5 Major Challenges for Mission Agencies. 4. Persecution and the “War on Terror”

Posted: February 16, 2013 in Missions
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Neither persecution nor terror is a new challenge for the church. After all, 1800 years ago, Tertullian claimed that the blood of the martyrs is seed of the church. And it still is. David Garrison, in his book Church Planting Movements, identified the high cost for following Christ – as seen in persecution and martyrdom – as a factor present in most church planting movements (224). Persecution is still a fact of life for many (most?) Christians around the world, and will remain so until Christ returns.
The war on terror isn’t new, either. Ask an Israeli, a Londoner who lived during the height of the IRA bombings, or a current resident of northern Mexico. But the fact that the majority of mission agencies are based in the “Great Satan,” in addition to the prejudice that many Americans have toward Islamic peoples and countries, produces a tension that directly affects the work of those same agencies. Even if the missionary is not serving in a Muslim country, the threat of a terrorist act remains, and the prejudice she encounters when she returns to the United States can sometimes look like a xenophobic reaction against all non-Westerners and immigrants.
The tension is heightened when we understand our citizenship is not in this world. This concept is easier for those who live and work cross-culturally – to such a degree that we are sometimes seen as non-patriotic by our fellow Americans. It’s also made tougher when we begin to see our call as one that consumes our life, is worthy of martyrdom, and challenges us to sacrifice and suffering. When that happens, it’s as if we are speaking a foreign language for many of our fellow Christians in the West.
But, that’s the tension we missionaries face, and our mission agencies as well. The agencies are in the position of encouraging people to serve, invest their lives, and go boldly. But they also are faced with the responsibility of caring for those same people, evacuating and counseling them when all hell breaks loose, and reassuring their friends and family members that it will be ok.
We who share kingdom values recognize the inestimable worth of the martyr. Yet – I can’t honestly confess that I want to be one, and I’m hoping that my international ministry director would rather I didn’t become one as well. However . . . if that’s what it takes . . . we long to be able to say, “Not my will, but yours, Lord.”

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