I’m reading a book called “Confronting Christianity,” a well-written and very well documented book exploring twelve hard questions for the world’s largest religion. Questions such as, “Doesn’t religion cause violence?” Or, “How can you take the Bible literally?” Or, “How could a loving God allow so much suffering?” Rebecca McLaughlin, the author, digs deeply into scholarly material to help provide answers to these and other questions.
In answering the question of, “Doesn’t Christianity crush diversity?” she comes out with some telling statistical information from a reliable source that I want you to know.
In 2016, The Gospel Coalition (Google it if you want to know more about this organization) published an article by Mark Howard, who works with Elam Ministries, an organization founded in 1990 by Iranian church leaders with a mission to strengthen and expand the church in the Iran region and beyond. In the article, Howard asserts that “The church in Iran has become the fastest growing in the world, and it is influencing the region for Christ.”
Now, that isn’t something that most Western Christians would readily believe, and in fact would dismiss outright as the ramblings of someone deranged. Iran? The church in Iran?? The fastest growing in the world??? That has to be in error. Alas, but it’s not. And the church in Afghanistan is right up there with the Iranian church in growth, fueled in part by the Iranian church evangelizing Afghans.
I will quote here from the article. Despite continued hostility from the late 1970s until now, Iranians have become the Muslim people most open to the gospel in the Middle East.
How did this happen? Two factors have contributed to this openness. First, violence in the name of Islam has caused widespread disillusionment with the regime and led many Iranians to question their beliefs. Second, many Iranian Christians have continued to boldly and faithfully tell others about Christ, in the face of persecution.
As a result, more Iranians have become Christians in the last 20 years than in the previous 13 centuries put together since Islam came to Iran. In 1979, there were an estimated five hundred Christians from a Muslim background in Iran. Today, there are hundreds of thousands—some say more than one million. Whatever the exact number, many Iranians are turning to Jesus as Lord and Savior.
The article summarizes the explosion of Christianity in those areas like this: “Persecution threatened to wipe out Iran’s tiny church. Instead, the church in Iran has become the fastest growing in the world, and it is influencing the region for Christ.”
Would you ever in a thousand years have thought that Christianity in that area would even have any growth at all, let alone be the fastest-growing religion in the world? I’m telling you, God is at work. He is at work in areas that many in the Western world have written off as unreachable…either because of what appears to be an incredibly difficult evangelistic field, or because of our bias against people and nations of other religions and other cultures.
It is reliably told that China will be largely Christian in thirty years. South Korea already exports more missionaries to foreign fields than the United States. Nigeria is seeing thousands proclaim Jesus as Lord, especially in the face of persecution and chaotic government. It is time to recognize the fact that God works in places and in ways that the Western church can sometimes barely fathom, let alone participate in.
May the God of heaven and earth be praised for His marvelous and incredible love!