"Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." I Peter 1:8
I Am So Excited!!but....
I Would Like More Information
While the Lord's church is growing around the world in many places -
The churches of Christ have had extreme success in Africa. Of the 2,500,000 members of the churches of Christ outside the borders of the United States, nearly 500,000 of them are on the continent of Africa. This is a base that provides opportunity for tremendous growth in the next two decades. Between 1989 and 2000 more than fifty million people become first time hearers of the Christian religion. This is the projection of David Barrett, the chief church growth statistician. The churches of Christ are poised to see more growth than ever before.
Missions to Africa is not new to members of the church of Christ from the United States. The churches of Christ (members outside Africa) have been involved in Africa for nearly one hundred and fifty years. The first missionary of the churches of Christ to travel to Africa was a freed slave by the name of Alexander Cross. The restoration preacher and strategist, D.S. Burnet, had wanted to begin a work in Africa. In 1853 he received a letter from Kentucky describing the evangelistic abilities of a slave. Burnet asked the Hopkinsville, Kentucky congregation to purchase Cross and his families' freedom. After a few months further training and prayer, on November 5, 1853, Alexander, his wife and son, James, sailed from Baltimore and landed in Monrovia, Liberia in early January 1854. Upon arrival Cross began construction of his home which included poling a canoe fourteen miles up river. The severe climate and malaria devastated him and he died within four months.
The next missionaries to Africa did not leave until after the turn of the century. The task was difficult in the beginning. Decease and primitive living conditions made the work extremely difficult for the pioneer missionaries. They were not the only ones to experience hardships. Many of the first converts were rejected by family and community and were forced to live on mission compounds. This made growth crawl along at a slow rate.
Most of the growth in the church in Africa has taken place in the past forty years. In that period the memberships has grown from less than 20,000 to over 500,000. . The Lord has answered many prayers and he continues to work wonders there. Ninety-five percent of this growth has taken place in just seven countries (see pie chart). Many of the other twenty-one countries where the churches of Christ are working are new works. Some have suffered from the lack of personnel. These, along with twenty- three countries we have not entered, present the challenge for the future on this responsive continent. The Lord has already done a great work among us.
Whether you look at the growth of the church in Nigeria or Malawi you are looking at the greatest responses to the gospel in a century. In the past forty years more than 150,000 Nigerians have become members of the churches of Christ. The largest rural and urban congregations of the churches of Christ are found in Nigeria. Rural villages among the Ibibio and Efik are laced with a web of congregations. This movement has grown to more than 1600 congregations. The growth in Nigeria has come through periods of struggle and sacrifice. While thousands were dying during the Biafran war (1967-70), tens of thousands were becoming followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Currently members of churches in the Moslem dominated north are facing fierce persecution. Buildings are being burnt and Christians are beaten, yet evangelists are reporting scores of Muslims coming to the Lord. Satin is being defeated.
Malawi is another success story. It is a small country, numbering only 9 million, but there are more than 75,000 members of the churches of Christ there. Malawian evangelists have been missionaries for more than three decades. They initiated the works in Tanzania and Mozambique. This growth and dedication has come with a very small force of missionaries and little American money. It is a movement to the Lord.
Ethiopia has been noted for its famine and war. The church was used by God to bring famine relief to hundreds of thousands in 1983-85. Few know that there are 417 congregations with well over one hundred and forty-four thousand members (144,000). Most of this growth took place before the relief efforts began. Ethiopia has never been a colony and the church there is fiercely independent as well. At present there are no missionaries of the churches of Christ in the country.
Ghana is the fastest growing mission work of the churches of Christ in the world. Ghanians are found all over West Africa. Some brethren have learned French and started the first congregations in Burkina Faso and Togo.
Zambia is one of the oldest mission works of the churches of Christ. The first church was planted in 1909 by Peter Masiya, a convert of stone mason cum evangelist, John Sherriff of Rhodesia. It was not until 1921 that W. N. Short came as the first American missionary. Between 1940 and 1965 more than ninety percent of the missionary force was involved in schools. The church was able to hand nineteen schools over to the government at independence. Church growth was slow in the beginning in Zambia. There were less than 1500 active members as late as 1968. It was not until the mid-1960s and the arrival of trained church planting missionaries that the work began to flourish. At present there are more than 27,000 active members in Zambia.
South Africa has fiercely strong and independent movements among the blacks, whites, and indigenous populations. Some of the leaders have been trained in the United States and many more have been instructed in Bible schools within the country. South African missionaries serve in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland, and Namibia. There is still much work to be done in this very populous country.
Kenya has more expatriate missionaries than any country on the continent. The work is also the newest among the seven largest. The Van Tate and Ted Ogle families were the first to enter. Since that time more than one hundred missionaries from the churches of Christ have worked in this receptive country. Some rural teams have witnessed more than seven hundred come to the Lord in one year. Over the past eight years the rural and urban mission teams in Kenya have served as the training ground for mission candidates from many universities.
Zambia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria have older works than most in Africa and are the home for some the most mature leaders:
India is experiencing amazing growth but with that has come persecution and death! Due to the level of religious persecution they are no longer sending messages about their evangelistic efforts as they once did. It is estimated that over one million people have been baptized in India over the past 25 years!
The Lord's church is growing in many parts of the world !! We could talk about how the church is growing in places like China and Russia but we do not have the space or time to do this. While things are heating up around the world what is happening here in the United States?
For Example ...
Here are a few important and initial observations:
Churches of Christ in Oklahoma are common, particularly in rural areas. With congregations in all 77 counties there is significant "presence" throughout the state.
On any given Sunday, 1.44% of Oklahomans are attending a Church of Christ.
As context the ratio is the following in these surrounding states: Arkansas (2.21%), Tennessee (2.52%), and Texas (0.88%).
The gap between membership (56,528) and adherents (74,208) is 17,680 or 23.82% of all adherents. Presumably, many of this number are children.
(From another source but still relevant) The average age of people in the Churches of Christ is approximately 54 with slightly more than 25% being college graduates. This means that the rate by which our tradition will grow merely by the growth of families will continue to rapidly decline.