Monday, December 31, 2018

Status of Global Christianity, 2018

This is the time when many of us look at statistics from the past year, personal, national, or international. In my study, I have been reading statistics about the status of Global Christianity, especially from 1900-2050, and thought I would share some of these with you.

Here are some facts from a report from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary:

  • Christianity is projected to hold its own in terms of percentage of the world.  In 1900 it was 34.4%.  In 2050, it is expected to be 35.3%.  Not much change in terms of percentage but the overall number has gone from 500 million to 2.5 billion today.
  • The number of congregations will have increased from 400,000 in 1900 to 9,000,000 in 2050.
  • The number of denominations will have increased from 1,600 in 1900 to 70,000 in 2050.
  • One number my husband might like:  Book titles about Christianity will have increased from 300,000 in the year 1900, to 14,500,000 book titles in 2050.
  • Personal income of Christians was $270 billion in 1900 and will increase to $200,000 billion in 2050.  This year, 2018, it is $57,000 billion. 

The history of giving as it relates to churches and Christians is also interesting.  Giving to Christian causes was at $8 billion in the year 1900.  It is now at $960 billion and is expected to go up to $3,300 billion in the year 2050. The Christian community has been very generous and faith-based organizations actually account for nearly 60% of US-based foreign aid organizations. 

What do churches give to?  Evangelism is definitely #1, with church planting right behind.  The chart
on the right shows the breakdown of average giving for churches.  For my particular study, it is telling that creation care is at the bottom of the list, while business as mission fares a bit better.

One surprising statistic in the middle of all the numbers was this:

Ecclesiastical crime:  in 1900, it was $300,000.  In 1970, it was $5,000,000.  In 2000, $19 billion.  In 2018, $63 billion.  In 2025, $80 billion.  In 2050, $250 billion.  The footnote to this statistic says, "Amounts embezzled by top custodians of Christian monies (US dollar equivalents, per year)."  Wow.  This seems to be about 7-8% of the giving received.

A startling statistic to read.  

So the Global Christian Church is giving at about 1.6% and of that amount, we are losing 10% to ecclesiastical crime. This is very sad as we know that the impact of this number is far beyond simply a loss of money.  It goes to the reputation of the Church and is a poor reflection on Jesus. [It makes the class that I teach in seminaries on Integrity and Finance so important, but also a definite sense of swimming upstream.  How I wish all seminaries would include a class like this in their curriculum!]

It tells us the capacity that we could have if we could unify ourselves better, commit to giving, and have better transparency and accountability in the Church.  We certainly have our work cut out for us in 2019 and beyond!

Let's continue to pray for wisdom for the days in front of us, as well as discernment and courage to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit!

We wish you all a blessed New Year in 2019, and pray that we may continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!

[To see the full report on the status of Global Christianity, click here.]

Monday, December 17, 2018

Turning 50 Ain't So Bad

Yes, it looks like I'm sticking out my tongue.
I remember when my dad turned fifty years old.  He was a pastor at a church in Toronto, and the Council brought over a very large Abraham made out of fruit.  I was 11 years old and it made perfect sense to me to bring over an Abraham, as Abraham had become an old man and 50 seemed really old to me.  Looking back at it now, I wonder what they were thinking?  As they were all in that same age range, surely 50 did not seem THAT old to them!

It's amazing how perceptions of age change with age.  I now hear of someone dying at the age of 75 and say, "That's so young!"  Maybe it's because my parents are in their 80s and I know of a number of friends have parents who are in their 90s.

Today I turn 50.  Many people lament it.  For some reason, it's not bothering me.  Turning 40 bothered me more.  It may be because I'm the youngest of five children, and I watched all my siblings break into this decade long before me.  It may be because Bob, who was fourteen years older than me, broke the 50 decade in 2004 (he would be 64 today!).  It may be because Michael broke the 50 decade a few years ago.

But, for what it's worth, I'm ready and I'm okay.
My family

In fact, I'm more than okay.  I have much to celebrate.  I feel I have lived several lives in these fifty years.  I have been privileged to see the world go through significant and positive changes in these fifty years. I have been able to watch my children grow and mature into adulthood.  That is not a privilege that Bob had and I am daily aware of that.

Not only that, but I also get to do work that I love.  Recently, I heard someone ask the question, "If you won one million dollars today, would you be at work tomorrow?"

I believe that I am one of the privileged who would answer that with a hearty, "YES!"  It's a privilege to work.  It's an even greater privilege to LOVE what you do. (Okay, I might take one day off to figure out what to do with the million dollars but THEN I'd be right back at work.)  Many of you may think, "It's easy for you, Renita - you get to travel to cool places."  But make no mistake that every work has its challenges - the grass is almost always greener on the other side of the fence.  But I do love my work.  And I know that is not the case for many.  What do we do in those circumstances?  Do we stay and try to find joy?  Do we change jobs?  Do we keep plugging along?  How does work become worship?

