Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lost (how do you feel about change?) and Found

When I was a kid, we heard at church that we had 'lost China.' That meant the missionaries had been thrown out of the country. After a century of sacrificial work, there were maybe three million Chinese Christians. When missionaries were thrown out, the only thing we could think was that we had lost China.

Looking back though, perhaps this was the birth of Christian China.  There was persecution and violence and even torture, and many died; what was left though, was a living church; they learned to be the people of God in China. In a strange way, our losing China was perhaps how the gospel took root there.  House churches multiplied and went underground; now the 'free churches' proliferate...

"(Zion church) ... grew to being a multisite church with close to 1,000 worshipers attending the different Sunday services. Many of the church members are scholars, officials, international businessmen, and college-educated merchants. Zion is not a house church that meets underground but an above-ground church that meets in an office building, and that refuses to either disband or register with the authorities. Despite harassment from the police, they have persevered by walking in the light rather than hiding, and by preaching the gospel boldly rather than living in fear."[CT]  

By the best survey information, there are around 50 million Chinese Christians now, and they are instruments of grace and culture formation in a difficult world.  Other estimates exceed 120 million by including the unregistered folks.  There are almost 700,000 in Hong Kong alone!

Christianity sprang up in Africa beginning in the first century, about 43 A.D. in Alexandria Egypt.  It had spread to Carthage by the second century.  In the third century, Christian monasticism (monks) appeared in the deserts of North Africa where Christians had fled to escape persecution.  Many stayed there even after the persecution died down; they stayed to live simply and pray.

Christianity is now one of the two most widely practiced religions in Africa. There has been tremendous growth of Christians in Africa coupled with a relative decline in adherence to traditional African religions. By the year 2000, there were an estimated 380 million Christians. According to a 2006 Pew Forum on Religion and Public life study, 147 millions of African Christians were "renewalists" (a term that includes both Pentecostals and Charismatics).[6] According to David Barrett, most of the 552,000 congregations throughout Africa in 1995 are completely unknown in the West.[7] Much of the Christian growth in Africa is due to African evangelism rather than European missionaries. Christianity in Africa shows tremendous variety, from the ancient forms of Oriental Orthodox Christianity in Egypt, Ethiopia, and Eritrea to the newest African-Christian denominations of Nigeria, a country that has experienced massive conversion to Christianity in recent times.

An African bishop visits one of the 20+ churches
he founded across southern Kenya and Burundi.  
Nice folks, some of whom we've met; healthy community. 
Some experts predict the shift of Christianity's center of gravity from the European industrialized nations to Africa and Asia in modern times. Yale University historian Lamin Sanneh stated, that "African Christianity was not just an exotic, curious phenomenon in an obscure part of the world, but that African Christianity might be the shape of things to come."[8] The statistics from the World Christian Encyclopedia (David Barrett) illustrate the emerging trend of dramatic Christian growth on the continent and supposes, that in 2025 there will be 633 million Christians in Africa.[9]
What a wonderful variety of folks who walk with one heavenly father.