With icy roads, howling winds, and plunging temperatures, many preachers are amazed when the church fills up on Sunday morning. You’ve got to really want to go to church to brave the kind of weather we’ve been experiencing.
But then again, people having been putting up with hardship for years in order to go to church. In Communist Russia (remember that?), people endured the threat of imprisonment in order to go to church. The sixteenth century Anabaptists had to meet in secrecy in caves and barns to avoid being burned at the stake for going to church. I guess they had to really want to go to church, too.
Then there is the early church - the one that began in Jerusalem forty days after Jesus returned to heaven. Those people had to really want to go to church. For them, going to church meant being rejected by their families, being pursued by the temple police and in the case of a man named Stephen, even being stoned to death. The Bible tells us that when Stephen was killed, ". . . A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem, and all the believers except the apostles fled into Judea and Samaria." (Acts 8:1b) Those people had to really want to go to church.
But persecution isn’t a thing of the past. As you and I gathered round our Christmas trees last month, Christians around the world were being locked up for celebrating the birth of Christ. Believers in China, Israel, Indonesia, and Eritrea were arrested.
After leading his village congregation in a Christmas service on December 22 in the Asian nation of Laos, Pastor Aroun Voraphom was tortured and his throat slashed before his family found his lifeless body in a creek, according to Christian Aid. The government claims it was a robbery, but that assertion remains highly disputed.
The more I think about what some Christians the world over endure, the more absurd staying home on Sunday to avoid the weather seems.
George Barna writes that the true measure of whether or not a church is able to grow is it’s members’ willingness to be inconvenienced. He's right. The Church is spreading like wildfire in nations where believers are persecuted. I wonder, will the church in America continue to grow when we're merely inconvenienced?
For more information on the persecution of Christians, including more details on the incidents above, see The Voice of the Martyrs Website.