Faith That Endures: The Essential Guide to the Persecuted Church
Most of us have heard the stories in our churches --- stories about the suffering endured by Christians around the world because of their faith. We call these believers the "persecuted church," and many of us would like to do something, anything, to help them out. But before we make a move, we would all do well to set aside a few hours and read Ronald Boyd-MacMillan's FAITH THAT ENDURES, one of the most comprehensive books about religious persecution that I have ever come across. It truly is "the essential guide to the persecuted church."
Boyd-MacMillan, a writer with Open Doors International, a ministry that assists persecuted believers, has been reporting on and ministering to suffering Christians for some 20 years. In that time, he has acquired not only a wealth of information but also a wealth of wisdom about what persecution is, who is being persecuted and why, and what the rest of us can, and should not, do about it. Part investigative journalism, part exposé, part rallying cry, his book covers an extraordinary amount of territory.
That territory includes an examination of what persecution looks like in places such as Muslim Kurdistan, Hindu India and communist China, among others; an extensive and thorough discussion on the legal and biblical definitions of persecution (the author's definition: "any hostility, experienced from the world, as a result of one's identification with Christ…[including] hostile feelings, attitudes, words, and actions"); a description of the primary places where persecution is found today and the forms that persecution takes; analysis of the lessons we can learn from the persecuted; and a vitally important section on how we can help the persecuted church that in my view should be required reading for anyone who wants to help, especially those who feel called to share the gospel in areas that are hostile to the Christian faith.
As the author continually emphasizes, the issues and situations are often so complex that well-intended Christians who do not understand the complexities and nuances often end up doing more harm than good --- and in the aftermath, the already persecuted believers end up paying an even higher price.
Throughout, the author offers anecdotal examples of the varieties of persecution that exist, from outright assassination to loss of family support as a result of a person's conversion to Christ or Christian activities. But while so many other books focus on either those who were martyred or those who triumphed, this one gives equal time to those who, without any recognition, have endured unimaginable hardship and cruelty. "If all you focus on is the story of the martyrs, you will never understand the story of the persecuted church," Boyd-MacMillan writes. "Martyrdom is the dazzling tip of the iceberg that hides the dark bulk of the body."
FAITH THAT ENDURES should prove to be a valuable addition to the library of any pastor, seminarian, missionary or mission candidate, as well as those Christians whose eyes and hearts have been opened to the plight of those who are oppressed because of their faith. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on November 13, 2011