At first glance, the Christian world was impressive in its scope and geographical range, to the point where it seems to constitute almost a parallel to the Roman Empire – almost a shadow Christian Empire in waiting. But then we turn again to the likely numbers, with just 250,000 believers in that wide world. Without any firm basis for such estimates, let me propose some possible figures for the largest communities, remembering that these would incorporate all churches and sects combined. Rome itself would likely have been by far the largest, with (say) 40,000 Christians. We might then estimate communities of 10-15,000 for such regional capitals as Antioch, Alexandria, and Carthage, 5,000 for Jerusalem and Ephesus. Those numbers do not seem very high, but if they are even close to accurate, those six centers alone would account for 100,000 people, or 40 percent of the world Christian population. That leaves just 150,000 to fill all those smaller cities and towns, from Britain to southern India.
Brandon Smith shares a few insights from David Wilhite’s book, The Gospel According to the Heretics.
It was at this church that I first heard the pastor say, if you are a guest, feel no pressure to give. This was a breath of fresh air for me as it removed any thought in my mind of a lack of integrity within the ministry. Yet, this all came from the leadership of the church taking a stand that “it is better to live a life of integrity than shame.”
The longer I lead, the more leery I am of bringing people to the team who dismissively shrug off their weaknesses because their strengths are so pronounced. For example, the person who says, “I am a big picture guy, an idea guy, but that means I am not really good at the details” still needs to be able to answer email and knock out some tasks. The person who says, “I am a task-oriented leader; just load my plate with work and I knock it out, but people can get in my way at times” needs to be able to connect with the team relationally. One doesn’t have to be stellar in everything, but there is a bare minimum of competency in all of the critical things or one just cannot function on the team.
What we post on social media can take on a life of its own. The matter feels urgent, so we hastily type rebuttals. Veiled as zeal for truth, we run to our computers and phones to adjust error and admonish the man who got it all wrong. Any public misstep can be called out to legions of our followers who, in turn, can pass on the public rebuke to their followers.
With so many people agreeing with us, confidence grows that we have chosen a worthy battle.
A friend of mine recently shared that he was nearing completion of his fifth book. While I outwardly feigned excitement, inwardly I recognized an old acquaintance: jealousy. If you’ve been in ministry for any amount of time—and if you’re honest—you’ve experienced this as well.
A favorite from the archives:
I have a love-hate relationship with the “creative” world. On the one hand, human creativity, in whatever expression it manifests itself, is a wonderful gift from the Lord. Because God is THE Creator, we imitate Him in our small-c creativity. On the other hand, I really hate the “culture” of creativity. While attending the 2012 Story Conference in Chicago, the impression I got of what the creative ideal could be summed up something like this: A true creative is a non-linear thinker; someone who doesn’t like rules (or in some cases logic), and is driven by a passion to just “create.” They want their work to matter—and in many ways, they themselves want to matter.