'Pursue Jesus, not persecution' says Open Doors CEO

Open Doors’ Australia CEO Mike Gore took to social media this week to remind Christians to be aware of the role that fear can play in how they perceive the world – particularly during the pandemic.

“With COVID-19 we’ve heard countless reports about second and third waves,” Gore posted on Instagram. “We’ve seen restrictions ease and contract in a moment’s notice. We’ve spoken for months about vaccines and rollouts. But why hasn’t anyone talked about the second and third waves of fear?”

“We’re not experiencing persecution; we’re experiencing a second wave of fear.”

Last weekend, the ‘ban’ on singing on a livestream from a non-residential building in New South Wales saw some Christian leaders express publicly their concern that Christians were being discriminated against. (NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard signed an exemption on Saturday afternoon, effectively lifting the ban in time for Sunday services).

“But what has singing got to do with it [fear]?” Gore asked. “Everything and nothing.”

“For the church, it’s what singing represents that makes all the difference, it’s not about the song … it’s about the fear surrounding: Identity (Spiritual and Vocational); Job security (staff and teams); Mental and Spiritual Health (Congregations).”

Gore posted that he had noticed Christians turning against one another – but the “true villain” was fear.

“Why do we find it so hard to say, ‘I’m feeling scared?'” he asked.

Gore encouraged readers that Christians can “rest assured we have a saviour of the world in Jesus who will continue to build his church despite any amount of opposition”. He suggested that, in order to transition from fear to love, Christians should return to hope.

“Hope is the only thing in life greater than fear and forms a bridge to change, a bridge from fear to love, inaction to action, no commission to great commission. The churches’ response to COVID-19 must protect against fear, find hope and demonstrate love towards those around us, particularly other Christians.”

“We need to recommit to a Jesus-first approach to life.” – Mike Gore

As CEO of Open Doors Australia and New Zealand – a ministry he has been involved with for more 10 years – Gore is deeply acquainted with the experiences of persecution which Christians face across the globe. Unsurprisingly, he was inundated with questions last weekend.

Gore addressed them in an Instagram post earlier this week.

“Over the last two-three years I’ve watched as many friends make needlessly inflammatory statements and provocative claims with muddy viewpoints that understandably press on the nerves of others. The sad thing is that in these moments these same people put their hands up and claim they’re experiencing a form of Christian persecution because of their faith,” he wrote.

Gore explained he was not saying religious-based persecution does not exist in Australia, but “if people chase persecution over Jesus, then it’s not faith-based persecution, it’s destructive narcissism.”

“Here’s the difference with the Persecuted Church; their focus is to live by and live out their love for Jesus within the community and it’s this fact that invokes persecution,” Gore explained.

“The challenge we face in Western societies is that in a misplaced effort to prove a point on persecution we’ve stopped focussing on Jesus first and in so doing we’ve forgotten about sharing the hope he offers the world around us with grace and love. It becomes point-scoring Christianity where we vie for attention with other groups claiming bigotry or exclusion and only quickening the church’s slide into social, cultural, and political insignificance.”

What does Gore suggest should be the focus for Australian Christians?

“We need to recommit to a Jesus first approach to life, realising he doesn’t need our defending. He needs us to see him as the medicine of the world who offers hope and salvation,” he said. “Let’s stop mislabelling the rapidly changing values in society and culture as persecution …”