Ecclesiology Mission

The Church: Issues relative to Islam and the Chinese context

When Christians think about the religious situation in the world today, perhaps no religion has a more prominent place in our thinking than Islam. On the one hand, Islamic contexts have become a very large concern for Christians because of the severe resistance, opposition and persecution Christians experience in so many countries or regions where Islam predominates. Take a quick look at Open Doors’ World Watch list for 2012, a list of the 50 countries where persecution of Christians is most severe, and you notice very quickly how many majority Muslim countries are on that list. My good friend Paul Estabrooks gives an excellent overview of that situation in this video clip from Fox News.

But persecution is only one side of the story in the Islamic world. Alongside that story is the encouragement we get from news of what God is doing among Muslims these days, revealing the true identity of Jesus and giving faith in him to thousands of Muslims. Within this story a controversy has been going on for some time about how believers in Jesus from Muslim backgrounds should live out their faith, and how groups of believers should be the church in their context. I have found two articles in the current issue of Christianity Today interesting, helpful, and encouraging in this regard. Timothy Tennant gives a fine review of the issues faced in the context of both Hinduism and Islam these days, in “The Hidden History of Insider Movements.” Then a writer taking the name of “Gene Daniels” has an inspiring, but also thought provoking, interview with “Abu Jaz,” a key leader in a movement that describes itself as the People of the Gospel, in “Worshiping Jesus in the Mosque.”

One of the encouraging things on Open Doors’ World Watch list is that China has fallen to 37th place. Since we traveled last fall as tourists in three cities in China, the country has taken on a more “personal” feel. Regrettably, our cruise ship excursions did nothing to expose us to Christians and their churches in the country, but we did get a little context into which to place the information that we read and hear. In that regard, I appreciated David Baugus’ “Orientation to China’s Reforming Churches,” in the January issue of Reformation 21. This is the first of three articles, with two more to follow. This one provides “a rough sketch of the context within which a real and surprising reformation of the church is beginning to unfold in our day,” the next installment “will consider how the church in China has arrived at this moment,” and the final installment “will consider the moment itself.”

I hope that some or all of these linked items will inform, challenge and inspire you with regard to what God is doing in the world in our day, and the challenges that many of his people face.


By Terrance Tiessen

I am Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Providence Theological Seminary, Canada.

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