This is the blog post that I never planned on writing. These are thoughts I never wanted to have to think through. Hard thoughts and tough questions are mixed together in my mind and settling heavy on my heart.
Yesterday 26 people were killed and 20 injured in a small country church that on average hosts 50 people each week. Do the math. If the average number was in attendance, all but 4 people would have been injured. Bloodshed. A horrible, beyond tragic, ugly nightmare.
We’re living in a society where these incredible acts of violence are becoming common. My greatest fear is becoming immune to the chill and horror of tragedy. I didn’t need to worry about that yesterday. This one struck home and like a bulls eye painted on my heart, it struck my core.
I grew up in a small church in a place that couldn’t even be called a town, it was a hamlet. To have 50 people on a Sunday would have been cause for celebration. Sometimes it happened, other times there was only 20 of us. The little white church with blue trim was left to the village from World War II and was nestled between two First Nations reserves deep in the heart of Northern Alberta.
Here’s the single most important truth I know about small churches: You may not experience smoke, lights, an award winning band, or exciting music, but you’ll be hugged, accepted, loved and fed well if you come on potluck Sunday. The people in these small churches are passionate about Jesus and each other. They are usually simple folks who love their simple lives, and relationships are their priority. These are my people.
Yesterday I looked into the eyes of my pastor and told him how much I loved our new little church. A group of about 70 gathered together and I told him how much I had missed that “small church feel”. Welcoming: Like coming home.
I woke up this morning, rubbed sleep from my eyes, grabbed my coffee and like every morning padded my way to my office and my Bible. I sat down with God and wanted to ask him “why”, but knew in my heart there was no need.
I wish this was a new scenario. It’s not. Christians have been martyred and persecuted for as long as records have been kept. The saints yesterday at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas were gunned down when they least expected it. The saints of Rome in 64 A.D. “were sewed up in skins of wild beasts by Nero, and then worried by dogs until they expired; and others dressed in shirts made stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his gardens, in order to illuminate them”.
In my opinion, women and children gunned down and an entire city affected by this tragedy is on par with the atrocities of Nero. This is where we are. This is what we have come to.
Contrary to popular preaching at a few mega churches, Christianity is not the golden ticket to wealth and prosperity. Jesus never stated this. He told us that if we love Him, all of us can expect to be persecuted. The mantle of His life wasn’t star studded high society, it was lowly servitude. The road of His cross isn’t glamorous, but it is glorious.
As I sat there sipping my coffee, quieting my mind long enough to hear Him, I asked Him one question: If we’re in a place where this persecution in America is going to become more common, and if we take up the cross of the early church, when and will see the miracles, signs and wonders of those days? Shouldn’t the pain endured today be worthy of the glimpses of Glory? After all, the one thing we know as Christians is that His light shines brighter in the darkness.