I read an article recently about martyrdom. I’m odd like that.
I’d always taken it as read that martyrdom was fertiliser for the gospel – John Piper’s teaching on this had always been encouraging, Paul’s words about ‘filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions’ (Colossians 1:24) as well as testimonies from all over the world had underlined this assumption. Not to mention Tertullian’s famous quote, ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’.
But this article had a slightly different take on the whole issue of martyrdom, and pointed out that:
the membership of the Evangelical Christian Baptists (registered and unregistered) in the Soviet Union had dropped from approximately 1,000,000 in 1926 to just under 249,000 in 1993…The Communists almost succeeded.
So on this occasion the size of the church actually shrunk due to persecution.
Or did it?
I have no doubt whatsoever that the number of church members shrunk, but I wonder whether our definition of the church needs to be rethought for this – does the fact that you’re a member of a local church mean that you’re a member of the global church?
I think that the author of this article is talking only about the visible church. Even after seeing these statistics I’d still say that the church was potentially growing under persecution, because those who left the church would most likely be those who attended without having submitted their entire lives to Christ.
Not trying to be controversial, just a thinking point – if the church you attend was subjected to persecution would you leave?
Can you be a part of the global body of Christ without being part of the visible church?