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A Gospel Response to Prejudice and Persecution - A Gospel Response to Prejudice and Persecution

Living on the Edge / Chip Ingram
The Truth Network Radio
January 30, 2024 5:00 am

A Gospel Response to Prejudice and Persecution - A Gospel Response to Prejudice and Persecution

Living on the Edge / Chip Ingram

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January 30, 2024 5:00 am

Do you know what it feels like to be singled out, ridiculed, even persecuted for believing in Jesus? In this program, Andrew Accardy and Ronald Raj from our international team discuss the persecuted church, specifically, what our brothers and sisters in India are facing right now. Learn how these believers are overcoming injustice, what their resilience teaches us, and how this ministry supports and encourages them.

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What do you do when you encounter unjust suffering? Sometimes the best way to respond is learning from those who go through the most. Today is a very special broadcast as I'm inviting one of our teammates, a partner from India, to talk with you and me about what it's like to really overcome unjust suffering.

Stay with me. Welcome to this Edition of Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram. Living on the Edge is an international teaching and discipleship ministry focused on helping Christians live like Christians.

I'm Dave Druey. Thanks for joining us as we continue our series, Unstuck, Overcoming the Pain of Your Past. And today we're stepping away again from Chip's teaching in the book of Ephesians to do something different. Recently, two of our international team members sat down and talked about the persecuted church, specifically what's happening to believers in India. So we wanted all of you to hear that conversation to, one, open your eyes to what our fellow brothers and sisters are going through in other parts of the world, and two, to explain what we're doing to encourage and support them. So with that, let's get to today's program, A Gospel Response to Prejudice and Persecution.

My name is Andrew Riccardi. I lead the international ministry here at Living on the Edge. You'd be saying to yourself, international ministry?

I didn't know you had one of those. Yes, we do. We're working in many countries around the world. In fact, we've trained about 150,000 pastors face to face over the last couple of years. You know, in the United States, you will experience Living on the Edge mostly through our broadcasting ministry on radio, and app, and streaming, and the podcast.

But overseas, our focus is on making disciples through leadership development of pastors. And so I'm thrilled today to have with me Ronald Raj, who leads our ministry in South Asia, primarily focused on India. And so Ronald, welcome to the program. Thank you, Andrew. It's a pleasure and an honor to be here with you.

So you've come to Living on the Edge through some unique circumstances. God's really called you to the ministry here. Why don't you just tell us a little bit more about that?

Sure, Andrew. I've been coaching CEOs primarily in how do you unlock exponential growth in organizations. And God's been very gracious.

He's been very kind in how we grew. And there was this time during COVID, you know, there was a bunch of us CEOs we had met in the office. And then we came back. And then I just suddenly saw a message from one of them saying that, hey, guys, get yourself tested.

I've tested COVID positive. And so I preempted, I took some medications, and then it didn't affect me as much as I soon realized it affected my wife. And she was becoming sick, and she was getting worse.

Now that was something which kind of crumbled me on the inside. And I had to literally go on my knees, and then really in seed and asking the Lord to spare her life. And Lord has been very gracious. He healed her. And now I'm left wondering, why did the Lord heal her? Why did he spare us?

The only reason I could think was that he wanted us to serve him. And in that context, you know, the Living on the Edge, Vice President Tim Innes was traveling to India. I had met him in DC at a conference, Movement Day Conference. And so I said, hey, why not catch up in India? And then, sure enough, we caught up. And then he said, you know, we are focused on training pastors. And I said, well, bust of luck.

My focus is on marketplace. And I give him some inputs. And we kept in touch. And during one of the calls, Tim just heard the voice of the Lord. And then he kind of challenged me saying, Ronald, I hear a prompting from the Holy Spirit, and I'm going to release it. And then he said, we're looking for a leader for India.

And it could be you, it might not be you, but pray about it. But he also said something interesting. He said, we are looking to reach about 150,000 pastors in India alone over the next couple of years. Now, that number was astounding. And so I also felt the presence of the Lord very strong.

