The protection—even financial support—that the church receives from Western governments always seemed strange to me, especially because Jesus said we would endure persecution. Persecution was part and parcel of Christianity from its inception until now. No matter how much we hate it, it is part of the normal Christian life.
Jesus gave the church an assignment before He went back to the Father, and that assignment needed persecution in order to be fulfilled.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:19,20
Life in the church was wonderful after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and nobody took their global assignment serious—until persecution arose against them. When life became too dangerous for believers to stay in Jerusalem, they left—and took the gospel with them wherever they went.
When we look at the picture of the church around the world today, it is interesting to note that it only seems to grow with new converts in countries where Christians are persecuted. I have personally witnessed the growth of the underground church in China, and have seen the church in Ukraine shortly after it became a free country. There is a zeal for evangelism and missionary work, and the threat of persecution only seems to showcase the true virtue of the Christian life to the unsaved.
Churches in persecuted countries don’t have the fancy buildings and equipment that we deem so necessary in the West, but disciples share their faith with conviction and sincerity. Faith that costs you nothing cannot compare faith that comes at a high price.
Needless to say, the freedoms and protections that we enjoy only weakened us in the West; something is missing in our faith walk. There is a tendency to attract sinners using our buildings, music, freebies, and such things. This is not how disciples are made!
For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. 1 Corinthians 4:20
As we approach the end of the era of grace, we will see a change of attitude toward the church in the West. Expect governments to withdraw financial support–such as tax exemptions–together with protections under the law.
The church era is coming to an end. It is time to go back to New Testament ways when sharing one’s faith was a matter of personal conviction– a life in Christ that is too vibrant to be kept secret. There were no denominations back then, just Christ. Meetings were held in homes. The early Christians had a model that worked, and we would do well by learning from them. It is all in the book of Acts.