CHURCHES GROW UNDER PERSECUTION

A new peer-reviewed study published last month in the academic journal Sociology of Religion demonstrates that churches grow under persecution.

The study’s findings, outlined in Christianity Today by authors Nilay Saiya and Stuti Manchanda, buck conventional wisdom. In places where Christians enjoy official support from national governments, religious faith tends to decline. Conversely, Christianity spreads most successfully in countries with legal commitments to religious pluralism and in places that actively discriminate against and persecute believers.

These are the countries with the fastest growing Christian populations (the states with low/no official support for the faith are in bold): Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, UgandaRwandaMadagascarLiberia, Kenya, DR Congo, and Angola.

And here are the countries with the fastest declining Christian populations (the states with moderate/high official support for the faith are in bold): Czech RepublicBulgariaLatviaEstonia, Albania, MoldovaSerbiaGermanyLithuania, and Hungary.

Hungary, for example, is an officially Christian nation. Even still, faith is waning: Although a majority of Hungarians identify as Catholic, only 12% regularly attend church services and just 14% describe religion as “very important” in their lives.

It is worth noting, as author Rod Dreher has, Prime Minister Victor Orban’s governance in Budapest is very much aligned with politically conservative Christian views. As such, the country has passed legislation to that end.

Nevertheless, Saiya and Manchanda argue that, in pluralistic societies, where religious ideologies coexist and must compete, for lack of a better word, Christianity — untethered from politics — often flourishes. Paradoxically, they found, “state favoritism of religion inadvertently suppresses it.”

That is due to the fact that, countries that are “officially Christian,” and even in the U.S., to an extent, Christianity may become less about a convictional relationship with Jesus and instead morph into just one aspect of a citizen’s larger national identity, resulting in faith being less about personal beliefs and more about cultural tradition.

On the other hand, the Christian faith has expanded most in Asian countries, where there’s no “official” faith and pluralism has been embraced: In contrast to Europe, Christianity in Asian countries has not been in a position to receive preferential treatment from the state, and this reality has resulted in stunning Christian growth rates. The Christian faith has actually benefited by not being institutionally attached to the state, feeding its growth and vitality.

Consider the case of South Korea, which in the course of a century has gone from being a country devoid of Christianity to one of its biggest exporters. It currently ranks as the second-largest sender of missionaries, trailing only the United States.

This example illustrates well the paradox of pluralism. Because South Korea is not a Christian country, Christianity enjoys no special relationship to the state. In fact, Christianity in Korea endured the brutal persecution of Japanese colonial rule, during which churches were forcibly closed down and their properties confiscated. Indeed, the church persisted through poverty, war, dictatorship, and national crises throughout Korean history.

Since World War II, Korean Christianity has grown exponentially, with tens of thousands of churches being built and seminaries producing thousands of graduates every year. Today, about a third of the country is Christian.

Christianity also seems to flourish — as it did for the early church leaders in Acts — in places where believers face discrimination and persecution.

The faith of those facing persecution for their convictions is often deeper and more profound, because the stakes are inherently higher when it’s not in one’s cultural best interest to embrace such beliefs.

Open Doors USA, an advocacy organization tracking Christian persecution around the globe, ranks Iran as the eighth-worst place in the world for believers. Despite facing “extreme” persecution — where the government has outlawed conversion from Islam, imprisons those who evangelize, and arrests people for attending secret house churches or sharing Christian literature — it’s believed there could be at least one million Christians in the Islamic country.

A similar phenomenon is believed to be unfolding in Afghanistan, which Open Doors lists as the second-worst place to be a Christian. There is only a small number of believers in the country, where it is illegal to convert from Islam, and those who do face certain imprisonment, violence, and potentially even death. Rula Ghani, the first lady of Afghanistan, is a Maronite Christian from Lebanon.

Outside the Middle East, the world’s largest persecuted body of believers is found in China, where the communist government continually discriminates against and harms Christians.

Chinese police destroyed several church buildings earlier this year, including one where 50,000 Christians worshipped.

Much to President Xi Jinping’s chagrin, Protestant Christianity has continued to grow exponentially in China, where the government estimates some 200 million of its 1.5 billion citizens are believers.

Fenggang Yang, a sociologist of religion at Purdue University, said in 2019 he believes more Protestant Christians will live in China by 2030 than any other country in the world.

“When Communists took power in 1949, there were one million Protestants living in China, compared with 58 million in 2010 and probably around 100 million in 2019,” he said. “Despite the government’s efforts to suppress, I don’t think it will stop the growth of Christianity in China. All the evidence I have collected shows it’s undeniable; it’s already happening.”

