A video on YouTube shows a crime scene tape across the front door of Great Bend’s Grace Community Church, and its pastors, including the Rev. Jay Beuoy, being locked up in jail cells.
The church at 210 McKinley St. will close its doors for one day, on Sunday, Nov. 11, when members will go “underground.” Grace Community is marking the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church by closing its building and meeting in homes. There will be no services that morning in the church building. Instead, the church will be scattered about the city on what is being called “Church Dispersed Sunday.”
“Christians are the most persecuted religious group on the planet,” Beuoy said. “Each year churches are banned, forcibly closed, or even burned to the ground. Pastors, like Iranian Youcef Nadarkhani, are put in prison. Those like the Dagestani pastor, Artur Suleimanov, are murdered. The lives of simple believers are threatened daily.”
The Pew Forum’s 2012 report, “Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion,” ranks Christians as being persecuted in the most countries (139) between 2006 and 2010. Muslims were the second most-persecuted religion (121), followed by Jews (85).
Beuoy said one estimate puts the number of Christians worldwide who live under some form of repression at 200 million. There are countries where it’s illegal to share one’s faith, or illegal to convert to Christianity. In other countries, public officials turn a blind eye when Christians are “roughed up” or even murdered.
In spite of the video, Beuoy said he doesn’t expect Christians in the United States will face that kind of persecution, at least not any time soon.
“Our goal is not to frighten our people or to have them become morbidly obsessed by the possibility of future persecution here in the States. Our desire is to remind our congregation that the church is the people of God, not the building.”
The exercise is also meant to create awareness and help local members have compassion for the church at large, especially where Christians are going through adversity for their faith. When members of Grace Community Church meet on Nov. 11 in approximately 30 different homes, there will be songs and a short message. The offering collected will be for mission work, especially to areas where such work is suppressed.
As bad as persecution is, Beuoy said, “God can turn it for good. He can use it to energize his people.” In the first major outbreak of violence against the church recorded in the New Testament, “Stephen was stoned to death and in the aftermath the believers scattered outward from Jerusalem. But, it also states that those thus scattered went about preaching the word.
“We want our people to experience the reality that we can thrive even if we are faced with the loss of property. The church would continue. The kingdom of God will advance no matter what our outward circumstances,” he said.
“The exercise also will force us as leaders to better know our people and do a better job of connecting them to one another. Many of our people have never pushed themselves out of their comfort zone to this extent. We are praying that they will gain a new perspective on the vitality of Christ’s church.
“We also hope that our people will invite friends or neighbors that are not in a church. Perhaps some people who might find the church building a little intimidating will be happy to come into a familiar home for worship.”
Regular services will resume the following week.
For information about how to attend church at one of the dispersed locations on Nov. 11, call the Grace Community Church office, 620-792-7814.