Christians are facing increasing persecution, but growth continues

By January 31, 2007

Middle East (MNN) — The last decade of the 20th century was
the most exciting advance in global evangelization than in all 200 years of the
modern missionary movement. However, the President of the Southern Baptist
International Mission Board
, Jerry Rankin, says this a time that could
overshadow that time in history.

"As we move into 2007 and reflect on what God is doing
here in the 21st century I think we have seen more open doors and more
accelerating of the harvest and fulfilling the Great Commission than in any
point in my life time. And, it's just an exciting time to be on mission with
God," says Rankin.

Those open doors have also brought with it persecution of
Christians. While communist nations have been notorious for this, many
Christian human rights observers say the Muslim world is quickly becoming more
responsible for this. Rankin agrees. "There is increasing persecution and
as to be expected, a backlash among any movement of Muslim believers to Christ,
but yet we're seeing some very significant church growth movements in the
Muslim world," he says.

Rankin believes the increase in terrorist activity by
radical Islam, "Has just revealed the deficiency in Islam and its true
nature. And, our people all over the world testify that there are a lot of
Muslims out of this cultural environment that have a genuine search for truth
that gives them hope and security and they're not finding that in their Islamic
traditions."

As they search for truth, they're finding it in Christ
alone.  

However, Rankin says the anti-west mentality has forced them
to change their strategy. "Americans have to keep a very low profile and
are not welcome to proselytize and evangelize. So, it involved tweaking our
strategy to be move involved in a very behind the scenes grass-roots
discipleship and train of local believers."

Rankin wishes the only obstacles were terrorists or
government restrictions. He says there's a bigger challenge facing them.
"I think the biggest challenge is the apathy and lethargy in our churches
that are self-centered or in grown, that don't have the vision for their roll
for missions and just stirring them out there apathy to mobilize them and
resource this."

Despite this apathy, Rankin says the IMB is still focused on
an ambitious goal. "We're still pressing forward with our vision, by the
end of 2010 to engage every people group in the world."

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