Yesterday our community Pentecost service was hosted by Carlock Mennonite Church. It was a great service with good fellowship among the members of the various congregations. The community choir was in good voice. Doane Brubaker gave a good message on some of the images used for the Holy Spirit in Scripture. We celebrate Pentecost as a community because it is the anniversary of the “birth” of the Church. It’s a reminder that each congregation, and every denomination traces its origins back to that event as recorded in Acts 2.
A pastor friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday a reminder that 3,000 were “added to their number” on that first Pentecost (Acts 2:41). He went on to say that he prayed that another 3,000 would be added today. Well, me being me that made me think. On an average day how many people in the world become believers? According to the World Christian Encyclopedia approximately 2.7 million people each year convert to Christianity from another religion (2001, p. 360). This does not include the growth of number of Christians from those raised in Christian households. This is the number of converts. If my math is correct that comes down to just shy of 7,400 people becoming Christians on an average day. Of course, me being me, I had to post a smart-aleck reply to his comment asking if he was praying that there’d be 4,400 fewer converts yesterday.
I’ve preached about this before, and talked about it in Sunday School class as well. We sometimes become discouraged when we see what seems to be the trend of Christianity around us. I continue to remind us that Christianity is growing worldwide. This year, for the first time ever, there are more Christians on the African continent (631 million) than there are in South America (601 million). If you want to learn about this and other trends in the growth of Christianity, you might find this article interesting—you can click here. Headlines frequently talk about the decline of Christianity in the United States, but those come from a very particular way of understanding the data that is important for us to understand. You can read the research that was a joint project of Indiana University and Harvard University here. It’s not an easy read, but I would be happy to discuss this with you and what it means both for our congregation and the surrounding community. They make observations that are important for us to note.
What does this mean for us? I think we should be encouraged by what we see God doing among us. Ultimately God is the one who causes growth. Like Paul and Apollos, however, we are called to faithfully plant seeds and to water them (1 Corinthians 3:5-7). My hope and prayer is that God will continue to “add to their number daily.” I hope that we are united in this hope and prayer, and that we are willing to use our gifts to accomplish God’s purpose.