EVANGELIZATION: THE GREAT COMMAND AND A COSMIC AUDITING1
The volume surveys 788 most important evangelizing Plans produced by Christianity during its career of over 19 hundred years. All these Plans relate to the Great Commission — the command that Jehovah gave through the mouth of His only Begotten Son, Jesus, to the believers to “go and make disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28.19, 20). If there was also a command to improve their morals, it was neglected, but the one to preach and recruit more followers for their God was rather taken in earnest. They promised Him to make “all the peoples of the earth know Him and fear Him” (2 Chr. 6.33).
The Survey is a statistical marvel, a worthy sequel to the World Christian Encyclopaedia (reviewed by us in The Times of India, July 14, 1985), by David Barrett, an outstanding statistician-evangelist and senior author of this volume under review. Quite in the spirit of the book, the two authors are introduced statistically as Missionaries who “have been involved in some 36 (10%) of all the 358 global plans between 1953 and 1988.”
The book is divided into 4 parts and 28 chapters; it includes 10 Appendices, 27 Tables and Diagrams and a Bibliography, a selection of original and significant writings, classics, and other benchmark items on the subject of world evangelization.
The book does not include all the plans, but only a fraction of them representing merely “the tip of the iceberg.” It however includes plans best known for their global significance and, as we approach modem times, most central plans of major Christian denominations or missions or parachurch agencies which each has over 5,000 foreign missionary personnel. The authors analyze these plans using 15 variables.
The biblical story that God created the world out of Chaos proves to the authors that He is a “God of order, of planning, of strategy.” Similarly, the biblical observation that the “very hairs of your head are numbered” proves that God is also a great enumerator, and numberer. The authors do no more than imitate their God’s skill and audit for us how His Great Commission has been followed by the believers.
Christianity has passed through 66 generations but for the best part of its life the Great Command has been neglected. “Disobeying the Great Commission: 59 Neglected Generations,” has a separate chapter on it. During this while, there were only 2.6 plans per generation. But with the 19th century began the era of “five aware generations.” During this time which also coincides with the heydays of Western Imperialism, the number of global plans per generation rose to 28. But the most “aware” and the richest in planning is the present century. During its first decade, the figure was 69 plans per generation, 321 during the 1970s, and the going rate is 1,200 global plans per generation.
In earlier centuries most global plans came from countries bordering on the Mediterranean. Then the shift took place to Europe, Russia and North America. Since ad 1900, the US alone has provided 247 global plans.
But while the plans have been abundant, their failures have been no less impressive. The book includes a chapter, “A Catalogue of Woes,” which enumerates “340 reasons for 534 failed global plans.” The reasons include such items as “ecclesiastical crime”, “ecclesiastical gangsterism”, “offering tempting inducements”, the “use of laundered money”, “mass religious espionage”, “imperialism”, “terrorism”, etc.
Such reasons suggest as if these plans depended for their success on Christians being better than they were. But this is pure assumption. In fact, the reasons cited for their failure are often also reasons for their success. There could easily be a chapter on “X-number of reasons for successful Y-number of plans,” and these would have rightly included imperialism, terrorism, coups, arrogance, etc. These indeed are cited when the authors discuss “Evolution of a global Evangelical movement” and name individually 304 years of evangelical significance. For example, they mention AD 323 for “attempts to spread gospel by law and authority” by Constantine; or cite C 780 for “forced baptism of Saxon race by Charlemagne, 4,500 executed in one day for resisting, thousands more deported”; or AD 1523, when the “Spanish monarch orders Cortes to enforce mass conversion of American Indians...in Mexico, Franciscans baptize over a million in 7 years, with at times 14,000 a day...C 1550, 800,00 Peruvian Amerindians confiimed by one archbishop of Lima.”
Next to political power in importance are money and propaganda. The authors tell us about the resources at the command of Christian churches. They tell us that today it costs “145 billion dollars to operate organized global Christianity”; it commands 4.1 million fiill-time Christian workers, runs 13,000 major libraries, publishes 22,000 periodicals, issues 4 billion tracts a year, operates 1,800 Christian Radio/TV stations. We are also told that there are 3 million computers and the “Christian computer specialists” are described as “a new kind of Christian army.”
