On The Front Lines of Persecution
By Rev. Christian Zebley
ANS Special Correspondent reporting from Cape Town 2010, the Third Lausanne Congress on Global Evangelization
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA (ANS) — Background: Open Doors is dedicated to “serving persecuted Christians worldwide.” Its origin can be traced back to “Brother Andrew,” a Dutch missionary who discovered that Christians behind the Iron Curtain desperately needed the Word of God in 1955. Soon after, he smuggled a suitcase of Bibles behind the Iron Curtain, marking the beginning of Open Doors. Over the years, his one-man operation has grown into a worldwide ministry operating in over 50 restrictive countries. Open Doors is dedicated to “going where faith costs the most, to equip and encourage Christians who are suffering for their faith.”
Dr. Carl A. Moeller
Question: Can you tell our readers a little bit about what Open Doors does to support the Persecuted Church?
Dr. Moeller: Whatever they need. Open Doors was founded by someone who didn’t want an organization but rather an instrument to meet the needs of Christians living in persecution. What we really do is ask one question: What do you need?
It’s as simple as it gets. What we try to do is meet the real needs of the Persecuted Church. This involves delivering Christian literature, training of church leaders, responding to socio-economic needs, development of Christian leadership, and advocacy and awareness that includes speaking out to governments regarding freedom of religion. And, of course, encouraging Christian in the West to pray for the persecuted – always their No. 1 request. Open Doors started with smuggling Bibles and now it involves whatever is needed.
We have 40 staff in the US and over 400 staff worldwide, some who don’t know they are working with us since we often work in a clandestine manner in many of the countries. In one well-known country, I met a person from one organization who said, “It is great to meet you, we thought we had been working for the CIA.”
Question: How many areas in the world include the “Persecuted Church?”
Dr. Moeller: We publish an annual World Watch List that reveals the most difficult places for Christians to live.
There are over 50 high-risk countries on our list and 35 are Muslim-background countries. In terms of intensity of persecution, North Korea is at the top of the list. It has been No. 1 for eight years in a row.
We work with both emerging and traditional churches in these countries. For example in China, we come along side both the government-recognized Three Self Church and the underground or house churches.
Question: What are some things happening here at the Lausanne Congress this week that are encouraging you in regards to the Persecuted Church?
Dr. Moeller: In all the sessions, in one way or another, people are saying, “We are in solidarity; we are standing with them. The Persecuted Church is on the frontlines of the Gospel.”
The folks here at Lausanne – they get it. Back home I am beating my head against the wall trying to get the American Church to realize the importance of learning from the Persecuted Church by simply opening our ears and eyes.”
Question: In what ways does the Persecuted Church play a role in the “Great Commission?”
Dr. Moeller: “I think that we should all be persecuted for our faith. That is the normal Christian life. Western Christians often create a dichotomy between faith and a safe, comfortable lifestyle. This is not normal for Christianity. Jesus wasn’t kidding around when he said, ‘Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you..Rejoice and be glad, for you reward is great in heaven..”‘Matthew 5:11-12
The Persecuted Church around the world has received blessings from God that can teach us how to change the world. Their testimonies and stories are a great gift to the Church. When the young woman from North Korea spoke earlier this week, she translated her experience and empowered us when she spoke of her family’s suffering as her voice cracked. The early church was persecuted and attacked; yet, it spread through those difficulties.
We oppose persecution but God uses it to purify and grow His church. Jesus said, “You will be persecuted,” the question is what do we see or experience in our lives today that will allow us to really believe what Jesus said about persecution. Brother Andrew used to say, “If no one is trying to shoot at you, you have to ask yourself, are you worth a bullet?” If we do not embrace that, then the message is lost. We often fail to recognize that it is the suffering of the saints that builds the church and does not destroy the church.
Question: What are some practical ways that individuals and churches can get involved in the ministry to support the Persecuted Church?
Dr. Moeller: Number one, they can pray. That is our number one request. When you pray, ask God to bless those who are suffering physically or mentally for Jesus around the world.
Number two is to remember that the Persecuted Church is also praying. Praying for what it needs to survive. We can complete the cycle by not only praying but also providing what they need.