One of the things I looked forward to about accepting God’s call to move to Ecuador, was embracing the opportunity to live a less comfortable life than I had in the U.S. Don’t get me wrong – my life here is still way more comfortable than most of the world’s population. But I have certainly learned to live with much less affluance and convenience than what we are accustomed to in America. I was actually ready to let go of living with an “entitlement mentality” and become a “citizen of the world.” Unless you have left the U.S. for any length of time other than a brief vacation, you cannot even begin to understand what that means. The brief stint that my family lived in Iran when I was 13 years old (1978) broadened my mind to that understanding at a very young age and I never forgot it.
Here is another article that articulates this well, as well as the realization of how much this “westernization” has infiltrated the mind of the church in the United States. How will God answer the prayers of Christians around the world for America (as I’ve also heard about and is referenced in this article)? Only time will tell…
Much has been written about the decline of Christian influence in the West, but recent trends in China’s church growth have highlighted the ancient secret to effective growth that has stood the test of time.
Prophecy News Watch has written several stories about decreases in church growth as well as a fewer number of people identifying themselves with a particular Christian denomination. However, one danger we face here in America is in developing a sort of tunnel vision where we assume the rest of the world is like us.
This is understandable when one considers that many of us have never ventured abroad, and thus take many of the freedoms and creature comforts we have for granted. However, having travelled to several countries, I can testify that we are surrounded with so many blessings that it is easy to not see them because they are so plentiful.
For years I have conducted an experiment that highlights this. For example, whenever I encounter an immigrant that has only been in America for a relatively short period of time and is able to remember the way things were in their home country, regardless of where that is, I ask them the following question:
“What was your reaction the first time you went into a grocery store in America?”
To date, the answers have been 100 percent the same, no matter what part of the world they are from. “I was amazed and could not believe it.”
We think nothing of it. When we go to the store for groceries we have an amazing variety of choices, not just in the types of food, but multiple brand names. The same is true in so many areas, whether it be a cell phone provider, type of car, choice of church to attend etc.
Because of this, we have become complacent, never contemplating a life without these things. I have often told believers “do you realize that just a little over 100 years ago, when a person prayed ‘give us this day our daily bread,’ that was a real prayer, because if God didnt answer it they would go hungry because there was no refrigeration or way to preserve food long-term.”
The same misperception we have regarding the rest of the world regarding these comforts is also true in the area of Christianity. Each day, we wake up and are able to read our bibles and pray without worrying about someone throwing us in jail for doing so. We are able to attend church services without fear of authorities breaking down the door and killing us or throwing us in jail.
While we talk about the “war on Christianity” and how it is becoming increasingly more difficult to take a stand for Christ, it is important to keep things in perspective. It is one thing to lose a job for taking a stand against homosexuality, but lets be honest, this is still a far cry from being murdered simply for being a Christian.
Yet that is precisely what is happening to many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. A simple search of the Internet will provide far too many examples of modern day martyrs for Jesus to list, and while we are beginning to experience some small forms of persecution, they pale in comparison to what many believers have to endure.
Yet ironically, they are experiencing another trend contrary to what we are seeing in America. Unlike America and Europe, where church attendance is declining, in countries such as China, where becoming a Christian is literally a matter of life and death, the church is flourishing.
Consider this, when Communist rule was first established in China the country had only a million or so Christians. Now, this was before the reign of Mao Tse Tung whose reign of mass murder and terror far surpassed that of Hitler and Stalin. Mao killed an estimated 65 million Chinese as a result of his attempts to create a utopian socialist China.
Prior to Mao, missionaries such as Hudson Taylor and John Birch had given their lives to sharing the gospel with the Chinese people, yet in spite of the countrys massive population there were only one million Christians in the country.
However, after 65 years of organized and systematic persecution of Christians, including long prison sentences, destroying churches and killing Gods people, in 2010, Pew Research put the number of Christians in China at 67 million. Some analysts believe if current trends continue we will see 160 million believers by 2025.
What is the key to this massive growth while church attendance in the West continues to decline? The answer is found in the age-old, tried and true growth method that works every time: persecution.
Tertullian, a second century church father said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” While his words are not inspired scripture, history has borne out the truth of his claims.
If we look around the world at areas such as Nigeria where the Muslim terrorist group Boko Haram is murdering Christians for not converting to Islam, the church is experiencing amazing growth. I have edited several books by pastors from Nigeria and their love and devotion for Jesus Christ is amazing and puts many of us to shame.
The same is true in other Muslim countries, and it was true during the days of the Soviet Union as can be found in Alexander Solzhenitsyns book “Gulag Archipelago.”
Sadly, for years I have heard accounts of Christians around the world praying for American believers to suffer persecution so they can know the joy that comes from serving God in the midst of suffering.
I hope it doesn’t take persecution to turn this nation around – instead that we would choose to serve Him with our whole hearts.
May it start with you.
Reprinted from: Church Growth Lessons From China