Change It Up: Mission and the Persecuted

Release International published a book this year called Jars of Clay which looks at what we Christians can learn from our persecuted brothers and sisters .  We think It’s really good.  Get your copy.

At Pain and Passion we are going to have a quick look at some of the ideas the book explores in a series of posts over the next few months.  It’ll just be an overview; get the book for more juice.

In this post we’re going to look at the idea of changing up how we think about mission, the assumptions we take with us when we think about telling others about Jesus.

Our world likes triumph and success.  We like triumph and success.  Jesus likes triumph and success.  Only Jesus showed us triumph and success in a very non-triumphant, non-successful way; Jesus went for vulnerability, when He refused to fight the guards in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26); He went for suffering when He hung on the cross (John 19); He went for defeat when He died on that cross (Luke 23).

Except that in His vulnerability He showed us that God works out His plans in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  In His suffering He showed us that God is in control (Acts 2:23).  In His defeat He showed us God’s victory (2 Corinthians 15: 54-56).

In the New Testament Paul tells us that our message is foolish to the world, our messengers are inadequate, and our methods are simple (1 Corinthians 1).  The persecuted are often those inadequate people, taking a foolish message in the simplest ways.  And yet, they are living examples of what the Bible tells us following Jesus looks like.

The persecuted are vulnerable in their towns, their villages, sometimes in their own homes and relationships.  They suffer humiliation at school, violence at the hands of their communities, or solitary confinement in jail.  They are defeated when they are shamed by their families, sacked from their jobs, or meet death at the hands of a suicide bomber.

So what do we need to learn from persecuted Christians?  Change up what you think mission should look like, what you think telling your friends about Jesus will be like.  “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Corinthians 4: 7.  Clay pottery was everyday stuff back in Bible times – there was nothing special about it.  And it smashed easily.  But it’s in these weak, boring, fragile, slightly pathetic containers that the power of God lives – it’s God who transforms, not us. We take our foolish message, our inadequate selves, our simple ways, and in our vulnerability, our suffering, and our defeat the power of God is working, in control, and achieving a victory.

If you want to hear more of the stories of the persecuted, spend a bit more time on the Release Potential website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, think about becoming a Change Maker.

Look to the persecuted – their love of Jesus and the choices they make to live for Him will help you change it up.

– Alexandra