Does Persecution Cause the Church to Grow?

Does Persecution Cause the Church to Grow?Text: Acts 8:1-4

The early church faced much persecution. They also experienced a lot of growth. We don’t experience the same persecution today. We also don’t see the same rate of growth (generally). This has caused some to wonder if we might see more growth if we experienced persecution. So we’re going to consider the question: Does persecution cause the church to grow?

Why Do Some Think It Does?

  • History in Acts – the church grew in the face of persecution (Acts 5:14, 40-42; 8:1-4; 19:9-10)
  • Modern examples – periodically we hear reports of Christianity spreading in hostile places (examples: Iran, China)
  • Peace often coincides with complacency – at least this is the perception; similar mentality to the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:16-17)

What Causes the Church to Grow?

  • The gospel – God’s power for salvation (Romans 1:16); what was to be preached in all the world (Mark 16:15); gospel preaching sparked the growth of the church (Acts 2:40-41; 8:4; 19:9-10)
  • Christians and churches working to spread the gospel (Acts 8:4; 11:19-21; 1 Thessalonians 1:8)
  • Willing listeners – necessary because we cannot force people to obey the gospel; Jesus called upon people to hear (Luke 8:8); faith comes by hearing the word (Romans 10:17); faith is based upon evidence (Hebrews 11:1), so people must be willing to hear so they can be persuaded (2 Corinthians 5:11)
  • Nothing to do with whether persecution is happening or not – in fact, the NT indicates that peace helps the church to grow (Acts 2:47; 9:31; 1 Timothy 2:1-4); when there is growth in the face of persecution, it is despite persecution, not because of it

What Does Persecution Do?

  • Hinders unbelievers from hearing or wanting to listen (Acts 17:4-8, 12-13) – this is how the devil can take away the seed before it can take root (Luke 8:12)
  • Causes weak Christians to fall away – those with a weak faith fall away when they’re tested (Luke 8:13); this is why Christians were admonished to remain faithful in the face of persecution (Revelation 2:10)
  • Disrupts the work of the church – the church in Jerusalem was nearly wiped out when persecution began (Acts 8:1)
  • The reason why scattered Christians preached (Acts 8:4) was because they were already doing that – if Christians won’t spread the word during times of peace, they won’t do it during times of persecution

Why Should We Pray for Peace?

  • We are to pray for peace (1 Timothy 2:1-2) – but why?
  • God wants all to be saved and come to know the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4; cf. Mark 16:15-16; 2 Peter 3:9)
  • God wants weak Christians to be strengthened – does not want us to fall away (Hebrews 3:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:14)
  • God wants the church to work – evangelism (1 Timothy 3:15), edification (Ephesians 4:16), worship (1 Corinthians 3:16)
  • Persecution hinders these things – praying for peace is not about personal preference/comfort; it is about God’s will being done most effectively

What Should We Do If We Face Persecution?

  • Remain faithful (Revelation 2:10; Hebrews 10:35-39)
  • Continue to work as best as possible (Revelation 3:8-10; 1 Corinthians 15:58)

Conclusion

  • The church can grow despite persecution, but not because of it
  • But only if the church is committed to doing what God wants it to do

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