Friday, January 4, 2008

Voice of the Martyrs (Part 2)

While reading the VOM magazine, I was especially struck by an article about Christianity in Iraq. Here's a quote from a believer there, "A brother was going to another believer's house [to deliver Bibles] and some men...put a gun to his head. We avoid having big churches because we would be targeted...Our group was discussing that they had too many people coming to their service in one place...Our churches are growing despite all the persecution and the pressure that we have."

Wow. And I was piqued on Sunday because I was sitting where the sunshine was beaming down on me, making me hot. I wonder how different my faith would be, how determined I would be in my walk with Christ, if here in the good ol' U.S. of A. I experienced such things. Think about the excuses you hear or maybe even offer for not attending worship. I doubt, "I'm afraid I'll be arrested," is one of them.

I'm wondering, too, if that's the reason the church there is continuing to grow. Every person wants to live some adventure, but here in suburbia, being a part of the church is usually anything but an adventure. The early church recorded in Acts grew in the same way. Pockets of Christianity were safer than conglomerations. And the opposition generally wasn't those inside the fellowship, but outside it. I think we've allowed our American version of Christianity to be dull and unadventurous, and certainly we've found our greatest enemies within the body.

I'm definitely not opposed to large churches. Many of my greatest corporate worship experiences have been with hundreds or even thousands of believers. And I've never been one to allow myself to be lost in the crowd when it comes to being an active part of serving and ministering in a large church. Neither do I believe small churches are the ideal. All too often, those fellowships can become exclusive, unwelcoming and deadly complacent. But I think the reason these small groups in Iraq continue to multiply is because no one can get lost in the crowd, and the pressures of persecution keep them from substituting other things for their purpose of making reproductive disciples. They don't have the energy to focus on petty things. I suspect that when you're trying to forgive those who have beaten and tortured your loved one, you're not so worried about the fellow believer who's gossiping about you. (And she'll probably find something better to talk about when her loved one has been imprisoned.)

No wonder the church grows under persecution. We have less time to get in our own way!

God, help me to live my faith as though it is ever under attack. Because it is.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Eph 6:12

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