A map of the world with a cross overlay
A map of the world with a cross overlay

Praying for Christians in the Western World

Pray that those with religious freedom will understand what it
means to suffer with other members of the worldwide church.

“If one member suffers, all suffer together;
if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.”
1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV

One of the more profound interactions I have experienced with persecuted Christians is when they ask how they can pray for the church in Canada. On the one hand, their offer to pray for Canadians is humbling since VOMC’s supporters have entrusted us to help them. This turning of the tables serves as a reminder that all the help VOMC can offer pales in comparison to the sufficiency of Christ in any circumstance. But, on the other hand, it is encouraging to witness and experience how members within the body of Christ are meant to interactively function together. The Bible calls these interactions “fellowship,” an important aspect of Christianity that many persecuted believers evidently comprehend.

“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with
one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
1 John 1:7 ESV

Fellowship is symbiotic. As one body, we are committed to walking the way of Christ. This commitment affirms each member’s mutual need for the Holy Spirit’s guidance to foster unity within the body as a whole, strengthening us to endure the trials and troubles of life in this fallen world. Therefore, fellowship does not merely entail one member giving to another, without receiving something equally important in return. Galatians 6:2 instructs us to “bear one another’s burdens,” for it is through this demonstration of God’s love that we testify of His goodness to others.

Although Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary provides several definitions for the word “fellowship,” two stand out in relation to the type of fellowship I have experienced when interacting with persecuted believers in many parts of the globe:

  1. Partnership; joint interest; as a fellowship in pain
  2. Communion; intimate familiarity

The concepts of these two descriptions are encapsulated in Hebrews 13:3, the core operating verse for VOMC:

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them,
and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”

You may have heard me say before that the practical response to this verse involves praying for persecuted Christians; after all, that is what they most often request of us. However, their appeal derives from the belief that Christians in Western nations understand what it means to suffer for righteousness. Therefore, when they say, “Pray for us,” they are really saying, “Pray with us.” Such prayer is the essence of fellowship – the act of building each other up in the faith so we can all faithfully serve and follow Christ, no matter the cost.

In his book, Tortured for Christ, Pastor Richard Wurmbrand informs and educates Christians in the Western world on the various ways we can build fellowship with persecuted believers in other parts of the world. To effectively do so, each of us needs to:

  1. Lead lives of consistent Christianity; lives of sacrifice.1
  2. Raise our voice by protesting publicly on behalf of those who are oppressed.2
  3. Pray for the persecutors, asking that they may be saved.3
  4. Send Bibles and other Christian materials to hostile and restricted nations.4
  5. Join hands with members of the underground church and provide the financial resources for them to carry on their fruitful ministry.5
  6. Broadcast the Gospel into restricted nations.6
  7. Remember to support the families of Christian prisoners and martyrs.7
  8. Ask our pastor and other church leaders what is being done to help persecuted Christians.8

These are several ways in which we can demonstrate solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters. Yet, interestingly, these appeals also challenge us to live out our Christian faith through sacrificial living. The extent of our obedience to this call necessitates comprehending what sacrificial living means for persecuted Christians. In short, the Biblical perspective of sacrificial living demands that we accept the risks and price of “Great Commission” work. Whether it be referred to as evangelism, reaching the lost, or sharing the “Good News”; it basically boils down to Jesus’ call for all of us to participate in sharing His Gospel to all people.

“Great Commission” work puts John 3:16 front and centre in our interactions with others. Chances are this is one of the first verses you and I learned as a child or new believer: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” The words of John 3:16 are not just meant to be placed on a sign that gets strategically positioned at the end zone of a football game or an Olympic event for the purpose of reaching those who are unchurched. Considering the sacrificial love that God demonstrated to the world through the provision of His Son, this verse also serves as command for all Christians to unselfishly love others. To live such a lifestyle is costly.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

“Costly grace is the Gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our [lives], but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”9

The way of Christ is one of suffering love, and the Christian who embraces this way also joyfully carries their cross. My concern for Christians living in the Western world (myself included) is that, though they might grasp the concept of suffering love at a theological level, many struggle (if not fail) to apply it at a discipleship level. Is it because we have become so inundated with a consumer mentality that, when we weigh the risks associated with discipleship, we try to avoid the cost? Has maintaining our lavish lifestyles made a life of risk for the mission of God too radical for us to consider? (In comparison to most of the impoverished world, lavish is the right word!) In our Western world, we have so much that I often wonder if we have lost the appreciation of Christ’s worth. In doing so, we break fellowship with our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters.

I understand that, in telling the stories of persecuted Christians, I risk making them sound like idyllic examples of Christianity. Believe me when I tell you that members of the persecuted church have their flaws. They do not always face their suffering with the perfect Biblical response. I sense, however, that for most of these believers, there is a deeper dependency on Christ because He is all they have at their immediate disposal to help them endure the challenges of persecution. As they follow their Saviour, they discover that His church can thrive, even in the harshest of environments. Such grace to endure and enjoy fellowship is not cheap, and yet it's been made readily available to all because Jesus paid the ultimate price for humanity’s freedom.

“Sweet fellowship unites our souls as one,
It is the bliss of heaven now begun;
When heart to heart by this blest tie is bound,
We seem to stand each day on holy ground.

Sweet fellowship with God on high,
And with His Son, who came to die,
With all His saints in ev’ry clime –
Be this my portion all the time.”10

As I meet Christians living in areas that are hostile to the Gospel, I reassure them that they are not alone. This is because so many believers in Canada are daily interceding before God’s throne of grace on their behalf. The persecuted Christians I meet are delighted to know they are not alone in their suffering! It is a powerful moment whenever witnessing those who are suffering for righteousness experience God’s tangible love, as expressed through the compassionate response of fellow members of Christ’s body. After asking me to thank the church in Canada for fellowshipping with them in their suffering, they ask, “Where is Canada?” After a good laugh, and a quick geography lesson, the question that often follows the reassurance of our prayers for them is astounding. For I will then typically be asked, “How can we pray for you; for Christians in Canada?”

My first request is that Christians in Canada would remember their “First Love” – Jesus Christ. I further ask that we would not forget the tremendous price that He paid to free us from sin and death – and that a zeal for His body, the church universal, would burn in our hearts. Lastly, I ask that we would eagerly seek partnership and communion with them, members of the persecuted church, and thereby be known as the church persecuted. As I write this blog message, I know persecuted Christians are praying for me and for you. May we experience this sweet fellowship within Christ’s body of believers and strive, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to live as faithful witnesses of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

May God’s amazing love fill your heart afresh this Christmas season!

Grace and peace,

Floyd (signature)
Floyd A. Brobbel
Chief Executive Officer
The Voice of the Martyrs Canada Inc.

1 Wurmbrand, Richard. Tortured for Christ: 50th Anniversary Edition. Cook, 2017, p. 163.
2 Ibid., p. 163.
3 Ibid., p. 163.
4 Ibid., p. 165.
5 Ibid., p. 166.
6 Ibid., p. 167.
7 Ibid., p. 168.
8 Ibid., p. 170.
9 Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. SCM Press, 1959, p. 37.
10 Naylor, C.W. Sweet Fellowship Unites Our Souls as One. Published in 1 Hymnal.

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