by Aaron Saufley
Back in the spring of this year (2015), I saw multiple reports from different sources on persecution of Christians in three different regions of the world. I knew persecution was increasing, but I did some research just to check. What I discovered shocked me: persecution of Christians is at its highest level in the history of the church. Christians are being persecuted in more places and in more violent ways than ever before.
From that research, I had an idea—my church needs to know this. We need to raise awareness, start praying, and send some financial support to an organization that helps the persecuted.
God, however, wasn’t satisfied with this.
At the prodding of the Holy Spirit, I called two college buddies to gage their interest. They both said yes immediately. We decided to set up a Facebook page and invite other Christians to join us. Several other college friends said they would also do a message series with us. And ‘Church on Fire’ was born.
One of those Christians who joined the Facebook group was Keith Wood, who graciously offered ICOM’s help in spreading the world. They sent their first email out in August, and our Facebook group exploded with requests to join.
Most of us did the series at the same time—the first four weeks of November, immediately following ICOM. A few churches did the series before this time, and there are some churches that will do the series in 2016. We aren’t completely sure how many churches did this with us. Our best guess is somewhere between 30-70. Church from all across North America raised awareness of our suffering family.
Here’s what we learned:
- Unity is powerful. We split tasks up between several of the early adopters—message outlines, small group material, graphics, and illustrations. Through the Facebook page, we gave each other ideas for messages. There was a palpable sense that God was in this venture, and he was uniting his church around the plight of persecuted Christians.
- Creativity helped reinforce the message. Several churches did an underground church experience—they scrapped all of the “extras” (video, audio, chairs, even lights) to try to recreate what it is like for many Christians meeting secretly around the world. Some churches created prayer walls with maps of where the persecution is the hottest. Other churches gave out info cards with the names of countries where persecution occurs so that their people could pray for the persecuted church. Facebook pages were updated with resources for further information and ways to support the persecuted church. My church got together with another church across town to do a night of worship and prayer for the persecuted church.
- Churches are, for the most part, ignorant of the level of persecution. I heard so many in my church say, “I didn’t know it was this bad.” Other preachers reported the same. However…
- Churches are, when challenged, prepared to pray, give, and maybe even go. I’m proud of the guys that participated in this series. It was an uncomfortable topic that some weren’t sure if their churches would accept. We found out otherwise. The churches that participated opened their hearts to their persecuted family. Christians flooded heaven with prayer, and some took up special offerings to go to organizations that support persecuted Christians. There are several who are considering going to Pakistan in 2017 to personally encourage the Christians there. As a result of the series, several churches are increasing their missions giving. Several churches saw multiple baptisms that resulted from the series. From half a planet away, the persecuted church was inspiring discipleship—even as we did what we could to help them.
- We cannot forget. Now that we’re several weeks out from the series, it’s tempting to get swept up in the busyness of the holidays and planning for 2016. We must keep this issue before our people through a variety of means: social media, prayer lists, video, future message series, etc.
Persecution did not end with the series. Neither must our resolve to love and support our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world.
If your church would like to do the ‘Church on Fire’ series, here is the link to the resources: Church on Fire Resources.
Here are some resources for learning more about persecution throughout the world, along with ways to support persecuted Christians:
Voice of the Martyrs: http://www.persecution.com/
Open Doors USA: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/
Aaron is the preaching minister at the Friends in Fellowship Christian Church in Winterville, North Carolina and is a content provider on the Plaid Dad Blog. You can follow him on Twitter @AaronSaufley.