Here's something I never really put any thought into before: the extinction of the Church. There's a book about that very issue out currently. I've read tons about church growth, missionary expansion, but never Church retreat. But it's a fact of life in some areas. What do you think? Why did God let it happen? How do you reconcile the appearance of the church disappearing somewhere with the statement of Jesus declaring "I will establish my Church and the gates of Hades will not prevail..."?
Answer (Phil Jenkins): I sometimes ask audiences how many people have ever read a book on the growth or establishment of a church, and many people raise their hands. Then I ask how many people have ever read a book on the death or extinction of a church, and virtually nobody does. But in history, church death is a very common phenomenon. Christianity moves from one area to another, but it also dies in areas where it has been strong. That fact violates a lot of what we expect about Christian growth. We have a theology of mission, not a theology of retreat. So do we explain these episodes as the churches doing something horribly wrong? Do we regard them as a natural part of historical development? Do we think that if Muslims replaced Christians in a country like Iraq, the expansion of Islam must be within God's plan? How Christians actually deal with things like the destruction of the church in Iraq is by not talking about it. We pay no attention to it because we don't know about it.