One of the great joys of my heart is to see the Church grow in places where it has been planted in the soil of great difficulty and challenge. I am reminded of what our Lord Jesus said, a declaration of immense divine determination and purpose. “I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail.”
So many thoughts come to mind with that phrase, “I WILL build my Church.” There is Divine intent and purpose to fulfill a plan that will not cease with time. The Psalmist said in the 100th Psalm, “For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”
I have just completed a personal study of the history of the Church over the last 2,000 years. What we witness today with the massive growth of the Church globally is not the result of a steady growth increasing from the early Church to today. Instead, like the ebb and flow of ocean tides and waves, there have been dozens of periods of time where the Gospel was shared and millions of hearts turned and were transformed by the Good News of redemption, only to be followed by hellish persecution and extermination.
The significant spread of the Church across what is today Iran, China, Japan and the Philippines from the second century on was also followed by horrifying edicts by panicked rulers who ruthlessly pushed to snuff out the Church.
In another historic wave of persecution in the fourth century, over half a million committed Christians fled Syria to find refuge in southwestern India from Islamic invaders.
Today’s “wave” we are witnessing with our front row advantage of technology and instant communications is no different from what historically has been happening over the last 2,000 years. But this time there is a global attention on the Church that is unique.
Once again, we see the persecution of Christians in lands that we as Believers have traditionally and historically belonged to! Remember what the Lord Jesus said, “I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will NOT prevail.”
Our place in history is unique as is our ability to respond to the crisis our Brothers and Sisters face globally. Although there is tragic news on many days, what most do not see is that Muslims, Hindus, and many other seekers are coming to Christ in droves. Christ is the Chief cornerstone of the Church to whom millions through the centuries have turned to in faith (Acts 4:11).
Never before have Christians had the abilities and opportunities to multiply resources and talents as we do today to reach “to the uttermost parts of the earth” with the Gospel and fulfill the Church’s purpose in these last days.
Last fall, a Christian friend of mine who lives in Iran showed me this photo he took of a church building in northern Iran. Built by Maltese Christian missionaries, it is now abandoned in a field of wind-blown grass. My heart caught as I thought of those who had been faithful over 100 years ago to the call and claims of Christ in that region. This building still stands as a witness to the ebb and flow of evangelism of that time period and the lives Christ changed.