When Gospel Preaching is Illegal
Churches up and down the country will preach the glorious good news of the resurrection this weekend as we celebrate Easter. But what if preaching Christ was illegal? Phil Walter’s just returned from a mission trip to Vietnam where the conference he was speaking at was raided by the police.
A few years ago I was talking to a Chinese pastor, working in an underground church in Southern China. He wanted to thank me as an Englishman because Great Britain sent the first missionary to his part of the world more than 100 years ago.
The missionary was actually Scottish, but the point he made was that the body of Christ is worldwide. In other words, it’s right that we are involved in the cause of the gospel across the world.
But global mission can easily take a backseat in church life as we focus on our local community. Increasingly our own nation seems to be a mission field. Folk are even coming to the UK from different parts of the world to serve Jesus in our multicultural setting.
Global Mission today
Despite this changing landscape, I think it’s vital for local churches to be involved in global mission.
In fact, I’ve just returned from a mission trip to Vietnam. The opportunity to travel there comes through supporting the persecuted church in South East Asia through a work called The Messengers. It’s a small charity with partner ministries around the world and they have workers in countries from North Korea to Nepal.
During my trip, I was challenged by a pastor’s response to my question “what can we pray for you and the church in Vietnam?” The answer was given graciously and humbly: “please do not pray that the suffering will stop.” I have heard that response many times from pastors in that part of the world. But what came next was new to me: “otherwise we may become like you.”
I know what he means, don’t you?
The believers out there were so much bolder in sharing their faith precisely because of the persecution they face.
The Persecuted Church
I got a small taste of this while I was in Vietnam. The conference I was speaking at was raided by police as it’s not lawful for a foreigner to preach in their country. This gave me some insight into what our Vietnamese brothers and sisters have to endure all the time. In fact, it gets much worse than this as pastors are imprisoned and killed for their faith.
This raised three questions for me: Firstly, what is my thinking as a Westerner on persecution? Secondly, am I involved enough with my brothers and sisters in persecuted countries? Thirdly, what must I do to become more like them?
Increasingly, we face being marginalised as evangelicals, but things could get much worse and we don’t know what else lies ahead of us. My personal view is that we need to prepare ourselves now under God and not be afraid if and when such trials do come. Paul encourages us to put on the full armour of God every day.
As churches, global mission can take us to brothers and sisters around the world in three ways – by PRAYING, by GIVING and by GOING. By doing so we can be part of God’s purposes for his church and begin to learn what it means to suffer for the sake of the gospel.
Apart from The Messengers the work of charities like Open Doors and Barnabas Fund can keep you updated on how our brothers and sisters are seeing God at work in amazing ways in the midst of suffering.