Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mighty Victory or Martyrdom?

I watch TV ministries and Christian programming quite a bit. Daystar and TBN are constantly on. I've always been fascinated by the rapid growth and popularity of the many "mighty victory faith" mega-churches in the U.S. and have wondered, "How is it that they are seemingly unaware of the plight of the Persecuted Church throughout the world?" I mean, when you think about it, it seems peculiar to me that this subject is never mentioned in their "claiming victory" sermons. It is a fact that almost daily fellow Christian brothers and sisters are fined, jailed, beaten, and experiencing church closures; Christian women and girls are raped, pastors are beaten and even murdered merely for being a Christian, or preaching the gospel, or for handing out Bibles. The "watch" list of countries on the Persecuted Church list are numerous. These are but a few: China, Eritrea, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Russia, Somalia, Sudan, Vietnam, North Korea, and several of the Islamic nations of the world.

So my question is this: are Christians being persecuted in these countries because they are not "claiming their victory of safety and security" in Christ?

In our devotions and reflections, shouldn't we be preparing our hearts and minds to suffer for the Cross and endure its persecutions, or should we be proclaiming another gospel by offering the counter-claim that "we have not because we ask not"? If the latter, shouldn't we be telling this to our persecuted brethren who are suffering needlessly? After all, isn't it the case that we in America (the USA) are the ones suffering relatively little and they - our persecuted sister churches - suffering the most? Come to think of it, when was the last time you heard a faith preacher claim "patient endurance"?

I have a theory. Call it an intuitive guess. Devote at least six hours a day of programming to Christian suffering and persecution - and sprinkle it liberally throughout prime time where faith evangelists predominate - and let's see if the faith programming will survive. My theory is that it can't survive. Or could it? Consider what sort of signals would be sent out when just after a Voice of the Martyrs telecast has ended, a Kenneth Copeland show or a Creflo Dollar telecast would come on. Perhaps a Christian program about the martyrdom and persecution of the early church afterward. Then on to Joel Osteen. The theological tension could be cut with a knife! One show would be suggesting that suffering is part and parcel of the Christian experience while the other would be claiming that suffering is due to a lack of faith. One would suggest that suffering builds a critical component of the fruit of the Spirit like patience, for example. The other would propose that a lack of faith is the reason why those jailed for the Savior's sake are not experiencing their "Paul and Silas victory". How does one reconcile that? An even better question, is such a reconciliation possible? Imagine pastor Rod, or bishop Jakes, "I bind the government of Eritrea, of Sudan, and of China!" "I claim the release of Christian prisoners and captives, worldwide!"

Cynicsm aside, I do believe that miracles are possible for our day, and I do believe in praying to set Christian captives abroad free. And I would greatly rejoice to hear a TV evangelist lead his congregation and television audience in praying for the Persecuted Church. But somehow I'm not sure if that would ever happen. There's entirely too much ease in Zion - and too many prophets of Baal on the loose.

Baruch Hashem and Soli Deo Gloria!

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