The Privilege of Persecution

By Carl Moeller and David W. Hegg (Moody Publishers:  May 15, 2011)
Book Notes by UBA Church Consultant, Sally Hinzie 

The persecuted church includes most believers outside the west where Christ-followers are in the minority.  Persecution can be the denial of civil rights, being ostracized socially or abandoned by family and for many it means serious injury and death.  In the global church outside North America persecution tends to drive people toward God.  There often is a genuine sense of honor that they get a chance to suffer for Jesus Christ.

The persecuted church sees pain as a privilege.  Because they live in a place where there are constant threats and opposition of the enemy, they have learned that God's great faithfulness can be new every morning.  "The Spirit of God has come into their lives and revealed the truth to them.  They regard that truth as a pearl of such great price that they would sell everything they have in order to get it."

Persecuted believers see God's Word as God's word and they treat it with great reverence.  Most of the pastors in third world countries have received any formal training.  They do not have access to libraries and commentaries. They carry one book - The Bible - well marked with many notes in the margins from lessons they have been taught.  

Worship services for persecuted believers are a high priority and usually last several hours.  Most persecuted believers sacrifice to attend - the service may be at an unusual time (late at night or before dawn), the space may not be comfortable (sitting on the floor or standing for the entire time).  There is very little structure, but every service will include prayer, singing and sharing the Word of God. 

Most persecuted believers live under the rule of dictators and despots.  "They see the dark side of that power every day of their lives, but it helps them comprehend an even greater power for good that is found in God.  So they come before Him in great dependence and great humility, genuinely thankful that they are allowed through God's grace to actually commune with the creator of the universe."  One Vietnamese pastor said he was too busy working in the church to pray.  He thanked God for his imprisonment, because God gave him plenty of time to pray.  The North Koreans pray for the salvation of their leader.  Prayer is the lifeline for the persecuted church.

The persecuted church does not have other support structures and are dependent on each other.  They do not have resources like programs and church staff so they must depend on each other.  They also say, "You Americans have watches, we have time."  They spend their time in community.

The persecuted church exists in a hostile culture.  They do not spend time trying to please the culture.  "The founder of Open Doors, Brother Andrew, has put it succinctly, 'In the West,' he says, 'we are not persecuted.  We are intimidated.'"

Despite the persecution that includes harassment, imprisonment or death, the believers in these countries maintain their faith with remarkable patience and daily devotion - and they do so compliantly.  The do not attempt to change the political situation in their countries.  They have a national pride.  

The global church is generous even though many of them live in poverty.  They are generous with their time, with their availability, and with their money - if they have any.  Christians in Ethiopia give a nickel per person to support church planting.  Others find generosity in the relationship - even supporting and raising children of dying church members.  

"The persecuted church is God's gift to us in the West.  Their understanding of God, their reverence for His Word, their dependence on prayer and worship, their daily immersion in authentic community, their biblical submission to authority, and their unbridled generosity of spirit can be tremendous resources fo us if we only humble ourselves to adopt a spirit of learning."  

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The Privilege of Persecution: (And Other Things the Global Church Knows That We Don't)