Persecution and the Church: Past and Present

Greg Strand – January 29, 2016 Leave a comment

We no longer live in a culture that is heavily influenced by Christian values and mores. Many in the culture are becoming antagonistic to Christians.

This is not the first time Christians have experienced trials and persecution. To be sure, there are variations of persecutions, and there is a spectrum. What Christians in the west experience today is persecution, but it is nothing to what Christians in other countries face: martyrdom – death because they are Christians. Even though the history of the Christian church is littered with reminders of persecution, it is new to those Christians living now. There has been a significant shift culturally in the past 25 years.

But this is the climate in which the early Christians lived and in which the proclamation of the gospel spread, resulting in the transformation of lives. This is not a time to bemoan what is, or to expect what is not. Rather, it is to live in peace as we trust in and rest upon the Lord Jesus Christ as he has overcome the world, and it is to have hope in the midst of the tribulation. I think of Jesus’ words: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).

I include links to a few conferences held recently that address this important topic.

The first one I mention is the EFCA Theology Conference 2014 on the theme, Christian Faithfulness in a Changing Culture. This was an attempt to frame the issues related to our changing culture, and how we seek to live faithfully as Christians and as the church of Jesus Christ in this changing culture. Even though this conference was held in 2014, there has been much that has changed culturally since that time.

The second one is the Andrew Fuller Conference, held at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary last fall: Persecution and the Church. The topics include the following:

  • Persecution in Revelation (Tom Schreiner)
  • Persecution and Paul (Brian Vickers)
  • Roman Persecution of the Ancient Church (Bryan Litfin)
  • The Persecution of Anabaptists (Jason Duesing)
  • Baptists and Persecution in Virginia (Steve Weaver)
  • Communist Persecution of the Church, 1917-1989 (Nathan Finn)
  • Islam and the Persecuted Church in Sub-Saharan Africa (Benjamin Hegeman)

The third one is the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors 2016, just recently completed: Joy Set Before Us: Perseverance and Hope in the Day of Opposition The topics included the following:

  • What Has Jerusalem to Do With America? Lessons from the Book of Acts (Part 1) (Joy Rigney)
  • What Has Jerusalem to Do With America? Lessons from the Book of Acts (Part 2) (Joe Rigney)
  • The Woman from Kentucky (Don Carson)
  • Think It Not Strange: Fiery Trials and the Testimony of Christ (John Piper)
  • How Long, O Lord? Steadying Our Soul in the Midst of the Storm (Don Carson)
  • The Gift of Suffering: The Purpose and Pleasure of God in Persecution (Jason Meyer)
  • Boldness Under Threat: Speaking the Gospel with Clarity as Opposition Grows (Leonce Crump II)
  • Preaching to a Persecuted People: The Pastor as Leader, Comforter, and Guide (John Piper)
  • The Blood of the Martyrs Is Seed: Learning from Missions and for Missions (Tim Keesee)

I commend these helpful resources to you as an aid, to borrow the title of our Theology Conference, to live faithfully by the enabling and transforming power of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the glory of God.

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

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