By Dietrich Gruen
For one day we will gather to lament, intercede, advocate for and learn from those who suffer for the gospel. This year, the internationally recognized day of prayer was the first Sunday in November. However, so that we can bring in a speaker and tie in with an already-called congregational meeting, the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is happening for High Point Church this Sunday, November 20.
What we’re praying for.
On this day, we pray in solidarity with fellow believers in other countries under ISIS (think beheadings), under Boko Haram (think kidnapped girls), and under communist dictators (think prison camps). We pray for those under persecution who routinely suffer loss of property rights and human freedoms (think church burnings and human trafficking). We pray for widows and orphans of those who sacrifice their life rather than recant their faith in Jesus. We pray for those arrested for their faith—for confessing Jesus is Lord— and pray that God would embolden their witness as a prisoner for Christ.
What about suffering that we endure here at home?
Cultural marginalization, not State persecution, is the increasing experience of American believers. In the USA, the Church is largely ignored, not persecuted. Others may be hostile to us, but compared to what Christians overseas suffer we best not use the word persecution. Instead, American Christians are marginalized, cast to the sidelines as culturally irrelevant. We are urged to get with the new moral majority of public opinion and recent legal activism. Examples of this are the nuns and faith-based nonprofits having to include contraception and abortion devices in mandated health plans or school graduations forced to drop benedictions and chaplain prayers. But such offenses to conscience and denials of religious liberty are not persecution per se.
Is not religious liberty worth fighting for?
Yes—and no. Russell Moore (author of our fall series book Onward) and recent preachers in our pulpit hold forth the truth, the big picture and the long view: to engage the culture without losing the gospel. And yes, in engaging culture, we are concerned about global anti-Semitism and persecuted minorities in India and China, for example. Whereas religious liberty is worth protecting for one and all, it’s not our ultimate goal; we should be more concerned about living out and advancing the kingdom of God.
What then shall we fight for?
We shall “fight the good fight” to godly ends with patient endurance and distinctive witness (2 Timothy 4:1-8). We acknowledge that we are no longer a moral majority, if we ever were one, and humbly take on the role of a prophetic minority. Prophets (like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Amos) speak truth to power. Christians in America may have lost political influence—with more losses to come—but we must let go of our pretense, our idols, and those positions, possessions and privileges that were never meant for us. Instead of assuming that others share our Christian values, we live into the distinctive minority status that is ours. Power, for Christians, is not granted through electing our favored person to office or by gaining a favorable constitutional decision from the Supreme Court; it is conferred by the Spirit of Christ who dwells within. And that Holy Spirit leads us to repent of idolatry.
Let us be the Church
The Church is a colony of the Kingdom. Our true citizenship is in heaven; we are all “strangers in a strange land” (1 Peter 2:9-12). Thus we can identify with and pray for those who are displaced and persecuted for their faith in Christ. This Sunday, November 20, we’ll have an opportunity to gather around tables and in the sanctuary. For one day, we shall come out of our safe Christian comfort zones and isolated bubbles to remember and pray for the persecuted Church.
Find more info here on our plans for November 20.