Travel with me for a moment in future time to late December 2099. The gavel comes down, and the 37th state of the United States legally votes to dissolve its state constitution and supplant it with a modified version of Sharia law. Minaret towers cry out around the state on the Friday noon prayer time to celebrate.
Preposterous or highly unlikely, you say? The city council of Irving, Texas, recently dealt with such a proposal on the municipal level. Today, ISIS in the Middle East, Nigeria’s Boko Haram, and Ethiopia’s Al-Shebab, among others, generate crises that are footnote scrolls to our cable news. Horrible incidents of violence and rampage that are deadly, real daily events in their streets today are aiming to come to a city near you tomorrow.
In those places, Christianity is not a fashion show or a social event; it’s life or death. Could today’s North American church endure as a faithful witness in such contexts, or would typical churches burn out on entry into the atmosphere of intense martyrdom? The narcissistic condition of the church in America poises us to not bode well in such a day as that.
Our fascination with super-sized everything, including churches, creates a spotlight mentality. Whatever gimmick or new trick that will draw people in makes leaders run for the lights, and often, the biblical Gospel is sacrificed on the alter of popularity. Drawing people in is one thing; having a super-sized audience that is not told about sin’s solution through the death, burial and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ is nigh unto a sin itself. This leads me to ask, “Can a micro-church (20-30 members) have macro-church (thousands gathered or viewing) levels of witness and influence in contexts of violence and persecution? And conversely, can a macro-church lower itself to a micro-church range of influence in contexts of power and prosperity?” I think so.
Let me illustrate. Recently, I had a Nigerian student who dodged night Boko-Haram marauders who had just days prior dragged one of his church members out into the street, doused him with gasoline, and set him alight for the criminal act of professing Christ as Lord. This student’s wife remained in their city with other believers while he escaped with their children to get them down south to the safe keeping of family members. He then raced back by road to get home to his wife in time to hold scheduled Sunday services. They opened the doors and windows and sang hymns of the faith with zest, as if to say to the Boko-Haram, “Christ is here, come taste and see!” Just a few weeks prior, local churches in our area here called off services for a football game. Radical Islam couldn’t frighten the Nigerians from holding church; all we need is a Super Bowl.
It seems in such settings where believers are faithful witnesses to the very end that we shouldn’t count them; instead, we should weigh them on a Kingdom value scale. Selfless sacrificial witness to the Gospel accompanied by personal holiness generates the Christian character needed for churches to be prepared if such a 2099 scenario comes. By joining Paul’s chorus, heralded while chained in a Roman prison, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain,” we show core convictions for Christ that endure through to the end. Otherwise, “imagine global Islam.”