What about you?  If you won one million dollars today, would you be at work tomorrow?  For my birthday, if you would take a minute and respond to this with a "yes" or "no" and maybe a brief reason as to why, I would appreciate it!
My dad on his 50th birthday.  He turned 89 last month.
I love this picture of me with my sister Yvonne.  I was such a cute kid.  And I know my brother is thinking (RIGHT NOW - yes, you, Henry), "What happened?!"

I close with this prayer on my birthday, "Bless What Eludes My Grasp," from my favorite prayer book, Guerillas of Grace:

Lord, so many things skitter through my mind
and I give chase to gather them
and hold them up in a bunch to you.

But they go this way and that,
while I go that way and this...

So gather me up instead
and bless what eludes my grasp but not yours

Trees and bees, fireflies and butterflies
roses and barbeques, and people.

Lord, the people...bless the people.

Birthday people, 
giving birth people,
being born people,
conformed people;

Dying people, dead people, 
hostaged people, banged up people, held down people;

Leader people, lonely people, limping people;

Hungry people, surfeited people, indifferent people;

First world people,
second world people,
third world people;

One world people,
your people,
all people.

Bless them, Lord.
Bless what eludes my grasp, but not yours.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Creation As Both Temple and Choir

I have finished my courseload for my PhD (Woo-hoo!  Let me say it again even louder:  WOO-HOO!  So happy and thankful!) and have started working on my dissertation proposal.  While the title is yet a work in process, the essence of the dissertation will be looking at justice in the Global Christian Church as it relates to the economy and the earth.  The requirements for the literature review for the dissertation is one hundred and fifty writings from different authors.  That is a HUGE amount of reading to do.  Thankfully, Michael let me check some books out of his library - he says there are no late fees which is a good deal for me!  At this time, I'm about 1/6th of the way through the 150 readings.

This past week, I read two books:  one by Jonathan Wilson called, God's Good World:  Reclaiming the Doctrine of Creation, and the other by Edward Brown called, Our Father's World:  Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation.  There were a number of "aha" and "amen" moments as I read these books.  One phrase that particularly caught my attention is that creation is both a temple and a choir.  I love this phrasing.  I had to put the book down for a while and just think about the implication of those words.  Creation is a temple.  It is a worship space that is sacred, where we meet God and He meets all members of creation to be in relationship with them.  Hear this from Psalm 148:7-13:

Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars,
wild animals and all cattle, small animals and flying birds,
kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, 
young men and women, old men and children.
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; 
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.

Creation is also to be a choir, a participant in the worship of God.  We are to join in leading the choir to worship the one true God.  We help the plants, animals, and all the resources that we use from creation be able to worship God. We are to help fix creation - to restore it to how God intended.  God gives many instructions for how we are to care for the earth in the Old Testament.  But Brown laments that, despite the hymn that says, "This is My Father's World, O let me ne'er forget...", we have indeed forgotten.  We have allowed consuption and convenience to trump our care for this creation.  We are afflicted with "affluenza" in many parts of the world.  He goes on to say that nothing is more important than the care of the environment, because without a healthy environment, almost nothing else matters.  People, animals, plants, and relationships all suffer.

None of us are able to play our instruments correctly in this choir and orchestra except through Christ.  Creation groans and is unharmonious (Romans 8:22).  We need a lot of practice in order to play well.  And the place where this practice can happen is in the church.

Wilson writes that Christian theology began to abandon the doctrine of creation about 250 years ago when science began to come up with answers that the Church could not compete with.  Theologians began to recast Christian convictions in terms of our inner life or about "the heart."  He goes on to say that the doctrine of creation is primarily about the nature of the God who creates.  The God who creates cannot be known apart from the God who redeems.  Moreover, he says, the doctrine of cration is primarily not about the origin but about the end. Yes!

He says, "One of the greatest tragedies of theology's neglect of creation has been the church's complicity in the destruction of the natural world and thus also of conditions that contribue to the flourishing of life.  An even greater tragedy or an even greater sin has been the voices in the church that have resisted and mocked the passion for life that leads to care of creation."

I love this!  To find theologians who back what I have been saying and thinking is thrilling.  And they put it so much more articulately than me.

Our reason to love creation is not about the current crisis (that we may or may not believe exists), but rather because of God and our love for what He has created for us.  The environmental problems that we face are essentially a result of sin.  And if it is a result of sin, then it is a spiritual problem.  An if it is a spiritual problem, then the Church must be involved.  The Church continues to be the institution that can best deal with the complexity of this problem.

