Evangelism controversy brewing at China Olympics

By May 19, 2008

China (MNN) — Millions of people will be converging on China in the months ahead as the country will be hosting the summer Olympics. However, there appears to be controversy brewing in Christian circles about evangelism.

Many evangelical organizations say they plan to share their faith during the August games. However, Franklin Graham, who heads the ministry Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, told reporters that he's against that because it's against Chinese law. Graham says, "I would not support any illegal activity at all."

That's drawing criticism from organizations that support the persecuted church in China, like Open Doors USA. The organization's president, Carl Moeller, says, "Franklin Graham's comments I think were designed for a political audience to give him probably more access. And I'm not to criticize a brothe , but I would say the Gospel has always been preached in places where governments did not want it preached."

Moeller says all over the world Christians are evangelizing despite threats from the government or religious persecution. He says China is cracking down on those creating "social disharmony" in China. "So anyone with an unregistered Christian church by their definition is someone causing social disharmony. So these pastors and house leaders we have been in contact with, many of them have been forced to leave Beijing for this, and many people are in great hardship because of this."

MNN asked Moeller if Graham's comments were a bit short-sighted. He agreed, saying, "I support evangelism anywhere and at any time. I think the Gospel is full of people who, led by the Spirit of the Lord and listening in a sensitive way to the Lord's guidance and direction, preached the Gospel in situations that were hostile and antagonistic to it."

God's Word says we should be ready to share the Gospel in any season, says Moeller. He says Open Doors actually has a plan for the Olympics. "We're actually encouraging travelers to the Olympic Games to call Open Doors, to visit Open Doors and to get from us some materials that are specifically designed for evangelism during the Olympic Games. We feel like evangelism during the Olympic Games will be a tremendous opportunity."

If you're traveling to China for the Olympics and would like helpful tools to share your faith during the games, click here.

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