No one can deny that a fresh wind of God's Spirit is moving around the world. The heightening optimism in mission circles today for the completion of The Great Commission is not unfounded. There is now evidence of the existence of believers in almost every inhabited political entity in the world. The Church of Jesus Christ has become truly global both in presence and in mission. Here are five encouraging vital signs of how the Lord is continuing to build His Church (Matthew 16:18)

Increased Partnership
A growing number of mission agencies concede, "We can't complete The Great Commission alone".  Along with that recognition, there is an unprecedented willingness to cooperate.

The virus of individualism of the West and from which the Western Church suffers had also infiltrated the mission agencies. Competition and criticism among them were rampant in the homeland and overseas. Today cooperation and trust are replacing competition and criticism and the big “K” Kingdom-thinking is beginning to emerge. Now, agencies aren't so much concerned about turf protection as they are in the sharing of expertise, research, tools and resources. Mission agencies are even seconding personnel to work under one another’s agency supervision. All these cooperative efforts are creating a global synergy in the missionary enterprise that has never been seen before.

Impetus for this spirit of partnership hails back to the International Congress on Evangelism of 1974 in Lausanne, Switzerland. 2,700 church leaders who gathered from around the world signed the Lausanne Covenant of World Evangelization which stated the fundamentals of common belief and called for proactive cooperation in finishing the task of world evangelization.

The demonstration of cooperation was slow in forthcoming until the mid-eighties. Since then, there have been marvelous strategic alliances, and partnerships and even mergers. Bible translation agencies, evangelism and church planting agencies, global radio networks, and relief agencies have cooperated to speed up the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

For the glory of God such cooperation between denominations, para-church and mission agencies is demonstrating the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17, while reducing duplication in efforts or wastage of resources in moving ahead the Kingdom agenda.

Increased Personnel
For decades mission agencies recruited primarily individuals to go overseas as career missionaries. They wanted individuals who sensed God's call for a life-long of service and were willing to subject themselves to adequate theological training and foreign language studies and then enter a country with a missionary visa. Recruitment today has a much broader appeal and includes non-career missionaries.

Since the late seventies, thousands are going overseas as short-termers. They range from young college-age students to senior citizens who are willing to go cross-culturally and spend from a couple of weeks to a couple of years. With little or no theological training and foreign language skills the contribution of short-termers is limited but valued.

Often young short-termers with a positive experience will return home, upgrade their theological education and return as career missionaries. Short-termers who are led to stay home are some of the most powerful mobilizers of missions locally. Therefore, the personnel offices of mission agencies are discovering that short-termers are an effective recruiting tool.

Bi-vocationals or tentmakers are another category of non-career missionaries who are growing in numbers. The refusal of many countries to grant visas for career missionaries has boosted the need for tentmakers. Visas may be denied for reasons varying from an anti-Christian stance in one country to the protection of employment opportunities for nationals in another.

Countries referred to as "creative access nations" may only allow entry for possible Christian ministry with appropriate vocational permits. Individuals with business, professional and technical expertise are welcomed. It is estimated that nearly 80 percent of the unreached people in the world live in such nations. Globalization of the world's economy has made it possible for Christian entrepreneurs to begin "Great Commission companies" in several lucrative business arenas which allow Christians to be self-funded, enhance the host country’s economy while being a witness of Jesus Christ.

Increased Participation
As late as 1970, the missionary enterprise around the world was virtually monopolized by men and women with white skin. A missionary was defined as an individual who was white and came from Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.  Praise God ... that definition is out of date.

Over 150,000 Protestant missionaries have come from churches of Asia, Africa and Latin America in the last 35 years. These brown, black and yellow missionaries have joined the Lord's global army of harvesters. Most of these Two-Thirds World missionaries have been trained in local theological institutions, often they speak two or more languages (other than English or French) fluently and they receive their salaries in cruzeiros, pesos, rand, ringgit, rupees and yen.

This group of Two-Thirds World missionaries is growing several times faster than the group from the West. A majority of these missionaries are working under indigenous mission agencies. And these mission agencies have been born, bred, administered and increasingly supported primarily by funds from the Two-Thirds World churches.

What is amazing is that the numbers in our missionary ranks worldwide are increasing with wider participation of the global Church. In the last four decades, frontier missionaries have come in all colors including white.  Missionaries are coming from everywhere, going everywhere and trying to reach everyone.

Increased Persecution
Yes, persecution is a vital sign of growth! The persecution of Christians today is worldwide, massive and is escalating. No single week goes by without shocking reports coming in from Pakistan, China, India, Sudan, Egypt, Indonesia and the Middle East. Christians are experiencing threats, riots, discrimination, violence, loss of property and possessions, kidnapping, imprisonment, physical and mental torture and even death. Such atrocities are predicted to increase sharply. Anyone going into missions must count the cost of possible suffering, misfortune and even martyrdom.

Human history is replete with examples of many forms of persecution and suffering of Christians and the Church. No matter how many trials and tortures, defamations and deaths the Church has gone through it has always brought in more believers into the Church. God is still proving true the phrase the historian Tertullian (160-240 A.D.) coined: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."

Wherever the Church is being attacked and the uncompromising Christians experience suffering and shame the unsaved are responding in greater numbers to the proclamation of the gospel. It is being proven again that the Church always thrives in the midst of persecution.

Increased Prayer
One has never witnessed so much prayer mobilization occurring at local, national and global levels.  There is such an increase in numbers of people praying that Dr. Peter Wagner, Coordinator of the United Prayer Track of the former AD2000 and Beyond Movement exclaimed in the late nineties, "The prayer movement is simply out of control!" Today, the numbers who intercede for the lost defy calculation.

The variety and scope of prayer initiatives are unbelievable, e.g. Concerts of Prayer, Citywide Prayer, Prayer Walks, Prayer Summits for pastors,  30 Days Muslim Prayer Focus, Prayer for Hindus, National Days of Prayer, Prayer Journeys, Prayer Alerts, Solemn Assemblies, and Global Day of Prayer.

A healthy sense of desperation is growing in the Body of Christ worldwide on NOT relying on human abilities and resources to fulfil the Great Commission. Instead, relying on God's intervention and witnessing the release of God's power. Historically, mighty movements of prayer have always preceded spiritual revival. With such unprecedented globe-encircling prayer could we not expect the Spirit of God to cause a global blaze of revival fire?

Our world has never been more crowded than it is right now. The world population is nearing 6.5 billion with 1.4 billion in China and 1.3 billion in India alone. The Church has never been better focused and strategically positioned to proclaim the whole Gospel to the whole world. It is a great day to be alive and be engaged in God’s mission of victory and dominion over Satan and evil.