The Fourth of July is a special day for most Americans. It’s a doubly special day for the members of Winn’s Baptist Church in Glen Allen, Virginia. It’s the church’s birthday.
And Monday wasn’t just any birthday. Like America, Winn just turned 240.
Yes, Winn’s was actually founded the same day the Declaration of Independence was signed. The timing was not intentional, however. Without any of the modes of instantaneous communication available to us today, Winn’s founders had no way of knowing something as significant as the signing was taking place that day in a different state.
Uh, in a different colony.
The founding of Winn’s in 1776 created a problem, however. Since Virginia was an English colony, the Anglican church was not just Virginia’s official church, but the only legal church. Other denominations were not tolerated.
Several of Winn’s first ministers were beaten and/or imprisoned for ignoring “man’s law” and obeying God’s law by preaching the Gospel in a non-Anglican church. One of those men–Winn’s first pastor–was American statesman Henry Clay’s father, John. Like many events from the distant past, that kind of religious persecution is difficult for us to imagine.
Patrick Henry, whose home in Scotchtown is less than twenty-five miles from Winn’s, provided defense for the persecuted ministers.
Many people—too many—fail to see that religious persecution is not just a problem from 240 years ago. And even today it isn’t limited to the Middle East.
American Christians are not yet imprisoned or beaten for their faith, but they are often ridiculed and accused of being hate mongers. Some stores have quit selling the Bible because they believe it is hate literature. Christians are being fined and sometimes driven out of business for applying biblical principles to the way they do business. Christian students are being forced to shut up and not share their faith.
What’s next? It’s hard to say. But churches that don’t turn against biblical teachings and go along with the current liberal trend are almost certain to become the targets of intolerant leftists who accuse Christians of being the intolerant ones.
I thank God daily for lawyers like the members of Liberty Council, a group that has already defended hundreds of persecuted American Christians—and they’ve done it pro bono.
Winn’s Baptist Church has stood the test of time. It has survived its share of challenges. What’s ultimately important, though, is how it will face the future.
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