Sunday, November 9, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. In fact, the entire month of November has been set aside as a time to remember and pray for our suffering brothers and sisters around the world. Therefore, I’m focusing on persecution this month.
We’ve all read stories about Christians in the U.S. being disrespected, Christian values being mocked, and Christian “rights” being denied. Currently, a couple of Idaho pastors are facing fines and jail time for their unwillingness to marry gay couples. The city of Houston wants to censor sermons. And in California, all health plans, including those purchased by churches for their employees, must now cover abortion.
No matter what your opinion is on the specific issues, it’s a fair conclusion that the U.S. is no longer a “Christian” country. But our relatively minor inconveniences and hurt feelings are nothing compared to what is happening overseas. As stated on the UCA News website,
- The Pew Forum estimates that Christians face persecution in a staggering total of 133 countries, representing two-thirds of all nations on earth.
- The Germany-based International Society for Human Rights, a secular organization, estimates that 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world are directed against Christians.
- Some 150,000 Christians are killed for their faith each year, according to both the Catholic relief agency Aid to the Church in Need and the evangelical group Open Doors.
The problem is so overwhelming that it’s hard to feel the compassion we should, much less believe that we can make a difference. How can we show our love in helping and encouraging the persecuted church?
Of course we need to pray. No matter where we are, how mature our faith, how abundant our resources, we can and should pray. Next week I’ll provide some specific facts and stories to help you relate to some persecuted believers on a more personal level.
James 2:15-16 points out that while prayer is good, we must go further and act.
If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
Probably the easiest way to act is to send money. Two ministries worthy of your support are the above-mentioned Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs. (There are many more that target specific regions or people groups.)
Another effective approach is to write letters. Write to government officials, both here and abroad. Public pressure has resulted in the release of many who were imprisoned for their faith.
Write to the prisoners themselves to send encouragement and to let them know that they aren’t forgotten. Hebrews 13:3 says, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Voice of the Martyrs has compiled a list of imprisoned believers, with a photo, details about their arrest and current status, and an address where you can send a letter.
Finally (for now), remember that no matter what horrors we read and hear about, both here and overseas, God is in control. The bad guys don’t win in the end. Please join with me this Sunday in praying for the persecuted church around the world.