New York Times best-selling author and popular Christian Pastor Francis Chan was a featured speaker at an annual Christian persecution conference on Saturday, and shared details of a conversation he had with a Korean missionary imprisoned and nearly executed by the Taliban in 2007.
Chan, who is the author of the popular 2009 book Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God and is the co-founder and former teaching pastor at the Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California, spoke for about a half hour at International Christian Concern's The Bridge 2017 conference, which this year was hosted at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.
Chan, who is also the founder and chancellor of Eternity Bible College in Simi Valley, referenced Revelation 5:8 to speak about the importance of learning "obedience through suffering," a concept that many Christians in the West may not be able to grasp by living their lives in comfort.
He also touched on how Christians are to obey the command given in Hebrews 13:3 — "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body."
"I believe that to remember [the persecuted] well means we care and we try to ease their pain and suffering," Chan said. "But I think also to remember them well means we enter into their suffering and maybe some of us sacrifice our civilian affairs because we know we are living way too comfortably right now."
Chan wondered if Christians who have never faced true suffering for their faith could be missing out on an opportunity to have an even deeper intimacy in their fellowship with Christ.
Chan then shared a conversation he had with one of the 23 Korean missionaries captured and held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2007. Chan explained that when he visited Seoul for the first time, he had dinner with the missionary who detailed the the willingness he and some of his colleagues had to suffer for and with Christ.
Chan did not name the missionary or explain when it was the dinner took place.
"He talked about how they got into this argument because they found out that they were going to be killed one at a time. This man I was having dinner with was saying to this other guy, 'Look, I know they are going to kill us one at a time. I die first,'" Chan recalled. "The other man said, 'No, I die first.' [The first] guy is going, 'No, I am your elder. I die first.' Then, the other man says, 'No, you have not been ordained as a pastor. I am an ordained minister. I die first.' That man was the first one that was executed."
Two male hostages were executed before a deal was reached for the group's release by the South Korean government. One of the martyrs was 42-year-old Pastor Bae Hyeong-gyu and the other was 29-year-old Shim Seong-min.
Chan explained that the missionary he spoke with also told him that some of the 16 female missionaries imprisoned with him and the other six male missionaries have told him since they returned to Seoul that they wish they were still captives of the Islamic extremist group.
Chan quoted the missionary as telling him: "'These women that were in these camps with us, they come to me and they say, 'Pastor, don't you wish we were still imprisoned by the Taliban?'"
"They tell me, 'When I was surrounded by these soldiers, I felt the presence of Jesus in there with me. Now that we are back in Seoul, I am trying to experience that intimacy with Him but I can't. I fast and I pray and I don't feel it. I would rather be back there because of the intimacy I had with him.'"
Chan then suggested that the presence of Jesus that these Christian missionaries felt while they faced the threat of execution is probably similar to what certain martyrs in the Bible experienced before they were killed.
"How great is Jesus if there is nothing better on this Earth than that intimacy and sharing the suffering. ... It totally makes sense to me biblically," Chan explained. "That's why Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into this pit of fire and suddenly, the king is like, 'Wait, why are there four people in there? Who is that fourth one?'"
"That's why Stephen, when he is about to be stoned to death, goes, 'I can see Him,'" Chan continued. "Is there a special fellowship that we share in that suffering that we will miss out on because we just think comfort is everything and we just want to pull everyone into our comfort and into our civilian affairs rather than joining in their suffering and losing our life so that we can actually find something so much better?"
Chan then concluded by citing Revelation 2:10.
"Be faithful, even until death," Chan said. "That is a beautiful thing in the eyes of the Lord."
"I don't know about you, but the Lord is working my heart. I know what it looks like here in America, but I don't think I want to end so comfortably," he added. "I am scared of suffering but I think I am more scared of comfort. I want to join the Apostle Paul. I want to join Jesus. It doesn't make sense to the world but it makes sense in the world if there is a resurrection today."