A missions-sending agency wants to talk about persecution in terms of evangelism and has invited the public to the conversation.
Using its Unsolved Mysteries in Missions blog, World Gospel Mission – an interdenominational missionary organization – is examining several countries with the world's worst reports of religious persecution and discussing how persecution correlates with locals following Jesus Christ, church growth, and other evangelism-related measurements.
"These are our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted," said Tim Rickel, vice president of development for WGM. "When we hear about suffering, inevitably we want to figure out what we can do to help. Let's start by talking about this issue."
Based on Open Doors' 2009 World Watch List, WGM and participants in the conversation are looking at North Korea, Iran and China where a growing number of people are following Jesus Christ despite religious oppression and the risk of severe punishment.
By comparison, statistics on the United States, which enjoys a high level of religious freedom, show that the number of Protestant Christians have steadily fallen over the past decades.
"So does increased religious freedom enhance the spread of the gospel, as evidenced by the high percentage of Christians in the United States," the blog poses. "Or, do you think that the declining numbers in the U.S. indicate that persecution actually enhances Christianity conversion rates? How do you account for these discrepancies?"
Readers interested in participating in the discussion can leave a comment at the bottom of the blog entry.
Open Doors, a ministry that works with the persecuted church around the world, estimates there are some 100 million Christians worldwide that suffer from interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation.
The ministry's 2009 World Watch List ranks North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Maldives, Yemen, Laos, Eritrea, and Uzbekistan as the top ten countries where persecution of Christians are the worst.
"As Christians in the United States, we have religious freedoms that we take for granted, simply because we have never experienced severe discrimination for our faith," Rickel said. "It's important for us to be aware of – and to hurt for – our suffering brothers and sisters around the world."
WGM is an international mission-sending organization founded in 1910. The organization now has 300 missionaries and support staff serving in more than 17 countries on six continents.
On the Web: