The 20th century for the Christian Church has been an explosive century. The Christian Church has made an unthinkable expansion from the dominant religion of the Western Hemisphere (primarily the USA and Europe) to the dominant religion of the Southern Hemisphere in a mere 100 years. This numerical expansion has been costly as some missiologists are calculating that the 20th century Christianity has given more martyrs than the 19 previous centuries combined. These martyrs have consistently proclaimed that Jesus whom they loved and followed could demand from them the highest price- their own lives. In the expansion of the Kingdom of Christ, they were not afraid to encounter the hostility of cannibalism, animism, nationalism, fascism, communism and materialism.
Jesus Christ in the inauguration of His Kingdom has told his followers that they will encounter fantastic opposition, but the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. Walter Rauschenbusch at the beginning of the 20th century encounters the gates of hell in a place called Hell’s Kitchen in New York City. Dietrich Bonhoeffer encountered the gates of hell when he and others started an opposition against Hitler. For this action, he paid with his own life one day before the Allies liberated the prison where he was held. Watchman Nee encountered the wrath of Mao, just as John the Baptist encountered the wrath of Herod, and no one knows where this courageous Christian finished his life in the Chinese gulag. Cardinal Woityla resisted the Polish communists and by the grace of God he became John Paul II and saw the demise of European communism in his own days.
Many people do not like to study history. However, if you as an individual or as a nation do not know where you are coming from, you will have little certainty where you go in the future.
Interestingly, Karl Marx wrote that he was not interested in studying history; he was interested in making history. However, the history that Karl Marx made spelled disaster for millions of people. Godly people who knew what God wanted them to do – to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with their God (Micah 6:8) made history as well. But their actions benefited themselves and benefited the world at large.
For the next few months we will look at a number of Christian leaders in the 20th century. We will study people who are well known and less known – men and women of faith who for their love of Christ have made a difference in their days. Even though some of them are dead, their deeds, their writings and their actions, still affect the world in which we live.