Why the Mark Driscoll Deal Is Not a Big Deal


As we crowded into the square area designated as the living room, our group of Christian believers talked mostly of our families and of news and events in the Christian world. This was a reunion of sorts, as the people gathered here had not been together in one place for more than a year. It was, in so many ways, a sweet remembrance of shared lives.

Persecution big deal for ChristiansThe conversation only enhanced the sweetness of the hour, but the conversation wasn’t always sweet. The route the conversation took back to sweetness traversed a crooked trail. Our first conversation centered on the trending events of social media. Immediately, we discussed Mark Driscoll and Acts 29. Why? Because that is what everyone in the evangelical world was talking about.

One of the young women in the room had been stuck unexpectedly in an office with nothing to do, so she had spent the day before reading all the articles related to the Driscoll “controversy.” She reported that the controversy did not seem as major as Tweets and Facebook posts made it sound. Another young woman agreed and particularly lamented the lack of detail that accompanied most of the articles she had read. She mentioned a particular article from a Christian magazine which linked to accusations and commentary, but did not link to the actual statements from Acts 29.

The more we talked, the more realized that we were talking about very little. In fact, the group agreed unanimously that we, too, had become guilty of tabloid Christianity. We fell prey to the titillation of scandal. One of our “stars” was falling. Speculations of the fallout were morbidly thrilling to our minds. Then we came to our senses. We realized that Mark Driscoll—even in this current flurry of news—is not a big deal.

Our attention turned at that point to some of the stories in Christianity which are—or should be—really big deals:Christian persecution Mosul Iraq

Men, women, and children are being beheaded on sight if ISIS believes they are Christian.

In Nigeria, more than 2,000 women have become widows because their husbands loved Jesus Christ unto death.

One Somali Christian couple fled persecution and oppression in their homeland. They ended up in a refugee center in Kenya, where they were found by Islamists who shot them several times, leaving them for dead.

More than 1,500 Christians have been slaughtered mercilessly in Homs (Syria).

All over the world, Christians are persecuted severely.

As our little fellowship scanned the Christian world scene, we concluded that the stories which fill our Twitter feeds and satisfy our need for a social buzz are not necessarily the same stories that deeply burden heaven. The saints around the throne, we are told, cry day and night, “How long, O, Lord!,” in an urgent expectation of Jesus returning to avenge the blood of his saints.

So, if we take our cue from the New Testament, we will remember to join heaven both in our rejoicing when sinners repent (Luke 15:10) and in our crying for justice when saints are oppressed (Revelation 6:10) . With all due respect to Mark Driscoll and other stars who stumble, we have much bigger issues to occupy our time and our Twitter feeds. Let us pray for our leaders when they are leading and when they are stumbling. Let us pray for the ones whose stories briefly capture our imagination. But, by all means, let us remember our brothers and sisters who are ill-treated since we ourselves are in the body.

Persecution Update from the Fall 2012


Church Icon at St Polycarp's Roman Catholic Ch...

Church Icon at St Polycarp’s Roman Catholic Church depicting Polycarp miraculously extinguishing fire of the city of Smyrna (Izmir, Turkey). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

2 Timothy 3:12, Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 

 

Given the fact that God promises persecution to all Christians, it should be no surprise to us that Christians are routinely attacked around the world. The Assyrian International News Agency has chronicled by country some of the more intense situations of persecution from the fall of 2012. You can see their whole list on their website, but I have pasted a partial list below:

 

KenyaA grenade was thrown into the Sunday school building of St. Polycarp Anglican Church, blowing off the roof, killing one boy and injuring eight other children attending Sunday school, including some requiring surgery. The attack came soon after a Somali member of the Islamic terrorist organization Al Shabab, who had earlier targeted four other churches, was sentenced to prison after he confessed to planning attacks on Parliament. According to the mother of one of the children, “We are in Eastleigh [a region with a large Somali population]. Many Christians, including myself, thought that something might happen. Every week we’d wonder ‘What if it’s this Sunday?’ But we’d still go to church.” Likewise, a parliament member said, “The life of an innocent child has been taken and others have been cruelly injured and traumatised in what should be the safest of places. The sanctity of life has been heartlessly breached in a sanctified place. Such acts seem to be designed to spark civil unrest and intimidate the Christian church. In the face of such an outrage we ask, with the prophet Habakkuk, ‘O Lord, how long?’ and let us trust that God in his mercy will bring justice and relief as we cry out to him.”