If these numbers reveal anything to Christians, it is that believers should place their trust not in conventional wisdom, but in the often paradoxical work of the Holy Spirit.

Russian philosopher Fyodor Dostoevsky once lamented the deeply misguided belief held my many Christians “that Christ cannot reign without an earthly kingdom.”

It would be folly for the Christian to spend his or her life building an impenetrable kingdom on earth. We know from Scripture such an effort would be in vain. Psalm 46 says, “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice and the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” And, in Matthew 24, Jesus told His disciples it is His authority alone that will stand the test of time: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

In Matthew 6, Jesus warned His followers against storing up treasures on earth, “where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.” Instead, He told them to invest in the eternal Kingdom of God.

Our ultimate hope, redemption, and restoration comes not in the protection of the state, which is never certain, but through salvation in Jesus, with whom we are heirs to a Kingdom operating outside the space and time of this temporal world.

Article by Tré Goins-Phillips Editor of Faithwire

HOW THE CHURCH GREW AFTER PENTECOST

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the LordActs 11:19-24

It was the church at Antioch that first reached out to non Jews and note the “hand of the Lord was with them”. “And a great many people were added to the Lord.”

When a famine struck Judea, the church at Antioch was the first church recorded in Scripture to voluntarily collect resources and send them to assist another church.

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:1-3

The church at Antioch had prophets and teachers. It was a worshipping church and its members fasted. It was Holy Spirit led, sending out disciples to spread the gospel and plant new churches.

How do our churches line up today to the Antioch model? It is an important question to ask. Could they be more like the church in Paul’s day back in Jerusalem? They were busy forcing Peter to defend his action of entering a gentile’s home and trying to get the gentile Christians to become Jewish. In other words, they were involved in activities other than those Jesus commanded church to do.

available on Amazon as a paperback and ebook.

I was prompted by the Holy Spirit in late 2013 to start a website
http://www.livingeternal.net. The circumstances were strange. I was in Isaiah 52 and 53 and had been thinking about the Pharisees and Sadducees and how blind they had been to Jesus first coming and yet so many Scriptures presented the facts of Him coming as a “suffering servant” and “pierced for our transgressions”.
Suddenly, the Holy Spirit cut across my thoughts and it was as if Jesus, Himself, said, “Let me tell you Ron, there are many more Scriptures about My second coming and the church is blind to it, they are asleep and are not prepared for the coming tribulation and persecution of Christians that is already upon us and will
escalate in the years ahead.
I have now published 1413 posts on livingeternal.net and into my seventh year. Its purpose is to not only alert the church to understand we are living in the “end times” exactly as prophesied in the O.T and N.T Scriptures but to convict Christians that church is about making disciples who make disciples as described in the Book of Acts and to connect them with movements that can help them get in step with God’s call on their life in these last days. This book is a distillation of the posts on livingeternal.net and is also available as an eBook on Amazon.
“Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12.
I am a pharmacist by profession. I worked in the pharmaceutical industry in senior management positions:
General Manager, Hospital Products Division of Abbott Laboratories Australia. General Manager, Abbott Diagnostics Division Australasia, Managing Director, The Ramsay Group, Division of C.R Bard.

After being born again in 1982, I purchased Christian Press in 1983 and managed it and Care & Share Products Pty Ltd for 30 plus years. God now has me now preparing the saints for His second coming with livingeternal.net and powerpointsermons.net.

BIBLE BELIEVING COUNTER-CULTURAL CHURCHES THRIVING

The most common religious identity among young adults in the U.S. is “none,” and the majority of Americans don’t believe it’s necessary for a person to believe in God to be moral and have good values, a new survey has found. The survey on American Life investigating contemporary religion in the U.S. found that among young adults (age 18 to 29), the most common religious identity today is none. More than one in three (34%) young adults are religiously unaffiliated.  Nearly nine in 10 (87%) Americans report they believe in God, but just over half (53%) report they believe in God without any doubts at all. Overall, 42% of Americans have a close social connection with someone who is religiously unaffiliated — up from 18% in 2004.
Additionally, most Americans say it’s not necessary for a person to believe in God to be moral and have good values. Close to six in 10 (59%) Americans say a belief in God is not a precondition to being moral and having good values, while 41% of the public say a belief in God is essential. These statistics, the authors say, mark a “remarkable shift in recent years. The study also found that Americans are almost equally divided over whether it is better to discuss religious beliefs and ideas with those who do not share the same perspective, and most Americans have never been invited to church. A majority (54%) of Americans say they have not been asked to participate in a religious service in the past 12 months or have never been asked.

