Regardless of which statistic you look at, the number of Christians is growing worldwide—and not just from population growth but from conversion. What is significant is the “where” of that growth. Christianity is growing in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and South America. These are places with religious restrictions and open persecution of Christianity. These are places where people are poor, where people lack many basic necessities, where people struggle to survive. In my mind it is reminiscent of the first few centuries of Christianity. According to the Pew Research Center and the World Christian Encyclopedia, Chrstianity is rising in these areas but on a slow steady decline in a few others. Most notable and at the fastest rate is western Europe, followed by Canada and then the US. I think the reason for decline in these countries is two-fold.
One, wealth—our western civilization has placed so much significance on comfort, pleasure, and convenience that all of the hard parts of Christianity are off-putting. As a culture, we are enthralled by the riches and fleeting pleasures our world has to offer.
Two, a lack of evangelism—in the US there is a growing sense among Christians that tolerance means not evangelizing. Since when does Christianity not require evangelism? When did it become okay for baptized believers not to share their faith? I think it is important to note that Paul never said, “go evangelize”. Peter never told us to share our faith–the closest got was in 1 Peter 3:15 where he said, “Always be prepared to give an answera to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hopeb that you have.” Except for Jesus’ great commission (Matthew 28:19-20 and perhaps Acts 1:8), there isn’t a command to evangelize. What we see are examples and an assumption that believers understand that this is a part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The call Jesus gave to His apostles was simply, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17, Luke 5:10). This call is still valid today.