It's been a tumultuous month. Heck, it's been a tumultuous YEAR.
A lot of us are feeling raw and weary, despondent even, about the state of the world.
I'm not saying you should give up on any particular situation...
BUT it's interesting that Jesus suggests in Matthew 10:14 that there is a time to shake the dust off your feet and move on.
I guess it takes wisdom to know when that moment has arrived.
Part of my own journey has been recognizing that for this season, God has called me not to endlessly pour my energy into the Western church (which is getting further and further off track). But instead to focus almost all my time and resources on what God is doing here in Asia and Africa and the rest of the NON-Western world.
That's why I moved back here to Asia 4 years ago - to ride the wave of God's beautiful compassion for the poor in this context. And I'm convinced this is the right place for me. Here's a couple of reasons why...
1. The NUMBERS will blow your mind
A major shift has taken place over the last few decades. In the West, Christianity is in decline...
- A century ago, 80% of Christians lived in North America and Europe. Today? Half that: 40%.
- In fact, 1 out of every 4 Christians in the world are now in Africa. Over the past 100 years, Christians grew from less than 10 percent of Africa’s population to nearly 500 million today. And it's rising FAST.
- Another half a BILLION believers are found in Latin America.
- Meanwhile in Asia, the number of Christians is growing at twice the rate of the population. Asia’s Christian population of 350 million is projected to grow to 460 million by 2025.
Then there's China. Demographers reckon that there are more believers worshipping in China on any given Sunday than in the United States.
A few months ago I was visiting with one of the leaders of the Alongsiders movement in South Asia. He led me to a dusty room where he was running an 'old school' Bible correspondence course by paper and pen, through the ancient mail system.
I asked him how many people were doing his weekly Bible lessons by this method. "Oh only a small number...," he said smiling. "About 15,000"
Mind officially blown.
2. The raw PASSION will wake you up
A few years back, I was preaching and teaching regularly in North American churches and university campuses. I would rock up, and share God's heart for the poor to hundreds, even thousands of people.
And folks would tell me - "That was great! It reminds me of when Tony Campolo spoke here last week." or "You're like the Kiwi version of Shane Claiborne - he was here last month."
How much teaching and preaching does one person (or one nation) need? It seems to me that it's time for some redistribution of the resources.
Too many North American Christians are theologically obese. Too much rich input. And not enough outworking.
In contrast, the passion, faithfulness and perseverance of many impoverished Asian and African Christians puts you and me to shame. A lot of my neighbours fight crazy odds just to survive, with barely any encouragement. And it gives their faith an authentic edge and passion.
Check out this church service I was part of in an undisclosed location in South Asia earlier this year...
These are people who grind it out every single day, through real hardships, real persecution, real poverty and inequality. And they're worshipping God with everything they have because He is their only lifeline.
I don't know about you, but I want to be part of this growing movement of faithful and passionate worshippers on the edges of society.
I want reality. Not a reality show.
3. The NEED is very real
Here in Asia, the needs are intense. I know because among other things, we produce Jesus-inspired comic books in 16 Asian and African languages for impoverished Christian youth to use with kids in their own slum communities and rural villages.
Time and time again, Asian and African church leaders come to me and say: Can we get a whole bunch more of these comics because we have nothing to use in our Sunday Schools in our language? We have hardly any books to use in our schools.... We have no literacy materials that use local artwork...
Every single thing we can produce is gobbled up by people with virtually no resources.
People are hungry.
Last year, I was at a gathering of hundreds of Asian leaders. This doesn't happen to me very often, but I had a picture in my mind of a massive wave. And flailing around on the top of that wave, barely even holding on to the surfboard, was little old me. It was like God is stirring up something mighty and overwhelming in this place.
Just as I was feeling overwhelmed and out of control, the worship band began to sing the following words:
"When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You above the storm."
This is where God is working.
This is where I want to be - riding the wave of God's goodness.
Not everyone can, or should, pivot to Asia, Africa, or Latin America. But we all need a blast of cold water in the face from time to time. I know I do!
We all need to wake up.
So do what it takes to get out of your bubble. Ask God for an opportunity to humbly learn from those on the margins - no matter where you find them.
And consider the prophetic words of Francis Xavier (1506-1542): “Tell the students to give up their small ambitions and come east..."
Come, and rediscover Jesus.