Ready to Die

It was merely an “aside,” and definitely not inserted into the conversation for the purpose of garnering personal attention. But now, 25 years later, a pastor’s brief comment continues to echo in the caverns of my heart.

SNSU14_CV1_webThe large gathering of believers in that East Asian city had already provided overwhelming evidence that a national leader’s boast of having eradicated the Christian faith was far from true. This church, like thousands of other sister churches, was thriving in an atmosphere of persecution and oppression.  Just as I finished preaching through an interpreter to an attentive congregation, the pastor stood to utter a few words.  In short order and to my amazement over half of the congregation stood and silently exited the building. I was perplexed, thinking perhaps I had said or done something offensive.

Click here to read more articles on the gospel reaching China in the latest issue of Southwestern News magazine.

“Oh, those people,” commented the pastor in an offhand fashion. “They are not yet ready to die.”

He then explained that he had simply announced that it was now time for the congregation to observe the Lord’s Table. “As you know,” he continued, “those who qualify for coming to the table will have already observed the ordinance of baptism. In our community such an open profession of faith often marks one out for official attention and questioning. Those people who just left us actually love us.  They enjoy the worship and appreciate the preaching. It’s just that they are not yet willing to be baptized. They are not yet ready to die.” Then came the aside for which I was unprepared.

“I spent eleven years is prison following my baptism.”

 East Asia is home to one of the most remarkable expansions of the church in all history. It is estimated that there are already more believers in East Asia than in all of Western Europe. Some are convinced that in a few short years there will be more Christ followers in East Asia than in the United States. But such a movement has not been without its price. Stories abound of the persecution and oppression that became the garden in which the East Asian churches were planted.

What will it take to fulfill the Great Commission? The answer is simple: We must have a generation that is ready to die. It will be a generation of believers who, like my East Asian pastor and brother, consider no price too great for the privilege of following Christ, not even spending eleven years in prison following baptism.

It is time we each grasped the full significance of Paul’s declaration, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). Once we embrace the truth that, living or dying, we are the Lord’s, mere inconveniences like spending eleven years in prison become no impediment to our full surrender. We are ready both to live and to die for the Gospel’s sake.

Click here to read more articles on the gospel reaching China in the latest issue of Southwestern News magazine.

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This article first appeared as the Last Word in the summer 2014 issue of Southwestern News magazine. Read the magazine online here. If you’d like to receive the print version of the magazine for free, email your address to communications@swbts.edu.

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