This morning I read an article by a Catholic writer George Weigel on Christian Persecution in the 20th century. It has been estimated by some Catholic circles that over 150,000 brother's & sisters have perished for their faith. The number is most probably higher.
With the increasing influx of radicals in Syria, Africa, and the heavy hand of governments in North Korea, Iran, and the Middle East; many, many have lost their lives for naming the Name of Christ. In Matthew 24 we see in the Last Days persecution will exponentiate - and we see that today.
Hebrews 13.3 writes "Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body"
I remember a statement by Richard Wurmbrand when I heard him speak as a kid at a conference on the Persecuted Church that while he spent those 14 years tortured for his faith in a communist prison there were times that angels would come an visit him and minister to him. Once he was told by an angel that they were there because the free church was praying for him in bonds.
I'd like to share a few excerpts from George Weigel's article on persecution: "We have been living, and we’re living now, in the greatest era of persecution in Christian history. More Christians died for the faith in the twentieth century than in the previous nineteen centuries of Christian history combined. And while the character of the persecutors has changed, from the lethal heyday of the twentieth-century totalitarianisms to the first decades of the twenty-first century, the assault on the Christian faithful today is ongoing, extensive, and heart-rending. Solidarity with the persecuted Church is an obligation of Christian faith."
Where it is happening:
(image courtesy of Open Doors)
Today when Christians get upset that they have to wait in line for their favorite Starbucks' drink or they get depressed because no one likes what they write on Facebook - they need to remember their brothers and sisters who have lost family, homes, all their belongings for the sake of the Gospel. One writer put it this way; Christians in the west need a good lesson on "Sufferology" - how to suffer well for the true treasure, gold tried in the fire. Mark Moore writes: "163,000 Christians die every year for their faith. Half of all the Christians who have ever died for their faith did so in this century alone, some 35 million" Read Mark Moore's essay on statistics of the persecuted church and how you can help. Also read websites like: Open Door's and Voice of the Martyrs to be educated and updated how you can pray. This season of Lent is coming upon us - let's not focus on what we have to give up for God for Lent but what our brothers and sisters have lost for Christ's sake and that we remember them in prayer.
"And the fire upon the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be allowed to go out. The priest shall burn wood on it every morning and lay the burnt offering in order upon it and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. The fire shall be burning continually upon the altar; it shall not go out” - Lev 6.12-13
What a few years ago we called discipleship has morphed into mentoring and now called Life-Coaching. Pastors haveleft the pastorate & evangelism and have become “Life-Coaches” using a philosophy that includes; goals, challenges for personal growth and self-help. There is a trend in the church as a whole today of a church-planing/church-growth plan that is more of a marketing business plan than anything else. Coaching and marketing works for business, it has value there, but as soon as you apply it to the church, there is the loss of the mystery of the Church and it becomes a driven organization that resembles more of a corporation than a loving, living church body.
The philosophy of this trend insinuates that leader’s and pastor’s problems of the lack of church growth or dissipating inspiration lies with their mentality, lack of personal growth or waning ambition. This type of psychology replaces the Mind of God concluding in an indirect way that the Word of God is not sufficient. I see much of this comes out of the new trend toward marketing in the church. Church-planting and church-growth have become a new business and it’s based on marketing.
Those of us that have been involved with church-planting over the years and seen the exciting momentum of a growing church really were not being coached or mentored as the marking plans go today - but experienced a burning passion in our hearts for God, people and the Mission with a team that was energized in the vision.
What we see happen with leaders today is that 80% of leaders that begin well do not finish well. They lose their edge. What goes wrong? Where does the passion go? Many pastors if they were free to share it - have lost their passion for the ministry and many don’t discern it. Passion and fire in the ministry is sapped and replaced with a substitute - compensated by knowledge, information, new programs, & emotional watered down events that do more to entertain than convert & dramatically transform people.
The truth is that what is needed today in the ministry, in leadership, & in church-ministries is men and women of God ON FIRE.
Here are 12 reasons (among many) why I think leaders lose their passion in their call and they stop growing thus in return their ministry stops growing.
Getting stuck in the mud of the details spinning their wheels.
Distraction of entertainment - movies, online entertainment, gaming, and excessive recreation
Google searches replace turning of the pages of the Bible and books.
Mindless wasted time on social media
Soulish relationships - relationships that cross the lines into the inappropriate
Petty skirmishes - the tit-for-tat arguments of personal justification because of insecurity
Technology - excessive time spend on the computer or mobile device
Hidden idols - toleration for error that slip in and cause to stumble in sin.
Pursuit of materialism - Succumbing to the temptation to possess and acquire.
Knowledge replaces obedience - The stimulation of information replaces radical steps of faith
Psychological thinking replacing Bible Conviction
Departing from the basics of the vision to be more acceptable and less controversial.
Passion has very simple focus, focus comes from concentration and concentration comes from consecration. We cannot fake consecration. Where there is no consecration there can be no focus or concentration. Passion is the result of consecration. Consecration comes from doing the hard thing, losing our self-life at the Altar thus thwarting those things that sap our passion.
Guard yourself daily from those things that dilute your laser-vision and you’ll find they have no siphoning power on your passion.