I recently attended Secret Church: The Cross and Suffering at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. I cannot even begin to unpack all that I learned and that I am continuing to learn from my time there. Suffice it to say, David Platt could be a professional auctioneer and we covered 220-something pages and 75 key texts in 1 night. Now, we all know that I am a Nerd (yes, that’s “nerd” with a capital “N”), but whoa Nelly! my mind was so moving so fast that night that I think a little bit of it is still spinning trying to comprehend everything that I learned. Perhaps that is why I took no less than 4 trips to the main office building today at work in 20 minutes because I kept forgetting something. Yes, that sounds like a good excuse.
Now, my last post was about my love of old hymns, more specifically I reposted a montage of old hymns and their lyrics as they display the Gospel message. The reason I love old hymns and the reason I love Secret Church are one in the same. They both speak concentrated truth that penetrates my mind and soul. There is something unique about the eloquence and unabashed lyrics in old hymns just as there is something unique about uniting with 50,000 people in 70 countries to learn together, pray for the persecuted Church, and worship God by devoting ourselves to His Word.
One of the highlights of Secret Church is the opportunity for believers around the world to learn about a specific region or country where believers face persecution. This time Nik Ripken enlightened us on the Horn of Africa and his 20+ year experience working there. I highly recommend reading some of Nik’s written work like here and here.
Previously, I would pray that persecuted believers would stop being persecuted. Dumb. They are persecuted because they are proclaiming Jesus’ name. Jesus never promises that we won’t be persecuted, he actually promises that the best we can hope for is to die on the cross like Him (John 15:20). The only way to prevent persecution and suffering is to stop talking about Jesus. I know this is already a long post, but please read this story below as I cannot tell it any better:
[…]After hearing story after gripping story, he was compelled to ask this group of pastors and lay leaders, “Why have you cheated us in the West? Why haven’t you written these stories down? Where are the books that chronicle your faith and persecution? These stories are worthy of a movie. These are Bible stories come to life! Why have you not shared these lessons learned?”
As Common as the Sun Rising in the East
His outburst was greeted with confused silence. The pastors and lay leaders were dumbfounded. Most of the people simply ignored the embarrassing questions and the harshness of the challenge. Finally, one brother stood up, took the interviewer by the arm, and drew him to the end of the large room by the eastern window of the dwelling. Looking out at the horizon, the man spoke calmly to the interviewer: “Sir, when your sons were growing up, how many mornings did you take them to the window of your house and say to them, ‘Look, boys, the sun is coming up in the east this morning?’”
The interviewer found the question silly. “Well, I never once did that,” he answered. “Had I done that, my sons would have thought I had lost my mind, because the sun always comes up in the east!” Gently, the wise brother made his point: “Sir, that is why we talk little of our persecution and suffering. That is why we have not written our stories down. And that is why we have not made a movie. Our persecution is always with us. It simply comes as we walk with Jesus. It is like the sun coming up in the east.
“Besides,” he continued, “when did you Christians in the West stop reading the Bible? Our stories have already been told. God has already told all of us what we need to know about persecution and suffering.”
To say the interviewer was deeply humbled belabors the obvious. But the truth found a way into his heart and he was changed that day.
What kind of person sees persecution as biblical, expected, and hardly worth mentioning? Clearly, a person steeped in the story of scripture and well-acquainted with God. We would be wise to listen and learn the lessons. Source/Full Article
Wow. Needless to say, my view and my approach of prayer with the persecuted church has been changed. My understanding of missions work in unreached and unengaged people groups has grown, but with that comes a weight to support them in their work in ways that I do not yet understand fully – How do I pray for someone to lead another person to Christ knowing full well that it means their death?
The simple, yet oh so very complicated answer is because He is worth it all.
What is Secret Church?
Pray for the Horn