With the death of Stephen, persecution came down hard on that first growing church in Jerusalem. Luke tells us that all except the apostles were scattered. Was that the end of the Church? Was it the end of the great movement of God among people at Pentecost? Hardly. Because Luke continues by writing:
God was not surprised by the persecution his followers were experiencing. What was a horrible event became an avenue for the expansion of the Church among the nations.
The Church is not meant for isolation but for spreading. As time goes by, missionary organizations have learned this well. Instead of concentrating efforts in one city or among one people, workers are now stretching farther afield, to those who have little or no Christian witness.
In recent years, I have been encouraged by efforts even in the United States, of churches sending from their own flock to start new work in areas of lostness. Venturing out from concentrations in the South, believers are moving north and west to cities and communities where churches are few and witness weak.
Bonhoeffer says this is our curse and our promise as the church, when he writes:
According to God’s will Christendom is a scattered people, scattered like seed “into all the kingdoms of the earth” (Deut. 28:25). That is its curse and its promise. God’s people must dwell in far countries among the unbelievers, but it will be the seed of the kingdom of God in all the world.Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together.
We must get out of our comfort zones and start new work in our home countries or overseas where people cannot see the lighthouses of God’s people in fellowship. It’s not easy but required.
Yet, God blesses in the struggles, as we branch out in obedience to his call. We may be forced to be a minority among the majority of unbelievers, but God promises to water the seeds planted for his Kingdom.
Is God tugging at your heart, asking you to scatter for his purposes? Ask others in your church to pray with you about this. What some see as a curse, he promises to use for his glory. Be willing to obey, no matter the cost, and you’ll find others willing to join you.
Grace and Peace