Something to Offer

 

By Tanner Peake, Senior Director of Global Prayer Mobilization – EHC International

 

“Please, teach us about a missiology of suffering!” the lean and weathered man from Chad implored me as we sat around the table in Lomé, Togo eating our modest portions of rice and salty meat-sauce. The request jarred me a little at first as I felt the reality of what he was asking. For the previous hour or so, this man and other indigenous leaders representing North and West Africa told story after story of persecution at the hands of Muslims. They recounted to me stories of believers trailing through the northern African desert to take the Gospel to obscure unreached villages—never to be heard from again! They told me stories of their own churches being burned down and believers physically abused at the hands of hostile Muslim provocateurs. Now, in the balmy African heat, this man was asking me, a young man born and raised in the most benign of spiritual conditions (central Montana), for advice on a “missiology of suffering!” I sat in front of these men speechless and inexplicably humbled. My mind reeled as I thought to myself, “What do I really have to offer this man?” At that moment, the sobering reality of the Church as it exists in hostile conditions was branded on my heart.

Today, all around the world far from the eyes of American middle-class suburban Christianity, followers of Christ meet together in obscure back-alleys, small apartments, and dimly lit basements and celebrate our love in common of the Lord Jesus Christ. Today in the Middle East, Northern Africa, and East Asia, the Church faces what seems to be insurmountable obstacles. Political animosity, war, poverty, and religious persecution hinder the Church from penetrating the hardest and darkest parts of our world with the Gospel. While it is oftentimes hard to wrap our minds around, as a result of these many obstacles, today there are an estimated 2.84 billion people who are considered “unreached” (Joshua Project). Environments hostile to the Gospel have left nearly one-third of the population of the earth limited in their exposure to the Gospel.

In these locations so laden with obstacles it is clear the church needs prayer. In the book of Luke, Jesus addresses His followers using a parable in order to show them how they should “always pray and not lose heart.”

(Luke 18:1). In this infamous parable, we know that a certain widow is being harassed by an adversary. When the harassment becomes unbearable, this widow goes to the city judge, who just so happens not to fear God or respect man. At first, the widow is turned away by the judge. But the widow, convinced of her need for justice and aware that this judge was her only option, goes back to the judge again and again. Eventually, the parable goes on to show us that the judge gives in, fearing this widow will only continue to bother him, and as a result the widow is granted justice.

 

In this parable, Jesus explains a dynamic truth. While we are not widows (in fact we are called the “Bride of Christ”), and He is not an unjust judge (Scripture repeatedly refers to God as the righteous judge), a lesson can be drawn from this story about how we are to deal with injustice. Explaining this parable, Jesus told His followers, “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” (Luke 18:7-8). As an encouragement to “pray and not lose heart,” Jesus showed His followers that we face a real adversary but that God will bring about justice as a result of persistent prayer.

As we reflect on situations around the world and the conditions that the Church faces daily in places like North and West Africa, we can sometimes have a tendency to feel a strange form of guilt because of the comparative freedom that we have been granted. Sometimes when we compare ourselves to those believers around the world who are giving their lives for the Gospel or to those who reach an unreached people somewhere, we feel like we live sub-nominal Christian lives. (I speak from experience!) Like my own story with the man from Chad, when we are confronted with the reality of the persecuted Church, we can feel ashamed or like we have nothing to offer. And though it is indeed sobering to remember what the Church faces daily in persecuted nations, it is vitally important that we don’t let these sober feelings paralyze us into inactivity, but rather compel us into action. So you might be asking the questions, “What can I do today to support the persecuted Church? What do I really have to offer?” One answer is found in Luke 18, “we are to pray and to not lose heart.” One of the most efficacious things we could do today to serve the global Church is actually to pray, and continue praying, that God would bring about justice on behalf of the Church by removing the obstacles that they face. If we want to help, we can pray and continue praying, that the Gospel is proclaimed to the last home on the planet. It is imperative that today we realize that we have an adversary who is real and that God responds to our prayers to deliver us from the adversary.

 

We must know in our hearts that God will bring about justice in due time for His Church in Chad and other nations. There are very real obstacles around the world that the Body of Christ faces. I want to encourage you—you do have something to offer! Your persistent prayers actually do make a difference to believers! I conclude by boldly asking you to serve our brothers and sisters worldwide by praying for them; pray for the lost in the hardest and darkest places of the planet; and pray today, tomorrow, and into the future until we see every home on earth reached with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

 

By Tanner Peake, Senior Director of Global Prayer Mobilization – EHC International

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