NASHVILLE — American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was imprisoned for his faith in Turkey for two years, warned that being a Christian in the U.S. may soon come with great personal risk as the culture becomes increasingly “hostile” to believers.
"There is a price to following Jesus," said Brunson told hundreds gathered at the National Religious Broadcasters Christian Media Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, last week. "There is a price in other countries. We hear about that. But increasingly, I think that there will be a price to be paid here."
According to Brunson, the “media, political, the business classes, most of academia are becoming increasingly hostile to those who identify publicly with Jesus Christ and with His teaching.”
"I feel a sense of urgency in my heart for this generation in my country,” the pastor stressed. “I feel it especially for my children's generation that they're not prepared to stand. I'm not sure that everyone in this room is ready to stand for Jesus without apology."
“We need to prepare ourselves now. We need to make decisions now about our commitment to Jesus because otherwise, the natural tendency when difficulty comes is to fear. And when we’re afraid, the natural instinct is to run away, is to compromise.”
“It is normal to be afraid,” he added. “The issue is, will you stand in spite of your fear? Will you remain faithful? In the end, people are going to pay a price for the sake of the Gospel. Overseas, yes, but also here ... there is a cost to following Jesus.”
Brunson, a Christian missionary who lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, was taken into custody by Turkish officials along with his wife, Norine, in October 2016.
Norine was released soon after, but Brunson was thrown in prison, accused of plotting to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. Following two years in detention, Brunson was released last October after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the country.
Brunson shared details about his imprisonment in Turkey, revealing he experienced a crisis of faith while in detention.
“I was actually very afraid,” he admitted. “The issue, actually, is what we do when we’re afraid. There are things to be afraid of.”
Despite severe persecution, Brunson said he believes God is “moving powerfully” in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and other Middle Eastern regions.
“I believe that millions of Muslims will begin to follow Jesus Christ,” he said. “What God has shown us is that this powerful move will come in difficult circumstances. God allows the things of the foundations we trust in to be shaken to get our attention. He allows it in our country, and He allows it in other places.”
“There is going to be a harvest in the most dangerous and the most difficult places, and this means that there is risk to those who are going to gather the harvest in those places.”
Many young Muslims now have access to the Gospel thanks to the rise of smartphones, Brunson explained. “The wind of God is going to sweep through that area and many are going to turn to the Lord. Who’s going to follow them up? Who is going to disciple them? A lot of that is going to have to be done through media until churches can be established in those places.”
The pastor warned that “if we don’t stand here, this will have repercussions far beyond the U.S.”
“If the U.S. hurdles in the darkness, there will be grave consequences for many other countries because the U.S. has been one of the main mission-setting basis in the world,” he said. “Great blessing has flowed from the American church to other countries. So the choices we make that we make here now will have consequences both for us here, for our generations here, but also or the coming generations and for many others around the world.”
“What will motivate us to stand?” he asked. The answer is found in the First Commandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
“This is what fuels endurance, what fuels perseverance,” he said.
Loving God, he declared, also means standing for God, and intentionally pursuing God’s heart “positions us to receive assignments from Him.”
"He is worthy and He is worth it," the pastor concluded. “In the end, you will never regret whatever you place at risk because of your love for God."