Updated: Sep 16, 2022
Is Christianity in America dead? In recent years, this question has consumed the intellectual community. Dr. Gina Zurlo, the Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity noted a 20% decline in those who identify as Christians over the past century (Zurlo, 2020). Younger generations, particularly those in the Millennials group, are leaving the Church in droves, according to this and other reports.
Regardless of the validity (or lack of) regarding this claim, do you want to know where Christianity is not dead? The countries of Iran, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, and others—surprisingly—are witnessing exponential gains in this area.
It’s true. Compelling evidence from unexpected sources appears to confirm that the Church is seeing unprecedented growth in countries notorious for being hostile toward Jesus Christ and His followers. These nations who have historically been the most closed toward the gospel are now open for business.
Before we unpack this phenomenon, I’d like to pause and acknowledge the amazing contribution that the Church in America makes toward providing humanitarian aid and sharing the gospel with the most vulnerable and underserved populations around the world.
Allison Park Church in Southwestern Pennsylvania, for example, raises over $1 million each year as part of its Kingdom Builders initiative. These funds serve communities locally and worldwide by providing water wells, supporting food banks, and rescuing victims of human trafficking. This is just one example from one local church community.
According to a MarketWatch article, the United States is the No. 1 most generous country in the world for the last decade. Americans are some of the most charitable individuals in the world, giving more than $485 billion in 2021 to US charities alone, to say nothing of charities worldwide providing relief to children and adults of impoverished countries (Larson, 2022).
Dynamics and methods may be shifting, but the Church, in a very tangible sense, is still hard at work in America.
What in the World is Going On?
Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State for the Trump administration reported a fascinating discovery back in 2020. The CIA detected a massive download of data from the internet over the nation of Iran. When this dense cloud suddenly appeared over the country, it begged the question, what is raining on Iran? At first, the analysts suspected it was pornography since, tragically, a radical uptick of porn transpired during the global-wide lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 outbreak.
But it wasn’t porn causing this suspect cloud. The enormous transfer of data represented one of the largest downloads of gospel materials in recorded history! The citizens of Iran had downloaded Bibles, Bible apps, and sermons at a frenzied pace. Watch here as Pastor Jack Hibbs recounts the story, starting at the 39-minute mark.
An article from Christian Broadcasting News (CBN) in 2019 corroborates this occurrence. Raizal, an Iranian believer, confirmed, “A great revival is going on inside the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Christian believers have planted an ‘Internet church’ in that heavily restricted Middle Eastern country.
Raizal explained that since churches are banned in Iran, believers use the Internet to connect to churches in the United States, Canada, Germany, and Malaysia via Skype.
Men in White
To add to the intrigue, this expansion of the Christian church in Iran happened when tens of thousands of Iranians abandoned Islam after having dreams and visions about a shining man dressed in white telling them about Jesus.
This occurrence has been happening for the past ten years throughout the Middle East. Even though Christianity is outlawed in countries in the region—and converting out of Islam is extremely difficult and dangerous—millions are turning to Jesus Christ after witnessing these visions.
“Pastors even have a name for them,” explained Dinesh D’Souza, an American author and filmmaker of Indian descent. “They call them MBBs—Muslim background believers.” Watch D’Souza explain the large-scale conversion of Muslims across Asia and Africa to Christianity here.
The occurrence is so profound that it has elicited a grievance from the Muslim community. Iranwire.com reported that the Islamic Republic’s intelligence minister, Mahmoud Alavi, announced during a speech in front of several Shia Muslim clerics that “Christianity is spreading in ‘parts’ of Iran.” As an unfortunate result, politicians have called for the mass interrogation of Christians. Many converts are fleeing to Turkey to escape persecution.
This spectacle isn’t unique to Iran, either. A reporter on Al Jazeera—a state-owned, Arabic-language international radio and TV corporation based out of Doha, Qatar—estimated, to his dismay, that 6 million Muslims are converting to Christianity each year.
Additionally, the Bible is being downloaded in massive numbers worldwide. In November of 2021, the YouVersion app reported that it has surpassed 500 million downloads of its Bible app in 1,750 languages (Swindoll). 500 million!
The conversion of millions of individuals from largely unreached people groups through experiencing dreams and visions is not an unexplainable coincidence; this was predicted thousands of years ago by the prophet Joel.
“In [the last days], I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions” (Joel 2:28). As we approach the end of the age, God is revealing Himself in magnificent ways.
