It is about time I let the world into a big part of my world. I just arrived back from Asia where again, I have had the privilege of seeing the church in action. Twice this year, I have been in some countries where the gospel is truly making inroads in places and ways that are remarkable in the territory. The reader must remember that this millennium’s four most dominant religions on earth began in Asia (Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam). Of course, all of them began before this millennium, but grew rapidly in the past 1,000 years. Sadly, three of them, excluding Christianity, have dominated the most populous places in Asia. So, though Christianity was born in Asia, it has been squeezed into a small minority and an often persecuted position.
So, it would be easy to assume that Christianity is a declining and marginalized population there. But, that just isn’t true. Even in the midst of communism’s threats against religion in general and Christianity specifically, materialism dominating the culture wars, and religious pressure on it, Christianity is thriving and very much alive. People are genuinely coming to faith in Christ. The good news is penetrating the callous cities. Societies are being radically transformed. Young people are coming to faith in Christ and working diligently to change the world. Churches are springing up everywhere. Theology is a vibrant topic of conversation around water coolers and in parks.
Don’t get me wrong. Christianity is still in the minority, by a very long margin. But, one does not need to strain to see its influence in most cultures. I say all of this to note that there is a general enthusiasm and optimism that pervades much of the church in Asia. The increase of persecution has done little to dampen the spirits of those who see God at work in the lives of people. And, miracles abound, leaving the skeptics to scratch their heads. One cannot turn around in a church without seeing people who have been supernaturally affected by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
If you are a praying person, please, be my guest. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Asia. They need the support. They have more pressure upon them than most of us will ever know. But, Christ has the answers for every person in every society and with every problem. Perhaps one of the reasons for the growth has largely to do with the religious saturation in some communities that have not seen their hopes fulfilled through the regional religion. Christianity is the perfect answer. Many folks whom I know in that area of the world are looking to see their communities shaped by the love of Christ. Everything that matters most needs the love of Christ to be transformed. Political systems have tried and failed. Social disciplines have tried and failed. The absolute exaltation of family, even to the point of ancestor worship and social isolationism has proven unsatisfying. The vaunted education systems have not produced what the heart needs. Jesus has. In that sense, I believe western culture is still laboring with hope that some of these systems will fix us. Our Asian friends have perhaps become weary more quickly since they have worked hard in those areas for more centuries than we have.
I am more confident now than ever that Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life. And, I am confident that we cannot come to the Father or to satisfy our own need without Him.