WASHINGTON — The president of a persecution watch group based in Washington, D.C. recently recalled the answer he received when visiting China years ago and speaking with a number of pastors who had been previously imprisoned: “Persecution is a gift.” Jeff King of International Christian Concern explained that it is ease and wealth that degrade the Church and make it comatose, while persecution rather purifies it.
King said in a video posted to YouTube that on one of his trips to China, he met with a group of pastors who had been in prison for 10 years or more. One of the questions he asked them was, “Tell me about persecution.”
“Persecution is a gift,” they responded. “It’s not a gift of our choosing. We would never choose it,” King replied.
He later asked what their greatest worry is about the Chinese Church.
“Our biggest worry about the Chinese Church is … that the younger [men] coming up after us, they have not been in prison and tortured and hunted and killed like we were,” they responded.
King noted that the Church has been under attack throughout history, and that Jesus promised hatred and persecution for those who would follow in His footsteps.
Jesus said in John 15:18-20, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own, but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”
“Remember the word that I said unto you: The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”
But persecution does not defeat and destroy the Church. On the contrary, it rather purifies it and causes it to flourish, King said.
“So, our numbers may go up. They may go down. But honestly, I think that needs to happen,” he explained. “There’s a whole bunch of people in the Church that shouldn’t be in the Church [as] they are there for the wrong reasons. And that’s what persecution does. It just cleans out so many people and creates a pure Church.”
King opined it is rather a life of ease and materialism that are harmful to the Church.
“Do you know what kills the Church? It’s not persecution. It’s wealth. It’s ease. It’s influence. Those are the Church killers,” he stated. “I’ll tell you when I look around our country, and when I look at the Church [in] our country [and] around the world for the most part, and then I compare it with the persecuted Church, I say what we need is revival.”
In a separate video, King told a story about the history of the Church in Cuba, and how many pastors left the communist country after President Fidel Castro began persecuting the churches. However, those that remained were mostly pastors who led small house churches in shacks.
“[I]t’s shabby little thing in the eyes of the world,” he said.
But people who were hungering for God began to line up to attend services, and pastors persevered despite threats of imprisonment or death from the government.
King said that some officials even secretly came to the door, stating, “We know God is real, but we know nothing about Him. Teach me. I want to find God.”
He outlined that the Church over time saw immense growth — not because of a church building program but simply out of an authentic hunger to know God.
“It’s people who they get desperate, and they don’t want to live like they’re living anymore in their country,” King explained. “And they get so sick of the state of their country, and they cry out to God, and they say, ‘We have nothing left.'”
He said that all must be brought to this point on a spiritual level.
“[T]his is the secret for all of us, honestly, in our spiritual walk. We have nothing left, because we’re beggars without Him. We have nothing. We’re poor and we’re pitiful and we’re blind,” King continued. “And when we come to that realization and cry out and say, ‘Lord, I want to see. Lord, I want to be clothed,’ then He clothes us. He gives us sight. He gives us sight from the Spirit and He clothes us in His Spirit.”
King urged Christians to pray for revival in America and to see history the way that God sees it.
“[T]hese are days that can birth something truly special in the Church — if we cry out to the Lord for ourselves and for our nation, for revival, for purity,” he said.
In 2 Corinthians 6:4-10, the apostle Paul outlined that he and his co-laborers were “in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings … as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”
In 2 Corinthians 4:8-11, he outlined, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”
Paul joyed in Romans 8:35-37, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”