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When Will Persecution Come to American Churches?

Persecution of Christians is still on the rise in Eastern Ukraine where Russian separatist have taken control. Just a few days ago in the city of Donetsk the separatist seized Donetsk Christian University along with about 20 staff.

For the last 23 years there really was not any significant persecution of Christians in Ukraine. In fact when people would ask me about freedom of religion and worship in Ukraine I would often tell them that one of the great things about Ukraine is that we don’t have any government limitations on preaching the gospel and worshiping God.  In a way Ukraine has enjoyed more freedoms than the US has in the past 20 years or so.

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However, for Crimea, Lughansk and Donetsk regions this freedom was lost much quicker than anyone expected! This has caused me to contemplate the freedom we have enjoyed for so long in the USA.

Let’s be honest, persecution really has not come to the US yet. I mean we may worry about loosing our church’s tax exempt status or getting laughed at for our antiquated beliefs but I don’t think these qualify as persecution. On the other hand what is happening now in Eastern Ukraine, forced seizures of church buildings, abductions of church leaders who are then held captive and beaten for their faith, that’s persecution!

If you want some great examples of real persecution versus fake persecution I highly recommend checking out a blog post by Benjamin Corey called Real vs. Fake Persecution: How You Can Spot the Difference.

Persecution of the church is something that will eventually happen in the US so my question is,

“When will real persecution come to America?”

After observing how and why persecution began several months ago in Eastern Ukraine as well as why there was persecution in Bible times here are five conditions that will eventually lead to persecution in America.

When the Church stops preaching prosperity gospel.

I’ve written here about the problems with the Word of Faith movement, which includes prosperity theology. As long as pastors are teaching their church members that real faith will lead to a comfortable and luxurious life there will be no persecution!

Or maybe I should put it this way, any persecution that does happen will quickly fizzle out because those who follow the prosperity gospel teaching will just as quickly compromise their faith to avoid the persecution. Prosperity gospel does not prepare believers for persecution but rather deceives them into thinking that if they have enough faith they will never experience persecution!

When the Church starts calling people to repent of their sins.

Biblically and historically persecution tends to happen around those who are clearly calling people to repentance! John the Baptist who preached “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Mat 3:2) was imprisoned and eventually beheaded as a result of this type of preaching.

People don’t like to be called sinners or have their lifestyle condemned. That’s why Jesus said that the world hated him and will hate his followers. (Joh 15:18) The problem in many churches today is that very little is said concerning sin and the need for repentance. On the other hand a lot is said about how to have a great marriage, how to raise kids, how to deal with finances, etc…

Honestly I think it’s OK to preach a “How to” message from time to time but as long as our pulpits are filled with “How to…” and are devoid of “Repent and believe” there will be little persecution in America.

When the Church takes uncompromising stands on righteousness.

To some extent this is happening already in a few churches. Taking an uncompromising stance on moral social issues such as abortion, homosexuality, doctor assisted suicide, divorce, sex outside of marriage, etc… will eventually lead to persecution. The problem is that sin is a money making business for many and those who profit from it see the Church as a threat.

Paul caused a riot in Ephesus because of his strong teaching against idols! (Act 19:23-27) When society looses it’s historical moral foundation churches will find it necessary to take clear stands on moral issues that they never would have dreamed would become controversial.

When there is a clear difference between the life of a believer and an unbeliever.

As long as believers blend in, go with the flow and look, think, and act like the rest of the world there will be no persecution! However when believers start transforming their minds (Rom 12:2) the result will be transformed lives that look much different than the world.

This difference will make us stand out and the more we stand out as followers of Christ the more likely it is that we will face persecution.

When we least expect it.

This is a lesson that I’ve learned in the past few months. How was it that Eastern Ukraine could go from complete freedom to preach and teach the Gospel to persecution in a matter of days? Pastor Sergey’s story of being beat at the hands of city officials was a shocker for many!

It’s easy to be lulled to sleep by the false perception that you will never face persecution. However, we are much closer to persecution that we think! Whether it happens today or years from now the lesson we need to learn from our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ is that we need to be ready!

Peter says it best!

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
(1Pe 4:12-14)

Question: When do you think persecution will come to America?

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I am a pastor, missionary, and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Ukraine since 2007. God blessed me with a wonderful wife and 5 amazing children! My greatest passion is to teach, encourage, and exhort others to turn to Jesus, who is Savior, Lord, and God!

  • Tami Dean

    Wow. I know it will happen here, but it’s amazing to see how quickly things changed in Ukraine. And I see our culture here changing so quickly – persecution is coming!

    • Yes, that was a shocker for me! We never expected what happened and how fast it happened.

