February 6, 2019 * Jonathan Greer
In many churches across America the persecuted church is a theoretical reality. By that, I mean that conceptually most Christians know that the persecuted church exists, but when it comes to what that actually means they are clueless. Most often it takes a big news story to jog the consciences of the church members across the nation to even remember the persecuted church, must less identify with them or pray for them. So how can we help our church members identify with the reality of persecuted Christians around the world? I want to give three suggestions that pastors can take to help their churches in this area.
Teach a theology of the church as family.
Throughout the New Testament we are reminded that as believers we are a part of the family of God. We are sons and daughters of the Father and co-heirs with Christ having been adopted into God’s family by the power of the Holy Spirit. Take every one of the many opportunities Scripture gives you to emphasize this truth to your congregation. Not only does this familial bond affect how your church members relate and identify with each other, but it will also be a way for you to emphasize how we relate and identify with the persecuted church. The Christians in China losing jobs, homes, and places of worship are not just random Christians from another country, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are family, and we don’t just let our family suffer in obscurity.
Be intentional about praying for the persecuted church in your pastoral prayers.
First, I hope that you are being intentional with all your pastoral prayers during services. Don’t let those times of prayer be spontaneous rambling prayers just to fill a time slot or ease a transition in service. Spend time planning and praying in advance about what you will pray in your pastoral prayers. Never underestimate not only your responsibility to lead the church in prayer, but to teach your church HOW to pray through example. So make sure that on a regular basis you are praying for the persecuted church. Get specific! Name countries, churches, or events by name as you pray for them. Don’t simply pray generally for “our persecuted brethren around the world.” When your church sees you intentionally, regularly praying for the persecuted church, they are going to follow your example in their private prayers.
Devote a portion of your Sunday Morning Service to the persecuted Church.
If you want your church to take the persecution of their brothers and sisters seriously then you have to take it seriously as a pastor. Make it an emphasis of your weekly worship service to highlight and pray for specific persecuted christians. I am starting this in my church now. Each month we will highlight a different country that persecutes Christians and during our weekly worship services we will highlight some aspect of the persecution in that country and spend time in prayer for our brothers and sisters in that particular country. The easiest way to do this is to utilize opendoorsusa.org. This organization tracks persecution around the world and has tons of resources that can be used for your slide presentation, information you can use each week to highlight the needs and hurts of particular countries. Testimonies of persecuted Christians around the world, and even videos you can share with your church. With minimal effort you can devote 5 minutes of your sunday morning service to the persecuted church, and reap untold benefits in awareness and prayerfulness of your congregation.
Let’s not make excuses anymore. Let’s acknowledge that is our responsibility as pastors to shepherd our flock in this way. Let us hold true to the urgings of the author of Hebrews in chapter 13.
1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.Hebrews 13:1-3