In 2007 the world hit a tipping point. For the first time in history there were more people living in cities than in towns and villages. This mega-trend is now a third world story and will continue unchecked into the future. The Twenty First Century will be the first urban century in human history
Consider that by 2025 AD we will already see the following mega-cities:
Mumbai at 30 million, Lagos at 30 million, Tokyo at 29 million, Karachi at 25 million, Dakha at 24 million and Kolkata, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, and New Delhi all at 21 million.
What is interesting about these figures is the lack of western cities, the five South Asian cities and the huge number of people who will be living in slums. In fact slum dwellers are now around 15% of the global population and this will grow to over 20% by 2025.
Throughout history it has been the cities that have set the trend for culture, empire, religion and technological development. This does not bode well for the European model of church.
The European model was designed for a village context, with a dedicated building and a dedicated, professional clergy. The challenge facing Christianity today is how to adopt our cultural expression to fit the mega-cities and slums where so many of Gods precious children live.
A friend of a friend, Pastor Jacob in Zambia, has recently been asked to become a member of a national task force focusing on improving conditions in Zambia’s teeming slums. This is due to the transformation that took place after his ministry team saw thousands come to Christ in a slum of over 30,000. As a result there has been a dramatic drop in crime, improvements in health, community and social services. his model is to disciple new believers in small groups, replicating the natural family structure.
Without the European cultural baggage, young and energetic church leaders in developing countries, like Jacob, are forging ahead with new models of planting the kingdom in the souls of humanity. From what I have seen, the same trends are taking place in India and Bangladesh under the apostolic guidance of Victor Choudrie and others. The only leader in the west that I know of who has successfully developed this model is Neil Cole in the US.
Change is in the wind and we western Christians must adapt to the future with a more viral/networked/discipleship approach to church growth. Jesus gave us this model at the start with a small group doing life together and being discipled in a third world context without the need for buildings. As we move back to this model we should see an increase in the harvest of souls.