The Apostle Paul says that Jesus is the head, you’re the body, and together you make up Jesus to the world. This is how the world will see Jesus: through you.
Jesus never wrote a book; he formed a community. He started with a small group, and that small group grew rapidly. For 2,000 years it’s been growing. And the universal church consists of all those worldwide and down the ages who profess the name of Christ.
And it’s vast. There are now 2,300 million Christians in the world. I used to think the church was declining: nothing could be further from the truth. I read some statistics recently that since 1970 the Christian church has grown by over 1 billion: 1,000 million new Christians. Tens of thousands of people are becoming Christians every day. Today, tens of thousands of people around the world became Christians.
Of course, we’ve had a bit of decline in Western Europe where we live, and therefore it’s easy to think, ‘Oh, the church is in decline.’ But that’s not representative of what’s happening globally.
- United States: 92% profess to believe in God. 250 million Christians.
- Africa: in 1900, 10 million people; by 2000, 360 million Christians: that’s a growth rate of 3,600 percent.
- China: 1940, 4 million Christians; today, China experts reckon there are well over 100 million, and China may soon become the largest Christian country in the world.
The Persecuted Church
And it includes, of course, parts of the church where they’re persecuted. More people have died for their faith in Jesus Christ in the last 100 years than in all the other centuries put together. But by all accounts, even in those places, the church is strong and vibrant. And it’s a huge privilege to be able to worship without being arrested, imprisoned, threatened, or even tortured and executed.
The Divided Church
So we are the body of Christ. Paul said, ‘You are the body of Christ.’ So we don’t want to be divided. Tragically, the church has divided so much over the years. But the exciting thing, and this is what we can observe all round the world – is the Holy Spirit is doing a new thing. He’s bringing Christians together of all different churches. And people are recognising that we need one another; that the church is multifaceted, but it needs to be united.
And unity is so important. We need one another. I don’t have the whole truth! No one has the whole truth. It’s only together that we get a better view of the one who is the truth: Jesus is the truth. And we need one another. Unity and truth go hand in hand.