JEFFERSON CITY – The Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex “marriage” is seen by many as possibly triggering persecution for followers of Jesus in America.
Nik Ripken is an authority on persecuted believers. “The Bible says we reap what we sow,” Ripken said. “We also cannot reap what we don’t sow. The church in America is reaping what they haven’t sown in America. …We haven’t been persecuted. How can we be so self-centered and we haven’t even lost anything yet? We need to stop whining and start witnessing.”
Ripken pointed to “social engineering” affecting America’s declining moral culture. He views the SCOTUS decision through a missionary filter: “I’m convinced that God will take the persecution that’s possibly coming to assist the church to get back to our roots to focus on Him and to witness….I don’t want to trample on the baker in Colorado, but I would want to build 10 or 15 bakeries that cater to the homosexual community as a witness to them. Lost people have a greater right to access Jesus than I have a right to exert my religious freedom.”
These comments were shaped by 32 years as an IMB missionary with his wife, Ruth, who are from Kentucky. They have to use pseudonyms for security reasons.
They have conducted 600 interviews in 72 countries where believers live amid persecution and suffering. “We’ve been where tens of thousands of people have lost their lives. They’ve been in prison, lost kids, and income. They’ve been beaten and frozen. In China from 1948 to 2000, 90% of the Church’s leaders were in prison at least three years.”
Persecution of Jesus’ followers is one typical characteristic of a church-planting movement. “We are looking at a considerable number of CPMs around the world. As we find in Acts, where there is a great harvest, there is also great persecution. Where there is little harvest there is little persecution. Persecution authenticates it. It can fuel what God is already doing.”
Ripken has captured believers’ stories and lessons learned from suffering in two bestsellers The Insanity of God and The Insanity of Obedience (LifeWay).
A global perspective on persecution is helpful to understand the work of God—and Satan’s response. Ripken reports that 70% who actively follow Jesus already “live in a place of suffering and persecution.”
That reality frames Ripken’s perspectives on current events that some might say are signs that the Tribulation has begun. Through multiple interviews throughout the former Soviet Union, Ripken learned that many pastors in the Soviet Union did believe it was the Tribulation (end times).
“Many [pastors] believed the antichrist was Communism,” Ripken said. “What did this do to their theology when the Soviet Union fell? We spend time with them going through 1 John 4:3. We talk about the antichrist. What they came to believe is that there are always antichrists around the world. These battles are always going on.”
Ripken’s perspective has been shaped by thousands of believers who share Christ even more because they suffer. “The church has suffered tremendously and we haven’t even lost our air conditioning. We’re reaping what we did not sow. We’ve got a non-witnessing harvest with less witnessing going on, so we’re more lost. Pastors say they’re training the members to witness. The members say they pay the pastor to witness. There’s a total disconnect.”
The Ripkens are currently stateside from the overseas assignments raising awareness about the persecuted world, speaking, promoting his books and leading conferences. He believes an educated flock is important.
“Jesus has called us to be sheep among wolves,” he said. “He never called us to be stupid or untrained. That’s why we’re to make disciples. It helps us be equipped to take the Gospel of Jesus across the street and into the world.”
Ripken is the leader for the Servants in the Crucible Conference scheduled at South Haven Baptist, Springfield, Mo. Oct 28-30, 2015. It is sponsored by Evangelism/Discipleship Strategies, MBC. Details and registration limited to 300 are online at www.mobaptist.org/servants.