When he released this challenge, he said, how can a businessman move from making millions to impacting millions? And that was, I would say, a God moment for me. And that sentence would never go. It kept coming back. I said, okay, let me pray about it. And the Lord said, you need to say yes. To cut the long story short, I said yes to Living on the Edge, but 50% of the time.

And sometime in June, July, this year, I said yes to 100%. And so this is where I am. It's amazing how God really works in the hearts of his people, creating some of those circumstances for you to hear his voice. And yet now, it's interesting, you've mentioned 150,000 in India. I just got a note today that said we had covered 150,000 pastors globally so far. So our vision is much broader than that.

But certainly God has already got the ball rolling. It's quite amazing what's happening here at Living on the Edge. So you live in a part of the world.

You're in Bangalore, India right now. That's right. So you live in a part of the world where persecution and prejudice is felt every day. And Chip has just come off of a couple of programs where he's talked about prejudice and persecution. Is that what's going on? Is prejudice really deeply rooted in India?

That's a very, very powerful question, Andrew. The caste system in India is at its highest, although one might not see it happening to a large extent in the cities, but it's there definitely predominant more towards the northern half of India. And what we've seen recently in Manipur as well. Here's a story that I wanted to share. We were at a church camp and I had two older couple who were traveling in a place in North India. And on the way they said, okay, let's stop by and let's get some tea. And so they got off the car and they were treated very well with respect and they got the tea. But here's the stark contrast that I want to bring. When the driver of the car got out and he was asked to stay at a distance, he was asked to wash himself up and approach, you know, and take the tea cup from a distance.

And, you know, he had his tea. So this kind of brings the sharp contrast in terms of while at one level, we as a nation are growing, progressing. India is, you know, one of the largest countries, seventh largest country in the world, one of the oldest civilizations with rich cultural heritage. We're the fifth largest economy.

And well, pretty soon we might overtake Japan and Germany to become the third largest economy in the world. But at the underbelly, these are some of the things which might undermine the growth or even sabotage the growth itself. So until and unless we really change the demographic, the social demographics within the country, we are not going to make real progress. Ron, you mentioned the caste system. Can you just explain for our listeners what the caste system is in India?

Sure. Well, Andrew, there are traditionally there are about four caste systems. The Brahmins is the member of the higher caste and what's considered as they are the incarnation of knowledge.

So they're treated as the priestly class and they enjoy a superior status of the country. The Kshatriyas are the second highest and they represent the warriors, the aristocracy, the kings and the rulers come from this caste system. The Vaishnas are the business people and they're the third class of the caste system. And the Shudras are the labourers. They're the lowest of the four classes of the caste system, the untouchables.

And they feel that their fate is resigned to that and they can't really do anything about it. This is where, you know, the gospel steps in and changes the power of their identity saying that they are not really the downtrodden in the society. They are made in the image of God.

Every human being is made equally in the image of God. And so their identity is really in Christ and not in the society or the caste system, which the society itself defines. Christianity really hit the caste system, turned the whole thing on its head. They never experienced love the way they experienced from the Christian community. Now, you had a Christian pastor or a missionary caring for them, clothing them, giving them food. And they also gave them an education and they gave them hope. The caste system never gave them hope. The gospel gave them hope saying their destiny need not be written by how they were born, but can be rewritten by the way they can be reborn in Christ.

That changed the political setup, that changed the conventional mindset in India. And that was not something which people liked. And that's when they started raising the issues of conversion, saying that, you know, Christians are paying people money so that they can convert. Well, healing cannot be bought by money.

Transformation cannot be bought by money. It's only the gospel and the Holy Spirit who can actually convict people from within and who can heal people and who can actually show them who they are in Christ Jesus. And that's something which was not accepted by people at large in India.

Yeah, a friend of mine says that Jesus has a special place in his heart for the least, the last and the lost. That certainly is the case in India. So, Ronald, after the church now started to get some momentum in India, now the persecution starts, right? Because the government and India is a Hindu nation primarily.

I mean, that's where the Vedas come from. And now, just like in China, China's moving towards nationalism. India is moving towards nationalism and really Hindu nationalism.

You know, let's get back to the way it was. These Christians and some other people are now being an irritant. So, it's leading to persecution of Christians across the nation.

