Greg Gilbert, an American pastor based in Louisville, Kentucky, recalled during a recent sermon a past visit to a closed country in East Asia, where his attention was drawn to an eye-opening difference between faith-based bookstores in the West and those in countries more hostile toward the Christian faith.
The Third Avenue Baptist Church preacher told his congregation that a missionary he was with took him into a Christian bookstore in the Asian country and said, “I want you to look around, and I want you tell me what you notice about the books that are on display here.”
“I saw all kinds of books,” Gilbert remembered. “There was Christian discipleship, friendship, money — there were all kinds of things. … My friend said, ‘What do you not see here?’ And I didn’t get it.”
“After a few minutes,” the pastor continued, “he said, ‘What you’re not gonna see here are books about the church.’ And I said, ‘Why not?’ And he said, ‘The government of this country — this closed country — knows that if Christians are just individuals, they’re not a threat. If Christians just care about their finances, and their friends, and their devotional life, and their 30-day Bible reading, and all the rest of it, they’re not a threat.”
Gilbert went on to say his missionary friend told him Christians “become a threat when they organize, because their allegiance is to a different King.”
The recollection from the Louisville minister comes as China continues to severely restrict the religious practices of Christian and Muslim citizens. The communist regime has carried on destroying churches, arresting Christian pastors without cause, and detaining Muslims in what the government has called “re-education camps.”