Monday, 28 October 2013

The future of the European church?

China, 1958:
Jiang Qing, wife of Chinese ruler Mao Zedong, proclaims that “Christianity in China has been confined to the history section of museums. It is dead and buried.”

China, 2013:
Between fifty and a hundred million Chinese are now followers of Jesus, a higher number than in any other country in the world.

The Lesson:
Let's not write off the future of the Jesus movement in Europe quite yet.


  1. I'm with you. But I think there is a difference in the context. In China, there is an oppressive leader that is trying to eradicate Christianity immediately. Throughout history, true Christianity has actually thrived in those situations.

    In Europe, I would say that Christianity has had more of a slow death. It's been so commonplace that it dies from neglect.

    Just my thoughts. Would love your insight.

    1. Yeah, I think that's a fair point. Historically there are maybe four situations in which Christians have found themselves:

      1) Christendom, in which the institutional church runs the show.
      2) Persecution, under which the church frequently thrives.
      3) Pluralism, in which they are one of many available options in the culture. The track record is more mixed here.
      4) Systematic elimination and genocide, which is the only circumstance in which the Christian church has ever been effectively destroyed in any area (a good book on this is here:

      We are probably in 3 right now (despite people imagining we are in 2), so it could really go either way. I agree, though, that the challenges are unique.

      Do you know much about the Chinese church? Any thoughts on how it's example might help us?

    2. Luke -- that's a great synopsis. Yeah, the US isn't far behind you, in that we are #3 (but many think we're in #2). Driscoll says that it's a good thing, because when we were in #1, it's not easy to recognize true Christians.

      I probably know less about the chinese church than you do; just based on what I read. They have government-approved churches, but it's the underground church that seem to be thriving.

    3. Yeah, that's a fairly common analysis of Christendom among more missional Christians.

      The interesting thing about China is that it's had Christianity longer than your nation has existed. Since at least the 700s.

      Christianity came in several waves, and each time was pushed back. The priests were killed and the buildings were destroyed, and so the religion died.

      The current wave of Christianity in China began in the 1800s. A huge persecution broke out in the twentieth century. Missionaries were ejected, buildings were closed, pastors were arrested. And yet - unlike previous attempts to quash Christianity - the outcome was even more explosive growth for the church. They thrived, in part, because of their ecclesiology; they were no longer centered around priests and buildings and so were much harder to destroy. It's a bit like that book 'The Starfish and the Spider', if you ever read that?

      Anyway, all that to say, I'm not sure the Western church is facing any uniquely grave threat to its existence. Certainly nothing comparable to what the Chinese Christians faced in the last century. But I do wonder if we are as well-prepared to thrive under persecution as the Chinese were. Is the Western church still so dependent on programs, facilities, pastors, budgets, big meetings, that it would stutter to a halt under persecution?

    4. Yes, understand about the Starfish & the Spider.

      I think Driscoll's point is not that Christianity is dying, but the true Christianity is being revealed. Yes, the churches (and that portion of "the church") that is dependent on programs, buildings, etc, would absolutely die under persecution. But I think the true followers (which MAY be 8-10% of our population) would be fine.

      Isn't it 2:30 AM where you are? Shouldn't you be in bed?