Tim Challies was recently in China and met a Christian pastor on a train to interview him. The pastor's face was not shown and his voice was changed to protect him and during the interview he said something interesting.
So, like, for me, I’m a pastor, so for me, every Sunday when I prepare the sermon, I would probably think it’s probably, it’s the last sermon I can preach to this congregation because I don’t know what will happen or something. A policeman will come in and ask us to dismiss or arrest me, I don’t know. So, I prepare every sermon as a battle.
Two things to consider:
1) Do we value the preaching of God's word in such a way that we would be willing to be arrested for gathering together? This is not abnormal in the New Testament. Churches gathered around God's word at great risk. The gathering of believers was a precious thing that was prioritized because the corporate worship of the God who saved us should be of paramount importance in our week. Why are we so willing to let sports, birthday parties, sleep... pretty much anything, stand in the way of gathering with the church to worship God though singing his praises and being instructed by his word? Does that say something about our priorities? Our relationship with God? The value we place on the church? Why is it so different in a country where Christianity is illegal?
2) Do we regularly pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who do not enjoy the freedoms to gather that we do? Do we take it for granted such that we forget that this freedom is not guaranteed or enjoyed by many Christians around the world? Does that drive us to our knees to intercede for our brothers and sisters around the world where simply being a Christian can cost them their lives or freedom? Do we regularly pray for missionaries in those contexts?
These things are worth thinking about, pondering, and working through in our own hearts. In some ways, freedom of religion, freedom to worship as a Christian, is a dangerous freedom. We can become complacent and fail to realize the joy and privilege it is to worship with fellow believers on Sunday mornings. Perhaps the place to start is by praying a simple prayer: "Lord, strip away anything that would keep me from gathering with your people in worship and joy on Sunday mornings." God might be gracious to us and answer that prayer.
Jon is husband to Carlee, Papa to Finleigh, Ainsley, and Olivia, a pastor at Arbor Drive Community Church in York, Ne, and co-host of The Pastor Discussions Podcast