Yes, we were once a small and tiny band. There were only the original 12. Then we had a great explosion on Pentecost day. We began the day with 120 - by its end, 3,120. By the year 38, probably 20,000 - when Stephen was stoned and our church members scattered over 200 different cities. And this becomes one of the greatest church plantings that ever took place. And our numbers began to increase substantially. Towns like Thessaloniki - Ephesus - very likely had several thousand believers.
A small band of people - a half dozen, maybe a dozen - made it north to Antioch. Antioch was the third largest city in the world at the time - probably ½ million. A dozen believers - what difference can they make? By 100 AD, it is estimated that approx. 20% of that city knew Christ - 100,000 people.
In the year 100, there were only one of us for every 360 unbelievers. By the year 1000, there was one of us for every 220 unbelievers. By the year 1995, there is one of us for every 7 unbelievers. Today, it is one believer for every four unbelievers.
Every 24-hour period, 78,000 people come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Every week, 1,600 new churches are formed on planet earth.
In China, 28,000 a day coming to know Him. The government of China, for years, kept saying that there were very few Christians in China. In January, 1993, the Chinese government finally came out with their own official numbers. Their own conservative estimate at that time was 63 million Christians. Today (2008), we know it is well over 100 million.
The Continent of Africa
20,000 new believers every day coming to know Jesus Christ. In the year 1900, only 3% of the population knew him. In the year 1993, it was over 40% - and it is believed that today it is well over 50% of the population that knows Jesus Christ in Africa.
In the last several year, you have probably heard on the news that Islam is the fastest growing religion on earth today. 2½ years ago, I stood here and challenged that statement. I mentioned that Islam was growing, if at all, not by conversion, but by birth. Let me give you another data point. In the 1960s the proportion of Christians in Africa surpassed that of Muslims for the first time in history.
In Korea, in 1900 - not one Christian Church in Korea. And now, in Seoul, Korea alone, over 4,000 churches -- 30% of Korea has come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. A recent list of the largest congregations in the world shows that 8 of the largest 17 are located in South Korea. The most recent number I have for the largest - Yoido Full Gospel (Dr. Cho) is that they are now running at 830,000.
In Iran, of all places, more Muslims have come to Christ since 1980, than the previous 1,000 years.
In Iraq - Baghdad - little Arab Evangelical Church started in 1989. They are already running over 800. - in their 3rd building -- and planning a brand new church.
This is the Church of Jesus Christ. And around the world, it keeps happening - because the church is alive - and well.
Explosion of Pentecostals
I want to show you a chart. 2½ years ago, I showed you a similar chart showing the worldwide growth of evangelicals when compared to the population growth over the same period. In this chart, the comparison is made for the 35-year period from 1970 to 2005. This summary chart show the percentage growth of Evangelicals has been more than double the earth's population percentage growth. The comparison is made by geographical area.
Here is a chart showing the size of the major religious groups in the world. If you call the Assemblies of God a religion, they would be the 6th largest religion in the world. Here is a chart showing some detail making up the 60 million people in the Assemblies of God.
Dr. Philip Jenkins, professor of History and Religious Studies at Penn. State University said: "The scale of Christian growth is almost unimaginable." In his book, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Jenkins argues that the greatest movement of the 20th century was not communism or capitalism. He said "Do the math. The winner is spirit-filled Christians called Pentecostals." By far, the fastest growing religious element in the world is Pentecostals/Charismatics. Jenkins projects that at current growth rates, Pentecostals will be over a billion by 2050 - equal to all Islam today.
I have tried to ascertain whether Dr. Jenkins is a Christian or not. He is a professor of Religious Studies, not just for Christianity, but all religions. Most professors of such studies are not born-again, and after reading through several of his writings, I don't know if he is or not.
Almost all of the 50 largest congregations in the world are Pentecostal/Charismatic. There is an estimated 500 million plus Pentecostals in the world today. There are dozens - maybe hundreds of different Pentecostal/Charismatic groups. It has led some to wonder if the term, Pentecostal, is anything but a hodgepodge of groups without cohesion.
There is, however, a theologically-coherent focus among all the Pentecostal groups. Their unified theology revolves around four components: Christ is:
o Spirit Baptizer
o Coming King.
Each of these may have subsets beneath them. Spirit Baptism naturally leads to a greater desire for evangelism. The Baptism in the Spirit also leads to the attendant charismatic gifts. There may be differences as to when Christ will come in relation to the future Tribulation, but they all agree that Christ is coming again - and soon.
I mentioned to you 2½ years ago that the greatest expansion of Christianity is in the Southern Hemisphere and Asia. The major reason this has occurred is because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in Spiritual Gifts, primarily of Healings and Prophecies. This has put a greater emphasis on prayer, because they believe in a God in Heaven that hears and answers now. They take the supernatural very seriously. One non-Christian source says that divine healing is an "evangelistic door-opener" for Pentecostals. "Signs and wonders" are the evangelistic means whereby the message of the kingdom is actualized in "person-centered" deliverance.
This is also true in Asia, in nations like China. The growth of Christianity in China has been astronomical. And one Chinese local pastor said, "more than 50% of conversions are because supernatural healings were occurring in their midst."