Good News for North Korea
by Matt Green, editor of Ministry Today,Tuesday, July 11, 2006

One of the world's favorite evangelicals (Rick Warren) will be visiting one of the world's least favorite nations (North Korea) to meet with church and business leaders to prepare for a return visit to preach to some 15,000 people in March 2007. Soon after the announcement, the Web lit up with criticisms of Warren--that he was "condoning" and "legitimizing" the North Korean government by accepting the invitation to preach there ... that Kim Jong il will use Warren as a shill to put a kinder, gentler face on the Asian dictatorship ... that Warren's arrival will draw Christians out of the woodwork, only to be persecuted once he leaves the scene.

Warren admits that this is a possibility ("I know they're going to use me. So, I'm going to use them.") But he defends his decision in his blog: "Regardless of politics, I will go anywhere I am invited to preach the Gospel. My hope is that these visits will promote religious freedom in a country where the practice of individual faith has been tightly controlled and virtually prohibited since 1945."

This is not the first time an unusual door of opportunity has opened for a high profile leader to penetrate a "closed country" with the gospel. In 1984 Billy Graham was vilified for visiting the Soviet Union, because he was only allowed to preach in the state-sanctioned Russian Orthodox church--a "compromise" some felt should have precluded his visit. Now, 20 years later, as we observe how ineffective the Soviet Union was at snuffing out authentic Christianity, the criticisms against Graham seem irrelevant.

Is it suspicious that a notorious madman like Kim Jong il is considering allowing an evangelical pastor into his country for a crusade? Absolutely. But I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who has prayed that North Korea's doors would eventually open to the outside world--if even a crack.

So, should we wait until North Korea is removed from the Axis of Evil before we pursue any opportunities to preach the gospel or bring encouragement to its persecuted citizens? Is our nation's diplomatic approval a prerequisite for the fulfillment of the Great Commission? Of course not. Like its 20th-century predecessors, when the oppressive regime of North Korea finally topples, it won't be because of the machinations of human governments. Whether in ancient Rome, 20th-century Moscow or (dare I say) 21st-century Beijing and Mecca, it is Kingdom yeast and martyr blood that are the ingredients of true revolution.


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