…And a roundup of resources to help.
1. Surrender yourself to God.
This first one is not new but it may help make way for a new you for God to use as he pleases. This a covenant prayer from the Wesleyan tradition. And evidently, it’s often been used as a way to realign one’s heart at the start of a new year:
“I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you, praised for you or criticized for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and fully surrender all things to your glory and service. And now, O wonderful and holy God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, you are mine, and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, Let it also be made in heaven. Amen.”
2. Get to know the global Church.
Each year, Gina Zurlo, Todd Johnson, and their colleagues at Gordon-Conwell’s Center for Global Christianity in Boston publish a snapshot of global Christianity in its historical context (1900-2050). If you want to know where we are, statistically, in 2023, this is a good place to look.
What makes it into the one-page document continues to evolve, but it includes mid-2023 projects for the global population, cities, world religion, the distribution of Christians by continent and tradition, Christian missions, Bibles, Christian finance, and the status of world evangelization. Note that their source, the World Christian Database, uses a wide definition of what it means to be Christian. Some other sources take a different approach to this and a few other categories.
Download the Status of Global Christianity 2023. It just came out. Savvy mobilizers and mission advocates who want to avoid trotting out old or inaccurate data should take a look. It may change how you think about the global Church.
3. Dig a little deeper.
There’s plenty to chew on in the Status of Global Christianity document, but you may have questions. Read the related article from the International Bulletin of Mission Research, which this year also looks at data from something called The Women in World Christianity Project. Since few religious bodies track gender info, it’s a formidable task. But they calculate that global church membership is at least 52% female, and considerably higher in some groups. For example, 63% of all church members in Mongolia are women. What might that mean for our mobilization efforts and global partnerships?
See one writer’s takeaway from last year’s Status of Global Christianity report in 7 Encouraging Trends of Global Christianity in 2022 (Lifeway Research). That’ll preach! You might also stop and peruse Lifeway’s Fast Facts data roundup, mostly about Christianity in the U.S. See something there that could inform your ministry focus?
4. Do you do data? Gather with others who do.
If mission data is your jam, you are a select tribe. Don’t go it alone. Consider attending the second annual Mission Information Workers conference. It’s all online, several hours a day April 17-20. They’ll be looking at mission data standards, training, data gaps, ways to better share information, and more. The conference is sponsored by the Community of Mission Information Workers, Lausanne Research and Strategic Information Network, and Harvest Information Standards. I heard about it from Joshua Project.
5. Pray for these 12 countries.
Zoom back out; this one’s for everyone. What do we do with what we know? Take it to heart. Let it change us. And turn it into prayer. Here’s a good example.
“Nearly 75% of the world’s unreached people (3.6 billion) live in 12 countries,” says Jesus Film Project. “We invite you to join us as we engage in strategic focused prayer for those 12 countries. Each month we’ll introduce one of these countries and share prayer requests to address its specific needs.
“You can join us by downloading a prayer guide or exploring our family prayer resources. Throughout January, we are praying for Indonesia.”
Learn more and download what you can use. The materials look great and are fairly organization-neutral so you may be able to share them in many contexts. I like their prayer card with the QR code; we’re using something like that with our prayer team for Pioneers. Maybe your church or ministry team could do the same.
By the way, the 12 countries (alphabetically) are Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam.
What do you say; can we pray for these places?
6. Prayerwalk your neighborhood.
You may remember the saying: Think globally. Act locally. But we can pray locally, too. Navigators has a new ebook to download called Praying Through Your Neighborhood. It includes a 30-day prayer guide with scriptures, ideas for how to turn your stroll around the block into an opportunity to pray, and a prayer map you can use to keep track of how you’re praying (and who you pray for and with).
It’s free but you’ll have to give the Navs your email address to get it. That could be worth it: they put out a lot of helpful content about sharing the gospel, making disciples, and spiritual growth.
7. Let your light shine.
Maybe God is starting to show you he’s put you and your family where you are for a reason. If that’s true, what does it mean for how you engage your community? Read Your Home: A Lighthouse (Rob Rienow, for Weave).
Seeing yourself as a light in the darkness may be daunting, but as the article says, “A lighthouse can still shine even with cracks and missing bricks. Our families are no different. We can still shine for Christ even though we are struggling with conflicts, anxiety, and discouragement. Talk and pray as a family about how God can use your home to be a light in this world of darkness.”