We, as believers, often get so caught up in our own little part of the world where we dwell, that we fail to see the big picture of what is transpiring spiritually around the globe. I encourage believers to forget about local politics for a moment, back up, and look at the world’s situation through the spiritual and biblical eyes that God has given to us. The latest developments in Russia provide us with a perfect case in point.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into power an anti-terrorism law that becomes effective on July 20, 2016. The Duma (their parliament) has already passed a number of laws that have harshened Russian law in the name of fighting terrorism and extremism. Under the guise of fighting the war on terror, these new laws are actually strengthening a pro-nationalistic/totalitarianism agenda that has, as a major component, the suppression, if not eradication of Protestant churches (primarily those which are evangelically based).
Below are a few key points from the latest anti-terrorism bill as summarized by Charisma Magazine (http://www.charismanews.com/world/58295-7-000-churches-fasting-praying-over-terrifying-new-persecution-law):
Any discussion of God with non-believers is considered missionary activity and will be punishable.
If a friend or relative from outside Russia wishes to share his/her faith in your home the guest will be fined and expelled from Russia.
In church buildings, it is not permitted to invite people to turn to God. Worship services are permitted but making a non-believer a follower of Christ is against the law.
Religious activity is no longer permitted in private homes. Most churches in Russia meet in homes.
One may pray and read the Bible at home but not in the presence of a non-believing person. You will be breaking the law and be punished.
Every citizen is obligated to report religious activity of neighbors to the authorities. Failure to be an informant is punishable by law.
Offenders from the age of 14-years-old will be subject to prosecution.
Please keep in mind that freedom of religion does not always equate with growth of the Church in its size or depth. In actuality, a measured level of persecution causes the Body of Christ to thrive. Do we pray for persecution? – NO! But when God grants it to a people, persecution has the potential to drive us to our knees, and to drive us to Christ, seeking His power to be fruitful and multiply.
Therefore, that is how I would encourage you to pray for our brothers and sisters in Russia at this time — that they will fall to their knees and seek God like never before and rely on His power to see Him carry them through and to bring much fruit from this oppression.
This same scenario of persecution of the Church is concurrently playing out in other countries as well. Governments in both India and China are strengthening their grip on restricting the activities of the national churches. Their sights are focussed on the training of pastors and Christian leaders, Bible distribution, water baptism, and the multiplication — primarily — of house churches. These are all at the forefront of their efforts to eliminate the vibrantly growing Church.
Empower will continue to find creative ways to strengthen national church planting movements and local believers in these countries, as we have always done in the areas of support listed above, that are being targeted and restricted. And this is where we, as believers in the West, need to support our national brethren in these countries and not get so fully absorbed with our local challenges that we forget about the “big picture” from heaven’s perspective — the evangelism and discipleship of the world!
Please keep these situations in prayer.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon