What is evangelism like while shepherding the church through intense persecution?
It may surprise you to hear this, but the effects of persecution are both good and bad. Positively, it shakes the institutionalism of the church and proves to us that there is no lasting home in this world. But it also destabilizes individual human beings and raises a lot of questions in the hearts of sufferers.
The first questions we encounter with people is this: “Is it because of our sins that God is punishing us?” That tends to be the most common interpretation of what we’re going through. But the truth is that churches impacting society by exposing sin are going to make those powers that are being exposed unhappy. When the church is a light in the world’s darkness, it will suffer from the darkness.
The other question we encounter is from people who cannot make meaning out of their difficulties. A young girl came back from boarding school and arrived to find her father, mother, and sisters, everybody at home, dead. And she wanted to know “why?” We don’t have answers to that except to continue to encourage such a person to trust God. Even though we don’t know why now, we will know it in eternity.
Yet persecution has increased the love, the sharing, and the caring of people for each other. We don’t love the persecution itself. But it has caused in our churches a practical demonstration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Strong churches move in to help people and take them in.
For example, my wife, Gloria, has a habit of taking in orphans. When I was in Jerusalem this past June for GAFCON, the mother of a seven-month-old baby was shot back in Nigeria. The killers thought they had killed both of them, but later on in the day, people went searching for the corpse of this woman, and they found the baby sitting there crying with his dead mother. They immediately knew to bring him to Mama Gloria, to our house.
Showing the love of God by caring for orphans and widows is a top priority, and it is a great witness to our neighbors who are not Christians. It is a great testimony of the gospel.
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