The irony here is that critics of Christianity claim that the Bible is intolerant of Muslims and other religious groups. But God continues to prove his emphatic disinterest in the labels we put on ourselves and others. Not everyone living in a predominantly Muslim country subscribes to Islam, even under duress, in the same way that not everyone living in America adheres to Christianity.
The same promise of acceptance into God’s Kingdom is available regardless of your ethnicity or zip code.
To go one step further, Biblical Christianity typically spreads fastest in places most hostile towards the gospel. In other words, those who are embracing Jesus as their Lord and Savior at an incredible rate appear to be the ones with the most to lose. This has always been true, as counterintuitive as it seems.
Taken by Force
The Christian church is thriving in China, for instance, even though the government continues to shutter prominent house churches and arrest Evangelical Christians since it is illegal to participate in a religion not authorized by the government.
“This, however, has not stopped the rapid growth of Christianity in the country,” according to a reporter for CBN. “Growth of Christianity in China has become astronomical, and yes, atheist China could have the largest number of Christians in the world by 2030.”
A friend with relatives in Cuba related to us that the church there is flourishing, also. Many families hold church in their homes, even though this activity puts them at considerable risk. This individual told us that in 2019, the Cuban government leveled a house down the street from his to the ground—without warning—because they also hosted a home church.
The proliferation of the gospel is considered a threat to Communism, Islam, and other world systems.
A young woman called Sister Zeph runs a Christian school in Pakistan. Zephaniah Academy provides free education to over 200 of the country’s poorest children, primarily girls. Sister Zeph faces considerable challenges as both a Christian and a woman in this region. Women in Pakistan, for example, can’t own property or even open a bank account.
Just last year, Zephaniah Academy was forced to urgently relocate when a cleric from a local Mosque threatened Sister Zeph’s life. He demanded that she close her school for underprivileged children and send them to his Islamic school.
Forced conversion is a common practice in parts of Pakistan. Girls as young as 11 years old are kidnapped, converted to Islam, and married to men as their third or fourth wife. Pakistani law prevents individuals from converting back to any other religion, punishable by death.
Even in countries such as Uganda where their government is friendly to Christianity, believers are under attack from Muslim extremists. Earlier this month, on August 9, 2022, a family’s home was burned to the ground after they reportedly converted from Islam (Flores, 2022).
Protestant Christians in Poland are also facing discrimination by their government, their Department of Justice, and other public agencies. Grzegorz Dolecki’s vehicle was set on fire after attending New Covenant Church in Lublin (Against the Tide TV, 2020). The car was parked outside of his home, and his children were there at the time.
Closer to Home
Although we are witnessing a rapid erosion of tolerance towards our Judeo-Christian principles from the elites in America and the western world, Americans still do not face the type of persecution we see in other places.
But don’t breathe easy just yet.
Canada, our neighbor to the north and an industrialized nation considered to share our values, is experiencing a deep slide into authoritarianism.
Artur Pawlowski, 48, is a Polish Canadian pastor who faces a potential four-year jail sentence for disregarding COVID-19 restrictions by holding church services in Calgary, Alberta. He warns Americans that the tyranny he saw growing up in communist Poland has spread to Western countries. Read the full story here.
“Canada’s medical assistance in dying laws allow almost anyone who can claim some form of hardship or disability to receive physician-assisted suicide, regardless of how minor those disabilities might be,” said Douglas Blair.
The protection of life is foundational to the Judeo-Christian worldview. Where will government-sanctioned euthanasia lead next for our Canadian neighbors?
America was founded as a safe haven for those who want to worship as they choose based on the idea that individuals have indisputable rights granted to them by God—not the State. “In America, we don’t worship government; we worship God,” President Trump pronounced at a commencement speech in May of 2017 at Liberty University.
But can we hold on? Will we be able to stand our ground against the persistent barrage from our increasingly secular culture? Is the American Church prepared to fight to preserve these God-given rights?
Ronald Reagan, at the Republican Convention in 1964 as America faced an imposing threat from Communism, said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from distinction.”
I sincerely pray that America—the land of the free and home of the brave—will remain so. I cautiously hope that we will never encounter the type of persecution for our beliefs that those around the world face daily.
Admittedly, there’s an upside. If the legal protections we currently enjoy continue to disintegrate and we face the prospect of prison time, property seizures—or worse—at the hands of government officials for practicing our faith and devotion to our Creator, I believe that we will experience the greatest revival ever seen in America.
But for now, let's keep Christianity in America open for business.
If you would like to learn more about the state of religious liberty in the United States, please check out my book, The Pursuit of Liberty: Protecting our God-given Rights. Available on AMAZON.