How Can We Prepare for Coming Persecution?

About eight years ago, my husband and I joined a small group of Christians campaigning to elect three fellow Christians to our local school board. Our campaign didn’t begin as a school board race, but as a simple request to allow our children to read alternative books.

One of my neighbors had alerted me and several others to a novel our children were assigned that was essentially a primer to the hook-up culture. It chronicled a young man’s coming of age, which included a graphic sexual encounter and allusions to several others.

Naively, I thought that when we respectfully expressed our concerns to the school board, they’d grant our reasonable request. After all, we weren’t asking for any books to be removed from the curriculum; we were simply asking for options for our kids.

Boy, was I wrong.

Board members ridiculed and scorned us, and some teachers became antagonistic towards our children. Quickly, we realized the only way to have a voice on the school board was to elect board members who shared our beliefs and values.

We researched prior school board elections and learned that very few people vote in local elections. If we could just mobilize the faith community, we reasoned, we’d win in a landslide. But mobilizing the faith community proved much harder than we imagined.

“I don’t think that we’re prepared for what is coming . . . (M)any of us are complacent and we’re unaware and this means that the people in our churches are going to be blindsided by what comes.”

Time and time again, when we’d talk to our Christian neighbors, they’d express appreciation for our cause, but refuse to help. “I’d really love to help,” they’d say, “but I’m afraid if I do, Johnny will experience backlash at school. Teachers might give him a lower grade. Classmates might make fun of him.”

The campaign, which we lost, was disillusioning to say the least.

I thought about that experience this week when I heard Pastor Andrew Brunson’s message to pastors at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastor’s Conference. Brunson, who spent two years in a Turkish prison for his faith, told the gathering that the American church isn’t prepared for the persecution he believes is imminent.

“I don’t think that we’re prepared for what is coming,” Brunson said, “especially the next generation. I fear that many of us are complacent and we’re unaware and this means that the people in our churches are going to be blindsided by what comes.”

I think Brunson is spot on and immediately resonated with his message. If the majority of Christians shrink from a simple school board race where the consequences are relatively minor, what’s going to happen when following Jesus requires actual sacrifice? And what are we teaching our children when we take the path of least resistance? Are they learning courage from us or cowardice?

This past year, I witnessed similar dynamics as I was investigating James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel. I marveled at those who risked jobs, ministries, friends, or reputations to tell me their stories. But these courageous ones seem to always be the minority.

Yet persecution is coming. Christians are the most persecuted group in the world. And we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think that persecution will come here. For some, like the Christian professor who was fired for challenging students’ liberal beliefs about sexuality and marriage, it already has. Fortunately, that professor, Eric Thompson, was reinstated after an arbitrator ruled in his favor. But these freedoms are eroding in the West. And it’s just a matter of time before we’ll have to choose between fidelity to Christ or our jobs, friends, and homes. 

When I posted Brunson’s comments on Facebook, someone understandably asked how it is that we can prepare for persecution. I’m no expert on persecution. And I haven’t been through anything that comes even close to what Pastor Brunson has endured. But I wonder if we aren’t going about preparing for persecution all wrong?

If we are compromising our faith now to avoid minor consequences, we should not expect we will become bolder later when faced with even greater consequences.

For many, we think of preparing for persecution much like someone might prepare for a hurricane. We store up and hunker down and wait for disaster to strike.

Instead, Scripture admonishes us to embrace suffering now, whether that means engaging in a school board campaign, publicly exposing sin, or a myriad of other acts of obedience that result in personal loss or pain.  

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” If we aren’t bearing a cross, it’s likely not because we live in the West, but because we’re disobedient.

I have been following Jesus nearly all my life. And I’ve never known a time when being a Christian has been easy. I have, however, seen Christians living an easy lives.

I fear that when real persecution comes to the West, the majority of professing Christians will amend their beliefs or behavior just enough to escape any real consequences. I pray regularly that will not be me, and I am well aware of my own tendency to avoid pain. Truthfully, none of us know how we will perform under extreme circumstances.

However, I remember a Christian brother in a former communist country once being asked what he would do if the government once again forbid him from preaching the gospel. His answer was humble, yet profound. He said, “I pray that God gives me the strength to follow through on the decision I’ve made today to follow Him, regardless of the consequences.”