Can you just tell us what's going on? Yeah, with the onset of this new government, they're saying, let's go back and see India as one of the richest, most prosperous, most developed countries if you go back three to five thousand years ago. The movement is focused on saying that, you know, it's only we, the Hindus, can actually help develop our nation. And therefore, Christianity as well as Islam are imported religion.

They're not really ethnic to India. So, let's have an ethnic cleansing. And the way they're doing this is in a very, very systematic way. They're brainwashing the country. They're looking at different ways. They're sowing the seeds.

It's a mass campaign. It's not just something which is happening in a matter of months, but this is happening over a period of years. And mind you, Andrew, this is actually being done in a very, very violent way.

You know, just earlier today, I was going through a report on one of the states in Northeast India, Manipur. You know, what happened there is heartbreaking. Several hundred churches have been destroyed, have been burned down. Recently, in the state of Chhattisgarh, at least about two thousand Christian men, women and children had to flee their villages. They were threatened with death unless they renounced their Christian faith. In December 2021, there were massive religious parliaments in which prominent leaders brazenly called for the genocide of Muslims and Christians to facilitate the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra or Hindu nation state.

So they not only promoted hatred and enmity, but it actually shook the very fundamental principles of secularism and religious tolerance, which was enshrined in the Indian Constitution. So hundreds and hundreds of churches being burned and people have been displaced. Relief camp is being organized predominantly by the church and the support which is being raised to take care of the needs of the people is again supported by the church. To a large extent, the government in the state is not supporting any of the relief efforts, although they have promised funds and relief measures, but that's really not reached to the people in the Christian community. You know, it's amazing in the United States, and it's a horrible thing for any one church to be burned. It just stops you to think if 400 churches had been burned in the United States, what would our reaction be?

It would certainly be strong. But in India, the government's like turning a blind eye. That's right. And that's that's real persecution. The church obviously is responding. I mean, God is doing amazing things throughout the nation. And there are just some amazing stories about even in this moment, God is doing great things. Absolutely, Andrew.

Absolutely. You know, the whole team of about 20 pastors who actually know each other for over 20 to 30 years, decided saying that, hey, we need to do something. You know, we love the Lord. And we have about 40,000 churches in our state. We are going to encourage every pastor of these churches to at least encourage the believers in the church to win one soul per month into the kingdom of God. So now we're looking at end of the year, we're looking at easily about half a million believers, new people added to the body of Christ.

And this is an interesting thing, how Living on the Edge is making a difference. Now, they have embraced the art of survival. And they said, you know what, let's take this message of hope to every single pastor out there in our state, and make sure that we would encourage them, equip them, build them. And they're seeing art of survival as a catalyst towards making their movement of adding at least 5 million new souls to the kingdom over 10 years happen. So art of survival, we are really using this as an evangelistic tool as well.

But here's what we've also seen. A lot of pastors post COVID were discouraged. They were, they lost hope. In fact, one story is there was one pastor who actually had decided that he and his family would end their lives. And they made the decision and they said, okay, somebody has invited us to attend this training.

Let's give this a last chance and let's see if the Lord is going to touch or not. And they finished attending this art of survival. And the entire family recommitted their lives to the Lord.

And they gave up the idea of committing suicide. And there was another pastor who was actually totally discouraged. He had wanted to give up ministry altogether and try and find himself a job.

And after the art of survival, he had tears in his eyes. And then he said, I'm recommitting my life to serving the Lord. So what we found is every other ministry is focused on either the children or the youth or helping the downtrodden in the society. There are so many ministries focused on many other things, but every time we come and share that, we are here to build, equip, inspire, encourage, edify pastors. And that's when they actually become very excited because saying that, hey, there's no other ministry, which is dedicated to helping me in my ministry. And they're walking, pastors are walking a very lonely journey. Sometimes they're on the verge of suicide.

They're on the verge of giving up on their families, on the ministries. And you never know how just one simple four-hour training can make a significant difference. Yeah, it's been, it's an amazing story. And the art of survival, for those of you who don't know about this, we stumbled into this.

