I recently came across this list of the 40 most underserved and unreached places with the gospel and in the same week read this article about the world’s largest cities.
Let’s start with the cities because some of the numbers are just staggering. I live in Stockholm which has a metropolitan area of around 2 million people. To the Swedes this place is a stressed out, crazy place with too many people. I’ve lived in London though, which with it’s 10 million people outnumbers the entire nation of Sweden, so Stockholm feels quite genteel, relaxed even.
London however doesn’t even crack the top 30 of the world’s largest cities and only two european cities manage that feat (Moscow & Paris). I cannot comprehend what it must be like to live in a city of 30+ million people.
Both lists, of cities and the unreached are dominated by Asia and by extension China.
9 of the 10 biggest cities are all in Asia. 14 of the top 20, 33 of the top 50 and 50 of the top 100. As City Metric points out, that’s not all that surprising when you consider Asia makes up 60% of the global population. It is striking how many megacities you’ve almost certainly never heard of.
At the same time when it comes to unreached places India and China (again unsurprisingly) dominate the list.
So what are we, the western church, to make of this? Well firstly it is to note that there are around 100 million Christians in China and another 60-70 million in India. All of whom are much better placed and can reach those nations far more effectively than most Western missionaries ever could.
It is interesting that as observers in the West were calling time on Christianity there, unseen to many the church has been growing phenomenally across Asia and in secret in places like Iran. The unreached may not be staying that way for much longer.
The challenge then, for churches with a desire to reach those nations, is to forge genuine relationships and partnerships with churches there and find ways to equip them in that task. If they are the frontline and then we are the supply line.
However while the money, education & resources may remain in the West for the time being, Europe itself is in need. In fact I would argue that by the defintion given of <5% Christian & <2% evangelical then Stockholm is an unreached city and Sweden will be an unreached nation in a few years time. The same could easily be said for many nations across Europe.
Simply put I would argue that on the whole Western churches should send money and resources to the East but people into the nations of Europe to plant churches.