This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Pastor Brent Whitefield, Northpoint’s Pastor of Missions and Outreach.
The Persecuted Church
Hello Church Family,
Over the past week, we have prayed about and reflected on the plight of persecuted Christians around the world. The Apostle Paul was a man who knew something about persecution. He faced ridicule and condemnation, beatings, exile, and imprisonment on many occasions. He told Timothy that the Christian life properly lived invited almost certain persecution. He told us to pray for Christians under duress and to remember his imprisonment.
We, as the body of Christ in the relatively unpersecuted corner of the globe, should spend more time on our knees for Christians in today’s hotspots. Unfortunately, the number of places where Christians may openly worship and proclaim the gospel is shrinking year by year. It would be difficult to find a place in the Muslim-majority world where Christians are free from persecution. Believers are under great pressure in Egypt, northern Nigeria, Sudan, Iran, and Pakistan, just to name a few. You may have noticed a large influx of Egyptian Coptic Christians into the Corona-Norco area over the past few years. These are mostly religious refugees from an increasingly hostile environment back home. Christians are being driven to virtual extinction in areas of Iraq and Syria controlled by the Islamic State. NBC news reported that there is not likely a living Christian in the city of Mosul, Iraq for the first time in almost 2,000 years. Indeed, Iraq’s Christian population has dropped 90% since Saddam Hussein’s removal. The picture is grim. Even the pro-democracy movements in the Arab world have always resulted in fewer, not more, rights and freedoms for Christians. I am not able to find a single place in the Muslim world where Christians are better off now than they were five years ago
The Muslim world has seen the most dramatic rise in Christian persecution, but life for believers is just as hard in many other countries as well. Some parts of India have seen an uptick in incidents of church burnings under the new fanatical Hindu government there. China seems to be in the midst of fresh pressure on the church after a few years of relatively lighter treatment. There are several countries, such as North Korea or Saudi Arabia, where it is impossible to live life as an above-ground Christian, and where information on persecution is difficult to obtain because no one would dare report it.
Now, even in Western Europe and North America, Christians are experiencing trouble as a result of their profession of faith. There are already certain jobs from which Christians are being systematically excluded, or which Christians can no longer in good conscience perform. There is little reason to hope that the situation will improve in the years to come. We would be naive not to expect darker days ahead. The persecuted church will not always seem like such a foreign concern.
It is easy to be discouraged and to feel helpless when we observe the state of the world today. But the antidote to despair is prayer. This is why we must pray fervently for the persecuted church. We would also do well to remember that God is faithful and often works mightily in the midst of persecution. Persecution has accompanied the greatest influxes into church. Remember that when Christians first appeared in the Roman Empire, they were cruelly and fanatically oppressed … and grew exponentially. Japan had a greater percentage of Christians 400 years ago, at a time of sadistic persecution, than it does today. China’s Christian population has grown 8000% since the Communist takeover and under nearly constant duress! More people are coming to Christ in Iran today under the repressive rule of the ayatollahs than did under the secular regime of the Shahs. When we pray for the persecuted Christians, we are lifting up those, like the apostles themselves, who are paying the price for the advancement of the Kingdom. And we trust that they will pray for us when our time comes.