The survey corroborates a 2019 Pew Study survey that documented the decline of Christians and rise of religiously unaffiliated. Pew noted that the religiously unaffiliated group rose to 22.8% share of the population in 2014, eclipsing the number of Catholics in America, who fell to 20.8%. Christians as a whole fell from 78.4 to 70% of the population between 2007 to 2014, with every major group experiencing a decline. Similarly, the 2018 General Social Survey found that the number of religious “nones” in the U.S. are now statistically equal to the number of evangelicals. Ryan Burge, a political science researcher at Eastern Illinois University who analyzed data from the survey, told The Christian Post that the religious “‘none’s’ are not slowing down.”

THE GOOD NEWS

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, previously said the “increasing strangeness” of Christianity is actually “good news” for the church. “Christianity isn’t normal anymore. It never should have been. The increasing strangeness of Christianity might be bad news for America, but it’s good news for the church. The major newspapers are telling us today that Christianity is dying, according to this new study, but what is clear from this study is exactly the opposite: while mainline traditions plummet, evangelical churches are remaining remarkably steady,” Moore said.

He added that statistics indicate there are honest atheists in America today, and that they are rejecting what’s called “almost-Christianity,” or traditions that “jettison the historic teachings of the Church as soon as they become unfashionable.” “The churches that are thriving are the vibrant, counter-cultural congregations that aren’t afraid to not be seen as normal to the surrounding culture. This report actually leaves me hopeful. The Bible Belt may fall. So be it,” he continued. “Christianity emerged from a Roman Empire hostile to the core to the idea of a crucified and resurrected Messiah. We’ve been on the wrong side of history since Rome, and it was enough to turn the world upside down.”

GOD’S WORD IS INERRANT

MIRACLES EVIDENT IN FASTEST GROWING CHURCHES

Church growth in Nepal

In 1951, Nepal reported no Christians in its government census. And by 1961, that number increased to just 458. Today, the World Christian Database ranks the country as the 12th fastest-growing Christian population in the world with 1,285,200 believers, said database co-director Gina Zurlo. The real number might be higher.

Until 2008, Nepal was a Hindu kingdom. For Hindu radicals, being Nepali means being culturally Hindu, Pastor Tanka Subedi told CP. Subedi leads Nepal’s Family of God Church and serves as director of the International Nepal Fellowship. Although most Hindus live in peace with Christians, he said some fiercely oppose the Gospel. “The prime minister himself says he doesn’t believe in God but is Hindu,” said Subedi. “State media and government officials [say] Christianity is coming to Nepal to destroy our culture. It’s challenging to evangelize people who have that mindset.”

The pressure and violence Christians experience from Hindus places the country at No. 34 on Open Doors USA’s global persecution watch list.

Despite rising persecution, Christians continue to share their faith, Subedi said, because the government can’t arrest them all. We come from a persecuted background. We were never free. We are used to it, he said.

People feel eager to become Christians because of the reality of the Christian faith and the healings, Subedi added. 

Nepalese Christians Reuters/Shruti Shrestha

Suroj Shakya, a 41 year old church elder in Nepal told CP that he became a Christian at 8 years old after God healed him from food poisoning. When Suroj was 19, his mother Gita Shakya was diagnosed with a painful, paralyzing spinal growth. Doctors told Gita and Suroj, that her best option for healing was a risky, potentially lethal surgery, Suroj shared with The Christian Post. Surgery was expensive, and Gita’s husband, Babukaji, a Buddhist priest, refused to pay his Christian wife’s expenses. Doctors in Singapore gave 19-year-old Suroj two days to decide whether to let his mother live in terrible pain or risk her death.

Suroj prayed, then decided it was best to do the surgery. But he didn’t know what he would tell his family if Gita died, he said. At that time, I felt so alone in Singapore because it was my first visit, and I had nobody to share my problems with besides talking with the Lord in prayer, he added.

Suroj heard a knock at the door. It was a group of local church members who wanted to pray for Gita. After 20 minutes of prayer, a miracle happened, he said. Gita stood up. She kicked out with her left foot, which hadn’t moved for years. She punched out with her left arm. Suddenly, she could move. Gita started to weep and praise God, Suroj recalled. “There was no pain and sadness, which she had before. Her face was changed into joy and happiness,” he said.