Missionary activity is the major plank of organized Christianity. At present 4,000 Mission Agencies operate a huge apparatus of Christian world mission manned by 262,300 missionaries costing 8 billion dollars annually. Every year, there are 10,000 new books/articles on foreign evangelization alone. The authors give an interesting estimate and tell us that Christianity has expended on its missionary activities a “total of 160 million worker-years on earth over these 20 centuries.” But since a missionary does not live by God alone, it has cost the church exchequer “somewhere in the neighbourhood of 350 billion dollars”, or about 2,200 dollars per year per missionary.
From time to time special plans have also been drawn for evangelizing the world. On 788 of them surveyed here, 10 million worker-years and 45 billion dollars have already been expended. Right away there are 387 global plans at work and 254 of them are making progress. One hundred fifty-five of these plans arc called “massive”, defined as those which each expends “10,000 worker-years, or over 10 million dollars a year, for an average of 10 years.” There are still bigger plans, 33 of them called gigantic, “gigaplan”, “each with over 100,000 worker- years, or 100 million dollars a year, or a total of 1 billion dollars over the years of plan’s life.” The biggest current gigaplan is spending 550 million dollars a year on its missionary work.
We are told that though the church had “always had enormous resources,” they did not always avail. Sometimes even well-endowed plans came to nothing. For example, in 1918, 336 million dollars were raised and then the plan was destroyed within a week. More recently, a gigaplan which raised 150 million dollars a year collapsed (did it?) in 1988 in a sex and management scandal which involved top evangelists. The reference is to Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart of the Assemblies of God.
But in spite of this massive effort, there are still “unreached people”, places where the missionaries have not reached or where they have not succeeded. All these people have been “segmentized” into “bite-sized chunks” which number 3,000. They are placed under 5,000 missionaries of special calibre and training, well versed in research, logistics, briefing, monitoring, analyzing and coordinating, and modem communication techniques. Considering the nature of their work, they operate from places which are politically secure and which have modem facilities.
The greatest difficulty the missions are facing today is that they are being denied free run in many areas and face resistance from traditional religions or competing ideologies or nationalist sources. The authors say that uptil AD 1900, “virtually every country was open to foreign missionaries of one tradition or another,” but at present “some 65 countries are closed...with three more closing their doors every year.” But the missionaries have risen to the occasion and in order to overcome these difficulties, they operate a wide-spread underhand apparatus while their theorists propound new ways and try new strategies for penetrating these areas. That these methods involve moral and legal objections provides no deterrence. As the authors put it, in situations where their basic rights as Christian missionaries have been denied, they “have not hesitated to operate illegally, or secretly,” as all history shows. The Evangelical Missionaries Quarterly justifies the subterfuge required of covert missionaries thus: “God does not lie, but he does keep secrets.” Translated into the ethical code of his followers, this attribute of Jehovah means: Ask no questions and you will be told no lies.
Missionaries to these areas or “target countries” are divided into various kinds: Tentmaker, Residential, Clandestine, Mole, Tourist, Courier, Smuggler and Non-residential. Each category has a defined status and role. Advantage is taken of the fact that even a country most restrictive of missionaries maintains a variety of contacts with the West—commercial, diplomatic, technical, tourist. Thus men are sent out to these semi-closed countries who openly work in a secular job as technicians, diplomats or social workers but also secretly belong to a missionary agency. Such men are called Tentmakers a la St. Paul, who earned his bread by tentmaking but voluntarily worked as a missionary. This channel is highly organized. For example, Tentmakers International, Seattle, Washington, a Missionary body, runs a “tentmaker placement network”, working closely with private and social agencies. It has a list of 15,000 secular jobs for which it recruits tentmakers. “Jobs are available worldwide. Choose your country, take your pick,” it advertises. Then everything becomes secretive. A warning is issued: “Please use commonsense when talking about Tentmakers International. Confidentiality is a must.”
The Clandestine is a “full-time missionary who operates illegally.” In the restricted countries, “much ministry is carried in this way,” the authors tell us. The Mole, a word used in certain Intelligence Services, is another such type. He is a “part- time Christian worker, an illegal residential alien.” A Courier is a “visitor from abroad who illegally carries messages to, from, and between local Christians and Clandestine workers.” Tourists also come handy for this purpose. Every year more than 100 million Christian foreigners enter those restricted countries, and hundreds of them “are persuaded to act as couriers by Western Agencies,” the authors tell us. Another category is Smuggler, a “full-time professional and seasoned Christian worker who operates illegally as an itinerant.” One of the most famous of them is Brother Andre author of the best-seller, God’s Smuggler.
