Newly released data from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life provides the results of polling gathered from 2,196 evangelical leaders from 166 countries and territories who were invited to attend the Third Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa, last October. The results make for a very insightful discussion about the state of evangelical Protestant Christianity around the world.
Evangelical leaders who live in the Global South (sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and most of Asia) are generally optimistic about the prospects for evangelicalism in their countries. But leaders who live in the Global North (Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand) tend to be more pessimistic. The reasons are quite obvious if you read the poll and the attendant comments on it.
One that stands out – evangelical leaders around the world view secularism, consumerism and popular culture as the greatest threats they face today. More of the leaders expressed concern about these aspects of modern life than expressed concern about other religions, internal disagreements among fellow evangelicals or government restrictions on religion.
This last sentence troubles me. The same evangelical leaders who went on to approve The Cape Town Commitment, which I have written about a number of times here, did not express deep concern about disunity in the church and its implications for mission. Simply put, the schismatic tendencies their evangelical faith and practice create in the world should make them grieve over this tragedy but it doesn’t seem to have reached the place in their hearts where it causes them spiritual consternation of any magnitude. I find this deeply troubling. While evangelicals are great at making discipleship and evangelism a priority they seem unconcerned about the damage they cause in the larger church when they refuse to make visible unity a much higher priority.