 

Nigeria: Thousands of Christians continue to flee northern areas of Nigeria, which are predominantly Muslim, and where the jihadi organization Boko Haram holds sway, after a renewed spate of church attacks. An Islamic suicide bomber rammed an SUV loaded with explosives into St. Rita Catholic Church holding Sunday Mass killing eight people and wounding more than 100. One “journalist saw the bodies of four worshippers lying on the floor of the church after the blast, surrounded by broken glass. The body of the suicide bomber had been blasted into nearby rubble.” The church building was devastated and charred black. Also, the Church of Brethren was raided by Islamic gunmen who killed at least two people and set the church ablaze. Many churches are shutting down in fear of further attacks.

 

Pakistan: The Catholic Church of St. Francis, the oldest of the archdiocese of Karachi, was attacked by a Muslim mob of 600, who destroyed property but did not manage to break through the front door. According to a priest: “Fr. Victor had just finished celebrating a wedding, when he heard noises and shouting from the compound of the church. Immediately all the faithful, women and children were sent to the parish house. The radicals, shouting against the Christians, broke into the building and started devastating everything: cars, bikes, vases of flowers. They broke an aedicule and took the statue of the Madonna. They tried to force the door of the church, throwing stones at the church and destroying the windows.” Police arrived an hour later, giving the terrorists plenty of time to wreak havoc. The Archbishop of Karachi lamented that “the church of San Francesco has always served the poor with a school and a medical clinic run by nuns. For nearly 80 years it carries out a humble service to humanity without any discrimination of caste, ethnicity or religion. Why these acts? Why are we not safe? 

 

Syria: Two churches were attacked. One bomb was detonated near the historical gate of Bab Touma (“Thomas’ Doorway”) which is largely populated by the nation’s Christian minority. The bomb exploded as people were going to their churches for Sunday Mass; up to 10 people were killed. “Terrorists are doing this,” said George, a Christian who, like many residents in Bab Touma, lives in fear of the rebel fighters trying to gain control of the capital. Another car bomb exploded in front of the only Syrian Orthodox Church in the town of Deir Ezzor, currently under opposition control. Five people near the church were killed. In September the same church was desecrated and vandalized by armed gangs.

 

 

What Can We Learn from Kenyan Kids?


As adults, we are in the proper habit of assuming that our role is to teach kids rather than to learn from them. This habit is indeed proper because kindergarten would be chaos if the kids ruled the classroom. High school kids would produce only slightly less chaos (or maybe even more). No doubt, children need adults to teach them.

There are times, however, when children—in their innocence and naiveté—have something to teach us in return. Being conditioned (and sometimes hardened) by the grim

Nairobi Kenya Christian persecution st. polycarp grenade John Maina

Nairobi, Kenya
(Public Domain)

realities of living in a world in which sin as abundant as oxygen, we adults often retreat to safety, abandoning our ideals and principles. Sometimes, a kid needs to remind us of what we believe.

Such was the case recently in Kenya. As we have seen over this past year, Africa has been a continent rife with persecution, oppression, and murder. Obviously, Muslim terrorists hope to keep Christians (and other non-Muslims) living in fear.  Churches in Kenya have been living with the daily anxiety of asking, “Will our church be next?”  Sally Gatei of St. Polycarp Anglican Church in Nairobi explains,

“We are in Eastleigh,” the area of Nairobi well-known for its largely Somali population.  Many Christians, including myself, thought that something might happen. Every week we’d wonder ‘What if it’s this Sunday?’ But we’d still go to church.”

On September 30, Gaei’s fears came true. She was sitting in a children’s Sunday school class when Muslim terrorists launched a hand grenade into the group of children. A little boy, John Maina, had turned 9 the day before the explosion. It was his last birthday. His father (who is in a wheelchair recovering from a stroke) tells the story,

“John had celebrated his birthday only the day before. He’d asked for two cakes, one to share with friends after church on Sunday. That never happened. My son wheeled me to the church service, then left for Sunday school,” lamented Patrick.

