I heard John Allen, Jr. speak in Denver a couple of years ago. He was great (also had a chance to talk shop with him later that evening, which was cool). In his talk, he pointed out that since most chatter about the Church happens in the media-rich First World, it tends to be dominated by perceptions colored by what’s going on in the First World. So the narrative tends to be one of decline since we tend to assume that Everywhere is Here. But in fact, he said, if you want to know when the Great Age of Evangelism in the History of the Church was, you need only look around because right now, as we speak, the Church is experiencing the most explosive growth in its entire history–and that despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that this is also the period of the greatest persecution of the Church in its entire history.
In the past century, said Allen, the Church globally has grown 7000%. You read that right. 7000%. And despite the bedwetting narratives of doom from people panicking about Islam taking over the world, one of the places the Church is experiencing a population boom is in the heart of the Islamosphere.
The more I look at the election of Francis, who is all about shepherding the Church of the poor and about evangelism, the more convinced I am that this was a stunning providential move by the Spirit. Praised be Jesus Christ.