The Year in Review: Top Spiritual Trends of 2010

by | Dec 29, 2010 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones

God
is working all around us today. Don’t let negative headlines
distract you from the real story.

2010 was a year of
shaking. It began with a magnitude 7 earthquake in Haiti, followed by
an 8.8 quake in Chile, followed by the eruption of the Iceland
volcano that sent tons of ash into the skies over Europe and shut
down air travel faster than you could say Eyjafjallajokull.
While the ground shook, economies in Europe teetered. As floods
displaced 13 million people in Pakistan, Americans worried that we
might drown in federal debt.

 There were plenty of negative
headlines—which explains why one of the biggest movies of the year
(Inception) was about a guy who escaped reality by dreaming.
We had the BP oil spill, the WikiLeaks scandal, double-digit
unemployment, and angry debates about Obamacare, illegal immigrants
and full-body scanners. There were a few bright spots, especially in
October when 33 Chilean miners climbed out of a dark shaft and donned
T-shirts that read, “GRACIAS, SENOR!”

 More Muslims have come to faith in Jesus in the past 10
years than in the past 15 centuries. Radio, TV and Internet-based
programming have been key in this wave of evangelism.”

 As I’ve pondered the events of 2010, I’ve
realized that the most important trends are often not the most
obvious. Mainstream media pays most attention to the wealthy, the
famous and the powerful. But today’s significant spiritual trends
are linked to the nameless, faceless people who will never appear in
the New York Times. Here’s my list of 10 Most Significant
Spiritual Events or Trends of 2010:

 1.
Haiti’s earthquake triggered a wave of international relief.

More than 230,000 people died in the Jan. 12 quake. A million were
left homeless. But thousands were spared because brave Christians
ventured into the disaster zone to bring food, medicine and clothing,
and to rebuild orphanages, clinics, churches and schools. Many relief
agencies and churches are still working there to transform the
poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Compassion is alive and
well.

 2.
The number of Muslims converting to Christianity increased.

One mission worker announced in 2010 that more Muslims have come to
faith in Jesus in the past 10 years than in the past 15 centuries.
Radio, TV and Internet-based programming have been key in this wave
of evangelism. Mission workers in the region say Muslims often
embrace faith in Christ after having a spiritual dream. The
underground Christian movement is especially strong in Iran, where
youth are desperate for spiritual solutions to social and political
problems.

3.
The threat of Islam prompted a backlash.

Switzerland banned minarets, and France and Belgium banned women from
wearing full veils. Plans for an Islamic center near Ground Zero
triggered a national outcry in the United States. Terry Jones, the
pastor of a tiny church in Gainesville, Fla., announced he would burn
copies of the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11. After religious,
civic and military leaders reacted with disgust, Jones canceled the
bonfire. (And we all sighed with relief, and prayed that Muslims
would realize Jones wasn’t speaking for all Christians.)

4.
Christianity continued to grow in Asia.

In 2010, China’s economy grew to become the second largest in the
world. Meanwhile a documentary filmed by charismatic evangelist
Jaeson Ma showed that a New Testament-style spiritual revival is
sweeping countries in Asia. The movie, 1040,
reported that since the 1970s the number of Christians in China has
grown from 1 million to at least 70 million. Ma says: “What’s
happening in Asia today is actually the greatest move of God in human
history.”

5.
Persecution of Christians increased.

At a conference sponsored by the European Parliament, researchers
admitted that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in
the world. Human rights organizations revealed that between 200 and
230 million Christians face threats of murder, beatings, imprisonment
and torture. They also stated that 75 percent of all religious
persecution is aimed at Christians. This year, persecution of Iraqi
Christians was intense. Even as President Obama pulled U.S. troops
out of Iraq, Islamic radicals closed down churches there. The Open
Doors organization says the “religicide” of Christians in Iraq
today is similar to what happened to Iraqi Jews in 1941.

6.
American megachurches grew in spite of economic recession
.
Although unemployment remains high, a report from the Leadership
Network revealed that 81 percent of megachurches in this country are
still growing—and meeting budgets. Only 4 percent of megachurches
cut salaries in 2010. A growing number of the churches also reported
that outreach to needy people is a budget priority. “The recession
is helping us focus on what we really need and want to do,” said
one Ohio pastor, David Fletcher, who was interviewed in the survey.

7.
Younger Americans lost their faith.

While a segment of charismatic youth are engaged in prayer and
evangelism movements, such as the International House of Prayer or
Campus Crusade for Christ, a large percentage of “millennials”—people
born between 1980 and 2000—don’t consider religion important in
their lives. A new book, The
Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation
,
says only 13 percent of people in this age category consider any form
of spirituality to be meaningful. Hint:
This must become a ministry priority for America’s churches.

8.
Mainline denominations continued a downward slide.

As Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Lutherans argued over the issue
of gay clergy and gay marriage, their churches continued to empty.
Lutherans who were upset over their 2009 vote (to allow gay clergy)
split from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to form
dissident networks.

9.
Scandals plagued high-profile charismatic ministries.

Bishop
Eddie Long of Atlanta vowed to fight accusations from four
men who claimed he had sexual relationships with them. A few miles
away in Conyers, Ga., charismatic pastor Jim Swilley announced he is
gay but vowed to remain pastor of Church in the Now. Benny
Hinn’s wife, Suzanne, filed for divorce in February.
In the midst of the turmoil, charismatic leaders distanced themselves
from the flashy, money-focused message of the past and emphasized the
importance of accountability and integrity.

10.
Evangelical church-planting movements grew.

Francis Chan, pastor of 4,000-member Cornerstone Church in Simi
Valley, Calif., and author of the popular books Crazy
Love
and Forgotten
God
, stepped down
from his prominent pulpit to plant a church in an undisclosed
location in Asia. Chan’s decision reflects a quiet but significant
trend: Many Christian leaders are engaging in brave church-planting
efforts, and a refreshing apostolic spirit is on the rise. The trend
is obvious in some older Pentecostal denominations (Foursquare,
Pentecostal Holiness) as well as among newer networks such as the
Alabama-based Association of Related Churches, or “ARC.”
Since 2001, when ARC began, its leaders have planted almost 200
churches in 36 states—and ARC now gives more than $8 million to
missions around the world.

Please don’t let the headlines distract you from the real story.
God is working all around us. I invite you to join Him!

J.
Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma.
You can follow
him on Twitter at leegrady. His most recent book is The
Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale

(Chosen Books).

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