Sally Hinzie, UBA Church Consultant, is an avid reader and a practical thinker. She condenses selected key points of a book into a quick, easy to read set of “Book Notes” that offers you the opportunity to determine if this is a topic that you’d like to study further.
The Privilege of Persecution (And Other Things the Global Church Knows That We Don’t)
By: Dr. Carl A. Moeller & David W. Hegg
Most believers who live in areas where Christ-followers are in the minority face persecution. But what is persecution? It can mean social ostracization, abandonment by family, or the denial of basic civil rights. For many, it even means serious injury and death. But persecution is not always a bad thing for the church as a whole. Outside of North America and in the global church, persecution tends to drive people toward God. Many Christians—like Paul in Philippians 1— have a genuine sense of honor that they get a chance to suffer for Jesus Christ.
Persecuted Christians see pain as a privilege.
Because they live in a place where there are constant threats and opposition from the enemy, persecuted believers have learned that God’s great faithfulness can be new every morning. Moeller & Hegg write, “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 Christians treat the Bible with great reverence.
The persecuted church sees the Word of God as just that—the actual words of God. So, they place a high value on it and what it says. Most of the pastors in third world countries have not 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.
Persecuted Christians rely on worship and prayer
The persecuted church must often sacrifice to make worship services a high priority, so they usually last several hours. The service may be at an unusual time (late at night or before dawn), and the space may be uncomfortable (sitting on the floor or standing for the entire time). Though there is often little structure, every service will include prayer, singing, and sharing the Word of God.
Prayer and worship become a lifeline for persecuted believers who often live under the rule of dictators and despots. Moeller & Hegg write, “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 it gave him plenty of time to pray. North Koreans pray for the salvation of their leader. Under such difficult circumstances, prayer becomes the lifeline for the persecuted church.
Persecuted Christians live in authentic community
In these areas, the church has not developed the support structures that exist in the Western church, so believers must be dependent on each other. They do not have resources like programs and church staff so they rely on each other. In order to do so, they must spend their time in community. They must know one another and be willing to give their time and resources to their church family. They say, “Americans have watches, we have time.”
Persecuted Christians live counter-culturally but submit to authority
The persecuted church exists in a hostile culture, so they don’t spend time trying to please the culture. Brother Andrew, founder of Open Doors, has put it succinctly. “In the West,” he says, “we are not persecuted. We are intimidated.”
Despite harassment, imprisonment, or death, believers who face persecution maintain their faith with remarkable patience and daily devotion—and they do so compliantly. They do not attempt to change the political situation in their countries, but they retain national pride.
Persecuted Christians are generous
Persecuted believers give freely of their time, their availability, and what money they have—even if they live in poverty. Christians in Ethiopia give a nickel per person to support church planting. Others find generosity in their relationships—even supporting and raising children of dying church members.
Moeller & Hegg remind us that the persecuted church is God’s gift to 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 for us if we only humble ourselves to adopt a spirit of learning.