In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Romans 4:18-21
“…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19
This is the next in this series of posts for church leaders about a “Gospel Centered Worldview”, and how we must lead God’s people from that frame of reference. Today, we look at how that worldview informs our perspective on the future of the church.
Maybe you heard, ISIS is killing Christians. Social media has raised much awareness of it (which, by the way, is perhaps furthering the terrorist’s agenda more than our own agenda). But, in case your own Facebook page is not exploding with those images and stories, I recommend your checking out (and supporting) Voice of the Martyrs, a ministry which does an amazing job of helping us know how we can be praying for the persecuted church all around the world. I also strongly recommend Nik Ripken’s The Insanity of God for a deeper understanding of the spiritual privilege of being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. All the stories and images of Christian persecution around the world raise important questions for those of us who are NOT being persecuted…questions about how we are to respond, and about how we are to be leading others to respond.
Of course, prayer is the first response…intentional, informed, transformational prayer. And raising awareness is a right response as well. But if we are leading from within a Gospel-Centered Worldview, one response that will never be right is fear. Likewise, it would be the worst of Christian leadership to lead our people toward a response of fear. “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7 Here’s why…
As Christ-followers and as students of His Word, we know how the story of this world ends. We also know the promises of God where his church is concerned: I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. As a people of faith, we rest on the promises of God, knowing full well that they will all come to fruition in His time. Even in the face of circumstances which may otherwise lend doubt, we believe. We are children of Abraham, who rested secure in God’s promise to him that he would father a nation. His 100-year-old body and his wife’s barren womb did not phase him. He just kept his faith, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
As leaders of God’s people, therefore, we should not be spreading fear, but rather, we should be a non-anxious presence, building faith and growing a fearless people. Fearlessness, by the way, is a very different thing from anger. Anger is just another form of fear, a manifestation of fear, if you will. In response to increasing persecution of the church, our leadership should be calm and courageous and assuring. Raise awareness of the persecution, sure, but in order to build faith, not to spread fear. The problem, of course, is that those two things (raising awareness to build faith versus spreading fear) often look the same. The only difference, it seems, is our motive…our heart.
So, today I am asking you to check your heart with regard to your response to ISIS and other similar examples of Christian persecution. What do you find there? If it is fear, then go back to God’s promises about his church and rethink your response. If, on the other hand, it is a peaceful assuredness that God is still on His throne and in control and intent on fulfilling His promises, then lead on, my friend. Lead on!