The time to say yes to our cross is now. As James 1:3 says, the testing of our faith produces perseverance. So the best way to prepare for persecution later is to embrace hardship now. 

Conversely, if we are compromising our faith now to avoid minor consequences, we should not expect we will become bolder later when faced with even greater consequences. As Jesus said, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”

I pray today that we all become more faithful now. I pray, too, that we become stronger, and increase our ability to withstand what’s coming next.

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18 thoughts on “How Can We Prepare for Coming Persecution?

  1. Carol

    This is an important wake up call for us in America. We can begin with small steps of courage in our everyday lives. Can our faith be real if we cave in to small tests with small consequences?

  2. Martin Taylor

    I think you are right Julie. If people are too afraid to vote in a school board election they are no going to stand firm when their job is on the line, or a large sum of money is on the line, or when worse persecution comes – and I am convinced that the left in America would be carrying out much of this coming persecution already, if they could get away with it.

    Things are going to get a lot worse than simple things like progressive teachers bullying your children in school or coworkers snubbing you when they find out you have a traditional view of marriage. I think we are going to see vividly illustrated how many people in the pews are cultural Christians who like the lights and smoke machines and the weekly pep talks ornamented with a few Bible verses, and how many will take up a cross.

    Me included. I will pray that I not buckle under the fear of man too.

  3. David Lindsay

    Very well said and thought provoking. A clear message that we all need to hear and follow.

  4. Peter J Oehler

    The question, I believe, is to what extent will persecution present itself here in the west (USA)? Obviously, it began decades ago with the separation of church and state absurdity. That letter was supposed to keep the state from becoming the ruling body of the church. Now they teach “gender” equality in the schools and, supposedly, in California pedophilia will become an accepted “gender”. Is that persecution? Reading Revelations it will certainly get much worse but will those who are firm in their beliefs and faith now still be here to experience that devastation. Many “Christians” currently believe in much of the progressive thought of the day such as evolution and the many millions of years of Earth history, the sameness of other religions, Marxist communist thought, and more. Hold fast, my brothers and sisters lest you fall.

  5. Susan Vonder Heide

    This is a difficult area. Ecclesiastes says that there is a time to speak and a time to refrain from speaking. It is not always wise, for example, to bluntly tell a powerful person what one thinks of his or her world view if one reasonably thinks that this would do no good and that there would be serious consequences, but there are times when one needs to diplomatically but courageously speak up in a spirit of “here I stand, I can do no other.”

  6. Rich 35

    Thank you for this post. This topic is one that we talk to our kids about all the time. It’s a tough one. I think one way to prepare is to keep t he topic relevant AND read stories of those suffering (VOM), etc., and asking how or what we would do in the same situation. And then we pray that God gives us the strength to stick to our beliefs no matter what. Its a hard hard discussion but necessary given what is coming. We do however never let go of the VICTORY that we all walk in bc of Christ, regardless of earthly ends.


    This is a very complex issue in that the culture in some school settings supports access and understanding of behaviors that would have been challenged a few years ago. It is clear that Christians need to establish focus groups that explore and examine the issues we are facing as the norms for appropriate behavior are considered old fashioned and students who have been raised with clear values and a faith in the Lord that personifies life. This requires careful strategic planning by Christians with clear objectives and goals that cannot be disputed. Yes, all this is a lot of work, but the rewards are valuable for future generations and these youngsters need the encouragement and support to stay on course in all that they do.

  8. Persecution is not necessarily a requirement when I can choose otherwise and say be tolerant of me. This is my orientation, my truth. That the Christian message is communicated primarily through TV, internet, radio, and publications, clearly the message that holds the market share is the “American Prosperity” message which has redefined the Christian understanding of persecution. Has 21st century Christianity for the average person been relativized and they do not know enough to question it differently? This is very troubling to me and has been for quite some time. Yet light will always shine in darkness. Keep shining!

  9. Bob Fulton

    Thank you for the thoughtful post. I am reminded of the parable of the four soils. Many in the US today call themselves Christians but are not committed believers. Instead, they are cultural Christians. They suffer either from the choking weeds of the world and thus bear no fruit, or, when persecution and troubles come they will fall away quickly. What such a winnowing leaves is those willing to die to themselves and suffer as He did.

