The countries in South Asia have the fastest-growing churches in the world, with some estimates showing a 3.6% annual growth in Asia. Protestant and Independent Christians increased from under four million in 1900 to over 193 million in 2000.1 Yet, this region also faces some of the strongest, most systematic forms of persecution against Christians and against those who engage in evangelistic ministries.
By the Numbers…
• Over eighty-three percent of the 4.4 billion
• Over eighty-seven percent of the world’s
• Of the fifty-five countries in the world that have
• Asia is the birthplace of two of the major
• Three of the largest Muslim countries—Indonesia,
Source: Operation World: 21st Century Edition
With almost half of the world’s poor people living in this region, poverty, deprivation, and marginalisation are key challenges. Many Asian countries are still entrenched in civil or military conflicts, while others are slowly emerging from decades of civil war. This region has huge disparities: some countries are experiencing phenomenal economic growth, while others are mired in weak development strategies and rampant corruption. Civil liberties have been largely overlooked, and many Asians do not enjoy the freedom of speech or of religion.
The Church in Asia serves within this context of great disparities, of widening social and economic divides. Multiple religions, diverse cultures, and hundreds of languages and dialects mean that there is no single strategy for reaching Asia for Christ. There are many different worldviews through which the gospel needs to be preached.
A rising tide of nationalism in many countries across this region has led to Christianity being viewed as a foreign, imperialistic religion being imposed on the locals. The Asian Church has been slow to make Christianity relevant to local culture and social needs. I strongly believe that we—the Asian Church—need to urgently develop evangelistic strategies which are biblically sound, missiologically-focussed, culturally relevant, and sacrificial in love.
Asian churches need to send out their own people as missionaries to reach those who have not yet heard the gospel in Asia. We also need to learn from each other; indeed, there is a rich diversity in culture, language, and history. Asians also share many common characteristics. We need to study church growth patterns and identify trends and learnings which we can share with each other.
The Asian Church needs to strengthen its networks so that we can come alongside each other and strengthen individual churches, Christian leaders, and missionaries to build the Kingdom of God in Asia.
1. “Renewal and Growth: Our Evangelical Pursuit.” Compendium of The Asian Church Congress.