I mean, Chip tells a story about how he was just thinking about doing a series during COVID and he was challenged by a leader in Egypt to do it. And now that message from James chapter one has gone all around the world. We stumbled into it very literally.

It was just following God's direction and then look what he's done. And you know, so one of the reasons we work with pastors is if you want to know the health of a church, it usually starts with the health of the pastor. And so for us, we want to invest in the leaders of churches to help them become the disciple that Jesus wants them to be themselves first. You need to be who you want your people to become is what we say. And so that's why we do what we do.

Now, we're talking with one church planter who planted 35,000 churches in his lifetime, house churches primarily. Yeah. And you start to think, wow, who would have thought that we could have had the opportunity to go into the villages all around India. Absolutely. And provide hope like this.

Absolutely. Yeah, this story is really heartwarming. I mean, when I met this pastor, he said he dedicated his so many years in the ministry only to equip pastors and leaders. And these are, mind you, not very well educated pastors, not very well educated leaders. And he's really, I think, the master of the art of replicating leaders, multiplying leaders in some of the most politically sensitive, most oppressed, most persecuted regions across this country. That's why he's very secretive, even when he starts sharing some of these stories and he's very confidential. But what's really exciting is, Andrew, he was very persistent. He said, I want you to come and train these leaders on the art of survival.

Now, I had all of my schedules blocked and I was not able to give it time. And then he kept coming back again and again. That shows his heart and passion for the leaders that he served. And ultimately, he was like the persistent widow who had to go to the judge to give him the time. So I did give him the time. And boy, am I glad that I invested the time and energy because he kind of showed me some of the leaders.

I said, do you see that tiny lady who's very short? That lady is responsible for training thousand pastors, house fellowship pastors. And then he pointed me to another person and said, that person is responsible for training another 300 pastors.

Imagine if we invest into this leader and some of these key leaders, you're literally impacting. There probably would have been about 100, 120 people attending that program when I was teaching. But probably these 100, 120 people could easily represent maybe about 10 to 15,000 pastors. And in the light of persecution in the country, what's happening, you know, this is a new way where we can actually go into house fellowships. And we need to rethink the model of church. And that's why I love the idea of high impact church. It's not all about numbers.

It's not about large buildings, large budgets. It's really how a church can create an impact in the community. And he was excited.

And we are looking forward to working with this gentleman, Andrew. We were talking with another pastor. And what struck me was that, you know, he said, yeah, persecution happens.

And it's not mentioned in a flippant way. You know, like, persecution is always bad. But he's a business leader. And he kind of goes, you know, it's just part of the deal. Part of the deal is somebody is going to get arrested. And you're going to get thrown in jail.

You may get beaten. Our job is to bail them out. I mean, it was like a business leader just saying, well, part of the whole ministry model is, persecution is going to happen.

We're going to spend our money to bail people out of jail. And I thought to myself, in what other parts of the world does that just like a common occurrence? Like, well, it's just part of the plan. But that's what happens when you're dealing with persecution. It's like, there's this rallying together of pastors and leaders. And they're not intimidated. I mean, it's scary, but they're moving forward with the gospel. I mean, it's just amazing to see that, in spite of all of that, you know, not to be flippant. It's not like, bring it on. But it's like, we're going to persist anyway.

Absolutely. You know, Andrew, what's really getting me excited about what we're doing is as well exactly the story that you shared about this pastor, you know. And now this pastor, along with his team, traveled across that length and breadth of the state, going to every single province, you know, every nook and corner. And they educated the pastors. They kind of said, you know what, you can make a difference. And the pastor took the message to the congregation, as Christians, we can make a difference. And literally, over a period of few months of campaign, they actually changed the political landscape in the state.

Now, the party which was ruling the state was a pro-Hindu government. And this one pastor, along with his group of leaders, went that prayer walks across every nook and corner of the state. And they said, now we have a government which is supporting Christians. And I got very excited the moment I heard the story. I said, you know what, if I take this pastor across to Northeast India, and help him share his story, and Living on the Edge can actually be a platform where we can bring in leaders from different parts of the country to support, encourage each other, and share some of these stories, that is on the more powerful.

