Lessons from Church History on Suffering, the Church Growth Movement and a Call to Prayer

I am currently listening to Foxe’s book of Martyrs. It is basically a running account of all the deaths and persucutions from Christ up to the late reformation. In the first chapter covers how all the apostles and other major eye witnesses died. Here is a brief summary of how they went out:

Stephen-stoned to death.

James the Just- killed. “as James was led to the place of martyrdom, his accuser was brought to repent of his conduct by the apostle’s extraordinary courage and undauntedness, and fell down at his feet to request his pardon, professing himself a Christian, and resolving that James should not receive the crown of martyrdom alone. Hence they were both beheaded at the same time.”

Phillip-Crucified.

Matthew– “slain with a halberd”

James the Less– Beaten, stoned, skull crushed with a fuller’s club.

Matthias– Stoned and beheaded.

Andrew-“on his arrival at Edessa he was taken and crucified on a cross, the two ends of which were fixed transversely in the ground. Hence the derivation of the term, St. Andrew’s Cross.”

Mark– “dragged to pieces by the people of Alexandria.”

Peter– Crucified upside down.

Paul-“Gave his neck to the sword.”

Jude– Crucified.

Bartholomew– Beaten and crucified.

Thomas– Speared to death.

Luke– Hanged.

Simon– Crucified.

Barnabas– killed. Means of killing unknown.

John– “The “beloved disciple,” was brother to James the Great. The churches of Smyrna, Pergamos, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, and Thyatira, were founded by him. From Ephesus he was ordered to be sent to Rome, where it is affirmed he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. He escaped by miracle, without injury. Domitian afterwards banished him to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation. Nerva, the successor of Domitian, recalled him. He was the only apostle who escaped a violent death.”

The First chapter concludes with the following line, “And yet, notwithstanding all these continual persecutions and horrible punishments, the Church daily increased, deeply rooted in the doctrine of the apostles and of men apostolical, and watered plentously with the blood of saints.”

After all of these deaths the church grew. Note that Foxe argues that the reason for this was the deaths. The currency of growth is suffering. As I listened to this all I could think was,“Where is that chapter in all of these books on church growth strategy?” The answer; they aren’t there. Let us repent of our unwillingness to suffer in His name and for seeking to grow  our churches in all the wrong ways for all the wrong reasons.

Lastly, let us pray that we might be worthy to experience such a gift as to suffer someday for the gospel calling on our lives and that if God would be pleased to use it for the advancement of the church in this world.

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