Welcome to the January issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, which is also available in Portuguese and Spanish, and English in audio format. We look forward to your feedback.

In this issue we seek to learn lessons from Iran on how to harness technology in discipling new believers in a hostile environment; we ask how we should respond to persecution of Christians around the world in order to help to strengthen the church; we explore Queer Theory and Transgenderism and how we should respond to attacks on the concept of a fixed sexual identity; and we examine the polycentric expansion in the worldwide missions movement and true globalism in theology and ministry.

‘By God’s grace, we find ourselves in a season of harvest [in Iran]’, writes David Yeghnazar (Executive Director of Elam Ministries). While bringing the gospel to Iran remains a priority, the question now is not simply one of witness, but of discipleship. Nearly all new believers are from a Muslim background. Many come with deep wounds or in the midst of strained relationships. Some carry over addictions from their former life. How do we disciple such a vast number of new believers, particularly in a hostile environment such as Iran? These new followers of Jesus are still often isolated individuals who do not personally know many (if any) others who have made this same decision. The incarnation remains the model of discipleship—Jesus called his disciples to be with him. However, technology can be uniquely useful in this context, drawing together—albeit virtually—those who have been isolated by restrictive governments and societies. For all the contribution technology can make, its challenges include securing access, weak internet/cell connection, and interruption by hostile governments. When considering ways to harness technology for evangelism and discipleship, we should measure tools for their usefulness towards discipleship goals, never grow too dependent on one technological platform, and keep the person behind the technology always at the forefront of our thinking. In many instances in Iran, ‘while technology continues to support them, a little collection of believers—a church—is born, and, as they are discipled, they go and make disciples’, he concludes.

‘Persecution of Christians is on the rise in many parts of the world’, writes Yousaf Sadiq (visiting professor at Wheaton College). While Christians are experiencing such brutal treatment, how should we respond so that we can help to strengthen the global church as part of the work of global mission? Prayer is the most important priority. A good way to begin is to form a group that meets at a designated time to pray for the persecuted church. Many Christians in the West are not aware of the state of Christian persecution around the world. Christians globally should show concern and raise their voices against every injustice. When Christians are attacked and their houses destroyed, they need practical help to rebuild their homes. Those who find refuge in another country also need our help. Persecuted Christians suffer psychological and emotional stress, but Christian counseling is often not in place. The global body of Christ can provide training. In many places where there is persecution, Christians live as a minority. In such places, seeking ways to maintain a healthy relationship with those of the majority faith is very important. The global body of Christ in their respective countries can help by engaging in dialogue with other faith communities. By caring for persecuted Christians, we too can experience spiritual blessings as one body of Christ. ‘Evangelicals should step forward in love, pray, and be a channel of blessing to brothers and sisters who witness for Christ in extreme conditions’, he concludes.

‘The last decade has seen the rise of a new ideology in the West, and increasingly also in other parts of the globe. It has sometimes been described as ‘Transgenderism’, and sometimes as ‘Queer Theory’’, writes Olof Edsinger (General Secretary of the Swedish Evangelical Alliance). It differs from previous movements in that it is an attack on the whole concept of a fixed sexual identity. It stipulates that not only our gender roles are fluid, but also our biological sex. The best known mouthpiece is the LGBTQI+ movement. We have often marginalised them in an unrighteous way; instead we should look on them with the love of Christ. However, we need to realize the dangers of Trans and Queer ideology, as these are generalised in the population as a whole. We cannot let the experiences of the LGBTQI+ movement define the perception of sex and gender also within the heterosexual majority, particularly among the young. From the Creation account it is clear that both the hetero norm and the two-sex norm are foundational. We need to help the next generation to find its identity in being created in the image of God. More than anything we are called to be the children of God. ‘We need to demonstrate by our teaching as well as our own lives that the path to freedom for heterosexuals and LGBTQI+ alike is to fix our identity not in our sexual orientation, but in our origin in the Creator God’, he concludes.

‘The 20th century marked a change in the flow of missionary personnel and financial resources from the Western world to the non-Western or majority world, and from the Global North to the Global South’, writes Steve Moon (Executive Director of the Korea Research Institute for Mission). After serial expansions, there are now multiple centres of gravity in Christian missions. The cultural differences between an Asian country and a Latin American country might be greater than those between an Asian country and a Western country. We therefore need to pursue true globalism in doing theology and ministry. The art of leadership in this diversifying world rests in how to handle differences. A desirable attitude is to appreciate and maximise their benefits to make them positive dynamics for synergy. Incarnational ministry in this global age requires a deep commitment to a respectful mindset. It is not just a matter of strategy, but an essential quality of missional spirituality and leadership. If necessary, we need to lower our expectations of proficiency in communicating. An emic category in a culture or language may not exist or be relevant in another culture or language. Asking questions instead of assuming common ground is cross-cultural wisdom. Also, we should listen more carefully. ‘Let us invite people from the other side of the world into our fellowship. . . . And let us listen to them more carefully to build mutual understanding and opportunities for cooperation and collaboration’, he concludes.

We hope that you find this issue stimulating and useful. Our aim is to deliver strategic and credible analysis, information and insight so that, as a leader, you will be better equipped for the task of world evangelisation. It’s our desire that the analysis of current and future trends and developments will help you and your team make better decisions about the stewardship of all that God has entrusted to your care. Please send any questions and comments about this issue to [email protected]. The next issue of Lausanne Global Analysis will be released in March.

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David Taylor serves as the Editor of the Lausanne Global Analysis. David is an international affairs analyst with a particular focus on the Middle East. He spent 17 years in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, most of it focused on the Middle East and North Africa. After that he spent 14 years as Middle East Editor and Deputy Editor of the Daily Brief at Oxford Analytica. David now divides his time between consultancy work for Oxford Analytica, the Lausanne Movement and other clients, also working with Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the Religious Liberty Partnership and other networks on international religious freedom issues.