On July 22, The New York Times Magazine ran a story with a stunning headline: “Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East? ISIS and other extremist movements across the region are enslaving, killing and uprooting Christians, with no aid in sight.” It is a difficult article to read. Christians in Somalia, northern Nigeria, Sudan, and Kenya face similar terrors. The news and images of persecution coming out of these countries is nothing short of horrific.
In other parts of the world, the news is more ambivalent. In August, a New York Times article touted this headline: “Chinese Christians Resist Government Plan to Remove Crosses.” The article noted the increasingly public resolve of Chinese Christians in the face of persistent government persecution. Despite (or perhaps because of) the suffering of believers in China, the expansion of Christianity there shows no sign of slowing. Since western missionaries were expelled from China in the 1950’s (an event thought at the time to herald the end of Chinese Christianity), the number of Christians in that country has grown from about 4.5 million to roughly 70 million.
While in a richer and ostensibly free Europe, the church appears to be withering, the church in the global south is flourishing. The growth of Christianity in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and parts of Asia during the past century has been nothing short of staggering. For example, between 1910 and 2010, the number of sub-Saharan Africans identified as Christians increased from 9 percent of the population to 63 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. Churches in Africa and Asia are now quietly and steadily sending missionaries to America, Europe, and some of the most closed countries on earth. These are underreported stories.
In a world saturated by the 24-hour news cycle, we are constantly bombarded with images and headlines from around the world. As Christians, we are tempted to be dumbstruck, scratching our heads and discouraged by the carnage. What is God doing in the world today? And what in the world is God doing with his church? At our 2015 Global Outreach Conference, now in its 77th year, we are focusing on the news. Our partners from around the world will serve as “foreign correspondents,” helping us to interpret the headlines and offering unreported news about how God is working through his church. Dr. Donald K. Smith and Dr. R. Kent Hughes will “anchor” our coverage on November 8 and 15, announcing the most important news of all: the gospel of Jesus Christ. A longtime Tenth global partner, Dr. Smith founded Daystar University in Kenya, which has grown from a handful of students in the 1960’s to a university with two campuses and offers 30 bachelor’s programs and nine post-graduate tracks. Under Dr. Hughes’ pastorship, College Church in Wheaton began giving half of their annual budget to world missions.
If you are interested in better understanding the headlines and hearing unreported stories of how God is working in the world, please come to Eye on Africa on Saturday, November 7, and The Annual Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday, November 14. We will hear stories and wisdom from our global partners on the ground in these regions. Pick up a brochure or visit tenth.org/goconference to get more information and to reserve your seat.
In order to truly understand the news from around the world, we must, of course, first hear and understand the news at the heart of Christianity. It does not primarily offer laws, advice, guidance, or esoteric knowledge about the nature of reality. Instead, it simply offers good news: Jesus Christ has died and risen. The gospels are bookended by angelic news bulletins: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy…” (Luke 2:10) and “He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:6). This news changes everything. All other news—good and bad—only makes sense in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, reports about the global church, its sufferings and triumphs, only truly make sense when that church is seen as the very body of Christ.
Please join us. We hope that as you hear news from the global church, you will feel called to pray more and more for God’s kingdom, his people, and the lost. We also hope that hearing the gospel afresh will transform you and our church more and more into the image of Christ. This is news worth sharing!
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By David Gunther. © 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org