28 Weeks Acts Devotion Week 8
WEEK 8 - ACTS 8 - October 1, 2018
Written by Cara Nicklas, General Conference Delegate; Board of Directors, General Board of Church & Society
"And Saul approved of their killing him." Acts 8:1
Stephen has been stoned to death. We begin chapter eight with this chilling verse. Saul is helping to lead a severe persecution of Christians in Jerusalem. He ravages the church. He sends Christian men and women to prison for their faith. How discouraged these early Christians must have been. And so they leave Jerusalem and are "scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria."
In the midst of this quick flight from Jerusalem, the early Christians surely felt uncertainty about the future of the church. But while persecution scattered the believers, they also must have recalled Jesus' words of commission to go into all the world throughout Judea and Samaria spreading the gospel. We know how the story goes. The spread of the gospel was accelerated. The church exploded and still thrives after more than 2000 years. The stoning of Stephen helped accomplish Jesus' Great Commission.
I was a delegate to the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon. Candidly, it was a discouraging experience for the most part. It often did not feel like the church. The divisive issues that face our denomination were looming and created uncertainty about the future of our denomination. But there was a moment that profoundly moved me and sustained me throughout the ten-day conference. The worldwide nature of our church was evident during the opening worship service when we sang the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” in various languages. I stood in the conference center surrounded by my brothers and sisters from Africa, the Philippines, Germany, Russia, and other parts of the world, as we sang this familiar hymn together. We sang each stanza in a different language. The last stanza was in English and the swell of voices unified in our praise to God moved me to tears. One African delegate later commented to me that it was an image of heaven. And it was.
I love the richness that comes from our global denomination, one that is committed to the great teachings of the Christian faith that reach all the way back to the early church. I am reminded that I am joining with that great cloud of witnesses that come before me, and with my brothers and sisters around the world. The church’s historical and global context keeps me from making a mistake some of us are prone to make: interpreting Scripture and the great confessions of our faith solely within the context of our own culture. Stories like that of Stephen and the scattering of persecuted believers in Jerusalem and that visual display of the worldwide church at General Conference remind me of our mission and responsibility to spread the gospel throughout the ends of the earth. Despite the uncertainty and discouragement we might feel at times about the future of our church, we must continue, like Philip, to proclaim "the good news to all the towns!"
Suggested reading schedule
• Monday - Acts 8:1-3
• Tuesday - Acts 8:4-8
• Wednesday - Acts 8:9-13
• Thursday - Acts 8:14-24
• Friday - Acts 8:25
• Saturday - Acts 8:26-39
• Sunday - Acts 8:40
Reflection question: How does being part of a global denomination enhance your faith and influence your application of Scripture?
Prayer focus: Delegates to General Conference from outside the United States.