As we read through Acts chapter 8 we find many great stories of how the church began to expand. The move of the Holy Spirit is taking the church of Jesus Christ to new places and more and more people are committing to become followers of Jesus. We find Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip walks him through the scriptures, by the end of the account there has been a baptism and a receiving of the Holy Spirit. The power of God is on full display in this chapter. I wonder if we missed the first couple of verses, " A great wave of persecution began that day...".
With the death of Stephen, those who were opposing the Way of Christ gained strength and boldness. We are told Saul went from house to house putting in jail those who followed the Way. The believers scattered all across the region for fear of those who were working to keep the church at bay. This is the backdrop of the great expansion of the church. It was not found in cultural acceptance. Nor was it found in having the officials of government being the right persons who believe just like the church. I was not initiated by the religious leaders, those who had the greatest ability to influence of broken system and world. No the great expansion of the church happened in while great persecution was breaking out upon the church.
It is easy to press on when things are going well and easy. When the going gets more difficult, the tendency is to want to give up. When our culture seems to be shifting away from God and toward our own appetites, when it seems there are more and more people who would rather see Jesus out of the equation, the church must press on! I am not sure we are at a time of great persecution like in Acts 8 here in America. There are places in the church today where they have been for years. However it is getting more and more difficult to seek the Way of Jesus, both inside and outside the church. The leaders of denominations will not change the trajectory, nor will the leaders of government. The great expansion of the church continues all over the world, except here in America. Could it be the church is willing to sit back and let it happen? The time has come to press on. Stephen and Philip were not leaders of the church, they were appointed as servants. They were like you and I. They pressed on and God used them for great works, in their day and now. Are we ready to press on?