Hatred Grows with Church Planting
As an old man reflected on his ministry he told his younger protege that from the very start he faced nothing but opposition from both the religious authorities and the world as he sought to bear witness to the word of God’s grace.
This is not what any church planter wants to hear today.
Gathering a core team, hammering out a vision, launching your first public meeting, as well as raising funds, moving cities, and settling your family into a new home can all be taxing enough. To be told that, in addition they should expect, perhaps from the very start, to be misunderstood, opposed and even hated is a bitter pill to swallow.
This may indeed not be what any one of us wants to hear, but perhaps that is precisely why it needs to be said.
The old man was none other than Paul the apostle himself. The younger protege, Timothy.
It struck me as I read of his very first missionary journey again in Acts 14 that right from the very start Paul’s business of evangelising new churches into existence was met with varying degrees of success. The guaranteed response however, was a persistent, organised, sometimes even violent opposition to his work. In Iconium because a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed when Paul and Barnabas spoke about Jesus, the unbelieving Jews poisoned the mind of the Gentiles and they hatched a plot to stone them. In Lystra their message was largely misunderstood and corralled by the same crowd from Iconium, the city flipped and did actually stone Paul, whom moments before they had been heralding as a god. Only in Derbe are we told nothing about such awful mistreatment.
Yet the utterly stupefying thing is that Paul did not avoid going back to these cities. He did not write them off as hostile and therefore unreachable. He didn’t call down curses on them, just as he continued to plead his whole life with his fellow Jews to turn from believing in themselves to believe only in Jesus Christ as Lord.
His sermon as he returned to those very same cities that had not that long ago sought his very life was to encourage the churches by saying that it is ‘through many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom on God’ (Acts14:22).
His message was exactly the same to Timothy as he wrote one of his final epistles.
His point remains salutary even still today. I imagine he might say that we are on a fools errand if we think that by trying to reach those that remain unreached we will do so without being opposed. His whole ministry, from the beginning to the end, faced hostility and hatred. Yet he never once sought to repay evil with evil. Just like his Lord and Saviour before him, who came only to do good and save life, and for that he was murdered.
As this Lent season begins, as we see Jesus on his way to the cross, as we look at Paul and the persecution of the worldwide church even still today, in love, let us resolve to continue to seek the lost in Ireland, come what may.