Executive Secretary of the Hong Kong Christian Council Rev. Dr. Chan Kim Kwong brings a global perspective on the rise and distribution of Christianity, and explains why Asia is the key to growing Christianity worldwide.
On March 19, 2,500 leaders, affiliate church pastors, staff and Bible school students of City Harvest Church gathered at its Jurong West facility to hear from a well-respected and renowned Christian leader, Rev. Dr. Chan Kim Kwong, Executive Secretary of the Hong Kong Christian Council.
Speaking at CHC for the first time, Chan was enthusiastically welcomed by a capacity crowd. Chan holds a stellar academic record: he received his undergraduate training in Nutrition (B.Sc.[F.Sc.]) from McGill University and subsequently finished three masters (M.Div., China Graduate School of Theology; M.A., University of Ottawa; S.T.L , Pontifical St Paul University) and two doctoral degrees from University of Ottawa (Ph.D.) and Pontifical St Paul University (D.Th.). He also did graduate studies on Agricultural Economics at University of London. A member of the Anglican Church, he is an ordained minister of the Christian National Evangelism Commission.
In Chan’s detailed presentation to the CHC leaders, he unfolded statistics showing Christianity’s global growth and spread from 1900 to 2010. Over a period of 100 years, the percentage of Christians (including the Catholic denomination) has not changed much, but has remained stable at about 32 to 33 percent, taking into account the simultaneous rise in global population. Within this 33 percent population, Catholics consistently account for a 50 percent share. Roman Catholics continue to be a major Christian tradition in the 21st Century, largely due to their prominence in Latin America and Europe. However, an interesting trend that Chan has observed is that of the remaining 50 percent, independent churches have grown significantly from 1.5 percent in 1910, to 16.1 percent in 2010.
Independent churches consist of many types, including Charismatic-Pentecostal and mega churches. Churches that fall into this category include the famous Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea, Bethany Church in Indonesia, and City Harvest Church.
Chan delved into what all these churches had in common, and one main point is that they each had a “cutting edge ecclesial mode”. What this essentially means is that each of these churches has a unique identity and mission statement. For CHC, this “cutting edge ecclesial mode” would be the Cultural Mandate and the Crossover project, in which there has been no predecessor to follow.
“For churches with the cutting edge ecclesial mode, they are often at the cutting edge of the development of Christendom. Hence, they have to be led by the Holy Spirit, as there are no role models for them to follow. Each of these churches have unique contributions, and they have to be confident that what they are doing is part of God’s plan to bless others,” Chan shared.
Moving on, Chan revealed why Asia is the key for raising the percentage of Christians globally. He showed, using statistics, that although Asia houses a whopping 60 percent of the world’s 6.9 billion population, a mere 7.1 percent of Asia’s population are Christians, as opposed to countries such as Europe and Latin America, where Christian population is almost saturated at 75.2 percent and 90 percent respectively. Hence, if mission efforts were able to raise the percentage of Christians in Asia from 7.1 percent to, say, 35 percent, the percentage of Christians worldwide would jump up to 50 percent.
Chan went on to encourage the leaders to stand together and choose to build the Kingdom of God, rather than focus on building individual castles. Using examples from medieval battle strategies, Chan explained, “When individual castles link up, they form a kingdom, and are able to claim entire territories. Resources are shared, and there is common vision and interests within the kingdom. As the body of Christ, we should look at the bigger picture and work together to win the world for Christ.”
In the light of Chan’s sharing, the numbers show that Asia presents a truly ripe harvest. As he aptly put it, God has primed the churches of today “for such a time as this” – a time of unprecedented revival and growth. As the meeting drew to a close, CHC’s senior pastor Kong Hee, his wife Sun, as well as the local and affiliate church pastors stood together on stage, symbolically “linking castles” by locking arms. They prayed together with the church for a common vision and purpose: revival in Asia.