International (MNN) — Yesterday, we told you about some of the persecution the Church in Southeast Asia is up against, but what happens when those trials subside? Noel Becchetti of Asian Access might have an answer.
For example, Becchetti says, “Nepal was going into… an era of relative peace and harmony after quite a bit of persecution, [and] the Church in Nepal has grown dramatically from a few hundred people 30 years ago to almost two million today.”
When he asked local church leaders why their churches were experiencing such exponential growth, they informed him that “our church has grown because of persecution. It has made us strong and it has made us unified.”
However, just because external conflict has subsided doesn’t mean the Church can relax and become lazy. Becchetti explains, “There [are] a lot of leaders, say, back in India, who will tell you the Church in India, while it’s large, is struggling with all sorts of issues like integrity and corruption.”
Even though “they actually in some ways have been flourishing numerically in terms of Christians,” leaders in Nepal and India report “they are dealing with horrific integrity problems.”
And that corruption is leaving an impression on outsiders. “The upcoming generations are going, ‘I don’t want anything to do with the Church. If this is what the Church looks like, I don’t want anything to do with it,’” informs Becchetti.
He and the leaders he has communicated believe, “It’s when pressure is put on that God somehow uses that and it does create a kind of spiritual energy that otherwise doesn’t exist there.”
Although he admits that times are tough, Becchetti says he “wouldn’t be surprised if in five, ten years some of the leaders might go, ‘You know, this has been a tough time, but boy, it really brought us together. It’s created a unity and a sense of purpose we didn’t have there for a while.’”
In fact, in some countries, the trials are already strengthening the Church. For example, “In Bangladesh… it’s been a tough time, but the leadership has really come together, and it has given the Christian leaders a real sense of unity and purpose.”
The pastors and other leaders are recognizing that in hard times, they don’t have time for petty fighting and are bonding through their faith in an all-powerful God.
Becchetti says they are also careful to acknowledge the facts. “It’s not like they’re just walking through this in some state of euphoria [or] spiritually induced ultra-confidence.” However, they also recognize, “This is what happens sometimes in history, in societies, and in culture. Things happen, and the pressures, however frightening they truly are, actually press the Church forwards, not backwards.”
He reminds believers, “The odd side of freedom sometimes is it unfortunately lets some of the lower parts of our natures have more play even in those of us who are Christ-followers.”
If you want to help the persecuted Church as they prepare for storms, we can connect you here. In the meantime, Becchetti asks for prayer for “their courage, comfort and peace.”