“We multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed.” -Tertullian
Through its infancy, from Pentecost to Constantine, the church endured the flame and sword. Instead of decimating Christ’s bride, she flourished. God purified His saints through their suffering, and as Tertullian poetically stated, multiplied their number with their blood. From the darkness Christ’s disciples rose with such persuasive and indestructible power that even their persecutors were convinced and converted. The bride of Christ was beautiful and the world took notice.
Today in America it appears that Christ has been jilted by His bride. She has been seduced by wealth and comfort and her greater desire is for the protection of these false lovers than for the joy of her Beloved. Secluding herself behind the walls of her buildings, she has exchanged her true and vibrant identity for lifeless brick and mortar and made herself undesirable to the lost and spiritually lonely. She, who as the bride of God Incarnate and recipient of heaven’s tender affections could move the world to equally yield to Christ’s advances has lost her relevance in an increasingly godless society. She has become more an institution and protector of religious dogma than the catalyst of spiritual and moral revolution. Fortunately for the church and the rest of humanity, God is not done with His wayward bride in America. No different than the early days of their romance, He is devoted to her good and intent on her purification. Unlike the first three centuries, instead of persecution, could it be that today He is using the increasing godlessness of our society to provide the cleansing His church most desperately needs? How is this?
Attending services or reciting verses makes not a single disciple of Jesus. Cloistered members cannot salt or illuminate a world rotting and darkened by sin. Churches that define themselves by anything less than a devotion to obedient discipleship to Christ risk the road to extinction. Only churches whose leaders restore the church’s mission of making and maturing disciples of Jesus will embody the redemptive power of Christ’s death and resurrection so desperately needed this hour in America. Those churches that will dare to wade into the muck because they have resolved to remain at the foot of the cross will again become the beautiful bride of Christ to an increasingly godless generation. Instead of losing their relevance, these churches will find it. Instead of extinction, these churches will flourish as they become vessels of living water poured out to the barren souls surrounding them.
Persecution will always be an instrument of purification for the church, and is likely coming to Christ’s bride in America. Until then, it appears that the purification has begun with a call to obedient discipleship rather than attending and reciting because nothing short of it will cause godless America to take notice and embrace her beauty.