Michael Lane, Executive Director, Delve Christian Ministries
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If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 1 Peter 4:14-16
I had the incredible privilege of spending a week in India this past month. It was extraordinary for many reasons, not the least of which was the opportunity to immerse myself in a completely different culture. I’ve never before met people so warm, kind, passionate and full of life.
I was certain that during my time in India, I would have at least one encounter so profound that it would move me to write about my experience, and I was right. Yet, I fully expected that moment to be related to poverty, or to the desperate need for preaching the Gospel in this predominantly Hindu nation. What I was not prepared for was the lesson in the true meaning of courage that I would receive from a young Christian man in Hyderabad.
We had never met before that day, and had previously only spoken on the phone a dozen or so times. He was the only person I knew in the city, and we were to spend the day together before I flew back to Chennai that evening. On the long car ride back to the airport, we finally got a chance to talk about our respective ministries and how we have been reaching out to those in our home countries. I spoke briefly about Delve Christian Ministries, and our goal of providing a safe place on the Internet where people can come to know the truth about Jesus and explore and increase their faith.
His ministry is much more direct and personal. He and a group of friends have been reaching out to the rapidly growing IT industry in India. Their goal is to find those rare Christians among the hundreds of thousands of Indians employed by tech companies, and to bring them together to form prayer groups and Bible studies. In this way, they don’t have to feel isolated and alone in the workplace, and have a community where they can share their faith and draw support.
It’s sometimes difficult to locate the Christians in these businesses, and so they have found the most effective method is to stand outside the doors of these office buildings and hand out tracts as people leave for the day. It draws the attention of any Christians, who immediately want to know more about the ministry, and it provides information about the Gospel for all the rest. It’s perfect except for one thing. It’s dangerous.
Yet, they don’t shy away from this responsibility and don’t seem to question whether or not it’s worth the risk. They look at how the apostles were mistreated and abused in the first century and see themselves as being a part of that same mission.
How much courage must it take to preach the Gospel outside an office building in India as these men do? I’m ashamed to say that I don’t know. I’m deeply grateful for the work God has given me to do, yet Delve Christian Ministries is safe, and I have never once feared violence in this ministry. I have never known a single minute in my life when I was in danger because of my faith.
For better or for worse, things are quite different in North America. The biggest threat to the spread of Christianity is not radical Muslims or Hindus, it’s radical apathy and atheism. When we present the Gospel to a stranger, the threat is of ridicule or indifference, not violence. We might be ignored or might be laughed at, but the only risk is to our pride.
It’s unfortunate that whenever we have the chance to share our faith with a friend, a co-worker or even a family member, the risk of making things awkward between us is usually enough to make us reconsider. The thought of sharing our faith with a stranger as they leave work is even more frightening. It would be embarrassing and humiliating.
In North America, we have an instant gratification culture and a short term perspective on almost everything. We will strenuously avoid pain, no matter what the long-term gain. That’s a large part of why its nearly impossible for some people to lose weight or quit smoking. We simply cannot endure suffering, no matter how much it will benefit us in the long run. It’s alien to us. It’s so ingrained into us to avoid discomfort that we will steer clear of a difficult conversation rather than take a chance on introducing someone to Jesus.
Can it be that we would really value our pride above the chance to be used by Jesus in the saving an eternal soul? Well, no, but we rarely think of it in such black and white terms. We don’t want anyone to be lost, but we’re also not good at dealing with conflict and uncomfortable situations. We think there will be a better time or a better place where the conversation will not be so unpleasant. And just like that, the moment is lost.
Of all the lessons I will take away from India, the most important is this: If these men have enough courage to risk their lives to proclaim the Gospel to complete strangers, then the least I can do is have the courage to risk my pride for the sake of my friends and family. It will hurt if they reject what I have to say, or it may make things awkward for a little while, but any amount of short term pain is worth that one chance to bring someone into an eternal relationship with Christ. When the next opportunities arises, I will ask God to give me just a fraction of the incredible courage possessed by those brave believers in India. I pray you will do the same.
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