So I think this is what's exciting for us at Living on the Edge, suddenly we're looking at building a platform where something like this can happen. I think there's a really important lesson in some of this that, at least with one of the pastors we spoke to, and he said, just the power of prayer in persecution. And he said that my expectation of my congregation is that they'll attend three weekends. Then on the fourth weekend, they're going to visit another church to pray for them. And so they're going to visit them with the express purpose of just praying for that congregation. Now, it was funny, they tell stories about, well, sometimes they wouldn't be welcome in those churches.

That's fine. They just stand out on the street and they pray for the church during the church service. What a different mindset. It's like, they really believe.

It's kind of like, what would happen if God really showed up? Do we really believe this? They really believe it. And they're praying for it.

They're seeing the results from it. Absolutely, Andrew. There's another story which we heard during that meeting was a pastor who was persecuted. And then now he's the missions director for AG in India. And he's looking to collaborate with us for the high impact church. He wants to take this training to a thousand cities across the country because he believes in that. Let's look at which city has church. Can we strengthen the existing church with the high impact church training? And if they don't have a church, can we look at planting a church? So I think what we have done through our training on the high impact church in Dubai is really, the Lord has brought entrepreneurially minded pastors who have a vision for their cities, who have a vision for the state, who have a vision for India, who want to make a difference to India.

You know, India has some challenges in front of it. But God is really working in that nation. And we're honored to be just part of that journey with so many great leaders there. And they're the ones, we're resourcing them. They're the ones who are doing incredible work there.

God's using them in an incredible way. So if you're a financial supporter of Living on the Edge, you just need to know that you're making an impact all around the world. I mean, if we could play a role, some role in 5 million people coming to Christ in India, that requires some resources. So if you're supporting us, thank you for doing that.

And the Ministry of Living on the Edge, we've talked about India, but you know, there's also Ethiopia and Kenya and Malawi, Uganda, there's Jordan, there's United Arab Emirates that we're working in, and Egypt and Mexico, Philippines, China. God has really opened some doors really over the last three to four years. And he's given us great opportunity to have an impact on the lives of pastors all around the world. So Ron, thank you for being with us today. We enjoyed hearing from you, but probably more importantly, just the hope that God brings in every circumstance. And so thank you and we look forward to seeing what God does in the future.

Thank you so much, Andrew. Thank you for the opportunity to serve Living on the Edge in India and South Asia. Thank you for investing into so many leaders and pastors in India.

We'll only get to heaven and see the kind of impact that the ministry has done in the country. Thank you. God bless you.

This is Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram. I'm Dave Druey, and you've been listening to a very moving discussion between Andrew Acardi and Ronald Raj from our international team about the work this ministry is doing around the world to support pastors. Now, before we go, Chip's still here in studio with me. And Chip, would you close out our time by praying for our team all over the globe and this mission God's put on our hearts for these church leaders?

Be glad too, Dave. Almighty and all-knowing Father, you are a very present help in times of need. And we ask you to powerfully and supernaturally intervene for our brothers and sisters in India and all around the world. And Lord, you have told us that we are a body and we do rejoice with those who rejoice and we do weep with those who weep. Oh, Father, break our heart for those that are suffering.

Mobilize and move us to make a difference. Thank you that we can trust you in Jesus' name. Amen. Amen.

Thanks, Chip. And as we wrap up, as you've heard today, we are more than a broadcast ministry. We're passionate about supporting discouraged pastors through in-person training and helpful resources.

But to continue doing that, we need your help. And the best way you can do that is by becoming a monthly financial partner with Living on the Edge. Go to LivingOnTheEdge.org or call us at 888-333-6003 to learn more. That's 888-333-6003 or visit LivingOnTheEdge.org. And thanks for doing whatever the Lord leads you to do. Well, join us next time as Chip picks back up in his teaching series, Unstuck, based in the book of Ephesians. Until then, this is Dave Drouys saying thanks for listening to this Edition of Living on the Edge.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-21 08:03:39 / 2024-02-21 08:14:27 / 11

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