When I knew that two Nigerian bishops were going to visit our house of prayer, I was really looking forward to meeting them. I knew that the church in their country was growing fast, but I also knew from the BBC news and broadsheet reports that there are ongoing terrorist attacks against Christian congregations that could threaten to destabilise the country. So I was keen to hear how God’s work was going and concerned to find out how they were coping with fear and stress of intimidation and attacks.
So bishops Sunday and Simeon arrived in their ecclesiastical finery and we gladly hosted and showed them round our prayer rooms. Then conversation turned to my questions on their welfare.
Their response fascinated me. Yes, churches are growing, new congregations being planted and many people coming to faith. Yes, terrorist attacks are a problem; churches have suffered but the threat is less than news reports say and far away from their districts. They seemed surprised to hear my concern, for their eyes are more on the kingdom and less on the problems.
However the two bishops in turn expressed concern for the church of the UK. They saw the British church as their parent and were aware of her ailing health. So they quizzed us whether the spiritual fire is still burning in our congregations, and whether young people are still coming to know the Lord. We were touched and likewise sought to reassure them of much good news in our country going against the current of the secular tide – of spiritual health and focus on mission and hope in God’s transforming power.
So there we were, two parts of the body of Christ expressing concern for the other’s welfare. Different situations, contrasting challenges, particular issues to overcome. One facing threats and intimidation, the other secular marginalization of belief. Both real and both needing courage to rise and live out our faith in God.
Jesus calls us all to be overcomers, not just in personal life, but as the collective body of Christ. In the book of Revelation he challenges a variety of churches to overcome – overcome threats, temptation, deception, division, apathy – so that they can gain eternal reward of reigning with Jesus (Revelation chs 2&3). We see the need for the persecuted church across the world to be strengthened and encouraged. They see the need for the Western church to be full of faith and radical in sharing the gospel. Let us all be aware of our own need for God’s grace and power to overcome and be grateful for the prayers of our brothers and sisters across the world.
In the words of Hebrews 10v24: ‘let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds’. We can all be overcomers.