With the publication of the best-seller, God's Smuggler, in 1967, Brother Andrew appeared abruptly on the stage of global Christianity. Some 10 million copies of God's Smuggler, which chronicles his adventures smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain and into other closed nations, have been printed in 35 languages.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Andrew turned his attention to the Middle East and Muslim-majority nations, such as Pakistan. He is still traveling the world at age 85. Andrew is now in his sixth decade of active ministry and advocacy for the persecuted church. He founded Open Doors, one of the largest ministries focused on assisting Christians and churches at risk worldwide. He spoke recently with CT Senior Editor of Global Journalism Timothy C. Morgan.
All over the Middle East, Christians and their churches are exposed to discrimination and violence. What options are left other than immigration?
The Christians there can do nothing unless we start doing something. They depend on us. We are one body in Christ. We are not reaching out to the Arab Christians or to the Palestinians, nor barely to the Messianic Jews, and we are certainly not reaching out to the other Jews with the gospel because they are already God's people, and they have no choice and we don't give them a choice. [Middle East Christians] have few resources in their own country, and we in the West have all the liturgy and all the wealth and all the insight and knowledge. This is our eternal shame. We ought to do something.
In God there is only one nation. We must reach out. So when I fail to see that happen then I am very pessimistic. In Bethlehem and in Gaza, the situation is deteriorating.
What is the biggest obstacle to further engagement by the global Christian community on behalf of the suffering church?
It is ignorance. It's so much easier to live in ignorance. You don't have to accept your responsibility. My people perished because of lack of knowledge, the prophet complains, and that's my complaint all the day, too. I apply it to myself. We're all guilty. Me, too.
We are under the rule of Jesus Christ. We live in his kingdom. We work according to his rules. We must support what Jesus came to do with—a new kingdom, new set of disciples and building the new Jerusalem, and building it on righteousness and peace and joy of the Holy Spirit. We need massive help to put pressure on the governments involved [in persecution]. We must come up for human rights. Righteousness built on peace, but a peace on the principles of the Prince of Peace.
The suffering church is a growing segment of the church of Christ in the world. There's a tremendous danger. I'm actually very pessimistic about this whole situation. It can explode any time and we are still asleep.
So you're really encouraging Christians at the grassroots to step up to the challenge, become informed, and then to live a life of deeper devotion to the gospel cause?
Absolutely. If I could live my life over again, I would be a lot more radical.
I've been too much on the compromising side. A pastor came into my office. He said, "Andrew, those Muslims now they have brought another empty church and they are going to convert it into a mosque. Isn't that terrible?" I said, "No, that is not terrible." He said, "Why not?" I said, "You know what's terrible--that your church was empty. That is terrible. If your church were full there would not be a mosque, would not be a place nor a demand for a mosque."
Make sure that your church whatever the building is, and as far as I am concerned big church or a small church, but that people come because they hunger after and thirst after righteousness, God's righteousness. Then you reach out in compassion to those out on the street."