Theologian Christopher Wright wrote that, "It is not so much that God has a mission for his church in the world, but that God has a church for his mission in the world...mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission - God's mission."

And so some of my questions for my dissertation have to do with why the Church comes to this table so late with significant divisions, and why the Church does not speak more loudly on how to be a harmonious contributor to this choir? Why do we continue to not respect or affirm those who contribute to the economy in terms of their work being an act of worship?  How we find a way forward, joining the voice of the Church (the highest populated religion in the world) to the efforts of 170 nations who have committed together to protect the dignity and flourishing of human life, as well as the protection of the earth?

Thomas Aquinas said, "Any error about creation also leads to an error about God."

Thankfully, for me, this is a topic I'm passionate about and it is something that Discipling Marketplace Leaders is passionate about.  That makes the reading and the research much more enjoyable!  If you have any books or articles that you think would be good for me to read, please feel free to refer them to me at

Monday, December 3, 2018

An Expanding DML Team

We are excited to announce that the Discipling Marketplace Leaders team is growing.  Our goal as a ministry is to stay as organizationally flat as possible, partnering with existing ministries in our partner countries.  This helps keep this ministry owned by nationals who know and understand the context the best, as well as keeping organizational overhead costs low.

But as we grow, there is a need for some expansion.  Dr. Walker and I have been doing most of the work for DML, and we are beginning to find the work a bit much for the two of us.  We are very thankful to make a few additions to our team to help share the work.  What's even more exciting is that each of the three additions has come on their own - not that we were looking for specific people.

The first person is Paul Soper, a CPA from Grand Rapids, who has been providing healthcare consulting services to hospitals in the US for the past 22 years.  Prior to becoming a healthcare consultant, Paul was an auditor for an international public accounting firm and a financial executive for two nonprofit organizations.  Paul and his wife Sue have been married for 26 years and have three adult children.  Due to the sale of Paul's company in December 2017, he is now able to devote himself fulltime to working with a variety of Christian non-profit organizations.  As a businessperson, Paul has been drawn to serving God through organizations that focus on Business as Mission.  He especially appreciates how DML provides Business as Mission through the church and has been greatly impressed with how God is blessing the work of DML in Africa.  He looks very much forward to being part of the DML team!

The second is Emeline B. Nde from Cameroon.  In 2011, Emeline wrote her Masters thesis on the need for the Church to become involved with discipling business people. (This was before 
DML was born.)  God had laid this on her heart and then He orchestrated us meeting in Abuja, Nigeria.

Emeline has been working as a missionary for the last eighteen years as a church-planter, cross-cultural mission's coordinator and as a translator.  For the last twelve years, she has been working with Development Associates International (DAI) as the Administrator and MA Coordinator for Nigeria, International Facilitator in Uganda, a member of the DAI International Leadership Team, a graduate lecturer for the DAI MA program, and the director for DAI's work in Cameroon.

Emeline has a teaching ministry that has taken her to university classrooms and conference centers in different parts of the world including India, Egypt, Rwanda, Sweden, and the USA.  As a lecturer and a seminar facilitator, she teaches servant leadership to Christian leaders in the Church and marketplace.  She is an author,  an associate pastor at Omega Gospel Mission in Washington DC,  as well as a doctoral student at Regent University in Virginia.  She has a passion to see Christians in different sectors of society equipped and empowered to do their work as ministry/worship unto the Lord.

The third person is Steve Kennedy from the United Kingdom. Steve has been a Christian for over forty years and is active in his local church where he is licensed to minister.  He received the call to missions in the latter part of 2015 when he acted on an invitation to go overseas and visit the West African country of Sierra Leone.  This was the first of several visits there.  Steve retired from British education in December 2017 and began to do more visits to other nations in January 2018.  He has since been to Eastern Europe and the African continent to support and serve churches and other missionaries.  For over thirty years Steve has been happily married to Dawn and they are the proud parents of two grown daughters, Abigail and Naomi.  Steve has a special interest in intercessory prayer; he founded and ran a school of intercessory prayer for over ten years.

Steve Kennedy got to know Dr. Walker many years ago when they served together for a period of time in Israel. They recently met up again, and last year Steve felt led to start International Christian Ministries in the United Kingdom.  Steve has accompanied us on a number of trips and is especially passionate about Discipling Marketplace Leaders. He has a passion for prayer and prophetic ministry and will join us as the DML Prayer Team Coordinator, helping each of our teams to be covered in prayer, and uniting us regularly to pray together.

Please welcome these three to the DML team and keep them in your prayers as they seek to serve the Lord by helping the local Church to Reclaim the Redeemed Marketplace!