GCM in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous nations in the world to follow Jesus. Following the Taliban's takeover of the country in August 2021, the dangers have only gotten worse. Openly following Christianity and other religions or even attempting to share about it in this Muslim majority nation can result in people facing fines, prison time, or even death. Consequences are even more severe for Afghan nationals who convert from Islam to Christianity, as it's considered blasphemous.
Despite the difficult situations and the consequences that could follow, the Church in Afghanistan is still very much alive, well, and thriving. Global Catalytic Ministries and those they partner with continue to further the gospel of Jesus Christ within the country.
GCM published a press release on August 15, 2022, the first anniversary of the Taliban takeover. They shared that
"over the last year they were able to extract over 3,000 individuals, providing them with food, shelter, and safety. One leader has seen over 5,000 people have a power encounter with Jesus, giving their lives to Christ. He is baptizing over 60 people at a time, sometimes with a simple water bottle."
In an effort to practically support the people of Afghanistan, GCM continues to raise funds to provide food, coal, and wood, etc. to keep people alive especially during the harsh winter months. GCM has partnered with churches and individuals to get the needed funding to continue supporting believers and unbelievers alike within Afghanistan's border.
" 'Our efforts to bring hope and resources to the people of Afghanistan continue a year into the Taliban regime, and it wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of our supporters,' states Richardson. 'These precious people are grateful for every prayer and donation. They not only help physically, but spiritually as well, allowing them to share the love and peace of Christ with their Muslim brothers and sisters.' " (excerpt from GCM Press Release).
Partner with GCM in their mission to make disciples in the hardest and darkest places here.
Underground Church in the Middle East
As previously discussed, there are a multitude of organizations around the world that seek to further spread the message of Jesus. In certain parts of the world, this is very much illegal and believers continually disobey the rules and laws established by their governments. A few years ago, there was a documentary released that explores the rapid growth of the underground church in hostile regions like this, and specifically looks at the nation of Iran.
Home to the fastest growing church in the world today, Iran's underground church movement is predominately led by women. There is a movement inside of Iran and Jesus is coming to the people in dreams, visions, and power encounters. As a result, the regime is losing control of its people as they begin to fall in love with Israel's messiah, Jesus.
Throughout the film, there are numerous interviews with Iranian believers as they share very moving testimonies of how they met Jesus and how He continues to work in their lives. In addition to that, Sheep Among Wolves explores the differences between the church in the East and the church in the West. The East is seeing rapid growth and the West is not. What are the methods of discipleship that the East is using and how might we in the West be able to learn from them?
The Sheep Among Wolves film also highlights the difference between the reality of normal Iranian life and what is portrayed in the media. Oftentimes, westerners assume that many Iranians are hostile toward the west and share the government's radical views. However, the film talks about the reality that a small percentage of religious and governmental leaders are actually the ones who control the image through the media. Iranians are actually leading "a quiet but mass exodus out of Islam."
Volumes one and two of the Sheep Among Wolves documentaries were released by FAI Studios, founded by Dalton Thomas. The first installment of Sheep Among Wolves was released in 2016, with volume two being released in 2019. You can find both of these films, along with other works from FAI Studios, for free on their YouTube channel.
To watch Sheep Among Wolves Vol. 2, click here.
The final words Jesus spoke to His followers before His ascension are known as the "Great Commission." This is when Jesus famously charged His followers to, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Over the many decades and centuries since that time, there have been various missions initiatives established to further the Gospel of Jesus. Christians are not the only ones who establish organizations and send out missionaries; there are many other religions that do something similar in efforts to spread their beliefs. Today though, we are focusing on talking about Christian missions and specifically Christians who focus on sharing the Gospel with Jewish people.
Jesus was of course, a Jew and Christians look to that heritage as what they have now been "grafted into" using the language of the apostle Paul. In the days of Jesus, many of the religious leaders wrote Him off believing Him to be at best a prophet, at worst a blasphemer and child of the devil. Still today, there is a lot of misunderstanding and confusion in the Jewish community about who Jesus really is. Christians believe the words of Jesus, that He really is the only way, truth, and life and so they desire to see Jews, the people of Jesus, come into salvation and accept Him as Messiah.
To this end, there are Christian missions organizations directed specifically to reaching the Jewish community. In 1996, a ministry called Apple of His Eye was established. Its main goal is to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah to Jewish and non-Jewish people. The organization seeks to accomplish this by opening places of worship and evangelizing in areas with large Jewish populations.
