WAGF Commission on Religious Liberties
The Commission on Religious Liberty was established by the World Assemblies of God Fellowship to be a voice to the world and governments in defense of the Christian faith, social justice, and persecuted believers.
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Unity in Suffering
by Randy Hurst
Early in 1998 Greg Mundis and I traveled to Bosnia. On a Sunday morning we gathered with a group of about 80 believers in the predominantly Muslim city of Mostar for worship. Believers packed the bullet-riddled building from wall to wall, with almost equal numbers of Croatians, Serbs, and ethnic Muslims uniting their voices in fervent worship. The worship team reflected the group’s diversity—the young man leading worship was Croatian, at the keyboard was a Serb, and the drummer was an ethnic Muslim.
In a place where hundreds of thousands were killed in a bitter civil war, people from all three warring factions had been set free from hatred by the redeeming power of Jesus Christ to worship together in unity and love.
All over the world, Spirit-filled people share compelling testimonies of the transforming and uniting power of the Holy Spirit.
While the Spirit’s power to bring like-minded people together is considerable, I have discovered that in certain interdenominational contexts and efforts, we can work well with some Christian groups, but not as much with others. If the other groups differ notably from us in theology, doctrine, and church governance, we can become distracted from the priorities of our own mission.
The task may dictate the efficacy of the endeavor. For example, church planting efforts require consistent and even uniform doctrine and practice and do not lend themselves well to interdenominational cooperation. On the other hand, in public evangelistic outreaches, Pentecostals and non-Pentecostal evangelicals can work together effectively to proclaim the gospel and call people to receive Christ as Savior.
Suffering church issues significantly broaden the capacity for cooperation. Christians of all kinds, including those in mainline Protestant denominations and even the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, can unite in advocacy when a particular group is suffering for the name of Jesus, even if they have significant doctrinal differences.
As Christian groups face increasing persecution in the coming years, I believe we will find ourselves increasingly in that situation—advocating for the suffering church alongside other churches of differing theology and practice.
As the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:26, if one part of Christ’s body suffers, every other part suffers with it. We can expect suffering to unite those who proclaim allegiance to Christ in ways other ministry ventures might not.