We were taught by our leaders how to witness to the prison guards who were taking us to our execution. We were taught to tell that person about Jesus and how to lead them to Him before they killed us.”
During a recent trip to Asia, these words from underground church leaders literally brought me to my knees. I had traveled there to help these leaders reach and train their young people. They had invited me to speak at a gathering of 500 leaders.
In their words, they’re “hemorrhaging a whole generation of young people” as young adults move from villages to the cities and move away from the purposes of God. So they asked me to help them understand Western church leadership methods.
That kind of faith
I quickly discovered that this Greek immigrant from Australia now living in Southern California had so much more to learn from these underground leaders than I could ever teach them. Many of them grew up during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in which millions of Christians were imprisoned or killed—the persecution that gave way to China’s still-growing underground church.
“All we know how to do to is pray,” they told me. “All we know how to do is believe God. That’s how we had revival in China when we were not allowed to carry the Word of God.”
After listening to them share and seeing their faith, I looked at them and said straight out: “I have no idea what I could teach you. Whatever it is you’ve got, I want. I want this revival fire I can take back to Australia and America and to the rest of the world.
“You can all lay hands on me and give me the kind of faith that says: ‘I’m just going to believe God, that Jesus is who He says He is, the kind of faith that witnesses to my executioner on the way to my execution. I want that kind of faith that causes Jesus to marvel.’”
They went on to tell me that this is what happens with persecution. One leader shared, “You just have to know the Holy Spirit. You have to know Jesus, and you have to believe for the fire and faith of God to be faithful to the end.”
And then he said something I’ll never forget: “It’s not about how big a thing you build for God. It’s about being faithful to Jesus until the end.”
I lead A21 Campaign, a global anti-human trafficking organization. I travel the globe with our Propel ministry. I might be known for building great things for God, but these bold, courageous leaders remind all of us—including you and me and our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world—what our Savior asks of His disciples: A faith that recognizes Jesus is the Son of God and that His Word is truth. A faith that stands firm and doesn’t get lost or mired in our circumstances.
The life God has called us to live
Secret believers in the Arabian Peninsula.
My interaction with these underground Chinese leaders and then meeting several secret believers from the Middle East are powerful reminders that as people who follow Jesus, we must not only be passionate about smuggling Bibles into places like China and Vietnam. We also have to actually read our own Bibles—so that we can do what God has called us to do. I’m amazed that when I talk to our persecuted brothers and sisters, they tell me they’re praying for U.S. Christians—that we would actually live the life God has called us to live.
Most of us will never have a gun pointed to our head for our faith, but we will be tempted to compromise or dilute our witness in a thousand other different ways. We can take lessons from our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, in parts of Asia, South America and Africa. Because there’s a different kind of faith that comes with a “deny Jesus or die” ultimatum like thousands of Christians have faced.
At A21, when people hear about our mission of abolishing injustice, they often applaud, because we’re living in a very “activist” world. But they don’t applaud when you say things like, “Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, the life, that no one comes to the Father but by Him.” The world we’re living in—whether it’s the prosperous West or brutal totalitarian regimes—we all must ask ourselves if we will be truly faithful followers of Jesus Christ to the end. Because we need that kind of faith to be unleashed throughout our nation and world.
When I came to Christ 30 years ago, my family didn’t speak to me for almost three years. A Greek Orthodox girl converting is the ultimate sin. It’s like a Muslim converting to Christianity. My parents ripped up my birth certificate. There is an element to our faith that is countercultural, and there is an enemy to our soul.
Our persecuted family knows that reality firsthand. They have learned that what actually transforms society is a courageous, audacious faith in the lordship of Jesus Christ. They know their trust in God must be bigger than their need to control their circumstances. Through their lives, they challenge us to remain faithful to Jesus to the end—no matter the cost.