The Freedom Scale 1
Freedom Scale 2
The Freedom Scale 3
The Freedom Scale 4
The Freedom Scale 5

There are a few keys to the long-term progress of these countries up the ladder of the Freedom Scale:

1. Bold National Believers

For each level there will be different consquences but the need is for believers willing to die for their faith. If we will be faithful to teach the Word the disciples will grow in their boldness. We do not force or even push a disciple of Christ to take a public stand with his faith. The Word of God and the Holy Spirit must do the pushing.

Through this public declaration of their faith, believers in Algeria have won the right to the freedom of religion. This step is pending for the countries of Morocco and Tunisia. The only thing we are waiting on is the boldness of the local believers causing them to step out and take a stand on a national, public level.

For countries ranking 0 on the freedom scale, boldness for Christ will likely result in the shedding of their own blood. That is tragic yet glorious at the same time. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

2. Bold Foreign Missionaries

Missionaries willing to take risks for Christ’s name will find that they can train disciples equally willing to do the same thus impacting their respective country on a national level. Boldness does not always mean street preaching. There is a time to meet in secret as long as it is in preparation and strengthening of the body for the day the church will stand openly for the faith.
The question has been asked, “Can a Christian be a secret Christian? Can a church be a secret church?” I believe that is an easy one to answer according to Christ’s teaching: No. The more difficult and needy question to ask was posed by Piper in his book Desiring God, “How long can a Christian remain in secret before offending his Savior? How long can a church remain secret before offending her bride?” Many believers in Muslim contexts believed before anyone knew. They are no less believers in Christ than those of us who accepted Christ at an alter call in America.

However, if they are true believers of Christ they will grow in Christ. Anyone growing in Christ recognizes he must confess Christ before men and not deny Him. Therefore, he will come to a point where he makes himself known first to friends, then family, and possibly even his country on a public, national level.This will bring glory to Christ even with the persecution that it brings.

The missionary going into a Muslim context must know this about his work: it will (or at least should) create martyrs at varying levels. This is a difficult realization by a missionary who imagined a very different result to his efforts to bring the good news as an idealistic seminary student or viewer of missionary presentations. As most missionaries begin their path toward missions they are imagining churches not martyrs. They imagine training pastors who will stand and lead large groups not sit alone in a prison cell. They imagine years of fruitful ministry baptizing, marrying, and burying not a red stamp on their passport after 3 or 4 years of ministry that says, “Access Denied”.
The danger is that we make our ideal of missions our pattern. We stop allowing the Word of God to mandate our work. We change our strategy so as not to face the “red stamp”, the social and family rejection, and the martyrs. We thus become the pattern for the national believers and stunt their growth in Christ. What often happens is that the national believers will see hypocrisy in the life of the missionary who claims to follow the Bible but is unwilling to live by it’s mandates.

The same thing that happens to the individual as he grows in Christ will happen to the house church the missionary plants: it will (or at least should) grow increasingly public as it’s members grow in Christ. This will bring persecution but eventually will bring more religious freedom. This should not be a course of events the missionary tries to prevent but instead allows to happen as God works in the hearts of the believers corporately.

So the question a church planter and missionary must ask is no longer, “Can the church I plant remain in secret?” but instead “How long can it remain in secret before it offends Christ who gave himself for it?” I don’t believe anyone can give an actual time (1 month, 1 year, 2 years, etc) but this question must be answered by every church begun in secret in the Muslim world or outside of it. The job of the church planter is to give the disciples Biblical answers to this question on a case by case basis, support them in it’s inevitably dangerous outcome, and instruct them in wisdom on behalf of those who are young and fragile in the faith.

I have seen great damage done to believers whose missionary pastor has started their church with the idea that the church will always be kept a secret. The believers are robbed of their great honor of being some of the first in their country and culture to stand and suffer for Christ publically like the Apostles after Christ, Ignatius of Antioch in 117 ad, Marcellus of Tanger in 298 ad (never heard of him? You’ve got to read his story!), and countless other martyrs who have gained that honored place in heaven described in Rev. 7:14. The converts of such a “secret at all costs” philosophy tend to be very fearful in the way the view evangelism, the Bible, other believers, and the lost around them. They are treated like baby’s to be coddled and protected and, in fact, end up as baby’s never growing strong in Christ.
However, if missionaries will just let the Bible speak for itself into the lives of these new believers they will eventually take a public stand for Christ. This will cause persecution for them but more and more will take this stand for Christ, each one adding a stepping stone of motivation into the swift moving waters of Islamic Jihad. Every time a believer takes a more public stand for Christ than had been taken before, others, however new, with the Spirit of God in them, feel an inner impulse to not be left behind in being named by the name of Christ. There is a strange thing that happens as men run toward martyrdom each to join those taking the boldest stand. None wants to be left holding on to his fear when Jesus counts his saints.

We must foster this inner strength and desire to stand for Christ motivated by the Word. Boldness and openness must not be a conjured speech or man driven motivation but a gradual realization on the part of the disciple as he studies the words of Christ. This is the most difficult and important task a missionary in the Muslim world has: to encourage new believers toward pain and not shield them from it.

When we do this, our job, the countries we serve in will over time move up the ladder of the Freedom Scale.

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