The Future of the Global Church: History, Trends, and Possibilities
by Patrick Johnstone
Biblica Books from Intervarsity Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker
This year, Biblica (formerly known as the International Bible Society) formally sold the book publishing part of their ministry to Intervarsity Press. Intervarsity has been busy in promoting this partnership, and many of the new books they will be able to offer through the Biblica imprint. One of the first books released in this partnership is a smart, slick book on the state of the church around the world called The Future of the Global Church.
The Future of the Global Church is an excellent resource. It is primarily a statistical book. It begins by informing its readers about population changes and people movements throughout the world. Johnstone then clearly identifies in short bullet points what the challenges are for missions and evangelism in the midst of the changing world we live in. In the process, he clearly shows that the historic Christian West is in decline, and that the Muslim church in Asia and Africa is growing rapidly.
Johnstone also devotes a whole section of his book to the historic development and growth of the church from a global perspective. Want to know where the biggest revivals were in the world in the 20th century? The Future of the Global Church has a couple of pages devoted just to that topic. I am constantly amazed at how much detail and information is in this small book.
The Future of the Global Church also traces historic and global trends in the rise and decline of each of the world's major world religions. It also pays careful attention to how different sects within each of these religious groupings are growing or declining, and what that means for Christian witness in regions where those religious groups are strongest.
Johnstone also does a significant amount of work tracking and discussing the different "megablocs" within Christian circles. I learned, for instance, that that Anglican church is much more populous in Nigeria and Kenya than in the United States. I also learned that by 2050, Johnstone projects there will be more people in the Anglican Fellowship in Uganda and Nigeria than in the United Kingdom. Pretty fascinating information right there!
The Future of the Global Church also pays particular attention to the victories and challenges of the evangelical churches around the world. Did you know that China will have more evangelicals than the United States does by 2050? Johnstone also identifies the unchurched around the world not only by nations and regions within nations, but he also identifies those folks by people groups. For instance, in Africa the Pygmy folks are predominantly Muslim, but the Bantu folks are predominantly Christian.
Do you want to pray for the world? Do you have a passion for evangelistic mission in the church? Do you want to be a global Christian? If so, I would strongly recommend purchasing this fine book, and letting it inform your prayers, your giving, your evangelistic efforts and your worldview. Get to know the world God put you in, and begin to love and care for it with intelligence as a disciple of Jesus.