Church death

We have books and seminars on church growth. Christianity is growing rapidly in places like China and parts of Africa. Christ has given us a commission to take the gospel to all nations, and we expect the fulfilment of this Great Commission.

But churches also die. Local churches die. In church history, we see entire regions go from predominantly Christian to places where there are virtually no Christians. This happened in the past in North Africa (what is today Tunisia and Algeria) and Turkey.

Persecution can lead to church growth. Tertullian, around the year 2000, wrote, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Christianity grew despite the persecution of the Romans. In the twentieth century, the Christian church grew by the tens of millions in China during intense communist persecution.

Tertullian lived in North Africa. In the 700s the Moslems conquered the area, and Christianity was completely gone within a few hundred years.

Christianity has existed in Iraq for 2000 years. This could be coming to an end. Persecution may not always cause church growth. In this case, it is causing church extinction.

Will there be Christianity in North America 200 years from now? There is no guarantee.

Christianity Today has an article about this: The Other Side of Church Growth by Philip Jenkins.

Grace and Peace

3 thoughts on “Church death

  1. WebMonk

    While I have no doubts about the survival of Christianity in the world, I have doubts about the validity of statements like Tertullian’s and other statements that Christianity flourishes or spreads under persecution.

    Sort of like what you mentioned about the history of northern Africa – Christianity underwent massive persecution and martyrdom there and there is precious little left there. There wasn’t an explosion of Christianity as the largely Muslim empires conquered the area.

    Christianity certainly can flourish and spread even under Christianity, but it’s not a action-reaction sort of thing. For ever example like the early Church spreading in spite of intense persecution and modern India, there are also examples like North Africa and modern China where the Church is a tiny splinter remnant. (Christianity in modern China is growing, but the persecution is also fading/slowing. During the height of China’s persecution, Christianity was a tiny underground speck.)


  2. WebMonk

    Sorry, the first line of the third paragraph should say “Christianity certainly can flourish and spread even under persecution….”

    Every once in a while I wonder if my original sentence might not have a bit of a point – can Christianity flourish even under Christianity? Depends on how grumpy I happen to be at the time as to what my answer is.


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