In the part of the world we refer to as “the West,” (primarily Europe and North America), there are many churches struggling to survive. Many are closing their doors every year. Research is sometimes conflicting and results don’t necessarily tell the whole story, but it seems that in some areas, the church is growing faster than it is declining. 
Nevertheless, if you are in one of the churches that is declining or in an area of the nation where churches are not thriving, it is easy to become despondent, to wonder what is happening, and to ask how we might fix the problem. These are good questions and there are as many answers as there are questions.
Just in case you are in one of those stagnant or declining churches or one of those areas of the world where the health of the local church is suffering, it might help to lift your eyes and look beyond your own horizon. In fact, it might help you to get on a plane and go see what is happening in other places around the world. If that is not possible, then the next best thing might be to read about what is happening with the church in the rest of the world.
This year, my wife and I are repeating a prayer practice we have used in the past. We always pray for missions and for specific missionaries by name, but this year we are praying for the world – for all of the nations and people groups of the world. We will do this by referencing Operation World, a reference book and prayer guide begun by Patrick Johnstone and continued by Jason Mandryk, both part of the interdenominational mission agency, WEC International.
We will actually not be using the book, but will reference the Operation World app, which is available for both Apple and Android products. Each day highlights a part of the world with more information than you can digest, but also includes ideas on how to pray for each people group.
As the year begins, each day’s emphasis is on the world as a whole. The following is an excerpt of the information included on the app for today (January 3). It is positive and uplifting, and hopefully will offer a bit of encouragement to those who are in a struggling church or environment.
The unprecedented harvest of new believers continues across Africa, Asia and Latin America, in contrast to the relative stagnation or decline in the rest of the world. The tables below reveal a remarkable story of a growing, spreading and diversifying Church. The table of statistics shows the relative change of the world’s population for each of the MegaBlocs. Christianity has slightly declined as a percentage of the world’s population since 1900 – only the Protestant, Independent and Marginal MegaBlocs have defied this trend to gain a proportion of the world’s population.
a) Christianity re-affirmed as a global religion. The concept of Christianity as a European “white-man’s religion” is demonstrably a myth. Though sometimes small in number, all but concealed, or mostly members of a minority people group, there are now Christians living and fellowshipping in every country on earth. World mission, globalization and high migration rates have dispersed the Church into every corner of the world, both to previously unevangelized areas and back to traditionally Christian regions where the Church is in sharp decline.
b) The astonishing shift of Christianity’s centre of gravity to the Majority World. The tables reveal that, though Christianity’s percentage in the world population has changed little, the proportions between the Majority World and the West/North have changed dramatically. This is praiseworthy, as hundreds of millions heard the good news for the first time in the past century. It is also an indication that the missionary efforts of the past 200 years have borne incredible fruit, though at times it was slow in coming. Years and generations of prayer and faithful service to the unevangelized world by both missionaries and indigenous Christians have not been in vain.
c) The strength and growth of the Church in lands that now have, or have had in the past, severe persecution. Some examples of places where both persecution and Church growth are prominent include China, India, Sudan, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Iran and Myanmar, to name but a few.
 Cover picture credit – https://pixabay.com/en/sunset-sunbeam-chapel-clouds-sky-1982166/