The Good Effects of Persecution
In the 1950's when Christians had to meet secretly in house churches, three church leaders boldly organized a week-long meeting for 700 Christian young people in Moscow.* They wanted to gather the scattered parts of the Body of Christ so they could enjoy Christian community.
None of the 700 young people had personally owned a Bible or a hymnbook. The leaders wanted to determine how much Bible truth was present in that group of young people, so they said, "This will be like a game. Every day this week, we want you to gather in small groups. In your groups, see how much of the Gospels you can recreate. And then do the same thing with songs and hymns. Let's see how much of that can be reproduced by memory."
At the end ofthe conference, when they combined the efforts of the small groups, the young people had re-created all of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John with only a half-dozen mistakes. They had also recreated the lyrics of more than 1200 songs, choruses, and hymns of the faith.
The day Dr. Ripken heard about that conference, he visited with some young people. Many of them were the grandchildren of the pastors who had been telling him the stories from those earlier days. When he asked them how many different stories from the Gospels they could list, they came up with a handful.
"How many books of the Bible can you name?" he asked.
"Only a few," they said.
"Under communism, the church had found a way to survive and often thrive," observed Dr. Ripken. "Now, in a much freer day for the church, Scripture and holy song did not seem nearly as important."
Dear Jesus, help us to realize the dangers inherent in freedom. Give us wisdom to prepare ourselves for whatever may come.
"But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away" (Mark 4:17).
*The three leaders were imprisoned for three years as a result of planning this conference but they insisted it was worth it because "The Holy Spirit fell on that conference."
Told in The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken