Faith Not Sight
I have often been asked about whether the church is in decline and I love that question because it gives me an opportunity to say an emphatic, “No, it is not,” and also to point to why it isn’t. I understand the sentiment behind that question because fear is a powerful thing. We so often view the news, Scripture, and the promises of Christ through the lens of our circumstances and the current headlines instead of viewing the headlines and our circumstances through the lens of the Scriptures. Because of that lack of big-picture gospel perspective, we can sometimes view God as in some sort of a cosmic tug-of-war—like we know he’s going to win in the end but we’re just holding on and we don’t quite know how this is going to turn out. We see so much brokenness, sin, and division in our church and the churches around us.
This book, written by a missions journalist as he traveled throughout 20 different countries, highlights the lives of Christians past and present whose examples of endurance, courage, sacrifice, and humility will connect readers with God’s unstoppable work across the world.
I can understand that kind of discouragement but we have got to lift up our eyes and see that God is not in a tug-of-war. He is in absolute control. He is sovereign, and there is only one God. Seeing that the church cannot be in decline because God is not in retreat and his saving purposes are guaranteed for all time by the cross and the empty tomb. So we have a strong foundation by which we know that Christ is building his church all over the world. And Revelation 5:9 is actually unfolding before our eyes as people from every nation and language and tribe are coming to Christ by his grace.
The church cannot be in decline because God is not in retreat and his saving purposes are guaranteed for all time by the cross and the empty tomb.
God at Work
So I have seen this for myself but I, first of all, see it in Scripture. I do see it in experiences I have had in China and across North Africa and the Middle East and some of the hardest, most unlikely places that you would think the gospel could be at work. Jesus is at work and he’s mighty to save.
Even in our lifetime—the last twenty to thirty years—there has been explosive growth in the church in China. Perhaps the largest numerical growth of the church in the history of the church has happened in the last twenty or thirty years. We’re seeing gospel inroads right and left across North Africa, across the Middle East, and across Central Asia as another reminder that the church is not in decline. Clearly, God is at work in our country as well. It’s not just something that’s happening over there because it’s the same gospel and the same Savior and he’s at work here just as he is at work there.
The gospel of Jesus Christ, by its very nature, refuses to be bottled up. It must be shared.
Tim Keesee shares from his own experiences as a missions journalist about the reality of persecution and the best way to approach a short-term mission trip.
More than forty years have passed since I first traveled across the world and what drives me now are the glimpses of glory I get as I follow my King in the power of His rising.