World Watch List 2022

Open Doors released the World Watch List 2022, a resource developed “to track and measure the extent of persecution in the world.” Open Doors has been tracking religious persecution of Christians since the 1970s and their approach to the work is well-informed and reliable. Religious persecution affects many religious groups and not just Christians. Still, there has been widespread recognition over the past few years that religious persecution of Christians is on the rise globally.

You can see an infographic of the list below and can read the entire report here.

Here are a few highlights within the overall trends on this year’s list:

  • The Top 10 countries where Christians face the most pressure and violence in the reporting period of the World Watch List 2022 are, in order: Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, and India.
  • Afghanistan is now in the #1 position, displacing North Korea, which held that position for the past decade and more
  • In just the last year, there have been:
    • Over 360 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination
    • 5,898 Christians killed for their faith
    • 5,110 churches and other Christian buildings attacked
    • 6,175 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned
  • • 3,829 Christians abducted

Metaphors for Ministry: Hitting ‘The Road’ with Cormac McCarthy

An article I wrote during the past year was published this week at Preaching Today. It draws from one of my favorite novels of all time, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. If you know McCarthy’s writing, you may know it is very rough around the edges. While The Road is also rough around the edges there is also a tenderness and grace sprinkled amidst the troubles. Because of this, it has been such a balm for my soul in these past few years. I wrote about that, and here is the first section of “Metaphors for Ministry: Hitting The Road with Cormac McCarthy” (you can read the rest here).

When a friend felt forced to resign from his church, he and I met up to talk, pray, shoulder burdens together, and cry out to God. I arrived a little early, so before I met him for brunch, I did what I always do when I have extra time. I stopped at a used bookstore. In the dollar discards was a dog-eared and stained mass paperback copy of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Road. I picked it up with a few other treasures and headed to the restaurant where we were meeting. We talked about deep pain and fiery hope, works of love and moments of failure. Our conversation roamed the whole range of pastoring within the local church.

After our time of conversation and prayer, as we headed to our cars, I knew it would be a long time until I would see him. I gave him a hug and then handed him the roughed up copy of The Road. I hoped, somehow, this worn out copy of the book might breathe life into his worn out life and broken down ministry.

My friend isn’t the only casualty of ministry in these divided and confusing days. Many pastors I have met are struggling with what it means to be a pastor now, wondering where we should turn for guidance in these times. Scripture and the great pastoral tradition provide the best and first resources, but in times when ministry is unclear, we need other voices to help us gain perspective and see rich metaphors for ministry.

While I am wary of misusing a literary work, I cannot think of any novel more appropriate as a parable for pastors in this present moment than The Road.[1]Against the background of an ashen, decayed world, burned out by an unnamed disaster, a father and son (referred to only as “the man” and “the boy”) walk a road littered with danger and goodness toward a hoped-for, yet unclear, destination.

As pastors today, our situation is similar. Everything we understood as normal is a faint memory in this post-pandemic secular age. Still, we are on a journey through dangerous lands, holding onto hope and goodness amid the perils we face. The Road offers us metaphors for ministry as we seek to shepherd our people with love even in desperate times.

Cormac McCarthy may seem like a strange author to turn to in such times. His spare yet powerful writing is often dark and grotesque. Still, McCarthy’s novels are haunted by some divine presence, even if his views are far from orthodox Christianity. In an interview McCarthy once said, “I don’t think you have to have a clear idea of who or what God is in order to pray.”[2] Throughout The Road, the father invokes God, sometimes in angst and other times in hope. This tension with the divine offers fertile ground for exploring echoes of pastoral work in the novel.

To Be Sent on Mission

This past weekend as part of our new preaching series with other churches entitled “United,” I had the privilege of preaching at Northbrook Church. This first week of the series I expanded upon the statement that the church is a people called by God that is sent on mission. I explored two key truths, that we are blessed by God in order to be a blessing (Genesis 12:1-3) and also that we must live that out at the intersection of the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


Eastbrook at Home – January 23, 2022

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Join us for worship with Eastbrook Church through Eastbrook at Home at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM.

This weekend we continue our four-part series, “United,” which explores the essence of what it means to be the church. For this four-part series we are partnering with other churches in the “Brook” family of churches, and thus will pause our extended walk through the Gospel of Matthew, which we will return to in February.

Here is a prayer for the third Sunday of Epiphany from The Book of Common Prayer:

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

We also continue in-person services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 AM this weekend at the Eastbrook Campus, and you no longer need to RSVP ahead of time.

If you are new to Eastbrook, we want to welcome you to worship and would ask you to text EBCnew to 94000 as a first step into community here at Eastbrook.

Each Sunday at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM, you can participate with our weekly worship service at home with your small group, family, or friends. This service will then be available during the week until the next Sunday’s service starts. You can also access the service directly via Vimeo, the Eastbrook app, or Facebook.

If you are not signed up for our church emailing list, please sign up here. Also, please remember that during this time financial support for the church is critical as we continue minister within our congregation and reach out to our neighborhood, city, and the world at this challenging time. Please give online or send in your tithes and offerings to support the ministry of Eastbrook Church.

What Love Is This?: a prayer reflection on Psalm 145

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The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made. (Psalm 145:8-9)

In the stillness, I come to a place of quiet before You, my God. May the wonders of Your presence meet me this morning, Lord. My eyes are on You.

Thank You that You are gracious, giving good gifts to the undeserving. I know that I come to You like a beggar to a king at all times, and I marvel at Your grace to me. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Who am I to receive such a gift? I am no one, other than one made in Your image and valuable to You.

Thank You that You are compassionate, showering love upon those who have not deserved it and forgiving those who have wronged You. Like a confused child, who selfishly lashes out in disobedience yet is disciplined and consoled by a good parent, so You have showered my life with Your compassion and correction. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Such mercy! Such compassion!

Thank You for being slow to anger and rich in love. This is such perfection of restraint and lavishing of full charity. As a holy God, there are certainly things that bring forth Your anger. I praise Your firmness in justice and righteousness that calls forth righteous anger in the face of wrong. But thank You as well for being slow to anger so that a transformative turn might occur in human hearts. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Thank You for Your patience with me, mixed with compassion and grace, which has brought me to an encounter with the richness of Your love. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Who am I to receive and experience such love? Who am I that I should experience Your patience—the slowness to anger—that leads to the fullness of love in Jesus Christ? All of this is grace from start to finish, transforming my days with the radiance of Your love and compassion.