Patterns Among Churches

Protestant evangelical and Pentecostal Christians are more likely to be persecuted than mainline Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, or other Christians associated with ancient churches. In response to persecution, evangelical and Pentecostal Christians are more likely to engage in strategies of survival or, on rare occasions, confrontation. They are less likely, however, to engage in strategies of association. Mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians, on the other hand, are more likely to respond through strategies of association. 

A broad global pattern shows that evangelical and Pentecostal Protestants tend to stand in a more antagonistic relationship to regimes and societal groups who deny religious freedom than do Christians of other churches. Three reasons explain this pattern. First, in many countries, evangelicals and Pentecostals are comparatively recent arrivals and thus have not established patterns of relating to surrounding populations and governments to the same degree as churches with decades or centuries of history in a given region. 

Second, evangelicals and Pentecostals are often perceived to be supported by co-religionists and allies in the West. 

Third, evangelicals and Pentecostals tend to understand evangelization and conversion as verbal, urgent, and sometimes dramatic processes and, consequently, expect and are prepared to endure persecution. 

For all of these reasons, governments and surrounding populations are more likely to deem them a threat. 

This is a pattern, not a perfect correlation. Christians of other churches also evangelize, sometimes to a costly degree, while evangelicals and Pentecostals sometimes seek cooperative relationships with governments. A wide variety of churches advocate for justice and provide social services. The pattern fits well, though, in Russia and the Central Asian Republics, where evangelical and Pentecostal churches have conducted strong missionary activities since the end of the Cold War. It also fits well in Iran, where evangelical and Pentecostals consistently suffer the most severe forms of repression. In China, Protestants have grown fastest through evangelization over the course of the Cultural Revolution and subsequent decades. A version of this pattern is also found in Nigeria, Kenya, India, and Sri Lanka.