Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Persecution - the Turning Point

I have talked many times about the difference between the Acts 2 church and the Acts 17 church. It's profound (the difference, not my writing).

  • Acts 2 is the example of mass conversion among a group who already believed the basic tenets of the of the faith. Yet, this group did not continue to grow for long.
  • Acts 17 is a cultural conversation with pagans that leads to very few immediate conversions but continues to grow and is becomes the starting point for western evangelization.

But what was the turning point from the first to the second church? What led to the change? The pivotal story is in Acts 8. A great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria (v. 1).

Several thoughts have been bouncing around in my head since I read this yesterday:
  • The church thrives under persecution. It appears to have taken persecution to force them to leave their comfort zone, jobs and homes. Even today the Chinese church continues to be the fasted growing church movement and it takes place underground. The western church talks way too much about legislating morality and too little about impacting culture.
  • Persecution may be required to get you to go were God is leading. We don't see ministry taking place outside of Jerusalem until people were forced to leave. Don't blame all of life's disruptions on Satan. God may want the credit for getting you off your tail
  • Persecution often begins with friendly fire. In Acts the persecution toward the church came from the Jews. It began with two groups who follow the same God. One called the other a heretic. You might be more effective talking to lost people about Jesus than fighting over doctrine.
  • People who "get it" will accomplish more than leaders who "talk about it." Pastors will not build the church alone. They must develop passionate Christ-followers who connect with people and travel light. Don't wait for the pastors do connect with the community God has called you to.
  • People who take initiative will lead leaders. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard about the ministry in Samaria they sent 2 representatives to check it out. Don't let a lack of support by leadership prevent you from doing what God is calling you to.
How does this relate to today? How does this relate to you?

4 comments:

greylias said...

Ken,

Great thoughts.

One of the great problems of the American/Western church is that we lack any real persecution. I have been struggling recently with the idea that there is no real persecution in my life. It will likely come some day. Hopefully I will embrace it for Christ when that day comes.

These verses from Paul (Phil 3:10-11) cut like a knife to the heart...and your post reminded me of them.

Let's talk soon!
Terry

(Message) I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

(TNIV) I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

The Eckerts said...

Ken,

Great post. I'm looking forward to sharing this with my husband when he gets home. We have been feeling this exact way! This was a great encouragement! Thanks!

mandy said...

amen....
i've been thinking along the same lines for the past week (and recently posted a blog about this as well)....
the Church does thrive under persecution - its the craziest thing!
i think the church in America could stand to have the heat turned up... to really cause believers to think, analyze, reflect on what we "say" we believe in.
things change when such high stakes are in place.

Firestarter said...

"Don't let a lack of support by leadership prevent you from doing what God is calling you to."

I love this line.

It's human nature to follow the leader. To be a part of the pack. And to avoid causing waves in the kiddie pool.

But it seems to me (the more my relationship with Christ progresses) that all too often we fall into the habit of church instead of the passion of following His calling on our lives.

This is a dangerous path.

I know, because over the past year, my entire comfort zone (as far as church goes) has completely fallen apart. Everything I was used to, involved in (since I was 3 years old), the people I was close to, just kind of erupted into this giant, chaotic, ungodly mess. The further God pulled me out of it, the more I was able to see that I was following the very leaders that were leading their flock over the edge of a cliff.

"Don't let a lack of support by leadership prevent you from doing what God is calling you to."

More importantly...Don't be afraid to BE the leadership that is doing what God is calling you to.