Throughout history, Christians have utilized persecution as an avenue for ministry. Persecution can place us in situations where we would not normally be or want to be. When we are put in prison or taken to court for our faith, we have a venue that is not normally ours to utilize. We are thrust behind enemy lines where we can minister. Erwin McManus writes in The Barbarian Way: If Christ has won our heart, he will lead us “to advance forward behind enemy lines to win the hearts of those who do not yet know Him or love Him” (Barbarian, 13-14).
Bianca Adler, in her book Serving God in Hostile Territory, tells of a situation in Romania when she had to decide how much risk she was willing to take to share the gospel. Pastor Wurmbrand wanted to evangelize the Russian troops who had invaded their country. Bianca was a young, vulnerable girl who had heard the reputation of these troops and how they treated women and girls. She was, however, willing to take the risk and, even though she was caught many times, she was never harmed nor was her material ever confiscated.
A benefit of opposition is profound dependence on God that drives us to prayer. In Acts 4, Peter and John were summoned to appear before the Sanhedrin, the highest and most powerful legal body in Judaism in the time of Jesus. They gave a clear testimony to the gospel, resulting in them being threatened but then let go. Their report caused the church to go to prayer for more boldness. The place where they were meeting began to shake as the Holy Spirit filled it.
Opposition can scatter the church, forcing it to go out among the nations to preach the gospel. In Acts 8, it says that great persecution broke out on the church in Jerusalem, and Christians “were scattered throughout all of Judea and Samaria.” Those who were scattered preached the gospel everywhere they went! Churches were formed, including Antioch, where Paul and Barnabas were called and commissioned to be missionaries.
Nobel Alexander, a Christian prisoner in Cuba, describes how Cuban prison officials decided to break the back of Christianity in the prison by transferring members of the prison church to other prisons, figuring that the dispersion would destroy their unity. However, as a result of the forced dispersion, nine new prison churches were started in various prisons where Christians were transferred. What the prison officials meant for evil became a blessing when God turned apparent defeat into glorious victory (I Will Die Free, 100).
The persecuted church in this situation is able to work among those who persecute them in a way that they only can do. Our prayers support their ministry behind enemy lines.
Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.