2019 into 2020 Challenges Behind and Ahead
The state of worldwide Christianity, regardless of appearances in the US, is both better and worse than our experiences here.
Persecution is real. Atheist statism and Islam* do not look benignly upon a people who proclaim that Jesus Christ is both King of Kings, and very God of very God. According to the 2019 Watchlist Report, in the top 50 countries on their list, 1 in 9 Christians will experience a high level of persecution. 1 out of 3 in Asia, and 1 out of 6 on the continent of Africa.
Poverty is real. "The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want," ought to be seen as instructions for the prevailing wind of the life of believers, both as individuals, and as 'the Church.' I have said many times that no organization in the world rivals the Church for charity, and it's true. It may be helpful, though, to examine what the best thinking on poverty relief is, and learn ways to partner with those doing it well. We have learned this: money helps some, but not always, and not in lasting ways. Generosity is needed, but wisdom, too. Even here at home, the phenomenon I call "the rich poor" has folk with good jobs unable to make ends meet.
More than twice the number of people who die from homicide, die from suicide. In 2016, Our World In Data, reported that 390K died from homicide worldwide, but 810K from suicide. Despair kills. The spirit of a sound mind is the gift of God. That doesn't make it easy, and many Christians struggle with depression. So commit with me today to love deliberately those most in need of mercy, to suffer long the burden their condition imposes, and let us be marked by prayer on behalf of the suffering.
The intellectual impediments to belief in God, and in Jesus as the Christ, look impressive, prima facie. All the trappings (clothing) of respectability and institutional grandeur seem to be on the side of Secularism at this place in history. And the godly instruction that goes on in homes and churches appears ordinary and unimpressive. This, of course, is exactly backward. Peeling away the onion of intellectual hubris reveals there is nothing at its center but tears. No answers, no foundation for any answer being intelligible, nothing but skepticism as a modus, a fascination with novelty, and the state as the force majeure in the lives of human beings.
The Church stands as Jesus' structure to be salt and light in these conditions, and in spite of the reality of a lot of work to do, the Church has gone from 11 confused men hiding in Jerusalem to over 2.2 Billion people, one third of the world, naming the name of Christ. That's progress. We have reason for optimism. God is our strength. We are not polishing the brass on a sinking ship. We are carrying out an ambassadorial, and pedagogical function to the nations, on behalf of the King whose message is peace, and mercy, and the promise of a new life in the face of cultures of death and domination.
"Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary," and, "Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy." As the risen Jesus encouraged the Church at Philadelphia, though we have but little power, let us be faithful!
*Specifically, I refer to radicalized and also state sponsored Islamic persecution of Christians, acknowledging the vast majority of Muslims wish to embody a religion of peace. I also invite peaceful Muslims into dialog about the nature and identity of Jesus Christ.