Setting goals as a Christian is always important. We make goals and future plans for our families, careers, education, relationships, and most importantly for Church ministry. Our goals are never set too low when it comes to our personal lives, but when it comes to Church ministry, we often set the goal embarrassingly low. Christ, however, set more ambitious goals for his Church. Right before Jesus’ ascension and now possessing all power and authority (Matt. 28:18-20), he commands his followers to disciple all nations (mathēteuō pas ethnos); not to settle for the conversion of a few from each country, rather the conversion of each country as a whole for Christ. Why should our ministerial goals be any less? But as soon as such ambitious goals for the Gospel are proposed, we can always expect someone to utter the objection, “But this world is getting worse and worse.” This is by far the first and most frequent objection I hear that hinders great success for the Great Commission.
The objection, “the world is getting worse” is different from those who believe the Bible teaches future spiritual decay in the world. We have already dealt with those issues in a previous post – A Preterist Interpretation of Bible Prophecy . We are dealing with those who rely solely on external factors and personal observation rather than using arguments from Scripture. The evidence they use comes mostly from current events and news reports, and reach a conclusion that the world is spiraling down into degeneration based on what they hear from the media. Hence, from their perspective, the idea of a Christianized world is impossible because the current status of the earth just doesn’t seem to be going that direction. The problem with this objection is threefold: (1) Such an objection requires too small of a sample from history, (2) it exaggerates Christian defeat and overlooks Gospel progress, (3) and it would need to know what the final year in history will be before making a confident claim about a worldly decline.
(1) Such an objection requires too small of a sample from history
First, such an objection requires too small of a sample from history. If we were to somehow graph the moral and spiritual status of the world we would undoubtedly see a lot of “ups” and “downs” over the centuries, and if someone were to focus on a small portion of the graph they could come to any number of conclusions based on what they focus on. This was Al Gore’s tactic in trying to prove in man-made global warming. He was later disproved by actual scientists who conducted a broader geological study. Many scientists said that Gore could have just as well proved that the earth was headed toward an ice age by his small samples of climate history.
The same mistake is made by many christian writers. Hal Lindsey in his famous book, The Late Great Planet Earth took a sample of eight years to prove the crime rate was increasing faster than ever. He points out, “A short time ago we saw a graph in a news magazine which indicated a climb in serious crimes in the United States from 1960 to 1968” (Lindsey,). Lindsey later asks the rhetorical question, “Has there ever been a time when the potential for self-destruction was as great as it is today?” The problem with Lindsey’s small sample method is that it could very well be used to prove the opposite.
Recently the Uniform Crime Report program (UCR) reported that during the year 2014 the crime rate for all violent crimes reached an all time low. Does this mean that because we are experiencing low violent crime rates in this small block of time we should now accept that the world will get better and not worse? By the small sample method you’d have to. But this would be absurd for any eschatological camp.
The real question is would a larger historical graph show a general decline in the moral and spiritual status of the world or would it show an incline? One can only gain a negative outlook on the world provided their observations are limited to a small sample in history, but what if we broaden our observation? What if we take a look at human history in 500 year increments? Looking at it from this perspective, where in time do we see the world at its moral peak? Is it from 33-533 AD where we see massive persecution of the Church, or the middle ages when most people couldn’t even read the Scripture because Bibles were not mass produced and they were in Latin. Let us for a moment consider our own block of history. We are living in a time where, it is hard to travel without spotting several christian churches. Christians today read their Bibles in their native language in pages protected by a leather cover, not to mention all the Bible tools and apps so easily accessible to us. It is hard to imagine any christian wanting to live in a different block of history other than the one we are currently living in now.
(2) The objection exaggerates Christian defeat and overlooks Gospel progress
Another problem with the objection that the world is getting worse is that it exaggerates Christian defeat and overlooks Gospel progress. We constantly hear those who expect spiritual decay tell us, “There are more Christians persecuted today than ever.” This maybe the case, but only because there are far more people in the world today then there were 2000 years ago. Their statement is exaggerated and misleading and does not indicate that things are worse today than they were during the first century persecutions.
Even if they did manage to prove that there is a greater proportion of persecution today, history shows that some of the greatest revivals came from severe persecution of the first century. Hence the phrase, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” This wonderful blessing is often neglected. The fact is, the message of Salvation through Jesus Christ started out as a dot on the globe, but through the Church preaching the Word and having to go through persecution, martyrdom, and suffering in the process, the Gospel message has now become an uncontrollable epidemic all across the entire globe. This is worth celebrating but is often overlooked.
(3) The objection would require knowing what the final year of history will be
The final problem with this objection that the world is getting worse is it would require knowledge of what the final year in history will be before making a confident claim about a worldly decline. Some eschatological camps make this mistake because they assume the world is near its end based on their own end-times scenario. Their logic is, “Since the world might be near its final stage, and since the world is becoming more degenerate, therefore, christian domination cannot be possible.” If they knew that the last year was in their own lifetime (which neither the Bible nor their own eschatological view tells them that for sure) then they would have a valid point. But the Bible nowhere teaches that the world must soon come to a close. For all we (or anyone else) know, this world may have thousands or even hundreds of thousands of years to go before Christ returns. If this happens to be the case, then the objection, “the world is getting worse” is irrelevant to how Christ is going to grow His Church from infancy to maturity in the many years to come.
Christians need to stop saying, “the world is getting worse and worse” without also acknowledging the better it has become because of God’s redemption through Christ. Is it not the case that the world is a better place as a result of Jesus’ earthly ministry, his established church; his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension? Yes it is! The evidence of this are the many redeemed people spread all over the face of the earth, the vast number of restored families, and communities that enjoy peace and harmony because of the ministerial labor of Christians who brought the Gospel to their region. For the last 2000 years hungry people have been fed, naked ones clothed, orphans adopted, all in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of his Gospel. So we should be encouraged by the work the Spirit of God has accomplished this far in history. Christ expects his Kingdom to grow (Matt. 13:31-33) and nothing will destroy it (Dan. 7:14).
Lindsey, Hal, and Carole C. Carlson. Satan Is Alive and Well on Planet Earth. New York, NY: HarperPaperbacks, 1992.
Crime-data-explorer.fr.cloud.gov. September 24, 2018. Accessed July 11, 2019. https://crime-data-explorer.fr.cloud.gov/explorer/national/united-states/crime/1995/2017.