The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and
it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And
with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers. —
I can think of few examples of resilience as incredible as the
first-century church. Consider the circumstances in which that body of
believers existed. Leaders and preachers were imprisoned daily. Members
were threatened with violence or worse. Stephen’s martyrdom remained
a fresh memory. Paul had barely escaped with his life from the hostile
Jews. A blood bath was inevitable.
Yet the church throughout the land “had peace” and “grew
in numbers.” How?
Four characteristics of resilience marked those first-century believers.
They were steadfast, immovable, abounding, and confident (1 Corinthians
15:58, NASB). These same qualities are essential for any dynamic
ministry—like four pistons in a smoothly running engine. Look how
powerfully they progressed in the early church!
No matter how often those followers of Jesus were ordered “never
again to speak in the name of Jesus” (Acts 5:40), they
fearlessly stayed at it. Steadfast.
Regardless of threats, floggings, and other insidious methods of
persecution, the believers remained pockets of peace and places of refuge. Immovable.
Just imagine how infectious their enthusiasm must have been . . . how
genuinely joyful! Abounding.
Against all odds, they flourished. They could have shriveled into a camp of
bitter, negative, and frightened people of rigid intensity. Instead, they
remained winsome. Confident.
There’s more! The resilience of the early believers combined with a
kind of charm that made the church irresistible. People couldn’t stay
away! Stern moralistic scowls have never attracted people to follow Jesus.
It’s the charm of a consistent life of love that draws people.
Reinhold Niebuhr’s insight on this point rings just as true today as
the day he penned it in his notebook:
You may be able to compel people to maintain certain minimum standards
by stressing duty, but the highest moral and spiritual achievements
depend not upon a push but a pull. People must be charmed into
How long before today’s church will learn this! What will it take to
bring back the charm . . . that marvelous grace which draws righteousness
out of us like a massive magnet?
Somehow, despite all odds, the early saints maintained such a loving
atmosphere, such an authentic appeal of positive acceptance, that no amount
of pressure from without disturbed the peace within. Consequently, people
flocked to the church with their hearts in their hands. The early church
community was a place to be yourself . . . to share your grief . . . to ask
your questions . . . to admit your needs . . . to shed your tears.
I must ask: Is your church that kind of place?
Too many churches have forfeited their charm and become places of shame,
not grace. Let’s put an end to that! Let’s work together to
spread a welcoming tablecloth of God’s grace across the globe that
covers every person’s clay feet. At Insight for Living Ministries,
that’s exactly what Vision 195 is all
about. In fact, it’s written right into the mission statement:
“We plan to broaden our borders with the message of God’s
majesty, the authenticity of His Word, and the power of the cross, woven
into a tapestry of God’s amazing grace, in all 195 countries of our
Just imagine! Someday, a historian, looking back on our times might write,
in the vein of Acts 9:31: “The church then had peace
throughout all 195 countries of the world, and it became stronger as the
believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the
Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.”
Wouldn’t that be wonderful? It’s not a far-fetched dream. It
was reality for those first-century disciples, and it can be reality for us
today and for our children and grandchildren tomorrow! But for that entry
to find its way into tomorrow’s history books, we—Christians
who comprise God’s church—must have two all-pervasive
ingredients: resilience and charm.
I must ask: Are you that kind of Christian?