I was invited to attend the World Summit in Defense of Christians that was hosted by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. We met in Washington DC last week to address the ongoing atrocities committed against Christ’s followers around the globe. The Summit convened more than 600 people from 130 countries, including church leaders, advocates and many of our Christian brothers and sisters who have endured brutal persecution because of their faith.
The conference theme was clear: “We stand with you”. Franklin Graham said, “Let us affirm our solidarity with all those suffering persecution because of their faith in Jesus Christ.” But the message seemed to carry the greatest weight when the United States Vice President, Mike Pence said, “I’m here on behalf of the president as a tangible sign of his commitment to defending Christians … On behalf of the President of the United States, I say from my heart that we are with you.”
Pence spoke for many of us who live in the West when he also said to those who have been persecuted, “Your faith inspires me, it humbles me and it inspires all who are looking on today”. To Pence’s point, our persecuted brothers and sisters are a living model of what it means to deny ourselves and follow Jesus. We need them because our 21st-century Western comfort and security is a hindrance to our faith. We don’t even realize how lukewarm we are until we spend time with those who are “all in” and “hot” for Jesus.
I was uncomfortable (in a good way) at the Summit’s closing dinner banquet. Seated on my left was an evangelist – a husband and father of four children, who faithfully preaches the gospel daily in a region where Islamist are killing Christians literally every day. His wife and children live day-to-day not knowing if daddy will come home. Seated on my right was a pastor who carries a great weight of concern for his flock that has been physically beaten and is now the target of increasing persecution. The testimony of these men who so love and trust Jesus that they do not love their life even when faced with death was God’s salve to open my eyes and see that I was lukewarm and complacent.
The banquet closed with a special gift from the famous Korean evangelist and mega-church pastor, Billy Kim. Billy sent the internationally renowned Korean Children’s Choir to sing for us. The choir opened by singing Blessed Assurance Jesus is Mine. I struggled to hide my emotions as I thought about how deeply meaningful the words to this hymn are to those who chose to fellowship with Jesus in His suffering.
Dr. John Ayres (Billy Graham’s special assistant) closed the Summit by calling on all followers of Christ to declare their allegiance and support for persecuted Christians around the world.
With all my heart, I said yes. Will you join me?
Let love of the brethren continue …
Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them,
and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.
Hebrews 13:1-3 NASB
grace and peace,