  • Caleb, this is very well stated. I agree with you. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Yes, it is a bit sobering isn’t it? But we can be encouraged to know that even when persecution does come that we have God on our side!

  • Not much to add to this Caleb. I wonder how long?

    • Well I won’t make any predictions concerning how many days or years. I used to tell people that Putin would never invade Ukraine and I was dead wrong there!

  • Yeshua’s Nazirite

    I find this interesting. I’d say I came into the Kingdom of God through the word/faith camp – and then I took them up on their challenge of, “If you don’t believe me, read the Bible! It’s right there!” Well, I did. I found they magnified a partial truth at the expense of the whole in most places and just downright twisted Scripture everywhere else. So I left. A couple of years ago, God really began to deal with me on consecration, and about 6 months ago, He really began to hammer home to me the need for repentance – true repentance – in my life, and in the Church of America, as well as a need to stand up for righteousness. Politically, I’ve been a libertarian and I haven’t really waded into the whole “gay marriage” debate. My view was always, “Hey, sinners have a right to sin themselves to hell. Do what you want, but don’t ask me to accept it and don’t ask my brothers and sisters to perform your ceremonies.” Well, no more because this is exactly where it’s headed. The line is in the sand and I believe how we respond to issues of morality as believers (particularly homosexuality) will indeed be the dividing line and it will be what separates the sheep from the goats.
    Also, don’t underestimate those wicked sons of belial, the prosperity preachers. When we begin to snatch the sheep out of their mouths and they begin to lose numbers ($$$), they’ll fight back. They are NOT on the Lord’s side. Just as the Catholics burned Protestants at the stake (not directly, but by turning them over to the civil authorities), these sons of belial will do the same when their kingdoms are threatened. remember what it says in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, BECAUSE THEY REFUSED TO LOVE THE TRUTH and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

    • Thanks for sharing, you’re right about $. So much revolves around people’s desire to get rich and have wealth. Sadly people are often willing to destroy the lives of others if it will make them rich.

  • Dan Erickson

    I think it’s on the way here and many just don’t see it. I agree that when the Gospel is watered down in any way it will keep persecution away. We are pretty watered down here.

    • The truth is that no one really has any reason to persecute weak Christians! Thanks for sharing Dan!

  • A lot of food for thought ,Caleb. I love this statement “Prosperity gospel does not prepare believers for persecution but rather
    deceives them into thinking that if they have enough faith they will
    never experience persecution!” Very well said.

    • Thanks Ngina! Everything that is going on in Eastern Ukraine right now has really made me think more on this topic.

  • Floyd

    The enemies of God don’t know they’re being used and will be burned up first. It’s scary that no one on that side seems to think that the very things that have happened throughout the history of the world that have led to the downfall and persecution of all involved, won’t happen to them this time.

    Powerful message, Caleb. You are the voice of a prophet.

    • I’m not sure I want to be called a prophet but I do want to do my best to speak God’s Word and if that makes me a prophet then so be it! Thanks Floyd!

  • Powerful post. It is bound to come because we have become so caught up in the bless me game. The pastors don’t preach and teach against sin like they should because are too busy trying to market themselves to the world or they don’t want to offend anyone. A lot of our pulpits have been turned into dens for thieves. It hurts me to see more so called Christians trying to blend in rather than stand out. Let me stop because I can go on some more.

    • I’m sure you can go on Bernard! Market is a good word for it. It’s sad but true.

  • Guest

    rica.

    When the Church stops preaching prosperity gospel.

    When the Church starts calling people to repent of their sins
    When the Church takes uncompromising stands on righteousness.
    When there is a clear difference between the life of a believer and an unbeliever.
    When we least expect it.

  • This is my favorite post for today…you nailed it brother. This post is a wake up call. Going to share on my fb wall…it’s worth reposting.

    • Thank you Betty, I appreciate your encouragement.

  • A very strong reminder that while we think we have it easy here, it’s only because we are not obedient. As long as we are soft, then who cares about the church?

    • Sometimes we need those strong reminders to wake us up and realize the truth!

  • I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, Caleb. You put it so well. I remember growing up my youth pastor would always preach repentance, prayer, Scripture. I didn’t always like him (haha) but it gave me strong foundations of faith.

    Over the years my views have changed on many things but one thing that hasn’t is the strong dosage and reminder of repentance from sin. I do feel we will see this kind of persecution in the US in our lifetime. Keep preaching, friend.

    • Sounds like you had a great youth pastor Mike!

  • I’m not sure when it will happen here, but I do know that if we don’t change our ways, we won’t be prepared to stand. Thanks for being the voice of truth we so desperately need to hear, Caleb!

    • Being ready is the what we ought to strive for. Maybe it won’t happen in our life time but we are called to be prepared, to have a faith that will stand no matter what!