Shifting World Demographics and Missions
Missionaries often go to great lengths to study the cultures where they are called to minister. They observe the people and ways of life to determine the most effective way to spread the gospel. As the twenty-first century unfolds, much has changed in the world regarding how people live, interact, and communicate. The world has shifted drastically. Therefore, to remain effective in engaging the unreached, the church needs to be aware of four primary shifts happening in the world today.
- People are living much longer. Due to technological advances in the medical field and more access to health services, the average lifespan is aging rapidly. The number of adults age 65 or older will more than double from 761 million in 2021 to more than 1.6 billion in 2050. The long-term impact is that a child born in 2021 can expect to live on average almost twenty-five years longer than a newborn in 1950. Missionaries and Christians must expand ministry to care for the elderly and homebound. They need to serve and love the elderly well, an expression of the gracious love of Jesus Christ. A continued focus on reaching all generations with the gospel of Jesus Christ must remain intact.
- Nearly 14 out of 20 people will live in cities; more than 3 out of 20 will live in slums. By 2050, approximately 950 cities will have at least one million residents and “slum dwellers” will comprise a significant percentage of these urban populations. With the population growth increasing at such a rapid rate, missionaries need to turn their attention toward the cities. The gospel must continue to enter into new villages, but cities need to be targeted as well. A gospel presence must be started in each city that will impact all demographic segments of a city to include those in the slums and the well-off in Hollywood.
- One billion people will use mobile phones by 2030. I am amazed each time I visit a village in Asia that has no running water, no electricity, and no access to health care and yet each home has a cell phone. The world is connected with the internet, social media, and technology. Using these tools, new opportunities are available to have God’s Word in multiple languages, provide online theological training, and have the gospel go into countries electronically where it would otherwise be banned.
- Forty-five percent of all professing Christians will identify as Protestant or evangelical by 2050. Most of this growth will happen in the Global South where theological resources and training opportunities are scarce. Therefore, biblically faithful discipleship resources must be in the heart language of a people and then shared. Churches need pastors, leaders, and missionaries who know God’s Word so biblical truth can be shared across cultures.
God’s people must be aware of these cultural shifts so they can continue to see the gospel move forward and reach the unreached. What other cultural shifts do you think we need to be made aware of for the gospel to advance?