Afterward, Suroj said doctors didn’t believe Gita was the same woman. Babukaji didn’t believe his wife had been healed without surgery until he saw she had no scars. Then along with his son, Suman, he became a Christian.

Such stories happen often in Nepal, said Suroj. Despite persecution and poverty, the Nepalese church has grown incredibly quickly. The South Asian country has one of the fastest-growing Christian populations in the world. To secular Westerners, it might seem impossible. But the mountains of Nepal have witnessed incredibly fast church growth in part because of miraculous healings.

The church growth is because of miracles, Suroj asserted. “[If] people don’t [get healed] from the hospital, they go to the church and ask for prayer from the church leaders. When the church family and church leaders pray for the sick people, they are getting healed.”

I believe as persecution of Christians intensifies in the West the Christian remnant will be more like the church described in the Book of Acts. Healings and miracles will be normal and an important part of church growth just as it is in Nepal.

CHURCH GROWS UNDER PERSECUTION

For the gospel did not did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, … 1 Thessalonians 1:5

Missionary strategists have been reporting for some time that Iran is experiencing the most impressive surge of church growth on the planet. Elam Ministries in England says more Iranians have become Christians since 1979 than in the previous 1,300 years. Some organisations estimate that there could be as many as 800,000 to 1 million believers in the country.

The political, economic, and spiritual situation in Iran resulted in a deep spiritual hunger for truth. Iran may be a closed land, but the people have open hearts. Iranians today are seen as the most open Muslim people to the Gospel in the world. As Elam reported, more have become Christians since the revolution than the previous 1,300 years put together.

But Iran is also one of the most difficult places on earth to be a Christian because of persecution from the hard-line Islamic government. Believers are jailed and tortured. Churches are forced to meet in secrecy. Yet one ministry there has reported that so many people are being converted they can’t keep enough Farsi Bibles in stock to give to new believers.

Iran-church

Elam Ministries says Iranian churches typically have between eight to 12 members only. To stay safely off the radar, the small churches multiply quietly. But this method of small-group discipleship actually produces stronger Christians than a bigger church would. Elam also reports that many people make decisions for Jesus after watching Christian television broadcasts.

In May of this year, Iran’s intelligence minister, Mahmoud Mahmoud Alavi, gave a speech to Muslim clerics in which he publicly decried the alarming growth of Christian faith. He announced that mass religious conversion to Christianity is “happening right before our eyes.”

Iran’s revival is also gaining more attention because of the new film Lambs Among Wolves, Vol. 2, a documentary produced by Frontier Alliance International Studios. One unidentified church leader in the movie asks: “What if I told you the mosques are empty inside Iran? What if I told you no one follows Islam inside of Iran? Would you believe me? This is exactly what is happening inside of Iran.” If you have not seen Lambs Among Wolves Vol 1 & 2 then do so and spread the word amongst your Christian friends that these videos are great evangelism tools. Joel Richardson (Joels Trumpet and The Underground) works with Frontier Alliance and I am confident that I have promoted these videos on previous posts.

GOD IS BUILDING HIS CHURCH IN INDIA DESPITE PERSECUTION

Source Premier News Service

The number of converts to Christianity continues to rise across India, despite growing acts of violence towards believers after Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi was re-elected as Prime Minister.  Pastor Kumar Swamy of the All India Christian council said “One particular incident took place in the state of Pradesh where a church were having their prayer meeting, which was disrupted. ” Around 50 Hindu extremists were trying to stop the prayer meeting and harassed and manhandled the pastor.”  Pastor Swamy recalled the struggle of sharing the gospel in Indian villages.

He said: “I shared my testimony and a group of people started attacking me with stones, I got hurt and was bleeding.  That’s the scene almost every day in the country as we share our faith.”  He continued: “But today in the same village, by God’s grace, we have around 15 churches planted.

“On one hand, there is attacks, threats and bloodshed but on the other hand, God is growing his church in the midst of this persecution and this will be the story of India.” 

Christian leaders have joined together to raise their concerns for the safety of India’s Christian community following the recent election results. Plans have been made to meet with the Prime Minister to request increased security for religious minorities.  Pastor Swamy said: “The Christian Council is planning to lead a delegation of Christian leaders, to meet our Prime Minister, and our Home Minister, to give us protection and freedom.  “We feel it’s important to enlighten our Prime Minister, and assure him that we will be praying and standing with him that God will give him the wisdom to rule this nation with peace.”  According to Pastor Swamy, education and an ongoing dialogue between the government and religious minorities is needed in order to bring about lasting change.