Tuesday, September 7, 2010
The fourth parallel between the church in Acts and the Primitive Methodist movement is persecution.
After the stoning of Stephen, a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the surrounding regions. (Acts 8:1). Paul and his companions met with persecution in Antioch (Acts 13:50), Iconium (Acts 14:5), Lystra (Acts 14:19), strong opposition from Jewish groups and violent mobs in Philippi (Acts 16:22), and in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5), and there was a great riot in Ephesus on account of their message (Acts 19:23).
The early Primitive Methodist pioneer preachers faced two particular forms of persecution – the mob and the magistrate. Violent mobs of angry men and women pelted their preachers with stones, rotten eggs and vegetables, mud, excrement, as well as verbally and physically assaulting them. Some preachers were lucky to escape with their lives. Verbal assault apart from the usual cursing and swearing also included calling them “Ranters”, a term of derision and offence.
Many a preacher found himself in court or in prison as the result of trumped up charges, such as obstructing the highway, or intention to cause a riot. It was not infrequently that they picked up “the Go to Jail” card.
It is the experience of many preachers of powerful Christian movements to go to jail. Examples include Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany and Martin Luther King in Birmingham jail. It often seems to be part of God’s plan. As our western society moves from being post-Christian to being increasingly anti-Christian, it may be the lot of modern-day preachers to be sent to prison for preaching the Gospel, as well.
See also Five Characteristics of a Church Planting movement