After 392 A.D., the Church began to view the people in the Roman Empire as having accessibility to the gospel, thus the fervency of the Christian witness within the jurisdiction of the Roman Empire dwindled. Jesus commissioned the early Church to serve as His witnesses beginning in their present location and moving outwards to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Until the Christianization of Rome, the Church had been faithful in this mission. Unfortunately, Christians began to regard missions as only taking place outside of their homeland, and they would depart their own country to evangelize. Some missiologists hold that the present Church has inherited the mindset that evangelism transpires solely outside of one’s immediate geographical living area. Consequently, evangelism rarely happens around the area of an individual church body.
Evangelicals have noticed the endangered position of the American Church. In a recent study, the yearly requirements for a church body to be deemed as evangelistic were to have twenty-six people become Christians under their church’s influence and to have one person baptized for every twenty members.
With that criteria, the surveyors accredited less than four percent of Southern Baptist churches as evangelistic.
Differentiated from the American Church, the persecuted Church around the world has remained strong in their evangelistic efforts. In the 1940s, Romania’s Christian ministers were forced to confess that Christianity and Communism were complimentary of one another, and the ministers swore their allegiance to Joseph Stalin. Prompted by his wife to challenge these ministers, Richard Wurmbrand replied that they would kill him for such an action. His wife, Sabina Wurmbrand claimed, “I don’t wish to have a coward for a husband.” After bearing punishment for their outburst, the Wurbrands continued to spread the gospel of Christ to all people in a Communist country where such behavior was illegal. They remembered the promise of Jesus that the would be blessed if they had been persecuted for the cause of Christ.
From the movement started in Romania, the Wurmbrands founded The Voice of the Martyrs, an organization existing for education the Western world on the atrocities that Christians face in other areas of the world and gathering support for the Christians suffering. Since then, The Voice of the Martyrs has reported on the perseverance of saints around the world undergoing persecution.
In 2003, the Chinese government had more prisoners incarcerated for being Christians than any other country in the world. The government has killed many Christians and sequestered many pieces of biblical literature to date. Amidst such persecution, an estimated twelve hundred Chinese become Christians every hour. In contrast to the majority of the Western Church, the persecuted Church around the world has continued to reach out to the lost for Christ regardless of the cost, and the Church in those areas continue to grow. Peter wrote that Christians would be persecuted around the world, and he instructed them not to worry because Jesus Christ Himself would “perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish” them after an unknown amount of time (1 Pet. 5:9-10).
Over the course of history, Christianity has endured persecution, and one can safely reason that persecuted Christians are bolder and more frequent in their witness for Christ than those who are not persecuted for their faith. Paul remained joyful despite his persecution, and he recorded in Philippians that a greater number of people had the ability to hear the gospel due to his persecution. Serving as a refiner of the Church, persecution has established the validity of true believers according to their willingness to suffer for Christ’s sake. With the reality of imprisonment or death for claiming Christianity in some parts of the world, one desiring to become a Christian must accept the possible costs before converting to Christianity.
In America, the Church has attempted to blame society’s problems on the reasoning that America lacks Christian leaders. Surprisingly, the countries with the most governmental resistance to Christianity often have produced more legitimate converts than countries where Christianity is allowed. The example of the Roman Empire under Constantine proved that a popular Christian faith often leads to immoral behavior and lackadaisical outreach. Christians should not only expect persecution, but they should anticipate and welcome adversity to the gospel which indicates, according to Paul, proof of their godly behavior (2 Tim. 3:12).
Concerning the current resistance that biblical Christianity is experiencing, I am not surprised, alarmed, or concerned. Maybe in the coming challenges, the bride of Christ will once again be able to wear white in this land as persecution purifies the Church.
This blog post was 1 of 4 posts concerning Christian persecution. These writings are from my senior seminar paper in college when I graduated in 2003. For more info, check out: