Month: March 2018

REVIEW: “Tortured for Christ” is difficult to watch ¦ but inspiring

The prison official shouts, “Give me their names!” But Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, tied up in a dark-and-dingy Romanian prison torture chamber, remains silent.

His face is bloodied, and his feet scarred from relentless beatings. The guards had offered him a deal: If he hands over the names of Christians to the Communist government, he would get a reduced sentenced – perhaps even be freed. He refuses.

“It’s only a matter of time,” the prison official tells him. “… Be reasonable. Your life belongs to me now.”  

A weak Wurmbrand, struggling for breaths, responds, “My life is not my own. I belong to Christ.”  

The gut-wrenching and inspirational story of Wurmbrand is well-known to Christians worldwide thanks to a series of books he wrote, but on Monday night (March 5) moviegoers will have a chance to watch his story unfold on the big screen when Tortured for Christ – based on the 1967 best-selling book by the same name — debuts. It was produced by The Voice of the Martyrs and will be in theaters only one night.

Wurmbrand was a Romanian Christian pastor in 1944 when Russian troops entered his country. Atheism became the official state religion, and those who proclaimed Christ were arrested and tortured.

Neither Wurmbrand nor his wife and children remained silent. His kids even made a game out of saying “God bless you” to the Russian soldiers. The children got away with such antics, but Wurmbrand and his wife did not. He spent 14 years in Romanian prisons and was frequently tortured. His wife, Sabina, was sentenced to hard labor.  

The movie was filmed in Romania with Romanian actors, and some of the scenes even were filmed in a prison where he stayed.

Tortured for Christ shows Wurmbrand taking a stand for Christ from the get-go. When other church leaders succumbed to Communist doctrine at a “Congress of Cults” – a large public gathering of church and government leaders – Wurmbrand didn’t back down. His wife encouraged him.

“If I speak now, you’ll have no husband,” he whispers to his wife in the film.

She retorts, “I don’t need a coward for a husband.”

Wurmbrand took the podium that day and preached the gospel. Incredibly, he avoided immediate arrest.

Perhaps even more incredibly, Russian soldiers were open to the good news – and many became Christians due to his bold witness. To avoid confiscation of Bibles, Wurmbrand and his fellow believers had special Bibles printed with Karl Marx on the cover. “Marx on the cover, Jesus in the pages,” he says in the film. He even baptized one Russian soldier in his bathtub.

He was preaching on borrowed time, though, and he eventually was arrested and put in prison. The Russians assumed he would cut a deal and give them the names of all the Christians, but he refused.

Thus began 14 years of torture. He was beaten. He was burned. He spent three years in solitary confinement. In one particularly horrifying incident, he was forced to stand for hours and days in a box surrounded by sharp spikes. And through it all, he refused to recant his faith.   

The film isn’t easy to watch, even if it inspires you. How many of us would be willing to face a gruesome death for Christ? How many of us would continue praying in a cell, knowing that such an action would result in physical punishment? And how many of us would be filled with so much joy in prison that we would sing hymns and make music with our prison chains – as he did?       

Tortured for Christ is part documentary, part film. An actor voicing Wurmbrand’s words narrates it. It is unrated, although it likely would have received a PG-13 based solely on the violent images. It’s not gory, though. Most of the torture is implied. The film contains no coarse language or sexuality.

“We loved the Russians so much that we risked everything to bring them the gospel,” Wurmbrand says in the film.

Wurmbrand’s story is one that all Christians should know.

 

Tortured for Christ is unrated. It is not appropriate for young children. Find a listing of theaters at torturedforchrist.com

 

Michael Foust is a movie critic, a husband, and the father of four small children.

Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

CP: Are You All-In?

On behalf of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I have had the joy of serving an SBTC church in Austin since August 2005. I have to confess, though, 12 and a half years ago, I was not “all-in” on the Cooperative Program. Our church was in great debt, so we had our own financial issues to attend to. I was also ignorant of much of the work of the SBTC. 

Since then, I have not only learned about the work of our state convention, I have grown to confide in its leadership. If you are like I was, then you too may need to be reminded of our work together. Allow me share with you just three of the reasons why I’m now all-in for the Cooperative Program strategy of funding missions, and the work of the SBTC. 

