Todd Nettleton, host of "The Voice of the Martyrs Radio," urged American Christians to learn from the examples of Chinese Christians who have prepared themselves and their children to stand firm in faith.
"One question I often ask persecuted Christians when I visit and interview them is this: How did you get ready for persecution?" Nettleton wrote for an op-ed in the Western Journal.
"It's a question I ask to delve into details of their own story, of course. But it's also a question American Christians are asking: If persecution is coming, how can we prepare our hearts, our minds and our children to stand firm in faith?" he added.
After personally interviewing hundreds of persecuted Christians throughout his 20+ years at VOMS, Nettleton said he'd observed the following themes in their responses.
- Persecuted Christians get ready because they decided to get ready.
"Part of getting ready is acknowledging that persecution may come," he pointed out, "That I, myself, may have to pay a price for what I believe."
According to Nettleton, though many saw the cross as a lovely symbol to wear on a chain around their neck, when Jesus commanded his disciples to pick up their cross and follow him (Matt. 16:24), they recognized the cross as a way of cruel torture and death. Additionally, Jesus instructed his disciples to count the cost (Luke 14:28).
- Persecuted Christians get ready by knowing God's Word.
The late VOM Canada director Glenn Penner, wrote that "The Bible (especially the New Testament) was written by persecuted believers to persecuted believers." Nettleton noted that there's no better book to prepare for persecution than the Bible.
He said that the Bible speaks directly to Christians' troubles and tells them on how to respond - by loving their enemies and praying for those who persecute them.
- Persecuted Christians get ready by watching and learning from those who've already suffered.
Nettleton thought of a pastor he had met years earlier, Elder Zhang Chunlei, who was completely prepared for persecution. A consensus was reached among the church leaders, including him, who were prepared to bear any hardship rather than deny their faith or give up their ministry. Additionally, they vowed to see any future imprisonments not as severe injustices or insurmountable difficulties, but as opportunities to bear testimony for Christ.
"When Chinese Christians speak of 'prison ministry,' this is what they mean: A Christian gets arrested, goes to prison and shares the gospel," he noted.
The church leaders agreed to stop what they are doing to gather at 5 p.m. every day to pray for one other, whether they are in prison on not. Because of this, wherever Elder Zhang is, he knows people are praying for him daily at that time.
As mentioned by Nettleton, members of the Chinese Christian community such as Elder Zhang are acquainted not just with Biblical figures like Peter and Paul, but also have knowledge of prominent examples from their own culture, such as Watchman Nee, Pastor Samuel Lamb, and Pastor Allen Yuen.
The VOM presenter recommended that Christians in America and other free nations reflect on experiences of Christians who have gone through similar hardships for their faith by checking the Voice of the Martyrs.
"Every time we read the story of a persecuted Christian, the simple question, 'What would I do in that situation?' can help us think and pray and grow strong in our faith-strong enough with God's help to endure any coming trial," he concluded.
Cases of repression that are hard to ignore
According to Aid to the Church in Need's (ACN) 2021 report on Religious Freedom in the World, there has been an increase in "polite persecution" in the West. This new kind of persecution is characterized by "restrictive measures" embedded in public policy and legislation.
Aside from bans or restrictions on worship capacity, belief in traditional values is criminalized in the United States via laws under the pretense of fostering "equality." One way this is accomplished is by expanding the meaning of "hate" speech to include statements about Biblical beliefs.