Summary: We must keep speaking even when told not to.
Responding to Persecution
Rev. Brian Bill
November 16-17, 2019
Imagine a church that lives on mission by gathering with God’s people, by growing in their faith, by giving what God has given to them and by going with the gospel, all for the glory of God. This church is known as a place of grace for those who are out of place. This body of believers is making a difference by partnering with local ministries and by sending out missionaries all around the world.
They enjoyed the favor of their community until October, when the pastor of this gospel-centered, grace-giving, God-glorifying church preached a message on Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Listen to what Erwin Lutzer writes about this in an article called, “Coming Soon to a Church Near You.” “Overnight your gospel-preaching church could change from being a ‘cool place to worship’ to being branded as a church of bigotry and hate…it could happen anywhere.” We posted this on Sermon Extras if you’d like to read it.
When Pastor Keith Simon of the Crossing Church in Colombia, Missouri preached a thoughtful, welcoming and non-judgmental sermon on what God says about gender, his tone was respectful and compassionate. I watched the sermon and could see myself tackling this topic in a very similar way. The day after the sermon, a social media firestorm ensued, and the surrounding community was thrown into a polarizing debate. Within days, an online petition was signed by 1,000 citizens urging a community festival to cut ties to the church. Personal attacks ensued, including calling the pastor the “Anti-Christ.” After widespread coverage in local media, the story also gained traction nationally.
In reflecting on this, Lutzer writes:
“They crossed a trip wire…It won’t be long until other convictions elicit the same response. We already know that to be pro-life means you hate women; to believe that Jesus is the only way to God is religious bigotry…this is the reality that many churches will likely be facing in the coming years. As this issue begins to divide families, communities, and churches, some will begin to separate themselves from organized religion and reject Christianity as a whole. Congregations may begin to thin out. It seems that the church is in a process of being pruned, and while some will remain, others will walk away… It has been aptly stated that ‘a Christianity without courage is cultural atheism.’ Let us resolve as a church that silence is not an option.”
On this Dedication Weekend when we celebrate God’s faithfulness and worthiness, I want to call us to persevere even when persecution comes, and it will. When Christianity collides with culture, there will always be fallout. Here’s a personal question, “Will you fall away or remain faithful?” Hebrews 6:12 says, “So that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
One year ago, we gathered right here for a time of prayer and praise. Here’s how we began…
In 1905, over 40 charter members of Edgewood made a covenant: “…to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expense of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the Gospel through all nations.”
1 Chronicles 12:32 tells us there were individuals from the tribe of Issachar, “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” Ever since the founding of Edgewood, faithful men and women have been acutely aware of the times in which they lived…and they stepped out with courageous faith at the right time and at the right place to do what God was calling them to do.
We’re simply building off the courageous faith and radical generosity of previous generations…God’s people dared to do whatever it took to keep growing their faith, to grow the church family and to grow in ways that allowed Edgewood to be positioned for future faithfulness.
Grab your Bibles and turn to Acts 4:1-22 (You’ll notice we have Bibles in the racks in front of you. If you don’t have a Bible of your own, feel free to take one home with you). Last week we learned to practice continual repentance as we call others to do the same. Repentance releases us from our sins, it brings the refreshment we’re searching for, along with the restoration God alone can bring to our lives.
Today we’ll be encouraged to imitate the example of Peter and John so we can weather the waves of persecution that are headed our way. Here’s the main idea: We must keep speaking even when we’re told not to.
On this day of dedication for our facility, I’m calling us to dedicate our faith to the Lord. While we will dedicate the building, it’s even more important we dedicate our bodies to the Lord and His purposes.