Summary: Uncracking the secret of the early church is at the heart of this message. It looks at several key elements that has led the church to grow exponentially.
A young lady working on her master's degree in social work asked to work with me on a research project related to multigenerational trauma. She plans to get her Ph.D. and continue our work internationally. I had learned how various traits are transmitted across generations. My 5th great grandfather, a boy whose father came from Africa, became an indentured servant when he was two. As a young lad he ran away but was captured, beat, and was forced to continue his duties. My people were called Redbones, this was a very derogatory term. I also have a linage of Native American blood. My father was a part of the Bataan Death March and was in a concentration camp for over 3 years—he struggled with PTSD before we knew what it was called. What fascinated me in my research was how traits like depression, anxiety, anger, and symptoms of PTSD are transmitted across generation. The believers transmitted attributes of God and Jesus’ teaching that continues to inspire believers.
An article by Jack Bryan was published in Christianity Today in 2019. The title of the article and subline is intriguing.
Is the World’s Next Missions Movement in Ethiopia?
Ethiopian churches no longer want to be on the receiving end of the Great Commission.
Raymond Davis wrote a book, Fire on the Mountain, about the background of the church in Ethiopia. Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935. Western missionaries fled or were forced to leave. Among them were the first two missionaries from Sudan Interior Mission (now SIM), who had planted a church in Sidama, a southern region known for growing coffee. They were attacked on the road and killed. After the Italian occupiers were expelled, SIM sent four more missionaries to Sidama; three were soon killed.
When the missionaries were put on trucks to leave Ethiopia, they looked at a very small group of people who were Christians and believed the church would not survive. They saw forty-eight believers, new in the faith and untrained, with no missionaries to guide, teach or instruct them.
Davis shares a narrative about how, when the war was over five years later, missionaries returned to find a growing, flourishing church of over 10,000 people. In the book he many stories of individuals, including a doctor's son, high ranking chiefs, women who weathered heartache and trial and how God graced the church.
“Sounds unbelievable, but in Fire on the Mountains Raymond Davis traces the spread of the Gospel as it blazed among the primitive Wallamo tribe in interior Ethiopia, the privations, hardships, sacrifices, persecutions, even unto death in some instances, is both heartbreaking and inspiring. Mourning their losses, Sidama congregations swore an unconventional oath: “We must avenge their deaths by sending out our own missionaries.”
Despite persecution and turmoil, the churches began to do as they had promised. The latest census found that 63-67% of people in Ethiopia are Christian—over 13 million people. One denomination, the Ethiopian Kale Heywet (Word of Life) Church, now has more than 1,000 Sidama congregations supporting more than 250 missionaries across Ethiopia and other nations. As I read the book I wept
Why do I share this story? It illustrates how Christians have always faced persecution. This includes verbal attacks. As I shared last Sunday, Jesus said,
John 15:18‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.
The book of Acts helps us understand the birth and growth of the early church and how it spread out after the resurrection of Jesus. Christianity has always been looked down upon by many people who start with trying to discount the Bible. Yet, God’s church is unstoppable! In the book of Acts we learn how Holy Spirit connected the life and ministry of Jesus to the life of the church and the faith of the early believers. Holy Spirt has gifted Christians and churches with the power to be optimistic and bold in our witness.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. (Romans 1:16)