Acts 8:1-9:31, Psalm 29
Remember that Jesus told the first apostles they would be His “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).Though the early church has witnessed and performed many great deeds by the power of the Holy Spirit, before Stephen was executed they had yet to inch their way past Jerusalem and Judea. The outbreak of an early widespread persecution, led by among other, Saul of Tarsus, forced the early Christians to leave Jerusalem for safety. In this first Christian diaspora, we read that the early Christians bring the Gospel to those in Samaria under the spell of a sorcerer, and to an Ethiopian Eunuch seeking hope in the Jewish scriptures. These events certainly tell a great story, but they also give us reason for hope in our difficult times. Many churches want Acts 2:42-47 to break out in their midst, but the truth is the early church was fulfilling their mission just as much in their seeming defeat and failures in Acts 8. Most of us think fruit looks like Acts 2:42-47. What if fruit isn’t just about number (3,000 converts, plus new people daily), but also reaching new peoples, even if it’s just a few? Let me put in another way. What if the perceived growing hostility against Christians in the United States will prove very fruitful for us? What if many that were formerly on the fence about Christianity who are now leaving our churches by the droves indicates we never should have been so comfortable in a world where so many despise our Lord? I know those are big questions. But think about it. We know there is something hard and strange about these last few years for our churches. Even if we can’t easily pin it down in a few sentences, the days where being a Christian in the United States was met with little contention is mostly over, especially in our largest cities. What if that is a good thing? What if this will help us become more desperate to accomplish Jesus’ mission in our days without the illusion that we will ever be at home in this life? That is exactly how I would want us to see these times.