Did you know that 200 years ago, Norway was the poorest country in Europe? Did you know that today it is among the wealthiest in the world, per capita? How in the world did this happen?
In The Book That Transforms Nations, founder of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Loren Cunningham recounts meeting the king of Norway. He asked the king if he knew how his country had experienced such phenomenal change; the king replied that he didn’t know. Mr. Cunningham proceeded to tell him how it had happened.
In 1771, Hans Nielsen Hauge was born to a Norwegian farm family. Although his family honored the Bible, young Hauge never felt he was good enough to be saved. Instead, he pursued his creative and entrepreneurial interests, which brought relative prosperity in the midst of great poverty. When he was twenty-five years old, Hauge had a life-changing encounter with Jesus and committed himself to spreading God’s word. In spite of government restrictions, he journeyed across Norway, calling people into relationship with God beyond the traditions of the lethargic Norwegian church.
Within a decade, Hauge had distributed Bibles across the entire country. Two decades later, in a nation of only 800,000, over 1,000 groups of believers were meeting in homes. The threatened wealthy class, clergy, and government officials often imprisoned Hauge and other lay leaders; Hauge himself was arrested eleven times in seven years.
But Hauge did more than distribute Bibles and teach about Jesus. He wrote books about theology, parenting, starting businesses, living with honesty and integrity, and how to be a person of influence. Norwegian peasants learned to read so they could follow more of what he taught. Hauge started multiple businesses and helped many others do the same.
Mr. Cunningham concluded, “Norwegian believers reflected Christ’s character, influencing their own spheres of the culture: home, work, and social circles. They began to disciple society. And little by little, Norway changed.”
“Transformation of nations happens as the life of Jesus transforms individuals, who in turn share the life of Jesus with those around them.”
Did you know that God is transforming nations in the same way today? It doesn’t happen overnight of course, and even one lifetime isn’t always enough time to see the results of a change of trajectory. But transformation of nations happens as the life of Jesus transforms individuals, who in turn share the life of Jesus with those around them.
I’ve recently been encouraged by the ways these kingdom movements are growing around the world. Twenty years ago, missiological researchers were aware of a dozen or so multiplying movements—where missionaries had gone with careful strategies to allow the gospel to take root and eventually flourish under local leadership. These were not “skin deep” movements; they were characterized by “obedience-based discipleship.” These radical followers of Jesus sound much like the early Anabaptists, who “did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Revelation 12:11, NIV).
Today, this handful of kingdom movements has multiplied to nearly 2,000. Few of these new movements are the result of traditional mission workers sowing the seed; instead, the overwhelming majority have been initiated by local believers who have a passion to take Jesus anywhere and everywhere. Movements themselves are birthing new movements.
RI has recently adopted the vision tagline “Jesus to the World. The World to Jesus.” This is not a change of direction at all; it’s simply a clear, Jesus-centered statement about why we exist. All our energy and resources are poured into taking Jesus to the world. The prayer we breathe all day, every day, is that the nations will come to him for life.