First Priority

How the shifting landscape of global culture is bringing fresh fire to the Western world.

Watching the recent World Cup Games, I was fascinated to see the players from countries such as Brazil and Ghana pray to God before and after each of their matches. Just think how Christianity has spread from 120 believers in Jerusalem to hundreds of millions of followers around the world.

In the mid-1970s, Loren Cunningham, co-founder of Youth With a Mission, gave a message called "Go West, Young Man." He carefully unfolded how the gospel and Christianity have gone from their birthplace in Jerusalem toward the West. History records it: Jerusalem to Ephesus to Rome to Europe to North America.

Now revival is spreading from the West to the rest of the world. My good friends Rolland and Heidi Baker have planted 6,000 churches in Mozambique, Africa, in the last 12 years. They have taken in 3,000 orphans and are seeing extraordinary signs and wonders, including the raising of the dead. Church-growth expert C. Peter Wagner asserts the five "hotspots" of Christianity around the world are China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Brazil. An estimated 30,000 people are coming to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior every day in China. Another 25,000 to 30,000 are coming to Jesus daily in India. Indonesia—the largest Muslim country in the world—is now 35 percent Christian.

The church in the West should not lose heart that the magnitude of current world revival seems to be passing us by. I believe the West will experience another wave of revival. (See my column "The Ten-Year Itch" in the May/June issue of Ministry Today.) We have been a great sower of the gospel worldwide, and now this bread cast upon the water is coming back to us in two important ways. First, the peoples of many nations have migrated to us in the West, bringing Christianity along. Second, migrants who have come to us as non-Christians carry a particular vulnerability and hunger to receive the gospel.

The demographic change brought about by immigration has a profound impact on Christianity in the United States. Philip Jenkins wrote in his milestone book The Next Christendom: "The passage of the Immigration Reform Act of 1965 increasingly looks like the most significant single event of that much ballyhooed decade. By 2000, the United States was the home of 30 million immigrants, about 11 percent of the population. Over 13 million migrants arrived in the 1990s alone. ... In 2000, 35 million Americans were counted as Hispanic ... nearly 12 million more Americans were Asian. Asian and Hispanic [people] combined make up 15 percent of the population today, but this share is projected to grow up to almost 25 percent by 2025, and 33 percent by 2050." This shift has to awaken the white, Western church to the need for new ways of doing ministry in the 21st century, especially in the urban centers where the nations have come to live.

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For instance, most will say that the Ivy League and liberal arts schools are unreachable and spiritually dead. Yet a recent article by Tim Stafford in Christianity Today (April, 2006) states that revival is breaking out in these schools through Asians. He notes that the Asian student population is growing dramatically at the top universities in America. Harvard is 17 percent Asian American; MIT, 28 percent; Stanford, 24 percent; Princeton and Yale, 13 percent. At each of these schools, Asian students account for an even larger share of the Christian community. "Asian students are more likely to show Christian commitment than other ethnic groups, including whites," Stafford writes.

I am not biased just because I am Korean American. I am what you might call a "Banana Asian"—yellow on the outside and white on the inside. I look Asian, but culturally I am Western. I have been in the United States since 1960, when my family immigrated to America. For years, I pastored a predominately white congregation. Everything changed when I founded Harvest Rock Church in 1994. The Lord spoke to me to target young, second-generation Asian Americans. He told me if I reached them, I would have a multiethnic and multigenerational church. That is exactly what has happened over the last 12 years. We have grown because we joined with the Lord in what He is doing. God is blessing the diverse peoples of the world in our own backyard!

The key to being effective is not for me to do "my own thing" and ask God to bless it, but to find out what God is blessing and join Him in it. Jesus said it this way: " '[The Son] can only do what He sees His Father doing' " (John 5:19, NIV). If we join God in reaching internationals in the West, I believe we will not only reap an exponential harvest of souls, but we will also no doubt find revival right in the midst of it.


Ché Ahn and his wife, Sue, are senior pastors of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California, and the author of several books, including Fire Evangelism: Reaching the Lost Through Love and Power. For more information, please visit harvestrockchurch.org.

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