Restoration Church in Levittown, PA is a church plant whose pastor is Ross Manders. The church will be celebrating its second anniversary in October and has done an amazing job of engaging the community around it with a number of outreach oriented (often free) events each year. Ross also happens to be my brother-in-law and I know his heart longs to see the real needs of the people of Levittown met by the work of the local church. One of the main reasons I am writing this post is because Restoration will likely be the location at which we will launch our ministry for at-risk youth. Over the past year and a half I have been encouraged by the work that Ross and my sister Emily have put in, alongside a team of amazing, dedicated volunteers. It has been inspiring to see the positive ways in which the community has been responding to the efforts of Restoration Church.
So when all of us that are in some way connected to Restoration woke on Sunday morning to reports of arson at the church, we were stunned and confused. In the early morning hours someone lit fire to a cross in front of the church, a small wooden playhouse next to the church building, and tossed some burning rags into the building through a broken window. Who would do something like this? And why?
Providently, (I was going to use the word “Fortunately” here, but it doesn’t seem to fit) the fire that was thrown into the church building itself was contained to a sink in a bathroom, where there are very few flammable materials, and an alert neighbor across the street called the fire department soon after seeing the flames of the burning cross at 4:30am.
While the perpetrator has not been found the reason for the crime has become fairly clear to me. Ross posted a link to this article earlier today. Essentially it is a reminder to those of us privileged to have been born or at least raised to faith in American churches, that persecution is not something we should be surprised by, it is something to be expected. It is also something we are called to respond to in faithful forgiveness. Ross said it this way to his congregation, gathered on the church’s lawn on Sunday morning: “Let us stand firm and united this morning and every day as we call upon God in prayer together. We won’t back down from preaching the gospel and speaking truth. We will proclaim life, we will speak forgiveness over our offenders, we will offer hope.”
So what do we do with all of this? Along with Ross I suggest we commit to prayer. Pray more often. Pray more fervently. Pray without ceasing! Pray for our pastors. Pray for our churches. Pray for our communities. Pray for our brothers and sisters in other countries that face death and destruction because of their faith in Christ. Pray that these trying times would be used to bring glory to the True God of the universe and the saving work of Jesus Christ, through which our broken relationship with our heavenly Father can be restored.