This is a slightly edited email exchange I had in my files.To: Ted From: Pastor John Subject: Persecuted pastor
One of the pastors we support in a Muslim country has been arrested and charged with blasphemy against Muhammad. If found guilty, this is punishable by death.
As the new guy in charge of all global missions with our church… Well, I can organize prayer but I don’t know what else to encourage our staff and friends to do. So, any suggestions would be much appreciated.
To: John From: Ted Subject: RE: Persecuted pastor
My first thought to share with you is something you already know, but let me remind you of it. God is glorified when his saints are willing to suffer for Him. It’s His will for it to happen. Since we are so removed from suffering in the US, we often fail to see His providence in situations like these. Nobody loves this pastor more than the Lord!
I would be very careful with whom I shared this information. Thereare numerous organizations that work on behalf of the persecuted church. These organizations should not be contacted unless the pastor or his family specifically asks for it. Many times there is an “honor” issue involved. It is possible that they want to punish the pastor because they have lost face over something – not because of the facts of the case. If you involve the outside world, you actually work to build more “shame” into the situation making it impossible for them to back down.
On three or four occasions national pastors have implored me to publish the plight of their suffering people. I have done so, but only because the local church there asked for it.
Oftentimes in cases like these, there is a death penalty but it is intended to “set the bar very high” so that later on, when he is found guilty (as is almost always the case) the authorities can portray themselves as merciful and compassionate when they reduce the sentence. Rarely does it end up with the death penalty (although at times it does).
I would get my direction from the pastor’s family or at least the local church he serves. Since they are the locals on the ground they have a better sense of what has happened and what is going to happen. For all we know, this has been going on for some time. A sense of hopelessness might be what is behind the communication you are receiving. That’s when it is time to consider doing some sort of public communication about the pastor’s situation. Again, I would emphasize that you need to make sure the local believers want this.
Finally, this is a great time for prayer. I would develop a pseudonym for the pastor and put it out everywhere, asking people to pray. Obscure the details enough to protect pastor but give enough detail so that the prayers are meaningful to those who are making supplication.
The undeniable fact is that the church grows best when suffering servants obediently follow him. I personally would not pray that the suffering would cease but that His will be done. That may sound heartless and it goes against our human understanding of justice. However, the pastor may be right now experiencing the deepest and most meaningful moments of grace in his life. Ask the Lord to help you trust Him for the pastor’s situation. The sense of injustice you feel can be directed for His glory.
I hope this helps. I am going into prayer for this pastor this very moment!