In its beginnings, the organization created homemade gospel tracts. Written tracts have been around for many, many years and were typically religious. In recent years, these gospel tracts are usually brief pamphlets that are given to people or left in busy places. Apple of His Eye has written over 120 new gospel tracts, and over 600,000 have been distributed.
Steve Cohen is currently the head of the organization, and his wife Nancy leads the women’s ministry. A board of directors oversees the actions and finances of the organization and there are also a number of other staff members. Apple of His Eye offers various outreach opportunities for anyone who desires to become involved in any capacity. The organization also offers up to two-week mission trips. The organization's staff team gives all of the necessary training, and there is no requirement of religious affiliation or experience with missions.
This is just one example of many, many different missions organizations around the world. As Keith Green wrote so famously in one of his songs, "Jesus commands us to go, it should be the exception if we stay."
Encounters with Jesus
From the very beginning, people have seen and witnessed the power of God in many different ways. Notable occurrences would be the Flood in Noah's time and also the plagues that God brought against Egypt preceding the Exodus of His people out of the land. In the days of Jesus, the people experienced God's power through miraculous provision and creative miracles. There are many stories in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John that describe Jesus healing all kinds of diseases and even restoring the ability to hear, see, and walk.
Time and culture may have changed, but God hasn't. He is still the same miracle working God that He was two thousand years ago, and He continues to encounter people in ways that really do change their life. For people who grow up in a more Christian nation, encounters with God often seem more "standard" or "normal" but it's still incredible to think that the Creator of all things desires and pursues relationship with the beings He created. For others who grow up with no Christian witness, it is much more mind boggling when they encounter the Living God.
Whether it's someone who grew up with some level of exposure to Jesus, or someone who had never heard His name, it is suffice to say that Jesus changes everything. One encounter with Jesus can completely redefine one's purpose in life. Simon Peter is a great example of this. When Jesus first calls him and his brother, Andrew, he tells them that He will make them fishers of men and invites the pair of brothers to follow Him. They immediately obey.
And Jesus was true to His word; He would later tell Peter that, "on this rock, I will build My church." In the book of Acts, we see the crucial and foundational role that the Apostle Peter played in establishing and fathering the early church. What led him there? An encounter with the Man Jesus.
An encounter with Jesus also reveals to us the deep things in our own souls that we may not want to deal with, but truly He knows us better than we know ourselves. There's a story in the gospels that tell of four friends carrying their paralytic friend to Jesus. There was a crowd gathered in someone's home to hear His teaching and so the friends dug a hole in the roof and lowered their friend down to Jesus. Before He heals the man, Jesus tells the man that his sins are forgiven. The obvious need was that their friend needed to be able to walk again; the not so obvious need was forgiveness. Jesus freed that man not only of being crippled, He freed the man's soul.
Jesus isn't afraid of our sin and our lack; He knows why He created us and the giftings and callings He's placed on each one of our lives. Just like the parable of the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine other sheep to go after the one that was lost, Jesus consistently pursues the least, the last and the lost. One look in His kind eyes is enough to mark a person for the rest of their life.
Salvation is central to the message of Jesus. He also preached about healing, both physical and spiritual, and the restoring that comes with it. Jesus became known throughout the region because of the signs and miracles he did. He also was known for caring for the outcast and restoring people to society through the ways he healed them and set them free. Christian ministries today are still known for following the example that Jesus left. Even though they mostly focus on spiritual growth and healing, social justice and freedom have always been something that Christians take responsibility for.
Jesus said to his disciples in the gospel of Matthew that when he returns, he will say to believers that "When I was in prison you visited me and when I was hungry you gave me something to eat." He continued by saying that he would say to others that when he was in prison they did not visit him. Jesus said that he would tell some of them that if they didn't do that to the least of his brothers, they didn't do it to him.
Because of the teachings of Jesus, the early church highly valued caring for the sick and the outcast. They chose upstanding people who served as leaders in the church, and their job was to make sure that members of the church and the people who weren't members were cared for. The history of the early church also records that Christians made sure that non-Christians who were fleeing the plague in Alexandria were looked after and provided for. In addition to that, the church also cared for those who were sick.
By the year 500 AD, Christian monasteries started creating places for healthcare. These places carried the responsibility of caring for the sick, regardless of their faith. They made sure that they all had access to free or affordable healthcare. During the middle ages, Europeans were flocking to the region of Palestine. Many of the Europeans became ill with several unknown sicknesses. This then resulted in a need to establish hospitals. One of the most notable of these was called the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem.