Understandably, the church was devastated after the attack. Many other children were hurt by the blast. The church building suffered great damage as well. As a result, church officials were on the verge of canceling services the following week. But the children spoke up.  Gatei says,

“The most amazing thing, though, is that, although we thought we should cancel Sunday school the next Sunday, most children insisted we should meet as usual, even though the room had not yet been repaired!”

Here is a great case of the simplicity of child-like faith leading a church to faithfulness over her fears.  Psalm 8:2 says, “From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength because of Your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease.”  Jesus would later quote this passage to a group of Pharisees—wise, religious leaders, who failed to understand why children were praising the arrival of Jesus at the temple (Matthew 21:16).

There are times when children instinctively understand what is praiseworthy and what is right.  In Nairobi, Kenya, the kids have strengthened the church and kept her faithful through an admittedly fearful time. Let’s hear it for the kids! As Jesus once said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

I would say kids at St. Polycarp in Nairobi, Kenya, have made His point.

Reality in Kenya


[From Barnabas Fund]

Kenyan Christians abducted, tortured and raped

Six Christian missionaries have been found alive but traumatized after suffering three days of unimaginable torture in Kenya.

Three men including Mr. Y, the leader of a group of Kenyan missionaries supported by Barnabas, had travelled to Nairobi on the morning of Wednesday September 15, to help three Christian women to move out of their apartment to a safer location. The three men arrived safely, but when Mr. Y’s wife called them later that day, she could not get an answer. By 9pm she began to realize something serious must have happened. Going to Nairobi, she found the apartment door unlocked but no trace of the missionaries.

The police began an investigation and at 4am on September 18, the group were found – dumped at the side of a main road. They all had their eyes and mouths tightly sealed with tape, and their legs and arms were bound, but they were all alive. The three women had been systematically raped and were deeply traumatized; still suffering from shock, they were not even able to talk. At the hospital they were given drugs to reduce the risk of their contracting AIDS. They will remain in hospital for two weeks of comprehensive care to help them recover from the physical, psychological and emotional distress.

The three men had been tortured and their bodies were covered in bruises; one man needs treatment for a dislocated shoulder after he was thrown “like luggage” into a truck. The men will remain in hospital for five days to receive counseling. But Mr. Y’s wife said, “No matter the agony, they praised the Lord.”

Early in the ordeal, the Muslim men asked one of the women, “Who’s the savior of this world?” When she boldly answered, “Jesus Christ is the Savior,” they slapped and spat at her and shouted “You’re wrong, you prostitute, it’s Osama who’s the savior.” When the group was finally released, they were told, “You’re lucky … we’re directed to free you. We could have killed you this night. Maybe your Jesus saves you. But warning … stop leading Muslims astray with your corrupt Bible. Nobody shall be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.”

Kenya has a strong Church, yet Christians face challenging opposition, and the situation of converts and women can be particularly difficult. In July, 18 converts from Islam met on a secluded beach to be baptized by Mr. Y and his team, when they were suddenly attacked by a crowd of around 100 Muslim men who beat them with pipes and wooden clubs. Five had to be hospitalized for several days, including a woman who had been beaten unconscious and a man with a broken arm.

Barnabas Aid is covering the hospital fees of the missionaries and converts involved in both these incidents.

Please pray

  • Thank the Lord that the missionaries have been returned to their families. Continue to pray for healing and peace following this terrible trauma.
  • Pray that the perpetrators in both incidents will come to know the truth that will set them free.
  • Pray for Christians in Kenya, as they face opposition and attacks. Pray that they may have courage to continue in their Christian walk and not give up.

Give today

If you would like to donate to help our Christian brothers and sisters in Kenya please send your donation to project 00-345 (Victims of Violence Fund). Please click to donate online using our secure server.

If you prefer to telephone, please call 1 866 936 2525 or 703 288 1681. Please quote project reference 00-345 (Victims of Violence Fund).

If you prefer to send a check by post: Click this link for the address of our regional office. Please quote project reference 00-345 (Victims of Violence Fund).