by Kent Parks
Jesus tells us in Matthew 24 that life will get worse with all kinds of natural and human disasters. People will be handed over to be persecuted, hated by all ethne, and even put to death–because of Jesus. Many will turn away from faith in Jesus and betray and hate each other. Due to this overall increase in wickedness, the love of most believers will grow cold. Not a nice picture, eh!?
He then says, “AND in the middle of all of that mess” (rather than saying BUT or “in spite of”), two related things will happen: 1) he/she who stands firm to the end will be saved; and 2) this Good News of the kingdom will be shared publically in the whole world as a witness/testimony to all ethne, and then the end will come!
In other words, all people groups will be given the “Jesus option” before the end comes in the middle of all the turmoil, not in spite of it.
Waves of persecution have happened throughout history. They are nothing new. Two main responses have occurred: 1) believers get upset and surprised when it happens and tend to advise each other to lie low so maybe they will not be targeted; and, 2) some believers become wisely bold and still innocent and pure in motivation. This latter group have discipled many during these periods, though often at great cost.
In the mid-1980s, about half of the mission force from all organizations in Indonesia were kicked out of the country. Many who remained or who had just arrived realized a new urgency and took bold new steps to make disciples. Today, in several major countries, workers are under severe government scrutiny or getting kicked out. What will be the correct response: will we succumb to missiological myths or follow biblical patterns?
Myth 1: The safest place in the world is in the center of God’s will.
Many interpret this to mean physical safety: that, if one is faithful, one will not suffer or certainly not die. Another version is “Mission can be done in a safe way if we are careful enough.”
Biblical Pattern–We will suffer while in the center of God’s will: Jesus was in the complete center of God’s will – and He was killed. In fact, He knew he would be killed and He risked His life willingly. See 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 where Paul and his team were under pressure beyond what they could endure, despaired to the point they felt like their death sentence had been passed – but in that terrible situation, learned to depend on God.
“Let’s be real. Suffering for Jesus will cause real pain, grief, despair, injustice tragedy, etc. Let’s be “real-er.” All is worth it when we see reproducing disciples arise.”
Myth 2: If we are careful with our identity,
have a good business platform, avoid “missionary” identity, use very good electronic security measures, etc., the governments and religious authorities of the world will let us continue to work and we might be effective.
Biblical Pattern—Being bold witnesses even when watched by the authorities: People already know who we are and are watching us – so we might as well be wisely public. We want to be wise (and not get persecuted for being stupid), but we must not allow the powers of this world to convince us we must lie so low! No one who is so careful has been known to catalyze a movement to make disciples.
We are told “when (not if) we are called before … the authorities” we should not worry about how to defend ourselves or what to say because the Spirit will teach us at that time what to say! (Luke 12:11-12).
Not only are we to continue to share under the threat of death, we are to rejoice when we are found worthy to be disgraced for Jesus. In Acts 5:27-29: “The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,’ he said. ‘Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.’ Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!'”
The authorities were furious and decided to put them to death. Gamaliel convinced them not to kill them, so they just flogged them (!) and again commanded them not to talk about Jesus. And did they stop!? Not a bit. They never stopped teaching. They taught day by day. They did it publicly in the temple courts and household to household. They rejoiced, they were counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the Name (Acts 5: 40-42)!
Myth 3: We, the outsiders, can escape suffering.
if we are careful enough, and still effectively help our local partners learn that they must be prepared for suffering
Biblical Pattern—Modeling willingness to suffer for Jesus is essential: We are rightly concerned when groups we help start do not multiply. Often, a reason given is that everyone in the culture is suspicious of others and also hesitant to make disciples. Could another reason be that we are not modeling a willingness to risk arrest and suffering for the sake of the Gospel?
Let’s be willing and bold to risk in genuine humility: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Myth 4: We will not be able to launch a movement unless we live in the culture.
Biblical Pattern–Mission Catalysts must be willing to be on the move: While it is valuable to live in and among our focus people, God often calls for His apostles (another term for movement catalysts) to be in an area for a while, stay in contact, but keep moving. Paul and his team were only in a key province about two years (Acts 19:10) and then were led to keep moving. Many “non-residential” missionaries (a pioneering term for what we might now call movement catalysts) have been used of God to catalyze movements from nearby cultures or locations.
About the Author: Kent Parks is President and CEO of BEYOND. Kent and his wife Erika worked among Muslims in Asia for 20 years. They regularly lead church planting movement trainings around the world. He also equips people to better understand mission strategy, and biblical theology of missions.