Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail

By now I imagine that most of us have heard reports of massive number of conversions in China. Estimates of professing believers range above 100 million. A common explanation is that government persecution is contributing to the numerical increase because size of the churches is so limited that all believers contribute to the life of the church and the spread of evangelism.

What you may not have heard is the spread of faith in Islamic countries. Last week I had the opportunity to get to know an Asian man who has been instrumental in spreading the gospel, training pastors, and planting churches in Iran. For security reasons, my ability to share details is limited, and I'm going to err on the safe side of what he permitted. Although estimates are very difficult, it appears that there may be as many as 2 million professing believers out of an Iranian population of 70 million. That's about the same percentage as in Great Britain. About 75% of those new believers have come to Christ in the past three years. House churches typically have 8 to 15 people, and Chinese believers are helping Iranian pastors learn how to organize and network these churches.

4 comments:

tjp said...

Ben,

If Calvinists heard this news coming out of the United States, they'd immediately brand it as FINNEYISM, EASY-BELIEVISM, and SHAMISM. But because it's over "there," it gets a pass as legit.

Where are the Calamites when you need them?

How come their not telling us that most of those "converts" don't have enough gospel to convert a cockroach?

Why not attack these numbers as fraudulent, suspect? After all, do all of them attend church regularly, tithe, meet faithfully during the week, and consistently observe the ordinances? Are they any better than the multitudes of Southern Baptists who are written off as counterfeit?

Yeah, let's praise these converts and beat up on ours.

Sounds right, doesn't it?

Ben said...

As much as I would like to let that comment merely stand for itself, I can't resist pointing out that conversions in occurring in one-on-one or small group settings in countries where it actually costs something to become a Christian just might be a bit more credible than mass conversion statistics evangelistic campaigns using high-pressure or manipulative tactics.

Obviously, I don't have any idea how many professions are genuine. I think anyone with experience in either of those countries will tell you that estimates are only estimates. Maybe you could tell us things about your experience in Iran and China that has led to these conclusions about the gospel that is believed there, TJP.

Gretchen said...

That is amazing! It just goes to show how ethnocentric I am (even though I think I'm not)!

Sojourner said...

Ben,

You said it. On a mission trip to India last year, we were met by some angry Hindus in orange robes who wanted to put a beating on us before we went into the conference. The previous year, they had, in fact, beaten many of the Indian pastors trying to get in. When men are willing to run that gauntlet to get into a pastor's conference, it makes you feel a little better about helping them get home by giving them a few rupees. The fear of being conned goes way down.

In the same way, I am more confident of conversion numbers in countries where the price for such a proclamation is your head.