When my wife, Eloise, and I were first commended to the Lord’s work in 1957, the population of the world was 2.8 billion. Today it is 7.4 billion — a 164% increase. During the same time, our population in Australia has increased from 9.6 million to 24.0 million — a 150% increase. There were 82 member states in the United Nations in 1957; now today there are 193.
Things have radically changed over the years in almost every area of life, and especially in the world of missions. The central message of salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus has not, and must not, change, but everything else around us has dramatically changed.
Cultures, methods, people, and strategies, and even the way we meet as a church fellowship, have in many places undergone enormous transformations from when we started out. Some trends are hard to define and it is difficult to understand their impact. Postmodernism, the emergence of independent churches and their mission involvement, the rise of ‘insider movements’ of true believers within the world’s great religions, and the decline of a radical commitment to godly living on the part of many believers, have all brought about significant changes.
But here are five other world-impacting changes that I have seen and experienced in my lifetime.
1. MISSIONS IS URBAN
When we started out, most missionary activity was focused on rural areas and small towns. In 1900, only 15% of the population lived in cities, and by the time we went overseas in the late 1950s, it was about 30%. But a steady migration of people to the cities has taken place since then, so that today 53% of all the people in the world live
In Japan it is 91%, in Jordan 83%, in Argentina 92%, and in Italy 68%. The projection is that 70% of all the people in the world will be in urban centres by the year 2050.
Today huge megacities like Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Mexico City, Manila, Mumbai, Delhi, Jakarta, and hundreds of others, are a great challenge to the church. If we are going to reach all the people in the world, it is not just unreached tribal areas that must be considered but also massive communities in the cities where there is no clear, impactful presentation of the gospel.