"You may say to yourselves, 'These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out?' But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the LORD our God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt." Deuteronomy 7:17-18
The Scripture repeatedly calls us to remember. Remember God. Remember what He has done. Remember His faithfulness. And it seems that the purpose of remembrance is not to dwell in the past, but to give strength and courage for the present and future. Keep in mind, remembering is not the same as looking back. Remembering is a "mind" position - looking back is an "eye" position. We see it clearly when Jesus says, "Remember Lot's wife." What did Lot's wife do? She looked back at Sodom. Thus, we learn this (in my paraphrase), "Remember not to look back."
Remembering the LORD honors Him. But allowing ourselves to live in the past does not - because it lacks faith for today and tomorrow. God gives us days for a reason. They end. And we are intended to live in the next day when it arrives, not stay stuck in the past one. That said, God is honored when we remember His work in the past so that it fuels our mission in the present.
Our local congregation (www.thechapel.com) has just had a birthday. In the beginning of 1961, a few folks gathered at a local school and began meeting as a local body of believers. And here we are 50 years later. Though I wasn't around (nor even born!), my reflection and remembrance is one of honor. I honor Pastor James Andrews who founded this congregation and led it for nearly 40 years. I honor Pastor Al Cockrell who came in and led the church through a transition in a critical time after Pastor Andrews died. And I honor all the people that make up the congregation called The Chapel. Together, all of these folks built a foundation that I have had the privilege of building on top of for the last 9 years. I'm so grateful for their faithfulness, sacrifice, and willingness to step out in faith over these last 50 years - and I trust that we will be doing the same for many years to come. I remember to honor the LORD, and the LORD's work among His people.
But I don't look back. God still lives. Still gives. Still provides. Still works. Still transforms.
And still gives perspective.
Sometimes, when I dwell too much on one local congregation, my local congregation, I tend to lose sight of what our Great God is doing in our region. In our country. In our world. Sometimes we need to pick our head up out of the weeds and see the vastness of the landscape before us. Sometimes we need to see the vastness of our mission so that we don't have even the slightest yearning to look back and live on a remembered faith instead of an active, living one.
I was doing a bit of that today. One of the academic institutions that I attended (www.gordonconwell.edu) has some great information on the status of Global Mission through their Center for the Study of Global Christianity. Just as perspective, let me give a few nuggets of interest.
In 1900, the global population was 1.619 billion. By 2025, it will be 8.011 billion.
In 1900, the total population of Christians (all kinds) was 558 million. In 2025 it projects to 2.7 billion.
What that means, among many other things, is this: In 1900, Christians made up 34.5% of the global population. In 2025, Christians are projected to make up 33.7% of the population. Bottom line, over a 125 year period beginning in 1900, Christianity has not (will not) increased at all as a percentage of the global population. But let me not leave you too sad.
The goal of our mission is saturation of the gospel - conversion is a product of saturation. While we want to see everyone come to faith in Jesus, we can't really control that (we participate with God, but God is the One Who saves). Our mission is to saturate the world with the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel. So, let me show you how that looks over a 125 year period.
In 1900, the unevangelized population of the world was 880 million (which equaled 54.3% of population of the whole world). In 2025, the unevangelized population projects to 2.3 billion (which equals 28.8% of the whole world). In other words, though the overall conversions to faith in Christ have not moved in 125 years, the percentage of saturation has dramatically increased in that same period.
I'll share some more along these lines in my upcoming teaching. But suffice it say that my perspective of God's activity in the world is constantly being challenged and reshaped. And when I remember what God has done in the past, it gives me strength and courage to have faith in the present to engage the mission of God in the world because we still have alot of work to do!