Eighteen months ago I, and others more capable, organised a prayer breakfast at our church (Evangelical Anglican) and a Rally at the local town square to support the Persecuted Church. The local Ministers' Association got on board with it and were very supportive. We got "Nun" signs to each church so they could put them up somewhere, hopefully outside each church building to make a public statement. I communicated with them that I really wanted representatives from each church or denomination to pray during the Rally. In particular I wanted the Catholic and Pentecostals to be present and to have people to pray out as so many persecuted Christians come from these two camps (think of Nigeria).
The Catholics were great, their Priest (a lovely chap) came to the Breakfast and a rep came and prayed out at the rally. There were a small handful of Catholics in a crowd of about 50. However, despite their words of encouragement, none of the Pastors from Pentecostal or independent Charismatic churches came. As far as I could tell not one of their congregants came either. There were three or four Salvation Army people & a dozen or so Presbyterians also came and some people from the other Anglican church in town. Most however were from my own church.
Such a small attendance despite having written an article on the Persecuted Church and the rally in the local paper just a couple of days before. We also had the newspaper reporter at the Rally and she photographed and interviewed our visiting Voice of the Martyrs speakers, among others.
The chance to say something positive about church unity and solidarity with the Persecuted Church did not seem to do the trick. In the event nobody seemed to want to take advantage of the opportunity. Why didn't these Christian leaders or congregants come?
Too many Pastors & ministers just don't seem to get what is at stake today. Throughout the world 80% of those persecuted & dying for their Faith today are Christian. Less than a quarter of the Christians suffering persecution today in Iraq & Syria are able to get out. They face a ghastly life or a ghastly death at the hands of the mujahidin. What kind of people are we if we don't even help the members of our own Family? What kind of witness is that? How will we answer Christ on that Day?
There is too a historical reality that there are periods throughout history when the Church becomes open to attack from within and from without.
From within, once the Church loses its priority of Evangelism and discipleship it always seems to me to spiral down into an ever deeper and ever more meaningless, self preoccupation.
From without, this is both from a culture which is increasingly turning against it and a very confident and growing religion, Islam, which is able to capitalise on the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, to its gain and the Church's detriment.
Look back at history and see that the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western Church occured around the same time as the first Crusades and that the Great Reformation occured around the same time as the advancing Seljuk Turk Muslim armies strove to push through Austria and conquer Europe. Perhaps the two issues: luke-warmness and the resultant heresy within and the pressure of Islam without have been regular features.
If so, then we must be aware that these are not two separate struggles, but one.
Many Ministers (and Bishops) don't realise what they are looking at and they don't realise that we all need to speak up, right now, in a negative sense, to stop the carnage and in a positive sense to make the most of the opportunities presented to us for love and ministry. Many internal and local issues understandably take the attention of church leaders. Ministers certainly do care. I think though, that they really just don't realise quite what is going on.
Pressures from within and from without are two sides of the same coin. If we are going to go down - and I don't believe for a moment that we will - we must go down "swinging". Spreading the Good News and worshipping. Looking up for the fields are white for harvest right now and where opportunity appears so does opposition. We should expect it. It might even be a good sign.