At the beginning of the 19th century, churches were the ones who provided free education in various locations across Asia and Africa. These Christians also established hospitals and hired staff members who were qualified and at the same time they also trained locals so that they could also work in these hospitals. In 1831, Amalie Sieveking created a sisterhood and they took responsibility to take care of anyone who had Cholera during the Hamburg epidemic of 1831.
Also, in 1836, a man named Theodor Fliender established the first protestant hospital in Kaiserswerth. The Kaiserswerth Diakonie was not only a hospital, but also a place of training that was foundational in creating modern nursing schools. One of the world’s best known nurses, Florence Nightengale, came from Kaiserswerth. Fliender also gathered a group of nurses and formed them into a team that was fondly called, the female diaconate who made a forming impact around the world.
The idea of the Red Cross originated with a Swiss man called Henri Dunant. It was his Christian upbringing that inspired Dunant to provide medical aid to people who were the victims of war and natural disasters.
In modern day, the same as before, the central calling of the church is to obey the command of Jesus to preach the gospel and call people into the salvation that is ours through faith in Christ. In addition to preaching freedom and salvation in Christ, the church cannot ignore the many needs of those in the world today. There are so many needs and opportunities to speak up for social justice while injustice continues to abound. Christians today should continue to promote public safety and welfare.
Conflict Management in Leadership
A group of individuals in a team will most likely have different ideas on how to conduct activities and execute projects. It is up to the leader to understand how to diffuse negative situations and reduce the emergence of conflict. Conflict management deals with differences that arise in a group due to differing opinions and interpretations.
Ineffective communication is the primary source of conflict in a team. It is the leader's job to ensure that the team works cohesively. While the leader must communicate in an easy to understand manner in a team, the leader must also ensure they can preempt communication issues among the team to prevent or resolve a conflict and ensure the smooth running of the project.
There may be external causes of conflict that are not the fault of any party, and a good leader will consider this during conflict management. For instance, a new employee of the company may be adjusting slowly to a company's operational style, which may lead to a dispute among team members.
There are different steps in conflict management that a leader will employ to resolve a dispute. The first is assessing the situation. A good leader evaluates the problem by having both sides describe the issues as they see them before determining whether to intervene. The leader is, however, mindful of potentially counterproductive intervention. Team members in an organization are for the most part adults capable of resolving minor conflicts among themselves without their leaders' input.
A forward-thinking leader spots patterns that may lead to conflict among their team members, and employs conflict prevention tactics to anticipate problems in the team. For instance, if a conflict arises in a team due to a member's energetic way of working in a calm environment, a leader with conflict management skills resolves the conflict. They then follow up with the individual to ensure that they do not disturb the rest of the team with their work process. In situations such as these, creating work guidelines that cover work processes will go a long way toward keeping a team running smoothly.
Another example of conflict management skills is the reduction of stress, both on the workforce and the leader. The instance above of workplace guidelines already reduces the chances of conflict among the employees that can lead to tension in the work environment, and the leader can better focus on supervising the team to achieve the organization's goals.
When a leader mediates two conflicting parties, both are allowed to express their reasons for the conflict. While analyzing the situation, any leader could get insight into measures that can improve the processes and interaction of the team, insight which may not have been possible without the dispute.
Conflict management can engender improved teamwork among members of the team. When a leader successfully diffuses conflict between two parties, it may boost morale and collaboration between the conflicting parties as well as the team.
While conflict management is essential in leading a team, it also sharpens the leader's patience and exposes them to the psychological patterns of their employees and the people around them. It also has the added benefit of promoting a composed and organized image of the leader, which are qualities admired by many organizations, and may push the leader upward in their career.
Christianity is a religion that emerged in the Middle East, specifically Israel, in the first century AD. Christianity now constitutes a minority among the population in the Middle East, but this was not the case in the Old World. Despite the persecution that welcomed the religion in the Roman Empire and other places, it maintained considerable followership in the Middle East. However, the population of Christians in the region witnessed a significant decline through emigration and conversion over time.
Middle East Christianity is diverse, as witnessed by several denominations of churches. This is directly linked to the Nestorian schism of the 5th century. It was a doctrinal dispute which led to Christological debates in the 4th and 5th centuries. It happened in Constantinople, the Roman capital at that time. Alexandrians condemned the Antiochians for extremism in their claim that the nature of Christ as a God is separate from his nature as a man. This belief is called dyophysitism- the belief in the dual nature of Christ. The Alexandrians won the debate.
