International (MNN) — Persecution comes in many forms. Terrorism. Harassment. Being shut out from business opportunities. No allowance for a building permit to hold church services. Being forced unfairly to leave a current facility or face unbearable fines. Beatings. Torture. Threats. Even murder.
In February 2012, Newsweek reported a 309% increase in terrorist attacks against Christians since 2003 in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Since that report, there’s been even more violence targeted against minority Christians in Muslim areas.
What happens to the pastors and church leaders over the years? They feel isolated, weary and demoralized. David Shibley with Global Advance says their teams are taking advantage of the summer season to respond to that need, specifically in Africa. In one area, Shibley says, “We’re going to be bringing pastors out of a very volatile area where radicals have taken over the city where they are courageously pastoring.” He explains that in the city where these church leaders work, militants have “bombed several churches. Several Christians have died through the violence. The pastors are discouraged.”
Global Advance has big plans for these leaders this summer. They’re plan? “First of all, just to affirm, encourage, strengthen, and refresh them, but also to equip them to go back into the spiritual battle.”
Revelation 11:15 declares where history is headed: “The kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ!” That’s partly why Global Advance is so focused on resourcing, explains Shibley. “The dual aspect of the Great Commission is to proclaim the gospel to everyone, but also to make disciples of all the nations.”
A case in point: last spring, 98 bishops and overseers of denominations and church planting networks came together and figured out a way to win their nation for Christ, with the help of Global Advance. The plan called on everyone to take mission to different level and incorporate “Gospel Sunday.”
At the end of the Summit, all 98 leaders unanimously endorsed The Nairobi Commitment, which states in part:
We commit to utilize the fourth Sunday of June each year as “Gospel Sunday” throughout all the churches in our stewardship. On that day, a clear presentation of the Gospel will be given in all our classes and services along with a call to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. We joyously anticipate a great harvest of souls.
It was an answer to a larger issue cropping up in evangelical churches: the Gospel was not being preached consistently. Of the inaugural effort, “It actually began last year with over 1800 people coming to Christ on that Sunday.” That’s why they’re piloting Gospel Sunday in 2014. Global Advance will also be helping the churches with discipleship materials, Shibley adds. “We will actually be on three continents this summer through seven training events in six nations.”
Given the dramatic uptick in sectarian violence in the region, Shibley says, “We also need to pray that believers will be both winsome and bold in sharing their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that they would not back up in any way or be in any way intimidated by the threats that are against them.”
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Have been working in Mali, West Africa for 20 years. Your statement accurately reflect the situation in Mali among Christian pastors. I would love to know more about what you cover in your seminars for encouraging and renewing pastors .