Astonishingly, as the U.S. and other western nations deteriorate into extreme ungodliness and intolerance for Christian teaching, the rest of the world is flocking to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the Middle East, for example, Muslims are converting to Christianity in droves. A missionary for a Church of Christ in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, recently reported that an Arab prince has put on the Lord Jesus in baptism. Many are coming to hear the gospel preached on a regular basis throughout the small country. A royal family in Abu Dhabi has donated land for the construction of a chapel and several Christian denominations are being permitted, and even encouraged, to come practice their faith without fear of government reprisal. The U.A.E. is now a safe haven for Christianity as a matter of public policy (even though 76% of the population is Muslim). However, this is not the case in other Muslim countries. Elsewhere in the Middle East, believers are facing severe persecution.
In Saudi Arabia and Iran, people are rapidly coming to Christ, in spite of the likelihood they will face persecution in those places. For example, anyone caught with a Bible will have one hand shredded until its rendered useless, and some believers have been stabbed, hung, beheaded or brutally beaten to death by Muslim zealots. Christian converts typically lose everything they have in this world, being disowned by their own families and facing the real threat of being delivered up to the authorities.
Conditions are even worse in other parts of the Middle East, such as Libya, Egypt, Syria and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the gospel continues to spread everywhere, and Christians remain “faithful unto death” (Rev. 2:10). Many former Muslims are sharing parallel experiences about receiving a revelation from an angel or the Lord himself, by vision or dream. They are told to find a Bible and study it or seek out Christians who may teach them about salvation. I have met one man who shared this kind of experience and now worships in a Church of Christ in southern Philippines. He said that he heard a mighty, rushing wind and the words, “Open the Bible!” While it is impossible to confirm the reliability of these reports, their consistency and prevalence is noteworthy.
The situation in China is equally captivating. Christianity is growing at a rapid pace among the vast population of China. Many Christians have been imprisoned for their faith and they memorize passages, and even entire books of the Bible, in order to have some access to God’s word while serving out their prison sentences. Others attempt to study verses discreetly smuggled into Chinese prisons on pieces of paper. On average, American Christians have two copies of the Bible at home, but most spend very little time reading the Bible. In contrast, the Chinese have very little access to the Bible, but they study it meticulously, when available, and memorize as much as possible. Oh, what a vast difference between believers in the east and the west!
Churches have been raided by the Chinese government, shut down, demolished and those remaining are forced to install facial recognition cameras so that bureaucrats may monitor those who attend. Communist China prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from attending worship services. Most Christians are forced to worship God and fellowship other believers in the underground churches. Those caught by government agents face a sentence of one to seven years in prison. In spite of severe government harassment and persecution, it is estimated that approximately 7% of the population is Christian (about 97 million out of 1.4 billion) and numbers continue to swell throughout the country. In these last days, there is a great spiritual shift happening. God is at work among the peoples of Asia and, especially, in the Orient. Eastern Europe, India and Africa are also seeing major migration to faith in Christ and away from paganism and false religion. I receive regular reports from a Facebook group operated by Christians in Ghana, west Africa. Their page is full of Bible apologetics and recordings of rich Bible lessons and public debates they have had with Muslims. The Ghanaian preachers post updates about their efforts to boldly and intelligently defend faith in Christ against the false teachings of Islam. Based on comments I have read, it is evident that Muslims in west Africa are hearing the word of God and eagerly converting to Christ, even on threat of death.
Interestingly, this encouraging growth is happening after very little assistance or involvement by American missionaries. In my experience in the Philippines, many of our missionaries are too busy arguing about matters of opinion and disputing with local Churches of Christ. Their evangelism efforts are few and results are meager, at best. They prioritize the work of debating and proselytizing people from various denominations over the work of bringing Christ to the unchurched. Efforts to reach Muslims in the Philippines are almost unheard of (I know of only one convert from Islam). Opportunities have been squandered and countless dollars wasted on airfare and expensive, luxury hotels for pampered Americans. The gospel is making headway in the Philippines, but it has little to do with the efforts of American Churches of Christ. The Filipino congregations which are united, growing and effectively seeking the lost are usually self-supported and led by local preachers. All across the world, natives are being called by the Lord to declare the message of eternal life and the gospel is being obeyed everywhere.
The great exceptions, of course, are the United States, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, where God’s Name is profaned, and his word blasphemed. We are faced with the onslaught of secular humanism and a hedonistic culture that glorifies everything against God. At the same time, many of our churches preach a watered-down gospel. They obsess over disputable matters and promote misguided “social justice” causes, instead of proclaiming the simple gospel faith in Christ. Distracted and confused by the chaos, our missions have become rare and mostly ineffective. I believe we can learn a lot from our Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, where faith is being spread by those who have truly counted the cost of their discipleship. When the Lord comes for his Bride, there can be no doubt that multitudes will be caught up from those third world nations and many will be left behind in the western, developed nations. Even so, come Lord Jesus! – MAH