    And you are correct, the backlash is coming. We in the Evangelical community have done ourselves no favors by blindly supporting the Republican Party and our current President. To outsiders, we are blatant hypocrites, spouting the love of Christ while we build walls, denigrate the “enemy”, shut out the refugees, and suppress minorities. Despite McConnell’s gloating over the numbers of supposedly conservative judges he has approved, within twenty years we may see many of our religious freedoms curtailed. Paul and Peter call us to live quiet lives as examples to our neighbors, ut also to e ready to share the reasons for our joy. May we have the courage to know when to speak, when to act, and when to quietly bear our crosses. May we truly display the love of Christ to our neighbor whatever their religion, color, citizenship, or ethnicity.

  10. Susan

    What an important message for us as Christians living in a culture that has become increasingly hostile to all that is good and holy. It reminds me of a book I read years ago entitled, “If I Perish, I Perish” by Esther Ahn Kim who was a young Korean Christian woman living during the Japanese occupation of her homeland during WWII. She strongly felt the Lord was telling her that she would be incarcerated and punished for her faith. One of the early chapters in the book is “Preparing for Persecution” and in it she tells how she changed her life to prepare her for what was coming. She stood strong for Christ and was imprisoned. Jesus told us that in this world we would face tribulation. We have had it so easy. We need this wake-up call to get our lives in order and to realize that things could radically change overnight and we will then be facing our new normal. We know that our loving Father gives us grace for what we need when we need it but we should also be alert, aware and prepared. Watch and pray is the charge given to us. May we all be faithful to the end.

  11. You bring up excellent points, Julie. Lately God is leading me to get rid of anything extraneous, and focus on the few things he is calling me to that are important. It strikes me that this is also a good way to prepare for persecution. If I’m not tied to things that don’t matter, it won’t be difficult to give them
    up. If all that matters really to me is Christ and his kingdom, then making choices along those lines as they come up should not be as difficult.

  12. Sabrina

    There is always a remnant. For those who are listening, I do think God has been preparing us for what’s next.

    If we’re holding to the culture we will be shaken, if we’re holding to Christ, He remains. Thanks

  13. CAL

    Illinois senate bill 1564 is looking to amend the healthcare right of conscience act that allows health care professionals the ability to refrain from procedures that violate their “rights of consciousness”. It also would enforce a sharing of abortion clinics for Christian pregnancy centers when a woman comes in for options counseling. Please take a stand to protect those without a voice. The time is now.

  14. Patricia Vallelibga

    I sent you a critical message re Harvest and I want to apologize. I was fairly new there. Shocked and hurt by what I was hearing and reading, I reacted without looking for the truth first!
    Bless you for your work.
    Pat Vallelonga

  15. Eddy Lewis

    As I have started before to fellow Christians, we as believers are no more prepared to stand for Christ than the church did in Germany during the rise of Hitler. For the majority those Christians turned a blind eye to what was happening to their Jewish neighbors. Until we believe and teach with understanding what Jesus said in Matthew 10:28 nothing will change in the churches faithless actions. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” The bottom line is as believers in Christ, who do we fear more, man and his laws or Christ and His words?

  16. Quinn

    Thank you for this article. Paying any attention to this trend will show you that most of us are sitting on the beach sunning ourselves, as a tsunami is heading for the shore. I work as a marriage and family therapist, so I see on a personal level the swaying of morality on a daily basis, along with the breathing in of toxic cultural air that marginalizes our faith, leading to this scary progressive Christianity.
    My wife being a school psychologist AND being on a school board, also wonders how long she will be able to work in a school system that is not only anti-Christ, but antagonistic to faith.

  17. Jennifer Folsom

    This is something that has always been a difficult issue for Christians, not only in our culture but all time, and all places. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book, The Cost of Discipleship, calls attention to the correlation between Peter (the Rock the Church is built upon) and his rejection of the cross/suffering. He writes, “Suffering and rejection sum up the whole Cross of Jesus. To die on the cross means to die despised and rejected of men. Suffering and rejections are laid upon Jesus as a divine necessity, and every attempt to prevent it is the work of the devil, especially when it comes from his own disciples; for it is in fact and attempt to prevent Christ from being Christ. It is Peter, the Rock of the Church who commits the sin immediately after he has confessed Jesus as the Messiah and has been appointed to the primacy. […]The suffering Messiah was always a scandal to the Church”.

    If we are unwilling to suffer with Christ our deeds deny Him.

  18. roger mac

    one feather at time will be plucked

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