Instead of standing idly by while Christians in other parts of the world are being persecuted for their faith, Pastor William McDowell is using his new album "Sounds of Revival II: Deeper" to draw people's attention to the crisis.
The Grammy Award-nominated singer who also serves as the senior pastor of Deeper Fellowship Church in Orlando, Florida, says he's been paying attention to the persecution taking place in various countries around the world for some time. On his latest album, McDowell invites believers into a worship experience that can provide hope for those who are being persecuted while shedding light on the injustices followers of Jesus Christ face every day.
"The Scripture is clear that what happens to our brother happens to us. We're not separated from persecution just because we ourselves don't experience it in the same manner," McDowell said in an interview with The Christian Post. "That doesn't necessarily mean that we won't. We have a responsibility to those of us who are living in that kind of oppressive and repressive society to do more."
According to advocacy group Open Doors USA, Christians are being persecuted on every continent, with heightened threats in the Middle East and Asia. The group estimates that 322 Christians are killed for their faith each month, while believers endure 722 acts of violence committed against them within the same time frame.
Earlier this year, the Center for Studies on New Religions released a report showing that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world, and revealed that an estimated 90,000 Christians were killed in 2016 because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
"There are believers in areas of the Earth who literally give their lives for the sake of the Gospel," McDowell said. "I find it quite alarming knowing there are people who are in house churches, underground churches [and] on street corners knowing they're going to be tortured and arrested but will proclaim the Gospel. Yet we won't go to church because it's raining, we don't feel like it, we're tired, or things of that nature."
While the Western world has yet to experience life threatening persecution, some do believe they're being discriminated against because of their biblical beliefs. According to a 2015 LifeWay Research survey, the majority of Christians in the United States believe their religious liberties are being threatened.
McDowell, however, believes Christians in the West need to understand that they have yet to experience the level of persecution that exists in other regions of the world.
"I think it's important for us to know we in the Western church, the American church, have really cheapened persecution with the term 'haters,'" he told CP. "Really, what happens is if someone doesn't agree with us we call them haters and say we're being persecuted when there are people who are giving their life and are in present danger on a regular daily basis for believing the same thing we believe."
For the singer-songwriter and pastor, it's important to intercede for those suffering and provide spirit-led music that lets them know they are not forgotten. Beyond digital retailers, McDowell wants to make sure his latest album can reach those in need so they can have a worship experience that fills them with the Holy Spirit.
"The hope of the Gospel is what they hold onto because life is temporary. For me, it's also critical [to understand] the reach of our ministry, knowing there are people in these regions who hear us, listen to us, and draw strength from us," he said. "We have a responsibility then to say, 'Hey, not only have we not forgotten about you, not only am I praying for you, but we want the strength of our voice to strengthen you and encourage you, lift you up and provide an atmosphere for an hour if you're listening to this.' You can literally be immersed in an atmosphere that you may not be immersed in for the rest of your day where you are."
In 2015, McDowell was led by the Holy Spirit in a live recording at Bethany Church in Baton Rouge, Lousisiana. He released over an hour's worth of material from that worship experience as his fourth album, Sounds of Revival last year.
His fifth album, Sounds of Revival II: Deeper, is the second installment in his series and the remaining portion of the live recording that was created nearly two years ago. While the first installment stirs the spirit of believers to bring them into a place of worship, the second release is digging even deeper spiritually into that experience with God.
In the depths of that experience, McDowell tackles persecution, which he believes is a sign of something greater taking place in the Body of Christ.
"The increase of persecution is also an indication of the movement of God coming. I've said that on the project itself," he said. "We've seen this historically throughout not only Scripture but also throughout Church history. The more the Church gets persecuted the more it grows [and] the deeper the roots of believers grow."
Instead of living in fear, McDowell points to Matthew 16 where Jesus promises the gates of Hell will not overcome His Church.
"We have a promise in Matthew 16 that Jesus made to His disciples when He said the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church. No matter what the enemy does, how hard he persecutes, how hard he tries to stop the move of God on the Earth, he cannot do it," McDowell said. "When we see a rise of persecution that just means we see a revival."
Sounds Of Revival II: Deeper will be released on March 3. The album features Israel Houghton, Travis Greene, Tina Campbell, Jonathan McReynolds, Brian Courtney Wilson, Nicole Binion and Jonathan Stockstill.
For more information about William McDowell, click here.