Insights From Cole Richards, VOM President, On Training Young Believers

The following reflection is written by Cole Richards, President of The Voice of the Martyrs. In this insightful passage, he offers insight on raising up a new generation of believers in our nation.

Years ago, I was standing with the elders in a remote village near the border of Syria and Turkey as their Islamic festival began. My wife was across the square with other young mothers, and our two children, ages 3 and 2 at the time, were playing happily with a large group of toddlers. My wife, wearing the head-to-toes traditional clothing required for women, did not draw attention, but our children’s bright blond hair made them immediately noticeable to all. With the exception of us four, everyone in the village was devoutly Muslim. We knew that some were Islamists, people who sought to make their country entirely Muslim, by force if necessary.

As a frontier missionary family, it had taken more than a year for us to gain enough respect to be invited to visit such an entirely unreached village. And they were still resistant to everything we shared about Christ. We were there to communicate eternal truth to people who were not inclined to trust anything we had to say. They had been taught to view Americans as enemies, and they had seen enough Western movies and other media over the years to thoroughly convince them of our culture’s immorality. Moreover, they would have to be willing to suffer severe persecution from their family, community and government to seek or follow Christ.

After recent conversations with college-aged students and young professionals in  the U.S., I have come to realize that the difficulties of gospel proclamation and disciple-making inherent in frontier missions work are also present here, in our culture. The challenges are less severe, but they are identical in type. Our Lord’s instruction in Matthew 28:19–20 — “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” — requires both cross-cultural and cross-generational activities. Both include challenges that require long-term dedication and faithfulness.

Like the Muslims in my story above, the young people in our nation have seen so much selfishness and corruption among “Christian” leaders and institutions that they are initially inclined to distrust us. We will need to persevere in order to earn their respect. And there are parallels between the opposition converts currently face in restricted nations and the future opposition young Christians will experience within our culture for seeking or serving Christ. We will need to persevere with an understanding that they need more than a brief, one-time gospel presentation to make such a costly decision.

As we consider these challenges, we can be inspired by the stories of perseverance in VOM’s monthly magazine. Our persecuted Christian family members exemplify the deep commitment it will take to raise up the next generation of disciples for Christ in our nation and around the world. Persecuted believers show us how to remain steadfast in our calling as Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) within a culture that opposes and rejects us. May we, like them, remain clear and consistent in our representation of God’s truth, while communicating it through the humility and patience of God’s love.

Persevering to Train the Next Generation
Categories: Stories from the Field

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