The victory of the Alexandrians in the First Council of Ephesus in 431 would therefore lead to wide adoption of the doctrine of monophysitism (the belief that the nature of Christ as a God is not distinct from his nature as a man) and a decline of traditional Antiochian tradition in the Roman Empire and beyond. However, the Council of Chalcedon of 451 found a compromise between the two doctrines but favored the Antiochian position.
After two thousand years of historical and doctrinal evolution, there are now four great families of churches in the Middle East that follow either monophysitism or dyophysitism. The most notable family is the Oriental Orthodox family, consisting of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Church (or Church of the East), and the Apostolic Armenian Church. This family of churches separated from the other churches in the 5th century and did not accept the dyophysite Christological doctrine.
There is also the Orthodox (Chalcedonian) family, which four churches in the Middle East represent. These churches have roughly one million members in total. The churches separated from the Catholic Church in 1054 after the mutual ex-communication of the Church of Rome and the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The ex-communication resulted from strained relationships between the two patriarchal churches and their leaders.
This family of churches believes in dyophysitism. The churches in this family believe that full humanity and full divinity exist in the person of Jesus Christ without any confusion or contradiction.
The Catholic family in the Middle East comprises seven churches, including Maronite, Chaldean, Melkite, Coptic Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Catholic, and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. These seven churches are under the Catholic Church of Rome and recognize the authority of the Pope.
The fourth family is the Reformed Family. It has been in existence since the 19th century and consists of 13 different Protestant denominations. These include Lutheran, Evangelical, and Presbyterian churches. The total number of followers is 81,000, and they are prominent in Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt.
Despite its strong historical roots in the Middle East and its rich diversity in the region, the population of Christians in the Middle East is rapidly reducing. In 1900, 12.7 percent of the region’s population were Christians, but in 2020, only 4.2 percent of the entire population were Christians. Meanwhile, comparatively, followers of Islam had grown from 86 percent to 92.4 percent within that period. Recent projections based on the current rate of Christian emigration claim that by 2050, Christianity will have lost more followership in the Middle East.
Pentecostalism is a Christian doctrine of worship that puts great importance on the baptism of its followers and their relationship with the Holy Spirit. The manifestation of this relationship with the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. The Pentecostal movement has over 400 million followers and is the fastest expanding Christian doctrine globally. The movement runs a heterogeneous system, with hundreds of independent churches coming up every day.
Charles Parham and Williams Seymour are notable figures in American history because theologians recognize them as the fathers of Pentecostalism in the United States. The Pentecostal doctrine of Christianity began with Charles Parham's teachings in Texas in 1905. William Seymour was Charles Parham's apprentice, and he urged Seymour to attend one of his church services.
Seymour came from a religious background before meeting Parham. He was instrumental in spreading a widely believed notion that speaking in tongues was a manifestation of the Holy Spirit in a Christian. In 1906, Seymour moved to a town called Azusa in Los Angeles, where he began to spread the Pentecostal gospel. He created so much influence that in the same year, he hosted the Azusa Street Revival, which was the first major public broadcast of the Pentecostal way.
Both Seymour and Parham agreed to belong to the same denomination. In October 1906, Seymour began catering to members of different races, while Parham's members stayed predominantly white. However, due to ideological differences, and Parham's dislike for the enthusiastic way black people worshiped in Seymour's church, the men split up the Pentecostal denomination into two, with Seymour taking mostly the African American members to his church called the Church of God in Christ, while Parham took the white members to his church called the Assemblies of God.
The Pentecostal doctrine thrived in the south but was much slower in Los Angeles due to skepticism from the residents. Both churches were also very interested in missionary work, especially in the global south.
The Assemblies of God renounced segregation in the church in 1995. The governing body announced that the church had committed discrimination offenses and resolved to take steps to repent. An interracial Christian event preceded this repentant act called the Miracle in Memphis, where Black and White ministers tried to reconcile the Black and White worshippers.
A.G Garr and his wife were the first international missionaries Seymour baptized and sent to India and Hong Kong to spread the gospel. Seymour's influence also reached a Norwegian Methodist pastor on a church tour in the United States called T. B Barrat. Theologists state that T. B Barrat was responsible for spreading the Pentecostal doctrine in Norway, Germany, Sweden, and France.
Most of the other Christian denominations in America initially ridiculed Pentecostalism. The World Christian Fundamentals Association called the movement "fanatical' and "unscriptural." However, in 1942, the narrative had changed so much that the Pentecostals were a part of the Christian establishment called the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). The NAE is an association of all churches, missionary schools, and organizations.
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