Our friends at Open Doors Australia recently hosted a live event in Sydney. Part of the event was a conversation between Mike (the Open director of Open Doors Australia) and a secret Christian worker with over 30 years of experience in working with the persecuted church. Have a dive into their challenging conversation below (you can either read it, or listen in)…
Secret Guest: Happily I do not only see persecution, but I may also witness how the Lord is helping his children to deal with persecution. And I may witness how He is building His Church in the midst of terrible suffering. Finally, as we are trying to help persecuted believers, it is an honour to be involved in a ministry which has dedicated itself to strengthen those believers who are suffering for their faith.
Mike: This is a great question! I often say, “Which is of greater danger to our faith, ISIS or an iPhone?” Because I see one of them driving people to God and one of them drawing people away from Him and it’s the subtlety of distraction that is suffocating our faith.
Which is of greater danger to our faith, ISIS or an iPhone?
I think we’re distracted and when we’re distracted it means we’re not focussed, always stressed, tired and worn out. I think the biggest threat to a bold and visible faith is simply, distraction and its suffocating influence on everything around it.
Secret Guest: Depending on the definition. I have been threatened with death more than once, and I have been arrested numerous times. However, I never spend more time in prison than one single day and I am thankful that I am still alive–despite having visited different dangerous places and areas in war.
Mike: I remember a conversation I had with a Pastor in Egypt in May 2014 who told me that in the West we think evangelism is a formulaic framework: A three-step process that at the end the person falls in love with Jesus and their life is forever changed.
But he said to me, telling a Muslim about Jesus is like standing opposite someone with a big brick wall separating you and each brick in that wall represents a question.
The pastor said as you answer those questions a brick can be removed and, slowly but surely, the wall comes down. Soon it is low enough to see their eyes and you can begin to form a bond. After more questions are answered and bricks are removed, the wall is low enough to get your hands through and you can hug them (but you can’t walk with them).
As you answer more questions the wall eventually gets low enough that you can get a leg through and begin to walk with them. My advice is to start by reading the Koran and have the respect to know enough about their faith that you can then share yours. After all, how many questions in that brick wall could you answer? Because I struggle to answer one.
Secret Guest: This is one of the greatest challenges I have had in the past 30+ years. It goes back right to Scripture, being innocent as doves, as wise as snakes. What helped me a lot, was and is asking the question – What would Jesus do? In most cases this question has led me to be quite radical, but at times I would back off, or spend time in prayer, before committing myself or one of our teams to a risky situation.
In general, once you have taken the decision to get involved in a dangerous operation in order to serve the persecuted church, the next step is really, “Okay now that we are in, how can we limit the risks as much possible?”
Mike: That there is a cost to following Jesus and that He is worth every single bit of it. Because before we were passionate for Him, He suffered on the cross because of His passion for us.
Secret Guest: Persecution is for real. Persecution is not nice. Persecution will lead to pain, suffering and all kinds of difficult and tough situations.
Jesus warned us, that just as they persecuted him, we shall be persecuted. Acceptance is the first step. The next step, is to realise that we are not alone.
Jesus went through persecution Himself, He can identify with us and can speak to us. Even more, He promised us to send the Holy Spirit–as a Comforter. Finally, we are part of a Body. In times of persecution, some Christians may give up and actually betray real believers. But other believers will stand strong and be of great help. To share in persecution with other believers will make us stronger and will help us to carry the burden.
Jesus went through persecution Himself, He can identify with us and can speak to us.
Mike: Persecution doesn’t necessarily grow and flourish the church in a numbers sense, but it does make people more bold, courageous and passionate for Jesus. And that’s where you often find the growth, in spiritual fervour and passion–not only numbers. It’s interesting to think through this in light of the West.
If the church was to grow in passion but drop in numbers, how would we feel about that?
Mike: I never like passing judgement on another persons’ faith but I do believe that if we’re not careful we risk moving into a faith-by-works mentality. I would simply ask you this question: “Do you feel close to Jesus?” If the answer is “Yes” then that’s wonderful.
And then a follow up question would be, “And who have you told about Jesus lately?”
It doesn’t have to be a non-Christian, but even within Christian circles do you talk about your faith?
Secret Guest: Depends where you are in life; maybe the Lord is blessing and protecting you at this moment in life, just because He is a great God and because you need His protection and blessing.
Maybe He is preparing you for something to come in the future.
On the other hand, when you may have become complacent and not using the gifts He has given you, Satan has no need to bother you, as you are not active in the Kingdom.
And finally, persecution can come in many forms. Maybe you are under pressure in your family or at work, and you never have realised the link with persecution of suffering for His team.
Secret Guest: Yes, persecution definitely is growing and we have statistical evidence to back this up. It is growing both in intensity and in number of countries/believers affected. Frankly, persecution does not automatically mean that a church will flourish, but it often has a purifying effect.
Part of the believers will give up, while other believers will grow very strong. Their testimony as well as the involvement of the Holy Spirit will attract new believers.
Secret Guest: Be more radical. Live out our faith. Spend some time in prayer and in the Word daily. He will guide you, and you will face unexpected opportunities to either share the faith or be an encouragement for other believers. Wake up!
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.