When the Church Loses Her Zeal

The handsome Moldovan couple had been married for 52 years. Upon meeting them you wouldn’t know they had been persecuted for their faith. Despite being raised in then-communist Moldova, both Mikhail and Olga were raised in Christian homes and came to a personal relationship with Christ as children. As a young man serving in the Soviet army, Mikhail faced ridicule and beatings from his comrades because of his faith in Jesus while two of his brothers spent time in prison for their roles as pastors.

Olga’s English was excellent, and during my recent visit to Moldova I was able to talk with her about the old days before the Iron Curtain fell when the church was persecuted. Every day, she said, they lived with the prospect of the KGB coming and taking them away. Every day, she said, they would ask God to bring freedom to Moldova. Olga went on to tell me how excited they were when independence came to Moldova in 1991.

After twenty years of freedom, Olga said she still thanked God for delivering them. Nevertheless, she did say that freedom had one negative effect for the church. She struggled for a moment to find the right English word to express her thoughts, but then it came to her. She said, “we have lost our zeal.” Olga explained that when the church was persecuted they experienced the fire of the Holy Spirit constantly. They had to rely on God when social ostracism, prison, or even death were potential realities. Now, however, a real consequence of freedom was apathy in the church.

Olga’s story stuck with me. I was convicted because I don’t know that I have ever had the same kind of “zeal” as an American Christian that Olga missed in the Moldovan church. I’ve never had to live daily with the prospect of punishment or persecution because of my faith.

In Titus 2:14 we are told that Jesus Christ gave Himself to redeem us and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. The idea behind being “zealous” is to be eager or enthusiastic. As a disciple, being zealous to do good works is the only fitting response to the grace of God that saves. It shouldn’t take a totalitarian regime and an underground church to make us zealous. Zeal for Christ ought to be the normal mindset of the disciple.

Flying home, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean a question came to my mind. When, I wondered, did the church in America lose her zeal? But then I asked myself, did we ever really have it?

So, are you “zealous” for good works? Are you eager and enthusiastic to live out the life of a disciple? What would it take to drive you to depend daily on God’s grace? Pray for revival in the American church. Pray for a spiritual awakening that will restore that same zeal back to Olga’s church, too.

Read more about the NC Baptist partnership with Moldova.


A Grandfather, Siberia, and a Bible

He removed the 110-year old family Bible with care from a simple white plastic bag. With his most prized possession in his hands, Alexander told the story of his grandfather with tears in his eyes. His grandfather was a pastor in the Ukraine in the former Soviet Union where it was illegal to teach the Bible and preach the Gospel. The grandfather was arrested and sentenced to 10 years of hard labor in Siberia for preaching the Gospel. Before he was arrested, he was able to hide the Bible with a friend. Not knowing whether her husband was dead or alive, Alexander’s grandmother continued to teach her children using that Bible. The grandfather barely survived Siberia but was released after he completed his time. When he returned home his family didn’t even recognize him after all the years of neglect in the prison camp.

Now Alexander is a pastor in Moldova and uses the family Bible to teach his grandchildren about Jesus Christ. I was able to meet Alexander last week and had the privilege of preaching in the church he planted and pastors. Our entire mission team was treated to dinner in his kitchen where he told of his grandfather. When he told the story I was moved to tears. I was witnessing first-hand the impact of generational discipleship. The family Bible was a physical reminder of the commitment of a man to pass his faith down from generation to generation.

I thought about Psalm 78:5-7:

He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.

Christians in the Soviet Union didn’t have the luxury of a church down the street to handle the discipleship of their kids. The church was underground and it was up to parents to pass faith along to their children. In fact, I don’t think it would have ever occurred to those parents to rely on someone else to teach their children about faith.

What about you? Are you teaching your kids to love God through His Word? Do they know about your faith? What if you were separated from your family like Alexander’s grandfather? Would your family know to set their hope in God?

Today, we’ve been conditioned to look for helps like devotional books or curriculum lines to help us know what to say to our kids. Those tools can be helpful to be sure. But it seems that believers in places that don’t have access to other literature are doing just fine with God’s Word alone.

So, try this:

  • Read a chapter of the Bible yourself.
  • Make a note of a principle or promise you need to apply to your own life.
  • Share that chapter and principle or promise with your kids.
  • Pray together as a family, asking God to help you walk in His ways.

Train your kids to know the Word even if your not around!

Read more about Alexander.

Find out more about the NC Baptist Moldova Partnership.