We can take the gathering of our friends and family for granted in the freedom we have in North America.

The persecuted church around the world finds the gathering together of believers one of the life-giving experiences they cherish.

Followers of Jesus in some countries hardly ever gather to share time and love with one another. The external circumstances rarely allow these gatherings, and the price the believers pay if they are caught by the authorities is extreme.

Yet, we are called to belong, not just believe. We, as followers of Jesus, are part of the body of Christ on this earth. In reality, despite the external persecution many believers experience, with the leadership of the Holy Spirit, these brave men and women find creative ways to gather and love one another.

A gathering can happen almost anywhere! The basement of a bombed out building will do fine. A small cave on the side of a remote hillside makes a wonderful location to share and love one another. The cramped attic of an old farmhouse has been used many times in different countries.

Weather permitting, a thick part of a forest with deep undergrowth makes for a sweet gathering of believers to encourage and inspire one another.

Wherever the people of Jesus gather, a sweet spirit flows and the unity of the spirit transforms the mind and heart into harmony with Christ. This miracle of the spirit is called fellowship. There is simply no substitute for what happens in such gatherings.

Jesus launched a grassroots movement with a mission. The more difficult it is to gather, sometimes the more rewarding the fruit of the gathering. The persecuted church knows these lessons well.

Let us in the institutional church world never take our freedom to gather nonchalantly. Under the influence of institution and agenda-driven meetings we just might miss the whole point of gathering!

Kim Wenzel is a local Open Doors USA ministry representative who speaks in churches and groups about praying for the persecuted church. For more information, persons interested may contact Wenzel at pastorkimwenzel@gmail.com or 918-919-1490. Hear more about the persecuted church at 6 p.m., every Saturday on KWXC 88.9 FM Christian talk radio.