It’s Our Time and Turn

The pressures of today are the nudge we need to continue God’s mission.

Today, our faith is being tested more than ever before—our faith. For the Scriptures and history are clear that the early church suffered immense pressure and persecution as the vanguards of the faith, but now it is our time and turn to pick up our crosses (Matt. 16:24).


The challenges we face are not only a rising secularism and polytheism but a fomenting hostility against Christians in the West—the custodian of Christianity from the Constantinian era until today. And while it is true the trajectory of our faith foretells a more diverse and collaborative Christianity (Rev. 7:9), the West still heavily influences our understanding of Scripture and its practices.


Sadly, the data reveals a growing compromise in the core tenets of our faith, a growing complacency in sharing our faith, and a growing convenience in gathering as a community of faith.[1] Is there any wonder why our churches have less people with less understanding of the Bible? Could it be that the rising persecution we are experiencing in America and abroad is a necessary fire to rekindle us to the core mission of the church: to make disciples of Christ among every ethnic group (Matt. 28:19)?


Think about it. As a faith community, we are biblically illiterate, evangelistically immobile, and relationally isolated. Yet, we continue as if this is okay. When the early church became complacent in its responsibility to go to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), we learn that “a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. …Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:1, 4).


There are three lessons we can learn from the early church.


1. Complacency is tested by maltreatment. Jesus’s mandate to His disciples was to start evangelizing in Jerusalem and continue to the farthest parts of the earth. Although they were having great success with their evangelism, they got stuck in Jerusalem. Those who opposed the way of Christ began persecuting the early church by using intimidation and violence in hopes of suppressing this burgeoning movement.


When we become complacent with where we are and what we are doing, persecution has a way of challenging our comfort. God, in His sovereignty, permits mistreatment to happen to shake us from being content. It becomes the catalyst that awakens us out of our stupor and facilitates greater growth in our lives and for His kingdom. Even our physical muscles get complacent if we don’t change our exercise routine. Thus, disruption is developmental to our corporate purpose.


2. Maltreatment results in movement. The persecution of the early church reached its watershed moment in the false arrest and eventual death of Stephen (Acts 6–7). His martyrdom sparked a greater push to quash Jesus’s disciples, once and for all, resulting in everyone but the apostles dispersing throughout the region.


Persecution becomes the friend of an evangelistically immobile church because it disperses us from our comfort zones and compels us to confront new frontiers with the message and power of the gospel. Wherever today’s tensions take us is the mission field that God is sending us. The test is whether we will fade into the atheistic and polytheistic spaces we scatter to or become the salt and light that Christ expects us to be (Matt. 5:13-16).


3. Movement results in mission. The result of the scattering of the early church throughout the region was their intentional spreading of the gospel. They were spread about to spread about. That is, they were forced to be mobile missionaries, which was Jesus’s command from the very beginning. Wherever the providence of the Spirit relocated them became their mission field to be witnesses of and for Christ. They shared the story of Jesus’s incarnation, miracles, death, and resurrection with their new neighbors, co-workers, and friends.


There remain unreached people groups in our world. In fact, we have unreached people in our families, neighborhoods, and cities.[2] Could the rising hostility and opposition to our faith be the watershed for the next Great Awakening? Sometimes it takes pressure to unlock purpose. And maybe, just maybe, we have become too complacent with our megachurches and multimedia livestreams. Mordecai challenged Esther to speak up because God may have placed her in the position she was “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). The church is moving. We must now see if our movement will result in mission.


Our Missional Mandate


The church has a mission: to make disciples of Christ until He returns. The mandate has not stopped although some of us have. COVID-19, government aggression against the church, and the war in Ukraine are signs that the return of our Lord is near. It’s our time and turn to be about our Father’s business by using our present landscape to spur us to missionality. If we become satisfied with the status quo, we are disobedient to Christ and derelict in our duty.


Rev. Isaac Hayes is the president of Healing of the Soul Ministries. He is also an Assistant Pastor at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, Illinois, and a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. Follow Rev. Hayes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @RevIsaacHayes.

[1] “Sharing Faith Is Increasingly Optional to Christians,” Barna, May 15, 2018, https://www.barna.com/research/sharing-faith-increasingly-optional-christians/. [2] Kate Shellnutt, “Why Missions Experts Are Redefining ‘Unreached People Groups,’” April 22, 2019, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/may/redefining-unreached-people-groups-frontier-unengaged-missi.html.

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