These foreign types have their local counterparts which include categories like Unregistered, Under grounder, Messenger, Guerrilla. For example, an Undergrounder is the citizen equivalent of the foreign Mole, a Messenger of the alien Courier. “Huge underground evangelizing networks exist operated by messengers utilizing solely word of mouth — no letters, no writing, no telephone,” the authors reveal. They also tell us that “around the world are many thousand Guerrillas,” a category parallel to foreign Smugglers.
These two groups of aliens and citizens work in unison. To illustrate, the authors cite the example of the “Pearl Operation” of 1981. In this Operation, 200 tons of Bible, one million volumes in all, were landed illegally at night off Swatow, China, and all quickly taken away by some 20,000 Chinese Christians. We are told that the “Operation was masterminded by alien Smugglers and citizen Guerrillas, using a complex network of foreign Couriers, citizen Messengers, and Clandestine workers from different countries to alert thousands of ordinary Chinese Christians, large number of Unregistered pastors, and other part- time Undergrounders and Moles.”
Sometimes these underhand workers are apprehended and punished; then they join the roaster of Martyrs, who currently number 230,000 a year according to our authors.
Two such Moles or Smugglers were apprehended in Nepal in December, 1988. They were Mervyn Budd, 22, a Canadian, and McBride, 33, an American, both working for a US-based Missionary organization, called “Operation Mobilization.” As soon as the news of their arrest was splashed over the world, other sentiments and forces came into play. People forgot to inquire who these two men were and only remembered that they had their “civil” rights. Jack Anderson wrote in his weekly column: “Imagine being thrown in jail for selling religious literature,” making McBride’s activity as innocent as that. He told us how American Congressmen like Robert Walker and Senators Richard Lugar and Clairbome Pell took an active interest and “put pressure on the Nepalese Government.” Amnesty International too was active.
Weak and poor countries of the third world have hardly any chance against these pressures and tactics. While the UNO recognizes the right of the Missionaries to operate their highly- endowed and subversive apparatus, it offers the weak countries no protection against it.
The authors give us some very interesting figures. They have no use for the traditional biblical chronology which allows man a bare 4,000 years of sojourn on the earth (according to a 17th century computations, man appeared on the earth on October 23 of BC 4004 and the apostles were already getting ready for the end of the world in their times). Our authors however take a long stride, back and forth, and go back to 5.5 million years when Homo appeared on the scene and they traverse 4 billion years in future. Undeterred by the fact that the new perspective involves grave theological problems, they boldly audit for us the missionary activity for all this era.
By the time Jesus came, 5.5 million years had already elapsed and 118 billion men and women had already lived and died, all ipso facto destined for hell as they did not know Christ. But new prospects opened for mankind after AD 33 when the Kingdom of Heaven was announced and inaugurated. Heaven, empty uptil then, began to be populated though rather unexpectedly slowly in the beginning. But by 1990, there are already 8 billion dead believers (Church Triumphant), all qualifying for habitation in the new region. They are however still only 5.70% of unbelievers destined for hell, quarters across the street. But the demographic composition continues to improve in their favour. By AD 2100, they are 8.57%, and at the end of 4 billion years, they are fully 99.90%, the Christian heaven holding 9 decillion (one decillion is ten followed by 33 zeros) believers.
In AD 100,000, believers are still only 85% of the total living population. But by AD 4 billion, the gap practically closes and almost all are believers. The Great Commission is fulfilled and Missionaries are freed from their obligation to God and His Son.
The population figures given here take into account men whose longevity after AD 2,500 turns gradually into immortality, and new men and human species artificially created by mass cloning and genetic engineering (Missionaries of the future believing, brave new world will have a different role; they will increasingly be able to raise their own crop of believers through genetic technology); they take into account humans increasingly living on off-earth space colonies, then across other galaxies and universes. In AD 4 billion, the “ultimate size of the Church of Jesus Christ,” the authors estimate, will be “1 decillion believers,” not counting 9 decillion dead by then.
This is indeed a cosmic auditing of the evangelical movement. David Barrett is a fitting Consultant on World Evangelism to the Vatican and to the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, but one wonders whether these figures would excite them or depress them and whether they would know what to do with them. Figures and planning of this scale cease to be meaningful.
The Survey is eminent in statistics but poor in philosophy and spiritual wisdom. In fact, its psychic source is crass materialism.
A Review article of Seven Hundred Plans to Evangelize the World: The Rise of a Global Evangelization Movement, by David B. Barrett and James W. Reapsome. Pub: The AD 2000 Series. 1989. (Ram Swarup, The Statesman, Sunday Edition, March 25, 1990). ↩