The Church is On the Rise

In Numbers 13 and 14, twelve spies were sent to explore the land of Canaan for forty days. Ten of those operatives reported back, “Canaan is full of giants much stronger than we are! The cities are heavily guarded! There’s no way we can conquer the land! If only we’d died back in Egypt! Let’s go back to slavery—and hurry!”

However, the other two agents reported, “There are giants, but the Lord is our Warrior! And who can triumph against Him? Canaan is exceedingly good, better than we predicted! Its land is bursting with delicious new flavors and wild new adventures! Come on, let’s move forward as God told us!”

All twelve spies observed the exact same things but certainly did not walk away with the same perspective. One group saw inevitable destruction and quaked in fear, but the other group saw inevitable triumph and the Lord’s faithfulness.

Let’s talk Church.

What do you see when you look at the community of faith?

Some may look at the state of the global Church and walk away with the wrong perspective—a defeated, exasperated, confused, and ashamed perspective. After all, at the time of my writing this piece, the Church has been experiencing growing pains of sorts. It’s no secret that the Roman Catholic Church has had to navigate in recent years the consequences of a minority of clergy engaging in pedophelia and other sexual abuses. The largest Protestant denomination in America, the Southern Baptist Convention, is currently walking through troubled times, with the surfacing of sexual abuse and misogyny by prominent figureheads. In fact, well-known Bible teacher Beth Moore, who is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, recently admitted that “our family (the SBC) is sick. We need help,” which, in my opinion, is almost like a shot heard ’round the evangelical world. The United Methodist Church, the second largest Protestant denomination in the States, had been carefully balancing for several years a discussion on homosexuality within its denomination until 2018, when it affirmed that homosexuality was a sinful practice—the publicity of which seemed to reveal what some would argue is an ever-widening rift among its congregants. Influential churches have suffered in the last decade because of exposed abuse and sexual sin among its leaders. Irrespective of denomination, I have personally spoken with some churchgoers across the nation who have been affected by the ugly game of church politics or the pain of a church split. Some say churches are power hungry, greedy, or worse.

Yes, some may see the current state of affairs and declare, as did most of the spies in Numbers 13 and 14, “There’s just no way we can move forward. It’s time to give up.” Some have lost perspective and are blind to the overwhelming good that God is up to.

And what’s worse, those spies who returned with a throw-in-the-towel report were cursed to never enter the Promised Land—to never experience the victory and glory of God.

Listen. No matter what your local church is facing, no matter what your opinion is of things, the global Church is stronger than ever! God’s Spirit is being poured out in beautiful, fresh ways like our biblical predecessors could only have dreamed about! We are growing in numbers, growing in quality, bearing much fruit, seeing results—and I represent a generation who is passionate, desperate, and hungry for more of Jesus! I know I am!

We have the option of looking at the state of affairs and predicting the inevitable faithfulness of God, as did Joshua and Caleb! Some could look at the Church and say, “It’s too late; we’re too far gone,” but here’s what I see when I look at the God’s beautiful Bride.

In Africa, it was estimated in 1900 that there were roughly 8.7 million Christians, but now there is estimated to be more than 390 million! Praise God! There are perhaps thousands who are investing their lives as missionaries to African nations, but I’ll share the story of just one. Swedish Johannes Amritzer and his team of some of my most inspiring friends host “SOS Adventure” in African capitol cities, offering medical aid, eyecare, child health services, and meeting other practical needs. But what’s hands-down most exciting is that their Signs & Wonders Festivals attract tens of thousands of locals who experience the wonder of God! In 2015 alone, this ministry preached the Gospel to a quarter of a million people, sent 373 short-term missionaries to the mission field, documented 1,774 medically-verified healings, saw 148 people delivered from demonic spirits, and led more than 57,000 to a decision to follow Jesus!

Iran is currently experiencing an annual 5.2% growth in Christianity—that’s amazing! (And that’s a conservative estimate; one source says the growth is as high as 19.7% annually!) Recently a missionary posted on Instagram that the number one prayer request by Iranian church leaders he receives was for more swimming pools, because “thousands of salvations (are) leading to 24-7 baptism sites, where lines form for hours for new believers to get baptized”!

Although the devil is trying to squelch the Kingdom’s growth by influencing political leaders to outlaw Christianity, it seems the underground Church is thriving more than ever! For example, in China, which is officially an atheist and Communist nation, Christianity is not illegal per se, but only government-approved themes are to be preached, spies are sent in to monitor church worship, and security cameras are required to be installed as accountability measures. (This piece was especially helpful in my understanding of Chinese Christianity.) But instead of the fire dying out, Christians are gathering in droves to secretly worship in “underground churches.” Some estimate that China’s 115 million Protestants make Christianity the fastest growing demographic in the country! Although there are regular outbreaks of violence and police brutality against members of these secret Christian churches, it seems nothing will stop the leaven of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:33)—one analyst predicts that by 2030, China will have more than 247 million Christians!

Did you know that the largest annual event in Australia is the Hillsong Conference, a Pentecostal Christian event attended by more than 30,000 believers from all over the earth? Over its dynamic history, it has featured Bible-based teachers and worship leaders such as John Bevere, Craig Groeschel, Louie Giglio, Darlene Zschech, and Matt Redman. Last year in 2018, they completely sold out Australia’s largest indoor arena! I love that the Church down under is so influential that the entire nation must notice!

We are living in a jaw-dropping, supernatural season where some of the most influential voices of our Western culture are openly professing Jesus Christ as Lord, including Justin Bieber, Chris Pratt, Selena Gomez, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant, and Vanessa Hudgens! You are welcome to have your opinion on this, but here’s mine: hallelujah! I am thrilled that Heaven is getting bigger, and even more excited that these celebrities, broken as they are like all the rest of humanity, are using their platforms to announce the life-giving love of Christ!

It is becoming regular, although no less incredible, that many Christian worship albums are reaching the #1 position on iTunes and Billboard charts from ministries such as Hillsong Worship, Hillsong United, Bethel Music, and more! What incredible exposure this brings to the name of Jesus!

Jesus is building His Church! Oh, yes! Jesus is building His Church!

If we as individuals move from glory to increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), then how much more so the gathering of such glorious believers! Don’t miss the forest for the trees—I am convinced the Church itself keeps going from glory to glory to glory to glory!

Surely “‘the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Haggai 2:9). Your Maker Himself says so!

Listen. If you feel hopeless or discouraged about the state of the Church, I would suggest that you have the wrong perspective. Yes, the global Church needs refining. Yes, the global Church has made both small and egregious, reprehensible mistakes. But if those statements are true, then here is an even more powerful, undeniable reality.

The Church is stronger than we have ever been! Yes! The Church is growing larger than we have ever been! Yes! The vibrancy of Church life has not and will never be dulled by persecution, internal difficulty, political pressures, the “yeast of the Pharisees,” or any other arrow the enemy forges against us! The message of the Kingdom is exploding into enemy territory with the force of a Holy Spirit geyser, and we are winning back what the devil thought he stole for good! Yes, the gates of Hades will never prevail against Jesus’ Church!

Jesus’ mission will triumph! He will not fail! His Church will not fail, not now or ever! Amen and amen!

Josh

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