“Those of us in the American church must ask ourselves, ‘Am I following Christ, or am I just following the crowd that’s following Christ.’ In the persecuted church, they follow Christ. The personal cost to follow the crowd is too expensive. But there is something we must always keep in mind, whether we are in America or in one of the most persecuted regions on the planet; Jesus Christ is the head of His church. Everywhere. And despite our differences, in most ways we are all in the same business and the same family, pursuing the same mission under the same head. So even if the American church is somewhat crippled in certain areas, it’s still His church. Not ours. And He has every right to remind us of those things that we need to improve. His church has never been perfect throughout history, and yet He still chooses to work through it, and through us. It’s the number one vehicle through which the kingdom mission is being forwarded today.” (The Privilege of Persecution – Moeller & Hegg)
It has been one of the greatest joys of my life to learn about walking with God from my brothers and sisters around the globe. It can be really easy in my heart to be negative about the American church and champion the church-outside-the-West. In many ways I feel more drawn and engaged to the Ethiopian church than the church in the West. But, this is my mission field, my place to love, serve, and reach. And for that I am thankful, because I am a part of The Church. The Church that God promises to build! The funny thing is how we often measure that “building”, growth, and success. Paul, while in Ephesus, writes in 1 Corinthians 16:9 that “a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” The persecuted church gets this, we in the West, not so much. We equate conflict and trouble in the church as bad and we must be missing something. They understand that as part of the battle. We see ease and comfort as blessing and clear vision. They ask what they are missing and who are they appeasing to keep the peace? We need to learn how to think about comfort with some measure of suspicion: What are we not speaking out against? What sin is going undealt with? Who are we seeking the approval of? And we need to learn how to think about conflict with more faith: What do we keep at even if it stirs people up? Where do we get stronger and bolder? How do we make an even better call to courageous, prayerful living? God builds His Church in different ways. And in many ways focus on the glory of God in times of ease can be much harder than in times of trouble. Conflict can be good … (It delayed Paul’s trip to Corinth because he wanted to stay in Ephesus amidst the trouble for the open door to good ministry) … And comfort can be trouble (It orients the heart toward peace when there is no peace).
We need our “success/approval” scale re-oriented away from comfort and on to the right guidelines of 1 Corinthians 16:9 and the way the persecuted church thinks about what God has called them to do. Give us open doors Lord, and don’t let us run from the adversaries that brings!
Press on & Pray more!