PERSECUTION AND CHURCH GROWTH
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
~ Acts 8:1b (NIV)
Pastor Samuel Lamb from southern China celebrated his 87th birthday in October, 2011. A quarter of his life was spent imprisoned for his faith. He still preaches several times on Sunday in his large house church and most week nights in Bible studies. His brilliant smile shines from a slight body suffering chronic disability resulting from 15 years confinement in a coal mine. “God gives me the strength I need,” he says. He has never left China, fearing that if he traveled, the authorities would not let him return.
Lamb credits God for the faith to accept what has happened in his life. It has deepened his ministry. Lamb believes that sometimes God is more glorified through sickness and poverty than through health and wealth. Christians travel thousands of miles to discuss house church ministry with Pastor Lamb and visitors from around the world seek out his house church in Guangzhou, China, which gathers 3,000 members each week.
Pastor Lamb often refers to persecution and growth as intertwined. He is known for his quote, “Remember the lesson of the Chinese church: more persecution, more growth.” As the pastor explains, “Before I was put into prison in 1955, this church’s membership was 400; when I came out in 1978, it built up to 900 in a matter of weeks. Then after 1990, when everything was confiscated here and the church briefly closed, we re-opened and in a matter of weeks we had 2,000 members. More persecution, more growth—that’s the history of the Chinese church, that’s the history of this church.”
Though the two are related, persecution in other parts of the world has not necessarily always brought church growth. North Africa is an example.
But the Bible, especially in the book of Acts, is clear that church growth will likely bring persecution. Each time the gospel made advances in Acts, persecution would break out. And in Acts 8:4, the persecuted and scattered believers went everywhere preaching the word.
RESPONSE: Today I will accept the principle that sometimes God is more glorified through sickness and poverty than through health and wealth.
PRAYER: Thank You Lord that You use all situations to grow Your church. Help me to be an active and eager participant.