I was asked, in March, to teach the year 6 classes at Holy Trinity about the growth of the early church. This request made me think again about how the massive global movement, the church, began. After I had taught the class, I realised that, as Christians, the growth of the church might give us a good reason to stay in the EU.
I taught year 6 that the church is not a building. The church is a local community of people who believe the same things about God and Jesus, from the bible, and relate to each other like a family. The church is also a global movement of people which has grown and grown for 200 years. There are now 3.3 billion people alive in the world today who have some sort of faith in Jesus. The church has grown across the world as people moved freely, sometimes by choice and sometimes when they were forced as refugees, from country to country.
In Genesis chapters 12 to 17, God promised a man called Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his offspring. Abraham adopted a nomadic lifestyle and moved around. It was then Jesus who fulfilled the Old Testament promises of God and when Jesus left his disciples, he told them that they would be his witnesses from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8-9).
The church began on the day of Pentecost, when Peter preached to a crowd about Jesus (Acts 2:8-11 and 40-41). In the crowd that day, there were people from 16 nations and around 3000 of them changed their hearts and lives and trusted in Jesus Christ. The new followers of Jesus were then free to move back to the 16 nations which they had come from and they took the message with them.
The next great movement of people in the early church followed the stoning of Stephen. The persecution of the church (Acts 8:1-3) caused people to ran away from trouble and as they were forced to leave as refugees, the gospel spread. ” Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (Acts 8:4)
The apostles and other new believers were then free to move around the Roman Empire. The gospel spread by the free movement of people under the oppression of the Roman regime. We read in Acts that Paul preached in many major centres of power, commerce and academic thought, such as Athens, Ephesus, Corinth and Rome, and often his preaching was met with hostility and oppression.
If staying in the EU means people are free to move, then perhaps we ought to vote to keep our borders open, for the sake of the gospel and the growth of the church.
This is a simple observation and only one argument amongst many. I’ve ignored all the questions about housing supply, pressure on public services, the fragmentation of community, the benefits of the single market, the undemocratic nature of the European parliament and so on, which are all important questions which we need to address. The two questions which ought to be on our minds as Christians are; how can we make disciples of all nations and how will the smallest seed of all become the biggest tree in the garden, where the birds of the air make their nests (Matthew 13:32).
With love, Neil