This is the first part of an IndiaFacts series that examines global evangelism from its origins up to the present time.
For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 13.47
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” – Mark 16:15
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. – Mathew 28:19-20
Evangelism has always been a central part of the Christian faith right from its inception. Given the political nature of this doctrine and the clear threat it poses to Hinduism, IndiaFacts analysed David. B Barrett and James W. Reapsome’s book “Seven Hundred Plans to Evangelize the World: The rise of a global evangelization movement.”
David Barrett (1927–2011) , an outstanding statistician-evangelist, and Reapsome, a retired pastor, published this book in 1988 with the ambitiously explicit aim of systematic statistical evaluation of the history of evangelism starting from 33 CE up to 1988 CE, covering 66 generations of Christian evangelism.
Meticulously researched, the book permeates with a war-like urgency in analyzing where evangelical efforts stand today, and what more is needed in order to realistically achieve a goal of converting the whole world into one religion, namely Christianity.
From the year 1800, global evangelism increased in a dramatic manner. Historian Kenneth Scott refers to the period from 1815 to 1914 as the “Great Century of missions.” From an average of 28 global evangelizing plans per generation in the 19th century, the share rose to 84 per generation in the third decade of the 20th century,and by 1941 it rose to a total of 147 plans per generation.
The authors call the Christians of that era as the “aware” generations, for their concerted efforts at increasing evangelism. But the most dramatic increase happened from 1950 to 1980. In one generation alone more than 315 distinct global missions were launched.
By the year 1988, when the book was published, there were as many as 1200 different evangelizing missions working across the world independently.
“Of the 788 plans, 97 (12%) arose before the Protestant Reformation and 245 (31%) arose before 1900. Half of them (388) occurred before 1950 and the other half since then. By 1984, one new plan a month was appearing; by 1985, one every two weeks. From 1990 onwards we can expect over one a week, which is over 50 a year, or over 1,500 a generation.”
Dissecting the Data
The authors analyze the overall status of evangelism by breaking up the data into three slots:
- The Unevangelized World: 3030 unevangelized population segment**. Example: Uighurs, Zhuangs, IZMIR, Tibetans, Kabul, Berbers, Mongolians, Peking, Khmer, Tashkent, Kurds, Tehran.
- The Evangelized Non-Christian World: – total of 4,870 population segments. Examples: Bangladesh, Vietnam, Rangoon, Japan, Jakarta, Arabs, Havana, Russia, etc.
- The Christian World
** For a more focused approach to practical evangelism, the authors prescribe dividing the world population into target segments of 5,000 each.
Categories have also been created based on resources, chiefly monetary, available for this work.
Sizeable resources refer to plans which involve over $100,000 a year over a period of 10 years. Considering that 146 plans are in this category, about 12 million dollars are invested in these missionary plans.
Massive resources refer to plans with budgetover $10 Million a year, for an average of 10 years. About 155 plans are in this category. Of these, 78 are not only financially massive but are also being aggressively implemented across the globe. The total monetary valuation of this category would be about $1500 million.
Gigantic resources refer to plans witha budgetover $100 million a year, or a total of $1 billion over the years. The largest of these plans-spends about $550 million a year on its own standalone world mission plan.
Therefore by reasonable estimates around the year 1988, global evangelism was a $20 billion industry. Today the figures must be much higher.
Among the various conversion plans in existence, 78 are so massive in scope and resources that the authors named them “megaplans”. These are current, ongoing plans with budgets running upto hundreds of millions of dollars to achieve its stated goal of world evangelization.
The Following is a list of these 33 evangelical organizations along with their year of inception.
- Congress of Charismatic Leaders of World Evangelism – 1991.
- Decade of Universal Evangelization – 1990
- Decade of Harvest – 1987
- New Life 2000: A Revolutionary Plan – 1987
- Evangelization 2000 – 1987
- Global Strategy Committee, Seventh Day Adventists – 1985
- Integrity Keepers Conventions – 1985
- Project 223 – 1982
- The Jesus Project (‘Jesus’ Film) – 1979
- Bold Mission Trust – 1976
- Synod of Bishops: ‘Evangelization of the Modern World.’ – 1974
- Trinity Broadcasting Network – 1973
- International Catholic Charismatic Renewal – 1972
- Jimmy Swaggart Missionaries – 1969
- Sacred Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples – 1967
- Christian Broadcasting Network – 1961
- Youth with a Mission – 1960
- World Vision International – 1950
- Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association – 1947
- United Bible Societies – 1946
- Evangelical Foreign Missions Association – 1945
- Interdenominational Foreign Missions Association – 1917
- Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society – 1870
- New Apostolic Church – 1863
- Southern Baptist Convention – 1845
- Seventh-day Adventists – 1844
- Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – 1830
- Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church – 1819
- Propaganda Fide: Spreading the Faith – 1622
- Consistorial Congregation (Sacred Congregation for Bishops) – 1588
- Conversion of Islam and Whole World to Christ (Jesuits) – 1523
- Order of Preachers: Propagation of the Faith by Preaching – 1215
- Order of Friars: mendicant orders of travelling preachers – 1209
A Brief Look at the Mainline Christian Networks
There are nine, primarily Christian Church theological and practical epicenters which influence the Christian world and by extension, all virulent and mega-evangelism plans are rooted in one or more of these.
- Orthodox – Dating from 33 CE, they originated in Jerusalem at Pentecost on the eastern part of the erstwhile Roman Empire. It has a followership of more than 175 million Christians spread over 110 countries. Centuries of opposition by Islam and then Communism made them a tightly knit group, clandestine in demeanor. Their forays into evangelizing started at a much later date.
- Catholics – The Roman Catholics expanded their reach across the world using three great missionary networks – Franciscans (1209), Dominicans (1215), and Jesuits (1523). Foreign missions were organized under Propaganda Fide since 1622 AD. This was renamed in 1967 as the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples. The Catholic Church serves 926 million church members in over 240 countries.
- Anglican – Born in the 1st century Britain, Anglicanism became a globally organized movement in 1867 and now serves 52 million baptized Anglicans in 165 countries. They are strongest in Britain, North America and Australasia.
- Protestant– The organized Protestant world dates back to the 7th century and is the fourth largest global network of Christians with adherents numbering more than 312 million.
- Third-World indigenous – These comprise a vast network of nearly 11,000 denominations indigenous to Third-World countries with no affiliation to Europe or America. They date back from the 16th century and have a following of more than 132 million people across 170 countries.
- Reformed Catholics – The smallest of the major networks, it has over 3.7 million members.
- Evangelical – This network of Churches started from 1738 with the emergence of the evangelical revival in Britain. This is more of a subdivision within Protestantism and has massive financial resources.
- Pentecostal/Charismatic – This movement, termed as the renewal of the Holy Spirit began in 1738 among Blacks in North America and Caribbean. The Pentecostal-Charismatic church receives personal incomes over $880 billion a year.
- Ecumenical – Started in 1855, this is the most recent of the major Christian networks. It controls the World Council of Churches with 398 million members. The Roman Catholics often cooperate with the Ecumenical network for shared objectives.
[Footnote: “Seven Hundred Plans to Evangelize the World: The rise of global evangelism movement” mentions on page 54 that the organized Protestant world dates back to 7th century, while Anglicanism dates from 1-st Century Britain, before it became organized in 1867. ]
The next part of the series will examine broadly the methods employed for evangelism in what are known as closed and closing countries.
IndiaFacts Staff articles, reports and guest pieces