Looking to the Future

24 Jan 2024

I am intrigued by Jesus’s words in John 14:12, “Whoever believes in me…will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” What could be greater than walking on water, feeding 5,000 people, or raising Lazarus from the dead? Yet here we are in 2023 experiencing things that would have left the disciples utterly amazed. We live in the most dramatic and fruitful chapter of redemptive history. Let me mention some of the dynamics which I believe will continue to shape the future of global missions.

Multiplication: God’s worldwide family is growing. The number of evangelical believers in the world grew almost 500% between 1900 and 2020. In Latin America, evangelicals grew from 825,000 to 51 million in that same span of 120 years, while the Church in Africa grew from 1.8 million to 161 million.[i] God is at work! Prepare to be amazed as momentum continues to build.

Mobilization: God is answering our prayers that He would “send out workers into his harvest field” (Luke 10:2). Between 2005 and 2020, 3,158 people groups were engaged for the first time by 5,159 missionary teams.[ii]

Collaboration: The Great Commission has always had a global scope. Now it also has a truly global workforce. At Pioneers, we support missionaries from more than 80 passport countries. We have unprecedented opportunities for partnership.

Disruption: God is shaking the nations socially, geopolitically and economically. A hundred million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes.[iii] Many of them are more open to the gospel than they’ve ever been before. Are we ready for the harvest God is bringing in unlikely places?

Opposition: Opposition is not new, and it won’t stop until the Lord’s return. Open Doors estimates that one out of every seven Christians worldwide experiences “high,” “very high” or “extreme” persecution.[iv] I’m confident the testimony of persecuted saints will continue to be a powerful force in global missions.

Celebration: We don’t know when Christ’s return will occur, but we know it’s closer than ever. Jesus spoke of the Kingdom as a great marriage banquet. He promised that “people will come from east and west and north and south and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:29). What a celebration that will be!

I believe the future of missions involves a growing global church and missionary workforce joining hands to complete the Great Commission amid severe opposition and disruption. Are your eyes lifted to the harvest fields (John 4:35)? We know the story of the Church ultimately ends in glory with the nations worshipping before the throne of God (Rev. 7:9). The challenge for all of us is to live accordingly.

This article is a condensed version of Steve Richardson’s chapter, “A Piece in God’s Global Mission Puzzle,” in Mission in Praise, Word, and Deed, edited by Edward L. Smither and Jessica A. Udall (William Carey Publishing: Littleton, 2023). Found at missionbooks.org.

Steve Richardson | Director Pioneers USA

[i] Todd M. Johnson and Gina A. Zurlo, World Christian Encyclopedia, 3rd ed. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2020), 25.

[ii] “Global 2020 Update,” Finishing the Task, accessed January 3, 2023, https://finishingthetask.com/wp-content/uploads/FTT-Global-2020-Update.pdf.

[iii] “Global Trends,” UNHCR, accessed January 6, 2023, https://www.unhcr.org/globaltrends.

[iv] World Watch List 2023 (International ed.), Open Doors, 6, accessed October 9, 2023, https://www.opendoors.org/en-US/theadvocacyreport/.

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