Lifeway research summarizes 7 Encouraging Trends of Global Christianity in 2022 as follows:
1. Religious faith is growing faster than the irreligious.
2. Christianity continues to grow.
3. Growth is fastest in the global South (especially Africa and Asia).
4. Christianity continues to spread out.
5. The percentage of non-Christians who know a Christian is climbing.
6. More than 90 million Bibles will be printed this year.
7. Fewer Christians are dying for their faith.
The church that Jesus launched and continues to build began with a small band of followers. We read of these humble beginnings in Luke 8:1-15. Would you please take a few moments to read this passage?
The kingdom of God grows with seeds (Luke 8:1-8).
Jesus’ listeners were quite familiar with the scene He described. A farmer would plough most of his field, but some of the seeds he scattered would fall on paths packed hard by constant use. The birds promptly found the seeds and had a feast. The farmer had no harvest from those seeds.
Some seeds fell on the rock, settling onto a thin layer of soil atop of the underlying rock. Seeds sown in this shallow soil would quickly sprout and grow during the rainy season. As soon as the rain stopped and the warm sun came out, the immature plants died from lack of moisture caused by shallow soil becoming dry right down to the rock. Much of the ground in Palestine was like this, thin and unproductive.
Farmers and gardeners know the nuisance of thorns and weeds, which always seem to spring up more quickly than good seeds. The thorns multiplied and quickly choked out the grain.
But all was not lost. Some of the seed fell on good soil where it germinated and in due season brought forth a bountiful crop.
Jesus scattered seeds day after day. He calls us to cooperate with Him by scattering seeds as He did. Watch for opportunities to scatter God’s seeds. Look for a chance to be kind; pray with someone who is hurting; share a relevant truth from the Bible; or tell someone about Jesus. Then pray and watch the Lord bring the increase.
The kingdom of God grows with supporters (Luke 8:1b-3).
The twelve disciples accompanied Jesus, as did several women cured of evil spirits and diseases. These women, who had a bit of wealth, helped to support His ministry. Jesus did not resort to His miraculous powers to care for His physical needs. Christ’s work needed financial support. Jesus’ supporters served and gave behind the scenes to meet these needs. They paid labourers and expenses along the way.
Strong followers of Jesus and churches are focused outward on the kingdom of God. A base of leaders, workers and givers is needed to support and fulfil God’s vision. It will take us to do our part for the church to move forward. The “Head” of the church calls us to cooperate by being and working together.
Someone has observed, “We are born for cooperation, as are the feet, the hands, the eyelids and the upper and lower jaws.”
Will you commit to building a solid, strong community of faith?
The kingdom of God grows with seekers (Luke 8:9-10).
Jesus began using parables more in this period of His ministry. Someone has defined a parable as “an earthly story with a heavenly truth.”
Each parable served at least one of three purposes. First, to illuminate a spiritual truth that Jesus’ listeners would not understand. Second, to help a hearer remember an insight longer or more accurately. Ironically, the third reason Jesus used parables was to conceal the truth. This parable separates the hungry from the casual seeker.
There are secrets (unrevealed truths) of the Bible that will be discovered only by the serious inquirer. The Lord calls us to cooperate by seeking Him and His ways with all our hearts.
How satisfied are you with what you know and understand about the Lord and His ways? What have you learned about Jesus this last month, this last week?
The kingdom of God grows with soil (Luke 8:11-15).
The first group of hearers (represented by the trampled down path) are those who reject the word of God without ever really giving it a chance to take root in their lives. Some do this because they overlook or despise the messenger. Others have become so calloused that nothing spiritual seems able to penetrate their defenses.
The second group of hearers (represented by the shallow soil) were people who readily received the word and responded to it. For a time they showed great promise; but when they shouldered responsibilities or faced opposition, their enthusiasm waned and they soon fell away.
The third group of hearers (represented by the thorny soil) also heard and responded to the word. Their intentions were good, but the world’s burdens, whether natural cares or temptations of wealth and pleasure, kept them from producing a crop.
Finally, some of the seeds fell on good soil. Such people respond when they hear the word and have the depth to keep growing and the strength to overcome the distractions represented by the thorns. God calls us to cooperate with the seed of His word by letting it settle into our hearts and minds and living it out by what we say and do.
Cooperation leads to multiplication in the kingdom of God. Let’s work together!