This article was submitted by Guest Author, Amber Grady-Fuller
My heart throbbed with excitement because some of the women attending the marketing conference had dedicated 30 years or more to their cause. Most were executive directors, CEOs and non-profit founders with names that left me star struck. I’d signed up for the marketing conference and paid for it out of my own pocket because it was led by a well-known writer and hospice care worker. The non-profit I was representing needed all the help we could get to move things forward. However, I would walk out of this conference with an entirely new understanding of what persecution really feels like.
We were working on ways to explain our entire non-profit organization in a single sentence. So, it made perfect sense for the facilitator to begin by having us look at a number of existing mission statements and then discuss amongst ourselves some ideas for improvement.
One of the mission statements that came across the presentation screen was from a local hospital and read “Extending the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.” The unexpected sound of the crowd laughing at the name of Jesus shocked me completely silent. “At least we know what is important to them” one woman shouted from the back. Laugher erupted again, and another woman chimed in “lets judge them to health…”, followed by another round of laughter. “Wonder if this hospital turns sick gay people away.”. The jokes about judgmental Christians mixed with laugher continued for what felt like an eternity. The sound of the crowd laughing at the name of Jesus was not enough to silence the thoughts screaming in my mind.
This unsuspecting moment literally changed my view of the liberal agenda and who is running non-profits in our country. For the rest of the conference I silently wrestled with myself, trying to process what happened and what I could do about it. My heart sat surrounded by darkness, as I realized this was an attack against all believers and I had no idea how to respond to it. Nobody had ever told me that mocking persecution existed in the midst of compassionate world changers.
As a child listening to stories about Christians in the Bible being stoned to death for their faith, I imagined myself facing this moment a hundred times. Only in my imagination, this mockery looked very different. Some massive man would ask me if I believed in Jesus and trembling I’d whisper, “yes”, willing to face whatever consequences came. Every time I’d ever heard someone talk about persecution it involved horrific things like prison and torture, but in this meeting I experienced the debilitating power of mocking persecution.
My moment of persecution included neither torture nor prison. The only weapons were words and laughter, but I was completely immobilized because I was not prepared. Until that moment, I didn’t even realize that I was the only Christian in the room. I was surrounded by passionate caring helpers of the broken and hurting of this world and somehow Christians were not there. The people around me professed their undying commitment to making the world a better place, yet somehow Jesus wasn’t welcome in this room. I couldn’t decide if it was worse to be the only Christian in a room full of helpers, or hearing people laugh so openly at the name of Jesus.
Since that first conference, I’ve now experienced similar persecution in gatherings with non-profit workers hundreds of times. I work with many high-level executives who have asked me why I refuse to engage in political conversations. I wrestle with why so many Christians talk about supporting those in need, but I don’t see them financing the organizations nor attending any of these meetings where the decisions of how to proceed occur. Even this specific hospital has now changed their mission statement to “Our healing ministry is to improve the health and well-being of the communities we serve.” The persecution works to silence or force change upon those who would dare attach the name of Jesus to works of compassion.
Just recently I was headed into a particularly intense meeting and I asked a Christian friend to pray. She said that she was unable to cover me in prayer right then because she was finishing up copies for a church budget meeting that was happening in an hour. On some level, I appreciate the blatant honesty of my friend not promising to pray for me when she was unable to do so. On the other hand, I was left attempting to minister in a dire situation without any prayer support, and that is a difficult task for anyone. This ongoing experience leaves me wondering if this is really the church that Jesus died for.
The evidence all around me makes it crystal clear that the enemy surrounding us looks different than I thought. I am not being silenced by some terrorist focused on beheading every Christian on the planet, but the prosecutor looks like compassionate people who believe that Jesus is judgmental. If the church is going to stand up to the persecution that is forcing organizations to stop using the name of Jesus, the people of the church are going to have to begin by leaving the church walls and showing up to the places where the hurting are finding refuge.