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Archive for the ‘Persecution’ Category

Today was a bitter sweet day at our church. Today was the last Sunday for our pastor, Preaching Pastor (PP), to be in the pulpit at our church.  He is moving on to another ministry that God is calling him to and there are exciting days ahead for him and his family. I just want to take this opportunity to write down what PP and his family mean to me. I am sure there are many others who feel the same way but just have not expressed it to him.

I live in a city in the deep South in the United States. Our county has over 400 churches but, to be honest, it is really hard to find a good church here — in my estimation. When I mean good church, I mean a church that is committed to the gospel and submits everything it does to the authority of God’s Word. I also mean a pastor who preaches the whole counsel of God and does so unashamedly. A good church should have a pastor who submits his sermons to the words on the page of the Bible and the very points of his sermon are driven by the authors who penned (not literally) the words of Scripture. When I look for a church, I look for a church where the pastor is someone that I trust and I can willingly submit to as the leader of the local congregation.  Our pastor until today, PP, was such a person and here is why.

One of the first things I noticed about him was the points in his sermon came from the text that he was preaching. He did not impose his own ideas into Scripture but let the Bible determine what he was saying to us in his sermons. He was truly biblical in his sermons. He also tried to be biblical in all aspects of how he led the church. He knew that the ultimate authority in the church is God and that God revealed Himself to us in Scripture — so the only way to lead the church was to submit to God’s Word. He was this kind of man (and still is). I believe this is a principle that was a driving force behind all that he did at our church. I believe this will continue to be the case at his new place of ministry and the result will be that his congregation will be blessed, well-fed, and well-led.

Another great thing about PP is that he constantly was reminding the congregation of what was going on in the world; not just politically but also within the church. He was leading his church members to be World Christians; not worldly Christians, but World Christians. That is, he exposed them to the persecution that continues to persist around the world and the constant dangers our brothers and sisters in Christ face just to name the name of Christ or to meet for worship and Bible Study. He reminded us that the call to follow Christ comes with a cost and rejected the false claims of the property gospel. PP kept before our congregation the need to take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth where the name of Christ is not worshipped and where people have no access to God’s Word nor is there anyone there who is attempting to share the gospel with them. We call this world missions and PP was faithful to keep this need before the church. Our pastor, PP, did not focus on world missions to the neglect of the gospel needs in our own community. He was very much aware of the needs in our city and how we need to be Christians taking the gospel to our places of business and to our community.

I don’t really intend this to be a long post so I will not go into great detail but another great thing about PP is how he was willing to invest in me and my family. I knew that any time I had a need or my family was in crisis, I could call him and he would do whatever he could even if that was just to listen. He has ministered to me on numerous occasions and has helped our family in times of crisis. He has truly loved us with the hands and the love of Christ during the time we have been at this church.

Last but most certainly not the least, we all love PP’s family. His family reflects his godly leadership as the head of his family. His wife is a wonderful pastor’s wife who has a warm and welcoming spirit about her. She shows love to everyone who walks through the doors of the church. Also, their children are great kids who clearly are being raised to love the Lord. They are a wonderful family and they will be missed. Their next place of ministry is getting a great family. Their next church is being blessed with a great man of God as their pastor and he will bring with him an awesome family. Our loss will most definitely be their gain.

Having said all of this, I know that this is not good-bye. We will see them again. I am sure we will see them when they come back to visit our city. We may even go visit them in their new city. Either way, it will not be the last we see of them. We will worship God together for eternity at the feet of Christ. God continues to mold us and shape us as He finishes the work that he started in us. It is a lifelong journey and God uses fragile and cracked (or even broken) vessels to carry out his purposes. He uses us where we are to bring glory to his name and sometimes he sends us off to new places to minister to and build up the church. This is exactly what is happening with PP and his family as they move on to a new phase of ministry. I pray that God may use PP and his family mightily as they obediently follow God to their next place of ministry, and beyond.

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I really enjoy Kevin DeYoung’s blog over at the Gospel Coalition called DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed.  I usually agree with him theologically on most points.  I even subscribe to his blog via email.  However, he recently published a post entitled Are Christians in America Persecuted?  He basically said that it happens all of the time but persecution happens to Christians in America “not as frequently, consistently, or with nearly the intensity that Christians are persecuted in many other parts of the world.”

While I agree with the last statement, I do not agree with his assessment that it happens all of the time.  I also do not agree with his reasons for making that statement.  I really appreciate the fact that he brings in the Bible but I believe that his exegesis is fallacious.  He equates the biblical word for persecution with “harassing someone because of beliefs.”    He points out that Old Testament prophets were reviled and spoken against and Jesus calls this persecution in Matthew.  The problems is that reviling and being spoken against is not equivalent to harassing someone.  Harassing in our modern English is very subjective.  You can consider someone calling you a “Right Wing Bible Thumping Radical” harassment or even being reviled.  But this is not being persecuted.  You don’t have to be killed or be tortured to be persecuted.  I think we are going down the road towards persecution but it does not happen all of the time to all Christians.

DeYoung argues from Scripture that persecution is not something that happens only to a few Christians.  The Bible says that it happens to all Christians.  I wholeheartedly agree but we must read the Bible in its context.  It was written to Christians in the first century who were persecuted for following Christ.  In 21st century America, I don’t know that it applies.  The context is totally different.  I think we need to count to the cost and be willing to be persecuted but we live in a culture where persecution is not widespread.

He also brings in Acts 5:41 which says that it is a privilege to suffer for the name of Jesus.  This is true.  However, that does not mean that all American Christians have this privilege.  Our Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world face persecution and it is our privilege to pray for them and encourage them and work for their release as we are commanded in Hebrews 13:3.  To equate what we face in America with what Christians face in places like Eritrea or North Korea is wrong.  When they are placed on the same level, we minimize the significance of real persecution.  It is like me saying to my wife about the pain she has in her back from a herniated disc, “I experience pain everyday and all the time.  In fact, I experience pain when I burned my mouth on my coffee this morning.”  To equate the two, minimizes the real pain that my wife faces.

Please, I understand people talk about you behind your back for being a Christian at work.  You may even get passed up for a promotion because you don’t work on Sundays or you won’t lie to get ahead.  Don’t equate this with someone being hung upside down and having boiling grease poured over his feet.  Don’t equate it with Christians in Ethiopia who are put in sea containers in the desert heat and don’t even have a place to go to the bathroom.  Don’t equate it with a man who is forced to watch prison guards rape his wife because they are Christians.  They are very much different in nature and degree.

Let us not overstate what happens to Christians in America.  Let’s pray for Christian brothers and sisters who face persecution.  In fact, some in American face persecution also but this is the exception and not the norm.  Let’s remember Hebrews 13:3 and “remember” those who are in prison and those who are mistreated for their faith.  For more information on how you can learn how to pray or support our persecuted family visit the website of The Voice of the Martyrs.

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