Can the persecution of Christians lead to an even faster spread of Christianity than if believers aren't afflicted for their faith? The evidence from the experience of the early church, Christian history and our own day is pretty clear: Yes.

The earliest Christian martyr on record is Stephen, murdered by the mob a very short time after the day of Pentecost itself. His death by stoning touched off a great counterattack against Christianity.

"On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered...[and] preached the Word wherever they went" (Acts 8:1, 4; NIV).

That early transmission of the Word of God became the pattern of Christian growth in the first few centuries A.D. along the trade and transportation routes of the entire Mediterranean area and Roman Empire. Persecution was not a permanent or universal feature of the early church, but it happened often enough to cause Christians to migrate frequently and establish new communities.

Northern Europe was not Christianized until less than a thousand years ago, after centuries of missionary effort. But the next rapid spread of Christianity occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries as a result of the Reformation. The governments and established churches of nominally Christian countries fiercely persecuted the fervent new communities of believers. Christians migrated once more to areas where they could worship freely.

I saw two striking examples of this phenomenon in our own day while attending a conference in May in Barcelona, Spain. A Christian journalist from Khartoum, Sudan, who originally was from southern Sudan, explained how the war by the Khartoum regime against the Christian and animist south had led to the influx into the Khartoum region of some 2 million refugees.

To the dismay of the Islamic government of Khartoum, he said, there are now so many southern Sudanese Christians in the capital that Christians have been able to organize Christmas and Easter parades, undertake Bible translation work and distribute Christian literature.

Less than a mile from the conference was another example of a failed effort to persecute Christians. As two Chinese Christians from Beijing performed a brilliant classical guitar duet outside Barcelona's Gothic cathedral, a third Chinese, a woman from Wenzhou in China's Zhejiang province sold the duo's CDs to the audience.

The wonderful irony of this is that in the 1960s Mao Zedong's communists had tried to make Wenzhou a completely religion-free city. Any public display of worship was illegal.

The result was that Wenzhou's Christians learned how to spread the gospel and conduct their worship in small cell-groups hidden in private homes or away on remote hillsides. With the collapse of the Cultural Revolution in the late 1970s, Wenzhou emerged as the most highly Christianized city in China. Almost 30 percent of its people were fervent Christians.

But Wenzhou's citizens also turned out to be highly successful retail entrepreneurs. They established business communities, and Christian communities, all over China, Russia and Europe.

In Barcelona, the largest of three Chinese churches is composed of Wenzhou Christians. In Paris it is not uncommon for a thousand Chinese Christians to come together for worship, most of them from Wenzhou.

Wenzhou and the countryside around it in China have some huge churches, some of them five-stories high and all paid for by contributions from newly wealthy merchants. Not surprisingly, the very visibility of Christianity in the city that once set out to eliminate its presence has annoyed the central government, which late last year ordered the destruction of dozens of unregistered church structures.

No sane person would wish persecution on any Christian community anywhere. But as the example of Wenzhou illustrates, what the enemy intends to suppress Christianity is often just as likely to cause it to spread more.

Best Magazine Deal. Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Charisma, SpiritLed Woman and Ministry Today, all for $24. YES - I want this deal!

3 Reasons Why you should read Life in the Spirit. 1) Get to know the Holy Spirit. 2) Learn to enter God's presence 3) Hear God's voice clearly! Click Here to draw closer to God!

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
View/Add Comments
  • Roadblock

    6 Roadblocks That Will Stop Your Spiritual Growth

    God wants you to grow in your faith, but many of us get stuck along the way.

  • 2017 is the year that swords will clash.

    Prophetic Word: 2017 Will Bring a Clashing of Heaven and Hell

    "This is a time to cross over and not pull back."

  • Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

    Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

    I have been puzzled about the subject of inner healing for some time.

  • Cindy Jacobs

    2017: Year of the Breakthrough

    "There will be a significant increase in miracles and signs and wonders."

  • Are you willing to volunteer for God's offensive army?

    Prophetic Word: Preparing for God's World War 3

    God is searching for soldiers of the cross who are willing to volunteer for His offensive army.

  • The devil will try to silence you in any way he can. Don't give him the satisfaction.

    Satan's 2 Most Potent Lies to Render You Ineffective

    There's something in you so powerful that Satan doesn't want it out. Kyle Winkler reveals ...

  • Growing relationship

    2017 Prophetic Word: The Supernatural Key to Growing Your Relationship With God

    It's vital that we understand what comes from God and what comes from the devil.

  • Marriage man and woman

    Why Marriage Is Not Just Between a Man and a Woman

    Marriage is a miracle. Let us treat it like one.

  • Be encouraged to slow down to hear God in unexpected ways.

    A Common Reason You May Be Missing God's Voice

    Out of thousands of people, only six didn't fall into one experiment's trap. Discover how ...

  • Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Follow God on the most fulfilling journey of your life with Encounter the Holy Spirit! Break away from past hurts and press into the One who wants a personal encounter with you.

  • Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Reach your full potential and be led by His Spirit. In His Presence takes you to a deeper understanding of who God is and how he communicates with us.

  • Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Receive the power and gifts that come through the Holy Spirit Baptism. Don’t go empty-handed; accept all that He has for you! His power is available to those who ask.

  • Put on the Full Armor of God

    Put on the Full Armor of God

    Break every stronghold with the power of the Holy Spirit. Use the power of your tongue to declare and decree the Word of God. Witness heaven move on your behalf.

Use Desktop Layout
Charisma Magazine — Empowering believers for life in the Spirit