Open Doors USA estimates that in 2020 approximately 4,761 Christians were killed for the faith—13 deaths a day. Nigeria alone saw over 2,000 of its saints martyred. They have passed into glory, leaving behind a world still languished with pain. But what of America? Have Christians declared “I have no need of thee” to the “hand” of the church in Asia? Do we fail to weep over the 2,000 Nigerian believers? It is often easy to forget the rest of the Body while living in Western Christianity. We live in freedom and luxury, our congregations gathering peacefully by the hundreds. Imagining how divergent our experiences are from the lives of those who worship the very same Christ can be very difficult. Finding unity amidst this disconnect can be even harder.
1 Corinthians 12 places the unity of believers in perspective:
“But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”
Though this passage is often discussed within the context of individual, denominational, and ethnic unity, it may also be read to denote unity between those overseas.
Gordon College is a great example of what this means.
At Gordon, believers come together from all across the world. Here, a multitude of languages, ethnicities, and cultures worship the same Christ. The unity amongst our student body is only a reflection of the greater unification that can happen within the global church. In the same way believers unify with those in their homes, classrooms, and congregations, so can we with those abroad.
Fortunately, there are a number of things one can do to help unify the global church while in America.
1. Defend Orthodoxy
Firstly, our doctrine needs to be defined. Today, believers abroad fend off a host of spiritual attacks and are pressured to join rival religions across the globe. For the millions of believers who experience heightened levels of persecution, this struggle is often exacerbated by a dearth of theological resources. Bibles and other Christian literature are rare, if not forbidden. Oftentimes, faith-based institutions and seminaries are not permitted to operate. In contrast, Gordon students marvel at the treasure of spiritual knowledge at our disposal: Bibles of many translations, libraries of theology, and the wisdom of our professors, to name a few.
To whom much is given, much will be required.
If we wish to integrate ourselves better into the global church, our time and wealth must be used wisely. Furthermore, we must take care not to export harmful ideas that will utterly betray the efforts of our brothers and sisters elsewhere. Christians must join together and pray that our teachings would not harm, but rather strengthen the people of God.
2. Witness Faithfully
For each statistic on the suffering overseas, there is another of hope and glory—that the church is growing even in darkness. There are reports that perhaps one million people in Iran have come to the faith. In China, the underground church is now believed to be approaching a population of over one hundred million. The witness of our brothers and sisters is shining the light of Christ in the darkest of prisons, the most oppressive of terror cells, and the poorest of slums. Witnessing the works of God’s grace in our lives unites us with evangelists worldwide.
Refusal to witness is a refusal to be united with believers overseas. In many nations, attempts to bring unbelievers to Christ can be punished with fines, imprisonment, even death. And yet, the church still grows–our brothers and sisters refuse to be silent.
In America, what do we have to lose? If we are too frightened to give witness to Christ, is it possible to count ourselves among those boldly preaching in the most hostile of lands? Missiologist Nik Ripken solemnly declares that “believers who do not share their faith aid and abet Satan’s ultimate goal of denying others access to Jesus.” He is right.
By shunning evangelism we choose the side of the very oppressors who seek to destroy the church. If the body is to have any unity in fellowship, it must have unity in mission. If we do not present ourselves as a witness to the world, we may neither support nor count ourselves a part of the global body of Christ.
While under persecution in Romania, Richard Wurmbrand compared the state of the oppressed church to that of a surgeon in lack of medical tools. Though the surgeon was willing to help, he could not due to a lack of equipment. In the same way, millions of believers across the world need more Bibles for evangelization, financial support for families of the imprisoned, and aid for those suffering from famine, drought, and war. By offering our time and resources to serve the church, we participate in the beautiful work of soul-winning abroad. The temptation to see “our” church as the most important member of the Body is detrimental to the potential good that may be done across the world.
If we wish to follow Christ and join together in unity as His beloved bride, let us not neglect to reach across the ocean and honor the global church.
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not proport to reflect the opinions or views of the Gordon Review, editorial staff, or its members.