“Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.” Acts 8.4-6
I alluded to this yesterday in my reflection on Acts 8.1-3, and how the scattering of the followers of Christ resulting from persecution could actually be used for the benefit of the Gospel message.
After 15 years of helping oversee the youth ministry in the former Southwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, now the Rio Texas Conference, the Bishop and cabinet decided enough was enough. Under the guise of unifying with the Rio Grande Conference, a very effective youth ministry was laid to rest. With 18-20 large group events per year reaching 2500 students, and seeing dozens of calls to discipleship and ministry, this Holy Spirit movement was abruptly ceased.
At the time I was shocked that such an effective ministry would be reduced to a memory so quickly. And through my human eyes, I could not see much further. But after some time, I began to see God’s strategy in the matter. Through what I call ”soft” persecution, the Bishop (who’s theology was much more liberal than mine) decided to end a Gospel driven, Jesus-centered ministry in which the fruit was and is undeniable. Could God have put a stop to this closure if He wanted? Absolutely. However, instead, he allowed the seed to be scattered to literally the ends of the earth.
What occurred in that ministry in 2014, continues to have a powerful impact today, not only in Methodism but beyond. It continues by bringing people into a relationship with Jesus and sparking revival in dozens of churches among God’s faithful people.
And what happened in Acts 8, with the scattering of the disciples under Saul, leading Philip to Samaria, where he proclaimed the Gospel of grace, resulted in many coming to know the Lord, finding freedom and healing from demoniacs, and discovering great joy in the Lord. God’s allowance of persecution actually leads to prosperity in the Spirit. When the Gospel is hindered, Heaven is awakened to the power of God in our midst.
I’m not bitter about the closing of the conference youth ministry so many years ago, I knew my time had come. But God kept me in this tribe of Methodism, this strain of faithfulness which continued under the Wesley brothers. And now, he is birthing something new but old. I see it in the Wesley House at Truett Seminary, the Revive Movement camps and retreats, the local churches being coached and consulted by Movement Ministries, the ministry of First Methodist Waco, the Woodlands Methodist Church, and every location where every one who encountered Christ from this previous ministry is a part. What first appeared to be a limitation of the Spirit, actually was a wild fire burning deep from the heart of God.
I know this may feel like I am only promoting all those things of which I am involved, but in truth, I am boasting in the Lord and giving evidence of his power among us. Through persecution, God prevails. Run to the Lord, seek his face, find favor in the supernatural movement of the Holy Spirit. By his grace and for his glory.
“O Lord God, you are good. On a rainy, overcast day in Texas, I choose to trust you. In the midst of uncertainly, I trust you. When I feel lost and alone, over my head, I trust you. For you are my Shepherd and my Shield. You are my Rock and my Redeemer. Come now, Holy Spirit, find me willing and able. Help me hear your voice and walk according to your path. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen