THE SCARY-LOOKING MAN entered the crowded Syrian church service carrying a small package. Squeezing through the hundreds of worshipers he made his way to the front of the sanctuary where he set the package down in front of the altar while the pastor preached. He then shouted, “Allahu Akbar!” Over and over again the scary man screamed “Allahu Akbar!” until about half the congregants fled the church in anticipation of yet another terrorist attack. Fearlessly, the pastor kept preaching expecting that at any moment the package was going to explode. It didn’t. The scary-looking man had just become a believer in Jesus Christ and didn’t yet know how to praise the Christian God. Instead of shouting “Hallelujah!” he praised Him in the only way he knew how: “Allahu Akbar!”
Tears welled up in my eyes as I listened to the testimonies of pastors who ministered in China, Pakistan and Syria at a conference sponsored by The Voice of the Martyrs, a ministry devoted to assisting the persecuted Christian Church around the world. This is a subject that most churches don’t talk about, much less pray about, even though more believers have been killed for their faith in Jesus in the last century, than in all other centuries combined after Christ was crucified.
“The persecution index is rising,” wrote Mindy Belz, for WORLD Magazine. “If someone launched a futures market based on Christian believers getting killed and took a ‘long’ position, they’d have a safe prospect of a return. Last year 1 in 9 Christians experienced serious persecution—a 14% increase over the previous year. Christians are enduring high levels of persecution in 73 countries. The freedom to believe is the first freedom, making possible all others for all people. Roughly 70% of the world’s Christians live without the right to worship freely. Many of us are the world’s 30%, rich with religious privilege.”
Perhaps this is the reason why it’s so hard for those who want to speak about Christian persecution to get booked into a local church. One spokesperson at the conference told me that he’ll call a pastor five or six times until he finally gets the hint. It’s easier to ignore the fact that believers suffer loss of life and limbs, get acid splashed in their faces, women get raped and children die while others are imprisoned with no hope of ever getting out—all because of their belief in a Messiah who saves sinners. The Bible says, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:3) That’s why tears welled in my eyes. I was reminded of how much religious freedom we have in America.
Pastor Bob Fu wrote a book called “God’s Double Agent,” his story about when he was a Chinese Communist government school teacher by day, and a Christian Pastor by night.
He shared an encouraging testimony about what God is doing in China: Despite the great persecution instituted by President-for-life Xi Jinping, the church continues to grow even though every church building is being destroyed, every cross removed, house churches scattered, and it is illegal for anyone under 18 to attend a service. He gave an amazing statistic: Currently, there are 100 million followers of Christ. By 2030, that number is expected to reach 235 million, making China the largest Christian nation in the world.
Pastor Fassel told this joke about how difficult it is to minister in Syria: An American, a Russian and a Syrian were in Hell together for eternity and each wanted to make a phone call to a loved one in the living world. The American and Russian asked how much it would cost? Satan replied, “$100 a minute.”
The American and the Russian exclaimed, “That is too expensive!“
The Syrian then asked how much it would be for him to make a call. “One cent a minute.” The Syrian asked why it was so cheap. “It’s a local call,” the devil replied.
Muslims are coming to Christ as a result of the horrible conditions in Syria. The churches are full. Many have had dreams and visions directing them to a Christian or a church who will explain to them the Gospel; then, they get saved.
This is also why I had tears in my eyes: God was working in difficult circumstances.
Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (Matthew 5:11)
Repeatedly, the common theme at the Conference was this: Persecuted Christians prayed for Revival to come to their countries. God answered by sending extreme persecution, bringing about a Revival. These overcoming, persevering believers would like Americans to know that they are also praying for Revival to come to America.
Are you ready?