This week I had a two day training with group of church planters that I will be investing a lot of time in through the end of the year. This is a solid group of men that were trained broadly this summer and have proven faithful in making disciples as they work towards forming new churches. The first day of the training I spent some time doing pastoral care as these men opened their hearts to me in all that has happened to them over the past couple of months.
There are many good things to rejoice over, such as over twenty new followers of Jesus that have been baptized and are now being discipled. There is at least one new church start and two more fellowships that are moving towards church. These guys are a solid group that have a vision of seeing their village, district, and state changed by the gospel through the planting of healthy reproducing churches that will hopefully spark a church planting movement.
At the same time this group has faced many hardships and persecution along with spiritual warfare over these past couple of months. In my pastoral care I reminded them that we are at war and our enemy does not like what we are doing. We looked at Scripture together to remember that persecution is normal, although we never seek it, and that often times when persecution does come it is a sign that something great is about to happen as the church typically flourishes in an environment of persecution.
Doing pastoral care to a group of church planters that have faced some of the situations they have faced is one of the more difficult things for me to do. I recognize up front and told them that I have never faced these forms of persecution and likely will not. One guy was threatened to leave the area he was sharing the gospel or the villagers would cut his head off. Two new believers have denied their faith: one due to the threat from his wife that she would poison him otherwise; the other women was threatened to be kicked out of her family, left homeless and jobless. Another guys wife is under constant verbal abuse from his parents as they live in a joint home. And the stories could continue as these are just a few examples that come to mind.
As these church planters and pastors shared these stories with me they all looked up at me and said, "What should we do?" Now, I have never experienced any of the hardships that they have faced, but I started by asking is Christ worth it? They all readily in a very charismatic way said, "YES, PRAISE THE LORD!" So, then we took some time to look at what it means to suffer as a Christian in 1 Peter 4:12-19:
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory[a] and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”[b] 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
I share this with you to remind you that no matter where you live in the world you will likely at some point suffer for being a Christian. I also share this with you to ask if you are in Christ yourself that you would take some time this weekend to pray for this group of church planters that are facing much more difficult circumstances for their faith than you likely are. As I reminded them, we never seek this suffering, but we should rejoice when we do suffer for we know that we are sharing in the suffering of Christ and know that Christ is indeed worth it!