Toward the end of this year, something remarkable will happen. The 8 billionth person will be born in the world.
When considering the global population, we often think about China, with 1.45 billion people, and India, with 1.4 billion. There are reasons for us as Christians to be concerned about both nations. China is a place of incredible persecution of the church and could be the next global conflict. India is a hotbed for religious division and particularly for persecution of the Christian church.
But on the continent of Africa we have 1.3 billion people. By the year 2050 that will double. Most of the population growth in the world in the next 28 years will be in Africa. So in the year 2050, one quarter of the world will be African and 50 percent of all global evangelicals will be African. It is thus critical for us to be in prayer for Africa.
I was in Uganda and was talking with some of the leaders. They were excited about this future and about the 300 million new African Christians in the years leading up to 2050. But I asked them two questions. Number one: what about the one billion new Africans who will not know Jesus Christ? How will they be reached? And then number two: what kind of Christian will those 300 million new African believers be? As one African Bishop has said, Christianity in Africa is a mile wide and an inch deep.
Africa is a battleground. It is a spiritual battleground. And we can see the fault lines before our own eyes. Christianity is growing up from the south and also eastward from the east into the west, but more rapidly, we have Islam growing down from the north, and eastward from the west.
Christianity is growing in Africa and people are coming to the church. They’re eager to know Jesus, but also they’re asking for one more thing: a job. But the church in Africa doesn’t really have an answer to that question. Islam in Africa, on the other hand, is actually creating a socio-economic, religious-political ecosystem that includes jobs and community, and they are viciously protecting this ecosphere and also persecuting those who won’t enter into it.
So the future of the world is African. The future of the global church is African. And the future of global mission is African. And one day we will hit one billion African believers. What does that mean for all of us?
Getting to Know Our Global Family
There’s an Ubuntu Zulu phrase that was used by an African theologian, who said, ‘If you belong to Christ, you belong to everyone who belongs to Christ.’ The Ubuntu concept is: I am because we are. One thing I would challenge you with is that if you belong to Christ, you belong to everyone who belongs to Christ.
How global is your faith? When we talk about discipleship, we’re often thinking how to grow deeper in our faith, but we don’t often talk about the breadth of our faith. There are so many Christians today who have a very monocultural Christianity. It’s a tiniest slice of the faith that we have in Jesus Christ. Many Christians don’t know about African theology. They don’t know about Southeast Asian worship music. They don’t know the stories of the persecuted church in North Korea and China and the Middle East and North Africa.
I want to challenge all of us to be thinking not just about going deeper in our faith, but growing in the global breadth of our faith. We need to know our global family and also our global faith and break from the bonds of a single culture.
A Holy Dissatisfaction and a Systematic Prayer
Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Jesus has taught us how to pray for the world in the Lord’s Prayer. We long for the name of Jesus to be hallowed in China and in South Asia and beyond. We serve a God who sings, and he sings over us with rejoicing (Zephaniah 3:17). We sing because we have a holy satisfaction in the God of glory, a holy and joyful satisfaction in Jesus Christ.
But all of us also need to have a holy dissatisfaction in the worshipless-ness of the world. Three billion people in the world not only are not singing praise to our God, the God who made them, they’ve never even heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. Eighty-six percent of all the world’s Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus do not know a single Christian. How would they come to know and sing of the God of glory?
Every year, year by year, there are more people than the year before who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to be who Christ called us to be, which is a house of prayer for all nations.
Is your church a house of prayer for all the nations? Is your home a house of prayer for all the nations?
Jesus says in Matthew 24 that this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the earth, to all the nations, and then the end will come. We get to be a part of the ushering in of the kingdom of God and the return of Jesus Christ.
One resource I’d like to recommend is our partner organization, Operation World. It’s the definitive guide to prayer for every nation on earth. It’s both a very thick book and also an app that we have made free on the Apple and Google stores.
‘God bless the missionaries’ is a great prayer. God will hear those prayers. But we need to pray targeted, specific, strategic prayers, and Operation World is the best resource to lead you in those prayers, as a church and in your family.
Let’s pray together. Let’s sing together. Let’s get to know, and learn to cherish, our global family.
Editor’s Note: This article is based on Michael Oh’s talk at Sing! 2022. Watch the full recording of his talk below.
Pray with Us
By Michael Oh
Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. As your people, we come and we intercede on behalf of your people, those all around the world, those among the nations, those who have yet to believe in Jesus Christ. We pray in their lives and all the earth, hallowed be your name. Mobilize us as your church. Teach us to pray in a faithful and biblical way. As we come before you, Father, we come with a heart of repentance as well. We repent for not being who you have called us to be. We long to be your church, your body global throughout all the ages. Help us toward that end. Do what you alone can do. For your glory alone we ask in Jesus’ name.
Michael Oh serves as the Global Executive Director / CEO of the Lausanne Movement. Michael and his family served as missionaries in Nagoya, Japan, from 2004 to 2016. There he founded a ministry called Christ Bible Institute (CBI), which includes Christ Bible Seminary, the Heart & Soul Cafe, and a church-planting ministry.