“On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1). Stephen is an important biblical figure, both today and in his own time. He was appointed by his peers to care for the Hellenistic widows after being recognized for his reputation and wisdom. His fame increased as he, being full of the power of the Spirit, performed wonders and miracles. Every good Christian knows the name of Stephen, who is most well known for being stoned for his faith – and every good Christian aspires to his character.
What many often miss, however, is that not everyone is like Stephen. Most Christians are the ones being “scattered” by persecution. Those scattering from the persecution weren’t necessarily cowards or weak in the faith, as often they were merely protecting their families. Christian husbands have a duty to protect their wives and their children from physical, emotional, and spiritual harm. Today, many have been conditioned to believe every good Christian must be like Stephen, and fleeing from persecution to preserve one’s family may even be viewed as cowardly or weak. Yet the people fleeing persecution in Acts 8:1 did not simply flee and disappear into hiding – they moved away from the threat and continued to preach the gospel as they went (Acts 8:4).
As a young man, I always wanted to “do something big.” I grew up the son of a pastor in a charismatic non-denominational church. It was the kind of church where people attempted to dance like David danced and prophesy in other tongues. In these types of churches, people are often encouraged to quiet themselves and try to hear what God is saying to them. At that time, I tried hard to quiet my thoughts and listen, but I heard nothing. Other people seemed to have great tales of what God told them, and most of the time they were prophecies of being a great influence, a millionaire, or a famous missionary. Naturally, I started to imagine that I heard God revealing his high-profile plans for me too! “He said I was going to be on a big stage in front of a lot of people preaching the good news!” I thought. But it was really just my thoughts and aspirations of doing something influential for God. And I was influenced to believe that the only way I could be influential for God was to be like Stephen in Acts 7 – loud, unashamed, and standing strong as I’m stoned to death. What I didn’t yet realize is that there is glory and influence in not being the martyr, but instead being the one “scattered abroad.”
Christians today are influenced in the same way – to think that there is only glory in being a public figure or leader. But there is glory in being average. By average, I mean the Christians who make up a large portion of the Church, parenting their children and living their lives in accordance with the scriptures without a platform, fame, or widespread influence. The father who works hard to provide, catechize, discipline, and protect his family, trying to fulfill exactly what God has called him to do. The mother who keeps her home, teaches, loves, and invests in her family, fulfilling exactly what God has called her to. The parents who teach God’s Word to their children by preaching and living out the gospel. The average family fulfilling Deuteronomy 6:5-9, Ephesians 6:4, 1 Timothy 5:8, and Ephesians 5:22-28 receive no special recognition, but it doesn’t mean that they receive less glory than Stephen. The average, Christian parents being scattered – moving to safer, more biblically-minded parts of the country (and world) are fleeing persecution and preaching the gospel to their children on the way.
A pastor recently caused somewhat of a scandal by suggesting that Christian families moving to more “conservative” states could be accomplishing a net positive for the Kingdom of God. God’s people have always been fighting against evil, but that does not mean that His people can never regroup or vacate an area for a time. It does not even mean that Christians stop fighting the evil around them. Fathers protect and provide for their families, and that may mean “being scattered” to a place where their children will not be directly harmed by the godless acts of the state and where they are economically better able to provide for their family, according to 1 Timothy 5:8. Stephen’s name is preserved in the scriptures to be remembered by many generations – and he has his deserved glory. The average Christian faithfully fulfilling his God-given duties by being scattered also has his glory, even if it isn’t through a platform, a media career, or a public stoning.