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This issue has a strong theme of engaging with and reaching out to Muslims. We look at how refugees in Europe are turning to Christ and in turn reviving the church there; we assess Disciple-Making Movements as a Biblical solution for the remaining task of reaching least-evangelised peoples; we consider how we should view Islam and the importance of developing a biblical worldview that gives a framework for relating to Muslims; and finally we ask what the Caliphate means and how we should respond to many Muslims’ aspiration for it.
‘The arrival of millions of migrants in Europe is shaking the foundations of secular post-Christian Western civilization’, writes Sam George (Lausanne Catalyst for Diasporas). The epicenter of the refugee crisis is the continuation of wars in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, producing nearly half of all refugees in the world. God is doing something new and exciting in the midst of this great crisis. Large numbers of refugees are turning to Christ and being baptised. Many have had dreams or visions of Jesus. Only God could have turned such a desperate situation into such a mission opportunity, and what is happening lies beyond the strategic planning of any church or mission agency. On the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, God is once again reviving the church in Europe, this time through refugees from the Middle East. Who could ever have foreseen something like this? Churches and ministries involved with refugees are experiencing renewal. ‘The diasporas arising out of displacement, including the flight of refugees from the Middle East to Europe, are fertile ground for new activity of the Spirit of God and with it the advancement and indeed transformation of Christianity’, he concludes.
‘In the mid-1980s, 24% of world’s population (1.8 billion people) had little or no Gospel access’, writes Kent Parks (President & CEO of Beyond, formerly called Mission to Unreached Peoples). Today, that figure has grown to 29% (2.1 billion people). Tragically, only about 3% of global missionaries serve this 29%. A holy urgency has caused many to re-study Scripture as a strategy manual. The resulting changes have produced amazing results. At least 158 church planting movements resulting from a process called Disciple-Making Movements have begun since the mid-1980s, but especially within the last 15-20 years. Churches must reproduce more quickly than traditional expectations because it is the only way to exceed population growth and give all peoples access to the Gospel. At least 30% of global missionaries should be assigned to serve the 30% of the world’s population who have never enjoyed gospel witness of any kind. Jesus’ simple but deep strategies (rather than our often complex but non-reproducible efforts) need to be used to change whole people groups. ‘Church planting movements which transform societies represent the only strategy which brings the scalable growth needed to exceed population growth and to finish the task’, he concludes.
‘Over the four and a half decades since I perceived God’s concern for Muslims, I have heard many discussions about how Christian mission should be directed’, writes Ida Glaser (Director of the Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies, Oxford, UK). Underlying them are questions about how we should view Islam, echoed in the polarized responses to Muslims in today’s evangelical world. The major problem is that we do not know how to fit the variety of Islam into our thought categories.
Our teachers and preachers urgently need a way of reading the Bible that enables the whole church to relate to the whole variety of Islam and of Muslims. From cover to cover, the Bible speaks into the world of Islam. Let us put the Bible ‘in conversation with’ Islamic thinking and with Muslim people. Muslims are still waiting for the coming of Jesus and other messianic figures, to deal finally with evil by destroying the wicked and rescuing the good. As Christians, too, wait for the final judgment, what difference does it make to our witness that the Messiah has already come, and has dealt with evil on the cross? The cross brings together the judgment that cleanses and the pain that forgives. ‘How can we make that cross the basis of all our responses to Islam?’, she asks.
‘The term ‘Caliphate’ has become more familiar recently due to the rise and now decline of Islamic State (IS)’, writes a researcher on global religious trends and religious liberty (name withheld by request). However, a global Caliphate is the aim of several other Muslim groups and has been an aspiration for some Muslims going right back into history. The Caliphate represents a ‘golden age’ of doctrinal purity coupled with political ascendency. Before the title was abolished in 1924, Islamic revivalism had already begun, leaving a gap in Sunni Muslim leadership as revivalism was beginning to gather pace. The few polls that have been conducted suggest substantial support among Muslim populations for a Caliphate. The defeat of IS militarily will not end the search for a Caliphate, whether through violent or non-violent means.
The principal tools of the church, as always, are love in action and prayer. Christians should love Muslims enough to share the gospel of Christ with them, overcoming our fear of evangelism to them. Policymakers need to be made aware of the long-term, religious aspiration which lies behind the Caliphate in trying to form effective counter-radicalisation strategies. However, ultimately, government policies cannot be the long-term solution. ‘Only the gospel holds out the prospect of a long-term solution to radicalisation as embodied in the aspiration of the Caliphate’, he concludes.
We hope that you find this issue stimulating and useful. Our aim is to deliver strategic and credible analysis, information and insight so that as a leader you will be better equipped for the task of world evangelisation. It’s our desire that the analysis of current and future trends and developments will help you and your team make better decisions about the stewardship of all that God has entrusted to your care.
Please send any questions and comments about this issue to [email protected]. The next issue of Lausanne Global Analysis will be released in July.