Lest you think this is maudlin, consider the fact that for centuries Christians have shared the stories of martyrs as a means of strengthening their faith. Ever since the early believers huddled in the catacombs men have been emboldened by tales of Christians who laid their lives down for their Lord.
Disciples of Jesus are martyred nearly every day. But ISIS’ barbarous act has gained international attention.
Your men have seen the news. They were probably angered and horrified by what they saw. As the leader of your congregation, you need to put this incident into its spiritual context.
Let me be frank. The black-clad ISIS militants are not mere terrorists – they are servants of the Devil himself. They’ve beheaded men, raped women and buried children alive. What else — or should I say who else — could motivate such brutality? Who else could take sick pleasure in recording these atrocities to share with the world?
Our brothers and sisters are dying – yet most churches fail to mention these happenings when we gather. Why?
I know – we’re trying to be seeker friendly. Many pastors, as a rule, do not speak of current events during the worship service. I get this. People come to church wanting to experience God. They don’t want CNN. It’s worship – not the evening news.
So, a lot of pastors simply do not mention what’s going on in the larger world during worship. They keep the focus on the positive, personal and parochial – the spiritual lives of their members and activities in the church. Persecution is a downer. It makes people sad.
Yet this focus on personal growth, to the exclusion of larger concerns, perpetuates the notion that the gospel is primarily a tool of self-improvement. Jesus died on the cross to help you get your act together. Christianity helps us live our best lives now.
John Eldredge has said that every man longs for a battle to fight. Men are in this battle whether they like it or not. Men need to connect their personal battles to a larger war with an Enemy who seeks to “steal and kill and destroy.”
Pastor, you don’t have to build your sermon around ISIS. A brief mention will suffice. I recommend it before you go to prayer. Project an image of the 21 hostages. Your men will instantly recognize it. Then say something like this:
As many of you know, the Islamic terror group ISIS took the lives of 21 Christians this week. ISIS has beheaded, burned and buried people alive – their bloodthirstiness knows no bounds.
As followers of Jesus we recognize the hidden hand that controls these terrorists. For more than 19 centuries Christians have been the target of persecution. Jesus told us this would be so.
Men, we are at war with spiritual powers that want to enslave us. It’s a war that’s been raging for centuries. Our forebears fought back the darkness, but evil is becoming more aggressive in our generation. Men, we cannot allow the darkness to advance on our watch.
As Christians, we must recognize that this is a spiritual battle. And we must fight using the spiritual weapon of prayer.
As we go to prayer, I want to challenge every man to pray earnestly with me. Put down your phone, clear your mind and focus on the battle. Your brothers are dying. They need you. Now, join with me in prayer.
Lord, we get so wrapped up in our comfortable lives here, we forget to pray for those who are literally dying for their faith. Forgive us for that.
And now we pray for persecuted Christians around the world – particularly those in the Middle East. We ask for your protection and favor to shine down on everyone affected by ISIS – whether they are Christians or not.
And now we ask boldly and with confidence that you will defeat ISIS – and soon, before they can shed more blood. Stop this evil movement in its tracks.
Father, we know that one day real persecution could come to our nation as well. And if the time comes, and I am asked to give my life for my faith, make me a bold witness for Jesus.
In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Pastor, feel free to use these words in your service this Sunday – or adapt them as you see fit.
If you do a men’s huddle at the end of the service, then have a couple of men with Sharpies, ready to draw the mark of the Nazarene on the palms of each man who is willing. Call your men forward and tell them:
Men, I am asking you to fight for your persecuted brothers this week. I am asking you bear the mark of the Nazarene. This is the mark that ISIS has used to identify Christians. If you are willing, put your hand out like this, and brother Joe is going to draw the mark of the Nazarene on your palm or forearm. And every time you see the mark I want you to offer a quick prayer for persecuted Christians, and for the defeat of evil in our world. If you don’t want this mark then just keep your hands at your side.
Then pray with your men once again.
Be assured, you’ll get some negative feedback if you do this. But I think your younger men will be moved by it. And it’s the right thing to do. If you want your men to be more active, here’s an opportunity stretch them.