in a Spiritual battle. We have yet to wake up to that, and instead substitute the power of the Holy Spirit with our own strength.
Beyond that, sadly, it seems the very institution we have become is the very thing that prevents the Gospel from moving ahead. Closely related to the first point above, we have allowed somebody else to ‘live’ our life for Jesus. We have been hoodwinked (and lazy) in believing that ordinary people are simply not able to preach, heal, lead others to Christ and found churches. Yet that exactly what is happening in many places around the world. Isn’t it exactly the model Jesus initiated with a few fishermen, a tax collector and a Zealot?
This is far more serious than we imagine. Firstly, we simply do not understand Paul’s language above, about following Jesus. We ignore Jesus’ commands to give it all up and pursue him. Further, we risk – those who want to insist calling themselves by a ‘church’ title, being responsible for the eternity of thousands, possibly millions, by having them believe that attendance at a weekly service will actually save us.
We must, must, open our eyes to what it means to Follow Jesus, which above all, is what he called each of us to do. If we would do that, our world around us could change. What a thought.