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As Sheep Among Wolves

20 August, 2009

The persecuted church across the world was the topic of our sessions yesterday and today at ILC. It was a very heavy day, if you can imagine. All of us in that room are either going out to places where we will face persecution, or preparing people to go to places where they will face persecution, or expecting to go to a place in the future where persecution is a reality. Most of this post will be quotes or direct thought translations from what we heard today and yesterday.

First of all, let me define what persecution is and is not. Persecution at its worst, at its foundation, denies others access to Jesus; there is a difference between covert and overt persecution, covert being the most destructive. Persecution is not what is causing the Western church denominations to decline. Persecution happens in places where the church is actually growing. It is not someone who isn’t your friend anymore or makes fun of you. It actually tries to prevent others from hearing the gospel.

In Muslim areas that experience persecution, Muslim-background believers are killed because:

  • whom they work with
  • whom they worshiped with (esp Westerners)
  • being found with a Bible
  • sharing the gospel by familiar methods

As expatriate workers and local believers are obedient to our calling and faithful witness, persecution, suffering, and martyrdom will happen because of the Holy Spirit’s obvious work in that area. A “Judas” doesn’t show up where there is no church growth.

Check out Matthew 2 and the persecution that happens there. This is the familiar Christmas story, but we seem to overlook the tragedy that happened to all the families except Jesus’ at that time. The magi (wise men, witchdoctors, whatever you prefer) told King Herod everything they knew about the “King of the Jews” so Herod had every boy under the age of two (estimated to be about 1700 babies) killed in the city of Bethlehem. Killing babies in order to stop the new King is pretty terrible! The wise men were definitely not wise, especially concerning the information that they told Herod (like saying that there was a kid born that would be the new King). We all have to be careful, but not give up our prophetic position. If we ever give up our prophetic position in order to get next to a secular leader (even to share the gospel with him and give him a Bible) we are failing in obedience to the great commission.

If we do everything right, however, people will still go to jail, and people will still be killed. Don’t waste the blood by giving up after that persecution happens! Those people must not shed blood in vain! To those who are married, is Jesus worth not only your life, but the life of your wife and children?

There are three profiles of persecutors:

  • The State (#1 in history) This is “top-down persecution” and is least effective to stop the work of the gospel spreading.
  • The State coupled with and ideological partner (such as an orthodox leader or the local catholic church) An example of this is Pilate (Roman) and the Jews in the death of Christ. Since both of them were partly responsible, no one had to take the blame for the act.
  • The State coupled with an ideological partner alongside the extended family and basic social structure. This is known as “bottom-up persecution” and is the most effective in hindering the spread of the gospel. People in this culture, granted they don’t have a accurate idea of Hell or heaven, will say, “I would rather go to hell with my family than go to heaven alone.

In light of all that, our freedom to share the gospel still has nothing to do with our political situation, but everything to do with how much you are willing to suffer for the sake of Christ.

There are three types of churches in regards to how the Spirit is working:

Pre-Pentecost: scattered believers, focused on the message of Christ’s 1st coming, very vulnerable to persecution

Pentecost: house churches, focused on evangelism, persecution is regarded as normal or not-out-of-the-ordinary

Post-Pentecost: buildings, don’t experience much persecution, don’t grow much except for generationally (kids that have grown up there), spend way more money on church buildings, etc. than missions or evangelism.

There is a different tool set required for each situation that a cross-cultural worker is dropped into.

People that live Victorious lives in the midst of persecution:

  • Have a faith grounded in Jesus Christ as their Saviour
  • Have prayers lives that are beyond supernatural, and incorporate intense fasting
  • Large portions of Scripture are memorized.
  • Large amounts of indigenous hymns and music are committed to memory
  • Know that they are prayed for and not forgotten.
  • Have local believing bodies that support their families in the midst of persecution
  • Know that their suffering is for Jesus’ sake
  • Have claimed freedom by the blood of Christ
  • Have no fear of the persecutor, or of Satan’s forces
  • Are in or do start a genealogy of faith that knows the reality of persecution and enduring it with joy for the glory of God.

The stories of persecution that have been shared this week are like nothing that I have ever heard mentioned in a church. They are real, obviously for the glory of Christ, and more intense than we even want to think about. They have brought me to tears of joy and sadness, all at the same time. Sadness because it is hard to hear. Joy because I know I could very well face it one day, and many of my friends could very well face it, and I know that the name of Christ is and will be proclaimed in glory by those that face the persecution like what we have heard.

Praise the Lord for His glory. Pray for those that are suffering persecution, but pray that their suffering is for the glory of Christ.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennifer pritchett permalink
    17 September, 2009 19:11

    Heres my email

    • 17 September, 2009 22:08

      I’m really embarrassed if I’m supposed to know your name, and I don’t, but I can’t put a face with the name…?

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