Yesterday (Sunday) was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. We dedicated a few moments during our opening time of worship to mention this to our congregation and we prayed for our brothers and sisters around the world that wouldn’t be gathering for worship under the protection of religious freedom – but rather under threat of imprisonment, physical harm or even death.
As I shared my thoughts I remember telling our church family that as we gathered to worship King Jesus on Sunday mornings we don’t have to worry about someone coming through the back door of our worship space wanting to drag us off to prison or demand that we renounce our faith or die. I shared how we should honor our brothers and sisters around the globe by worshiping with passion, worshiping like we are truly free to worship. We continued with our worship after praying for the persecuted church and there was a new momentum in the room as we worshiped.
While those sentiments of religious freedom may be true in the context of religious persecution in America (at least for the time being), those words began to hang heavy on me later that evening. I saw Facebook posts from friends and “Breaking News” notifications on my phone and laptop. There had been a mass shooting at a First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, Texas and 26 people were killed and 20 others injured. A lone gunman walked in through the back door of their worship space and opened fire killing people from 5-years-old to 72-years-old. As I read the details of the tragedy I immediately heard the words I had spoken earlier that morning. My heart broke and still breaks for that congregation, those families, and their pastor who lost his teenage daughter in the shooting.
This event and several other recent tragedies have had me searching for how to respond and what to do. I keep coming back to the same 3 responses:
- PRAY! We must seek God and intercede for the hurting and the broken. We need to pray for healing, comfort and resolve for the victims and their families and we need to pray for steadfastness, faithfulness and resiliency for the body of Christ.
- CARE! We need to rally around each other in times of crisis and provide support and encouragement as well as meet tangible needs for those who are hurting.
- SHARE! The mission is unchanged by even the most damaging and life-changing circumstances. We must go and make disciples, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is only by the power of the Gospel that we can experience healing in our pain and hope in our desperation. It is also only by the power of the Gospel that broken people are restored to relationship with God and the ultimate cure – forgiveness and eternal life – can be applied to the ultimate devastation – death, torment and eternal separation from God.