Monday, February 6, 2012

Perspective Regarding Persecution

Persecute - to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; specifically : to cause to suffer because of belief.

The above video is comprised of clips from a much longer open-air. The location: the southwest corner of Meridian Street and Washington Street, in downtown Indianapolis, IN. The date: Saturday, February 4, 2012. The occasion: the Super Bowl Outreach, for Super Bowl XLVI.

I was blessed to participate in this year's Super Bowl Outreach, organized by Sports Fan Outreach International, which is very well-led by Bill Adams. Eddie Roman and Brad Snow, from Living Waters, joined me on the trip. I was further blessed to be given the opportunity to speak to the 110 evangelists who had gathered for the outreach.

Eddie, Brad, and I spent a total of twenty-two hours on the streets of downtown Indianapolis distributing tracts, engaging people in conversation, and heralding the gospel in the open-air with some of the most faithful evangelists in North America.

Saturday night was wild. Drunkenness and other forms of depravity were rampant in the massive crowd. And the later it got in the evening, the more depraved the behavior of the people became. Some of what we saw and heard would be inappropriate to post, here. And the idolatry. The worship of man and matter was palpable among the fanatic throng. The intensity of the situation in which we found ourselves preaching is evidenced in the video by my brothers standing in front of me to provide a human shield from the crowd.

At one point in the video, you will see me turn to look behind me, call out to a person, and cite Matthew 10:28. I had just been hit in the back of the head with a small rock or dirt clod. Shortly thereafter, I am stuck in the face with a large, wrapped burrito.

I was dazed for a moment (it's not every day one gets hit in the face with a burrito while preaching). Once I regained my balance and realized I wasn't injured, I continued preaching. My first thoughts when I finished preaching were of the persecuted church around the world and, sadly, the lethargy and apathy of far-too-many segments of the American church.

While I was harassed and physically assaulted for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, I struggle to call what I experienced that night "persecution"--especially when I am aware of brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who have and will suffer so much more than I did on a cold, rainy night in Indianapolis.

Some will make much of the above video, while others will mock. I will watch the video and remember Christians who have been truly persecuted for their faith--martyrs like Pastor Manuel in Colombia, who was murdered by FARC guerrillas. I will watch it and remember martyrs like Graham Staines and his two young sons who were burned alive in their car as they slept, by a Hindu mob. And I will remember the untold number of former Muslims around the world--people like Ugandan Hassan Muwanguzi--who face real persecution every day of their lives for daring to convert from the false religion of Islam to genuine faith in Jesus Christ.

My hope is that Christians will watch the video and not be entertained. I hope Christians will watch the video and not think of me. I hope Christians will watch the video and think of their brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who are suffering and dying for refusing to deny Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And I hope Christians will watch the video and ask themselves: "What am I doing to further the gospel of Jesus Christ? Am I really willing to suffer for His name? Would I lay down my comfort, my reputation, even my life for the cause of Christ?"

What happened to me the other night does not make me worthy to be counted among the likes of the people mentioned above. But it did give me more perspective regarding persecution. And for that I am thankful to my Lord. SDG!