SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (Christian Examiner)—Missionary and author Nik Ripken says the worldwide persecuted church has an important message for American Christians—open your eyes to what's around you.
Ripken told messengers to the 2015 Missouri Baptist Convention, held at the University Plaza Hotel and Expo Center in Springfield, Mo., the worldwide persecuted church looks at the church in the United States and sees miracles and they should, too.
"Folks, I'm begging you, claim your miracle this morning," said Ripken, who wrote the book The Insanity of God about his own journey as he served among persecuted Christians. "Look into the mirror of how the rest of the world looks at you. It's not because of your country. It's not because of your politics. It's because of the very grace of God you get to gather like this. This is from the throne of God. Do you see it as a miracle or an obligation?"
To drive this point home, Ripken told a story of meeting with Chinese Christians who asked him how believers in the United States lived. As the veteran missionary told them, they began to weep. A man then asked him, "Why is it that God loves the church in America so much more than the church in China?"
The man then compared the opportunities for Christian healthcare and worship and the low persecution levels in the United States with the miraculous healings and dreams frequent in China and suggested Americans are seeing greater miracles.
"You've watched us as pastors and deacons and elders and church planters and evangelists stay one step ahead of the persecutors," the Chinese man told Ripken. "And you tell us that your pastors, if they want to, can stand in the house of God, in the presence of God's people and, if they want to, preach the gospel of Jesus Christ 24 hours a day, seven days a week and nobody goes to jail, nobody is beaten, nobody loses their kids. They don't lose their jobs. They are not killed. Which is the greatest miracle, son?"
Ripken then began to sob.
"I began to sob because I had called this ... normal, what I deserve, everyday, common and the body of Christ globally looks at what God has given us, and they see it as a throne. They see it as a miracle of God from his very throne. What do we do with it? We can sit here and we can worship without excitement. We can worship without our hearts being thrilled. We can walk into the house of God without having cold chills all over our bodies or the hair standing up on the back of our neck. We don't see our worship, our pulpit, our singing, our availability to Christians in so many walks of life as a miracle from the very throne of God."
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Ripken told Missouri Baptists he hoped his message would give them both a window to see the persecuted church worldwide and a mirror to see how the persecuted church looks at them. He recounted his own journey of discovery as he dealt with doubts that arose in him after he began ministering in places with high amounts of persecution toward the church.
Ripken began his message in Matthew 11 and the story of John the Baptist asking whether Jesus was the Messiah. He suggested that Jesus' response was to tell John to "man up" and endure the pain and persecution to come.
"When he could get John out of prison he said, 'Blessed is the one who does not stumble on account of me.' When he could have gotten him off the cross when he cried out, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' and he could have saved his son, but for you and for every Muslim alive equally, in love, God determined to leave Jesus on a cross."
He told about experiencing a worship service in rural Kentucky with a formerly Muslim girl who had become a Christian and experienced significant persecution in her home country. As the pastor baptized a family who had recently come to Christ, he says the girl began to fidget in the seat between him and his wife. Thinking she was feeling panic because of worshipping in a mixed-gender room, Ripken asked if she needed to leave.
"No, I never dreamed that, in all my life, I'd ever see something like this," the girl told him. "You're telling me that a whole family can be baptized and no one is going to get beaten. Nobody is going to jail. Nobody is going to be tortured. Nobody is going to be killed. I never dreamed there could be a miracle like this."
Ripken went on to tell the audience that he didn't care as much if they believed that Hindus were being healed by the tens of thousands and believing in Jesus or that 90 percent of the Muslims who come to faith in Christ have dreams that are a part of their journey. Instead he wants American believers to see the miracles that God has given them.
"I want you to look at yourselves like believers in persecution, the rest of Christendom, looks at you," Ripken said. "Can you imagine how that believer in Somalia would act if he or she were here this morning? Can you imagine what it would be like to have an Afghan believing family with us this morning? Do you think they'd call this common?