TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT:
AN AWAKENING TO THE FATE OF PERSECUTED BELIEVERS
by Terry Bone
I had just completed my 20th pastors conference in the country in Asia where I serve part time as PAOC global worker. Once again, many had been baptized in the Holy Spirit, and the testimonies were powerful. Looking forward to a full night’s sleep, I was adjusting my mosquito netting when a loudspeaker began blaring a strongly worded anti-Christian message. It sounded like it was coming from our church-owned building. How could that be? Going down a flight of stairs, I noticed a ladder propped against the outside of our third-floor meeting room and two loud speakers hastily wired to our window grates. Our Muslim neighbours had decided that our building was the perfect broadcast centre to preach against Christianity! I felt angry but powerless. Any action I took at that point could endanger my hosts.
This is an ominous sign of things to come. On paper, their constitution guarantees religious freedom. In practice, religious zealots within the mainstream are preparing for national domination. Nearby, many Christians in neighbouring countries are already suffering under the heavy hand of daily opposition—solely because they choose to follow Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour.
Why is this happening?
The Bible promises that every sincere Christ follower will experience persecution (John 15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12). One of John’s purposes in writing the Book of Revelation was to give perspective and hope to Christians who were already suffering persecution. For the first 300 years after Jesus rose from the dead, Christians were a minority and were frequently targeted for persecution. However, there were more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than in any other previous century. “ ‘Martyrdom is a regular, ongoing feature of church life in the 25 percent of global Christianity that we call the “underground church,” ’ claims David Barrett of the World Evangelization Research Center.... Barrett’s statistics show martyrdoms increasing, from 35,000 in 1900 to an estimated 260,000 this year . Asked to explain the dreadful upsurge, Barrett says: ‘All the long-term underlying factors which produce martyrdoms seem to be gradually increasing in our day.’ ”
We are in an escalating global conflict in the spiritual realm. Revelation 12 gives us the life history of Satan. He is enraged at being defeated by Jesus through His work on the cross. No longer able to access the place where Jesus Himself lives, the devil is confined to creating chaos here on earth. “… the dragon was enraged … and went off to make war against … those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus” (Revelation 12:17). Satan especially targets those who obey the Great Commission. Also “He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:12).
It is clear from the Bible and from current events that as the time for Christ’s return draws near, the intensity and pervasiveness of persecution can be expected to increase. So what can ordinary Christians like you and me do? How can we go beyond wringing our hands and hoping for it to go away?
The starting point for all action is to realize that eventually we win! The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord (Revelation 11:15)! Our cause will ultimately prevail. Until then, it’s time to prayerfully join those on the front lines. Let’s pick up the weapons of love and faith and say to this mountain of persecution, “Be cast into the sea!”
Here are some practical steps for you and your church leaders:
1. Become informed. The Voice of the Martrys Canada (VOMC) is an impeccable source of information. Visit http://vomcanada.org, https://www.facebook.com/vomcanada, and https://twitter.com/vomc. You can order pastors packs and many more equipping materials.
2. Support the International Day of Prayer (IDOP). This formal day of prayer for the Persecuted Church falls on Sunday, November 9, 2014, or whenever you, your church, your family, school or small group can honour this important call to prayer. Visit www.idop.ca.
3. Include your suffering brothers and sisters in your regular prayer times. Subscribe to the Persecution and Prayer alert sent via email and Twitter from VOMC.
4. Support ministries on the front lines. Set a target for how much of your church’s missions dollars should assist ministries that do actual front-line work in nations where the gospel is opposed. Do some investigation to see where your money is being spent and ensure that a portion is providing direct help to our persecuted brothers and sisters.
Rev. Terry Bone is the former lead pastor of Lakemount Worship Centre in Grimsby, ON, and now serves as the PAOC global worker representative for Bangladesh.
After 25 years of serving on the board of Voice of the Martyrs Canada, I was accustomed to hearing stories about the persecuted church. I have spent time with Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned for his faith and tortured many times. But, frankly, I had zero personal experience. Even as a part-time PAOC global worker focusing on a Muslim-dominated nation, I had always been protected and generally welcomed, especially since I had helped with water wells and other humanitarian work. Recently I received a wake-up call in this regard.
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