Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The Un-Persecuted Church

It might have been just a week ago, maybe a little longer than that, when I was invited to join a day’s fast for the persecuted church in Asia.  There were other issues heavy on my heart at the time, and it seemed the ideal opportunity to bring them before God.

There was a Facebook page with lots of encouraging Bible verses.  People were also posting their prayers.

The only verse that came instantly to mind was Matthew 5:10-12 - “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

What a privilege the church is Asia was being given!  What an opportunity to deliver a powerful testimony!  As much as I could say Amen to all the prayers people posted about God’s hand being on the believers there – what caught my spirit was “How blessed!”

Where did the church lose its courage?  We seem to put a very strong emphasis on safety and comfort.  We want people to like us.  We want them to bow to our superior knowledge about God and allow us unhindered freedom to demonstrate our faith.  When someone is sacked because they wear a cross, or because they pray for a patient in hospital – they don’t feel blessed but hard done by.  When we read news items that mock and ridicule our faith, we write a letter of complaint and seek to silence the dissenter.  We feel ourselves to be victims but we don’t feel blessed.

I was reading an article on the internet this morning about a mega church in the USA.  Apparently it was common knowledge that a worship leader was having an affair with someone else in the church.  It was only a worship leader, so no one expected anyone to kick up a real fuss about it.  Chances are it might have been more serious if it had been an elder.  Indiscretions were often swept under the carpet rather than acknowledged and dealt with. 

The article went on to talk about how stagnant some of this church had become.  They had started life as something new and original and people flocked to them but now something newer and more original had come along.  There was an exodus of people leaving to join the new movement. If they wanted to halt the exodus they needed to do what the newer churches were doing and let go of out-dated ways of doing things.

If I was God I would be very disappointed in a church like that.

What they really need is a healthy dose of persecution!

I remember being weaned as a baby Christian on testimony books like Nicky Cruz and “Run Baby Run”.  One of the books I read might have been entitled “Sergei”.  It’s a long time ago.  The story was about an underground church in the Soviet Union as it was then.  One of the soldiers was Sergei.  He had the job of tracking down the church’s hiding places, arresting the believers and “persuading” them that being a Christian was a bad thing.  One church member, a girl, was arrested on three different occasions and severely beaten by Sergei.  The fourth time she was arrested, another soldier was about to lay into her with fists flying when Sergei stepped in to stop it.  He couldn’t understand why she was still a believer despite the beatings.  He became a believer himself through her testimony.

Isn’t it possible that the reason why the church in some places like the UK has a hard time attracting people is because it appears to have nothing people are looking for?   Make no mistake, people are looking for something – and it’s not something new and original in terms of worship, sermons or whatever latest fad is being offered up to draw people near.  The church has become so like the world to appeal to the world that what made it distinct from the world has been lost.  I’m not even sure the church has realised it has gone.

I am not praying that we become a persecuted church – although maybe I should.

I pray that our witness to the world would stop being so pale and insipid.

Our lives luke-warm no power or clout
So God in Heaven spits us out

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