The Future of the Global Church

Patrick Johnstone

The challenging issue always when presenting statistics is to do it in a way that is very visual and not just as reams of text. The Future of the Global Church does this beautifully. When I first got the book for review, I couldn't put it down. So much so that I thought I would do the review myself which meant I could spend a bit more time in its pages.

Author Patrick Johnstone, renowned author of Operation World for many years, uses all of his experience and expertise to set out a fascinating detailed map of the global church ... past, present and future.

To set the scene, the book starts with a section citing nine challenges that have caused empires and nations to rise and fall, and which shape the current world as we know it. Issues like politics, energy resources, health & disease etc. This is the only section which doesn't focus on religion. As with all the sections in the book, there are little text boxes on most pages entitled 'Food for Thought' and 'Burning Questions for Today' which highlight some of the lessons from history that can be, or should be, learnt and applied to our situation in the 21st century.

Then there is a detailed account of the church through the last 20 centuries. Devoting a double page to each century; there are maps, significant dates, charts and editorial on the major issues of that century. These issues include the crusades, colonialism, the ebb and flow of denominations and religions; much of the time looking at how these issues effect mission and the growth of the global church.

Section 3 goes in depth into the growth and current status of the world's other major religions and sections 4 through 6 focus on Christianity. These give fascinating insights into the development of the main denominations, the effect of major revivals and the impressive growth of evangelical Christianity over the last two centuries. Each section ends with a tantilising look at what the future might hold if the trends continue.

Section 7 is devoted to the unevangelised, focusing on blocs and people groups who have yet to hear the gospel. In his familiar, bullet point fashion, Patrick Johnstone lists some of the challenges that face the different people groups, which not only makes it easy to dip into but also easy to pray through ... just as many of us have done with Operation World over the years.

Section 8 takes a snapshot of Christian mission over the last century and draws out the major trends and challenges for us to consider as we engage in mission in the 21st century.

There aren't many books in the Christian 'bookshop' that are coffee table books, but this one certainly is. This is not in any way to belittle it as a piece of well researched statistical analysis, as I'm sure it is coming from the stable that it does. It's more to say that it's a hard cover reference book that won't ever spend long on your bookshelf, but should be in a place where you can pick it up and browse at different times, enabling you to not only keep in mind the reality of our Christian heritage, but also the challenge and task that is set before us ... as members of the global church and carriers of the great commission.

Reviewed by Mike Frith

Mike Frith is the Founding Director of OSCAR. Prior to starting OSCAR, he worked as a pilot/engineer with Mission Aviation Fellowship where he spent time living in the USA, France, Switzerland, Madagascar and Uganda. He has been involved in working with, supporting, training and resourcing cross-cultural workers for over 25 years.