Acts 8:4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
This is one time when the NIV makes a bit more sense than the more literal Japanese translation. In Japanese, the image that comes to mind is of people walking in circles and talking, like some patients I’ve seen at the mental hospital! However, in context it’s very clear that’s not what was meant. The biggest real take-away from this verse is that persecution couldn’t make these believers shut up. They left Jerusalem because of the increasing pressure there, but they certainly didn’t leave their faith behind. Some people seem to have a very contextual religion, going through all the motions when they are in their familiar environment, but essentially chucking it all when they go somewhere different. I’ve seen this in quite a few foreign English teachers here in Japan. Frankly, some of them seem to take overseas jobs precisely to escape accountability. What they don’t realize is that this only exposes the shallowness of their faith. The same applies to people who don’t even think of finding a place to worship on Sunday when they are on vacation, as though they were taking a vacation from church! For these early believers, new settings simply meant new people with whom to share Christ. If all believers had that attitude today, the world would be evangelized in no time!
I can’t say that I haven’t had my times of wanting to “escape from church,” but they have mercifully been few. As a pastor, when I start thinking that the load is on me, the impulse to bolt arises. However, when I rightly realize that I am no more than an instrument in God’s hands, gratitude and strength well up. I desire that every believer in this church have the attitude of the early believers in this verse, and that calls for major “renewing of their minds.” (Romans 12:2) That in turn calls for them to be open to the filling, empowering work of the Holy Spirit. I can’t change anyone, even myself, but God can through His Spirit, and that is what I am to pray for. Along with that, I am to speak the truth in love, helping them understand not only how far they are from the Biblical pattern, but also that God is able, ready, and waiting to transform them to that pattern.
Father, thank You for the message You’ve birthed in me for this coming Sunday. Guide me now in completing the notes for that, so that it will be exactly what You desire and intend, opening minds and hearts to the magnificence of Your gracious plans for us. May we all be Christians indeed, little Christs, accurately expressing Your grace and love to the world around us, for the salvation of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!