We Are a Network of Faithful, Biblical Churches 

The SBTC is a fellowship of more than 2,650 churches. Since the beginning we have embraced a high view of Scripture, believing that the Bible is God’s Word and is without error. We continue to stand on God’s Word as true and trustworthy for preaching and teaching the generations salvation in Christ.   

We Are a Network of Faithful, Mission-Minded Churches 

The SBTC has always maintained a kingdom focus. We believe the way to impact lostness in Texas and the world is by proclaiming Jesus and him alone. For this reason, we have been driven by a missional focus to give generously through the Cooperative Program. In 1998 our budget was $903,500, and we sent 50 percent to Southern Baptist Convention ministries and retained 50 percent in Texas. 

However, our founders had a great vision—to be the leading state convention in percentage giving. They established a goal and moved to a 55/45 SBC-Texas giving split within 10 years of our founding. Now 55 percent of every undesignated dollar given goes to Southern Baptist Convention ministries; 45 percent is retained for mission and ministries of the SBTC.  

Because of the generosity of our churches working together through the Cooperative Program, we’ve been able to plant 646 churches since 1998.   

Because of the generosity of our churches giving through the Cooperative Program, we were able to initiate our Reach Houston strategy, where we are seeking to plant and revitalize churches in the Greater Houston area. 

Because of the generosity of our churches working together through the Cooperative Program, we are able to initiate our new Reach Austin strategy modeled after Reach Houston.  

As long as you continue to be generous, we will be able to continue planting churches. In fact, there are so many people moving into our state’s metro areas that we cannot plant churches fast enough to keep up with population growth.  

We Are a Network of Faithful, Caring Churches 

Because of the generosity of our churches working together through the Cooperative Program, we were able to care for churches and pastors affected by Hurricane Harvey. We provided 298,431 meals, shared the gospel with 494 people, resulting in 135 professions of faith, and helped “mud-out” 762 homes and churches.  

Because of the generosity of our churches working through the Cooperative Program, we were able to care for our brothers and sisters in Sutherland Springs in the wake of a mindless act of violence that left an entire church devastated and a community in mourning. The generous gifts of SBTC churches allowed us to pay for the funerals of all those who tragically lost their lives. In addition, your generous giving is allowing us to provide staffing support for the pastor as he adjusts to ministry in this context. 

As long as you continue to be generous, we will be able to care for our churches and our pastors in their times of greatest need.   

Are you “all-in” on CP?  

Are you all-in on the Cooperative Program? Are you all-in to partner with faithful, biblical churches? Are you all-in to partner with faithful, mission-minded churches? Are you all-in to help care for our brothers and sisters in need?  

Whether your church is not currently involved in the Cooperative Program or your church gives minimally through the CP, I want to challenge you to be all-in. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary this year, will you commit with me to move forward in giving for this missional cause? In 2017 our churches gave more than $26 million in Cooperative Program funds. This means more than $14 million went to the Southern Baptist Convention for our institutions and agencies to train and send pastors and missionaries, serving faithfully on the mission field or pastoring churches. The remaining $11.7 million is focused on mission and ministry in Texas. God has truly blessed the SBTC and our faithfulness to him during the previous year.  

As a part of being all-in, let me encourage you—if your church has not given in recent years—to make an effort this year to once again join us in this missional giving strategy as part of our 20th anniversary. Consider giving just $20. If every church would give something, we would truly be able to say we are all-in.  

Cooperative Program Sunday is April 8. Let me encourage you to use this special Sunday, or choose another date convenient for your church, to promote the Cooperative Program. If your church gave $0 in 2017, consider using Cooperative Program Sunday as a special missional love offering in order to join in giving through this missional strategy.   

The SBTC staff are available to come and speak in your church if you need a guest preacher on CP Sunday. You can request a speaker by going to whatisCP.com and selecting the “Resources” tab. The staff of the SBTC is available to serve you in any way. Please do not hesitate to call on our team. And as president, if I can serve you in any way, please let me know.  

Grace and peace.