Wear Orange Sunday: The value of identifying with persecuted Christians

by Dr. Nate Hettinga, lead pastor, Cascade Church
Wear Orange

As I look out at our church family wearing orange T-shirts, I feel both joy and great sorrow. We are intentionally identifying with the persecuted church around the world. I’m proud of this bunch. In a culture of fear and conformity, they are standing up for fellow Christians in harm’s way. We grieve for those suffering.

Like everyone else, I have watched in apprehension as the world focuses on the plight of refugees, immigrants and massive global migrations. As I write this, Europe may yet be brought to bankruptcy in its attempt to absorb refugees slipping past national borders. Most are Syrian, forced out of their homeland by civil war and the ravages of the ISIS caliphate army.

The enormity of need is numbing and overwhelming. My heart breaks. I search desperately for a way to help and to lead my church to get involved. Like most pastors, I haven’t been keeping track of how my brothers and sisters in Christ are faring in the midst of global disruption. In fact, only 40 percent of American churches have even begun discussing the plight of persecuted Christians. And then I begin to see them and hear their voices. How could I have missed the grim reality that begins to emerge?

  • One in 120 Christians have died for their faith throughout church history.

  • Over 20 centuries, 70 million Christians have been martyred for their faith.

  • At the present moment at least 100 million are being persecuted.

  • Each month 322 Christians are killed for their faith.

  • In the Middle East, more that 70 percent of Christians have fled Iraq. 700,000 Christians have left Syria since 2011.

  • In North Korea, 70,000 Christians remain in prison for their faith.

I chose to do a sermon series entitled Orange after viewing the 2015 ISIS beheadings of 21 Christian men who were paraded on the beach wearing orange jumpsuits.  

We soon found there was already a movement underway called Wear Orange, with whom we could partner. They provide free orange T-shirts with an Arabic N (which stands for Nazarene) on the front. A former Iranian Imam shared the podium with me and testified to the power of the gospel and the transforming message of Jesus.

It turned out to be an unforgettable pair of Sunday mornings. A sea of orange-clad Christians stood in solidarity with those who are suffering for their faith. I saw courageous faith on display. If our brothers and sisters can withstand torture, then maybe my church can handle a little ridicule.

Easter followed the Orange series. We collected a special offering for refugee relief in the Middle East. The Converge Cornerstone Fund provided $10,000 in matching funds. Another national organization matched $35,000. In total, over $101,000 was generously offered to aid those fleeing persecution.

Sure, persecution isn’t a feel-good topic. And the refugee crisis is politically charged. But it’s been worth saying something.

“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3).

Nate is also the director of Church Planting Northwest.

    Point - September 2018

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