Are Christians betraying the Great Commission?
The world is facing a religious revolution. Within the century, if current trends continue, Islam, already the fastest growing religion, will outpace Christianity to become the largest faith in the world.
In Europe, once called “Christendom,” Christianity has all but collapsed as Islam continues to gain ground. And Islamic terrorism continues to reap a bloody harvest on every continent, with the ISIS flag even flying in parts of the Philippines. Even under a government committed to confronting Islamic terrorism, many Christians are forced to hide their faith to survive.
Joel Richardson, the New York Times bestselling author of “The Islamic Antichrist” and the new book “Mystery Babylon,” argues Islam is the greatest single spiritual threat facing the contemporary church. He slams contemporary Christians for not being aggressive enough in witnessing to Muslims.
“Islam is presently the greatest challenge the church is facing, and will continue to be so in the days ahead,” he said. “The problem, of course, is not in Islam’s strength so much as it is in the weakness and apathy of the church. While many Muslims are well trained to reach and evangelize Christians, most Christians are not equipped or even willing to evangelize Muslims. This is a travesty in so many ways.
“The message, the way of life, the sacred book, and most importantly, the God of Christianity, is so superior to what we find in Islam. Christians are stewards of the very words of life, of the only message that can save the souls of mankind, yet we seem to consistently hide it under a bushel, so to speak. When the church rediscovers the fire of the early church, their evangelistic zeal, their passion for Christ’s return, then we will see this Goliath stumble, but not until then.”
Perhaps the most critical battleground is sub-Saharan Africa, where, soon after mid-century, there will be a plurality of the world’s Christians. The Pew Research Center claims more than four in 10 Christians will reside in sub-Saharan Africa by 2060, marking a dramatic shift from Christianity’s historically European character.
Much of the growth is being driven by the high fertility rate and relatively young age of African Christians. But there is also a tug of war between Islam and Christianity on the continent. Already, spiritual warfare and aggressive missionary and counter-missionary efforts are taking place throughout Africa.
In Nigeria, home to one in five of the entire sub-Saharan African population, the competition for converts is especially fierce. Sometimes, it takes peaceful forms. The Nasrul-lah-li Fathi Society (NASFAT) is pioneering an emotional, evangelical form of Islamic worship designed explicitly to compete with the Pentecostal Christianity popular in the country. NASFAT tends to reject the more conservative Salafist form of Islam, which holds sway in the north of the country. An idiosyncratic form of worship combining the celebration of both Muslim and Christian holidays is also not uncommon.
But Richardson argues Islam, whatever form it takes, represents a real spiritual threat, be it Salafist or “moderate.” And while apologetics in Europe and North America tends to be dominated by intellectual and abstract debate, the battle between Islam and Christianity in Africa represents something closer to real spiritual warfare.
“African Muslims tend to understand the spiritual battle at stake far better than most western Christians with such an anti-supernatural worldview,” said Richardson. “The creeping shadow that Islam is casting over Africa, pushing down from the north, is slowly destroying the beautiful and lush garden of Christian faith that had long been flourishing there. When barbarian Europe was just beginning to be evangelized, great African Christians were writing creeds and sending missionaries to the north. Today many of those early gains are being lost.
“Informed African Christians know that this is a demonic battle seeking to extinguish the work of the Lord in Africa.”
Among the forces backing Islamic evangelical efforts is Saudi Arabia, which backs radical mosques and madrassas around the world, including in Africa. It’s a story Richardson chronicles in “Mystery Babylon.”
Richardson calls not just for a new evangelical effort, but a renewed intellectual offensive to defend the essential tenets of the Christian faith, which, as persecuted believers can attest, is about salvation in the next world, not wealth in this one.
“Thankfully, Christianity in Africa continues to thrive, but it is often heavy on the prosperity gospel, but light on solid biblical teaching concerning the true message of the cross,” Richardson told WND. “Nevertheless, I believe that Africa has a tremendous calling with regard to confronting this great challenge in the last days. Nowhere is this more true than with the Egyptian Christians who live in the midst of tremendous pressure, but who have provided a powerful example for the rest of the Christian world.”
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Pastor Carl Gallups, the author of several books including “When The Lion Roars,” is also concerned about the growth of Islam. However, he argues there are reasons to believe Islam is spiritually vulnerable.
“Even though almost a quarter of the globe’s population is Islamic – Muslims are converting to Christianity at the rate of over 6 million a year in Africa alone,” Gallups said. “As I describe in ‘When The Lion Roars,’ in each hour of every day, across the globe, almost 700 Muslims claim a new belief in Jesus Christ as savior and Lord.”
Gallups believes Islam will not long be able to guard its truth claims from scrutiny. If the threat of terrorism is removed, Gallups believes Christianity can stand on its intellectual merits. Islam, the pastor declares, cannot.
“Ultimately, there is no ‘competition’ between Islam and Christianity,” he said. “Jesus Christ fulfilled dozens of prophecies written 400 to 1,000 years before He set foot in Galilee to begin His ministry and Gospel mission. He said he would go to a cross, rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven – years before He did any of them. He claimed these things to both friend and foe – and He fulfilled them all. He walked the earth for 40 days after His resurrection, showing himself to over 500 people at one time – maybe hundreds more in those 40 days – and continued to work miracles among the throngs during that same time period. Then He ascended in front of at least 120 more.
“We have tens of thousands of copies of manuscript evidence coming from the earliest days of the first few generations of Christians – some of them eyewitnesses to the entire Christ-event. Go research how many documents we have coming from the same time period that disputes, with proof, against the claims of the New Testament about Jesus Christ. No other faith in the world has such a figure, so heavily and historically documented – not one – and especially not Islam.”
Islam, Gallups argues, is a “political/religious/governmental/military system of conquest.”
As such, he believes, much of its appeal is dependent on temporal power. However, Gallups does not deny Islam presents a potent spiritual threat to the Christian world.
“Individual Muslims are, of course, not evil,” said Gallups. “But the ‘religion’ of Islam, the message it perpetrates, and the overall worldwide terror it inflicts upon the nations, in the name of that religion, is another matter. There is an apparent spiritual element of darkness inherent in Islam which leads to extremism. This is why it is becoming increasingly more important that we reach the world for Christ, especially the Islamic world.”
Along with Richardson, Gallups argues the church must target its missionary efforts at Muslims and forthrightly defend the faith, especially in the developing world. However, Gallups also believes the nation which has a critical role to play in defending the church is the United States of America, which he claims must reassert its Christian identity. The price for failure, he warns, can be seen in the increasingly Islamized and terror-stricken streets of Europe today.
“We are living in the most prophetic times since the first coming of Jesus Christ,” the pastor told WND. “The United States of America, its halls of government and its pulpits, had better wake up – and wake up quickly – lest we too experience the travails of Europe and the Middle East. If there was ever a time to turn to Jesus Christ as savior and Lord, it’s now. ”
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