By Ronald E. Keener
It was July 4 and I had returned that day from a Christian conference to find in my mail the monthly publication of the Voice of the Martyrs. It seemed providential, for just two days earlier I witnessed the inspiring message of Dr. Ajai Lall (pictured below right) of the Central India Christian Mission, which has 500 full-time workers and has planted 600 churches in central and northern India and in other countries.
The headline on the cover of the VOM magazine read: “Christians make it happen,” and so they do in India and hundreds of other points in this world. And at great personal risk. To say it mildly, Dr. Lall’s life is in jeopardy daily when he travels in Hindu and Muslim countries, even in his own country.
Dr. Lall is indeed “Living Dangerously,” the theme of the North American Christian Convention in July in Cincinnati, where some 6,000 church leaders and teens gathered.
In 2002 there was an Advertising Council public service spot, a part of its Campaign for Freedom, which showed a pastor giving the benediction to a few worshippers. The service broke up and the next scene was of those people furtively emerging from an outside basement door, looking anxiously left and right, the pastor saying, “Please be careful going home,” with the closing tagline: “What if America wasn’t America?”
The stakes are higher for Dr. Lall and church workers and missionaries around the world in the cause of Christ. Even in this country there is an increasing tension on religious freedom and expression evident in subtle ways. It’s the “frog in boiling water” story we’ve all heard.
We become so engaged in our grand physical plants, in the finance and HR and legal and strategic planning and small groups and multi-sites and stewardship efforts of our churches. These administrative and program areas are important — if they are balanced with strong missions efforts and evangelism outreach.
Our July issue carried stories that said Christians weren’t doing well in either of those two categories. When it comes to our sharing of monies, “missions is not a great priority” in the U.S., said John and Sylvia Ronsvalle. Martha Grace Reese and Mark Mittelberg are of one voice in saying “we are not winning the evangelism battle.” [Turn to page 12 for comment by the Ronsvalles on a more recent report on charitable and religious giving in the U.S.]
Holding the audience’s rapt attention at the NACC — “the North American,” as it is called — Dr. Lall was both confronting and reassuring: “This persecution is real, our brothers and sisters are going through this, but the great thing is that they are not compromising, they are living dangerously and they are proclaiming. Wherever Christians are standing courageously and living dangerously, the church of Jesus Christ is growing by thousands and thousands every month.
“It is not enough to show our love and concern to those who are being persecuted, but we must show our love and concern to those who persecute them if we want to live the life that Jesus wants us to live. If you and I want to become ‘Christian extremists,’ then Jesus expects us to have that love.
“America, be prepared to face persecution,” he challenged, “with a heart that knows no fear.” With the relative freedom in this country, he urged Americans “to take advantage of the freedom you have, take a stand on the biblical issues, move ahead with what you believe, take a stand for Jesus Christ.
“The day may be coming when you wake up and you don’t find that freedom. But no matter what comes, we must not fear.”
He notes that what he sees in his travel throughout America concerns him.
“People say they are afraid, we don’t know who’s going to become our next president. We don’t know what would happen if oil prices continue to go up. We don’t know what will happen if our economy gets weaker and we’re affected negatively.”
He comments on the growing influence of Hinduism and Islam in this country as new temples and mosques are raised.
“My brothers and sisters, as Christians, as warriors of our Lord Jesus Christ, as soldiers of the cross, we must remember that God is in control, we must remember that we will be victorious, we must remember that whatever happens, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is going to grow under persecution and we will stand victorious.”
Powerful words, powerfully delivered. There’s much work to be done — and support to be given. The persecuted church is real enough.
What can each of us do, in our everyday lives, to “live dangerously”? After all, it’s Christians who “make it happen.”
Contact 888-CATAPES for a CD or DVD of Dr. Lall’s full presentation.