Chapter 8 of Acts must be one of the scariest chapters of the Bible. Here’s why:

Jesus told the disciples “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). He had also given them the Great Commission, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20). Acts 1-7 covers the first few years of the church and lots of great things happened, lots of healings and miracles but the message of the gospel does not leave Jerusalem.

Then Stephen is stoned. This was a major departure from the norm as Jews weren’t allowed to put anyone to death although they could put people in prison. The Romans turned a blind eye to Stephen’s death to keep the peace with Jewish leaders. The believers can’t trust the Romans to protect them and persecution breaks out against the believers. Now, and only now, do we read of the believers evangelising outside Jerusalem. “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria… Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (Acts 8:1, 4).

God will allow persecution in order to push the church out of Jerusalem and out of its comfort zone to spread the gospel and fulfil the Great Commission. So, and this is the scary bit, what will God allow the church in Australia to go through in order to spread the gospel?