“Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” – Acts 8:4
Sometimes disciples of Christ scatter. In the case of the church mentioned in Acts chapter 8, the catalyst was persecution. In later parts of the book of Acts the Holy Spirit led Christians to go or even to stay away from places (Acts 16:6). We are aware that Jesus expects us to do some scattering since in what we call “The Great Commission,” he commands disciples to make more disciples of every nation.
In modern times people and societies have come to live differently. We build permanent housing, we link ourselves up to running water, electricity, education and wi-fi. We are often employed more steadily by an employer who keeps us on payroll and expects us to labor during set hours, in a set area and on set days. God still plans to have us make disciples all over so in his greatness he uses these changes to the way we live to scatter us still, that we might do his bidding.
The Fox Valley Church of Christ (located in the Appleton/Oshkosh/Green Bay area of Wisconsin) has been a place where God has used work, family and education to draw people to make disciples. The church started with a dozen souls in 2001. For several years the fellowship was faithful but sparse in number. As the US economy cycled through a downward turn in 2008-10, the Fox Valley was still hiring. So, many Christians from around our family of churches made their way to the Midwest and God knit them together to make something special. The church grew to nearly 40 members, mostly through Christians moving in and placing membership here.
“What goes up, must come down.” This saying is attributed to Isaac Newton and we know it as the law of gravity. It apparently applies to economies too. As the United States rebounded and employment became more available in more places, most of those who God had scattered to the Fox Valley have now been scattered elsewhere. Still living as faithful disciples in places like Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Arizona, California, Texas and beyond, these folks are helping churches grow in strength and in number.
The best news is that they left an impact behind here in the Fox Valley. They shared their wisdom, their convictions, their love and their example. These all served to set a standard that set the bar high for the fellowship here and God has caused that to make his church grow. Despite having over 50% of the church’s membership move away since 2013 the size of the congregation has actually gotten bigger. Last year, for the first time in our short history, the Fox Valley Church grew to over 50members. We baptized eight people, more than in any year before. Therefore, our small church is now made up mostly of Christians who are five years or younger in the faith. What an exciting time to be here.
Admittedly, we do feel a certain disappointment whenever folks move away. Since we love them and will miss them this seems appropriate. For a time it was confusing and seemed to cancel out the progress we felt God was making. However, in time the Lord has helped us see things differently. We have reached a point where we surrender to the reality that these are not “our members,” indeed they are Christ’s. When one is scattered elsewhere, we’ve seen God grow someone in their place and the Kingdom become all the better for it.
The Fox Valley is not a destination location. It seems as though people will come and go from this place at a bit higher rate than is common in most places. That’s OK because God is able to supply our needs and sometimes disciples have to scatter.