Two weeks ago the Vatican reported that Islam has overtaken Roman Catholicism as the biggest single religious denomination in the world. According to the Vatican 2008 yearbook, Muslims make us 19.2% of the world’s population, compared with Catholics at 17.4%. Roman Catholic statistician Monsignor Vittorio Formentti said, “For the first time in history we are no longer at the top: the Muslims have overtaken us”
Should we be concerned? Yes and no. Here are four essential statements, which are unknown to the majority of Catholics and Muslims.
1) The sin problem that separated God from man has been removed by Jesus’ death on the cross. It is not penance, pilgrimages, sacrifices or human effort that removes sin; its removal is an accomplished fact. The judgment for our sin has already fallen on Jesus. The price for sin has been paid in its entirety.
2) The only hope for humanity is in becoming new creations in Christ. No religion, church, ritual or pious observances will give eternal life. Eternal life is found in a Person, who by His Spirit comes to live in those, who receive Him.
3) Eternal life is by the unmerited grace of God, not of any works of our own. It is a gift from Jesus Christ to all those who believe.
4) The life that pleases God is the one lived in reliance on the indwelling Christ. Human strivings, efforts, and good religious deeds are called “dead works”, that we should repent from[Hebr 6:1].
Regrettably, many Christians and Muslims follow a merit-based path to God. This road will never bring salvation. If it did, the praise would go to us who “earned” that salvation. When eternal life is by grace alone, the praise goes only to the One who provided the free gift.
My overriding concern is not statistics, or which religion is ahead. My concern is that most people have never heard the Good News of what God did in Christ. There is very little knowledge about “being born again”, or becoming a “new creation” in Christ. Even those who are familiar with the terminology often think of these expressions merely as theological terms, rather than practical realities.
As far as World Impact Ministries is concerned, I am glad to report that the eight remaining Festivals in 2008 will all be conducted in areas where the Gospel awareness is low. Our outreaches will not be “preaching to the choir”, but to push the frontier of the gospel further. “Gospel Advancement” is our motto and with the help of our partners that is what we will do in 2008.
So, percentages change a bit between Islam and Roman Catholicism. The percentage that interests me is, what portion of the world’s population have heard the Gospel? Received it? Been born again? Give me your thoughts!