As we read about the terrible things being done to Middle Eastern Christians our hearts are broken. Let us pray for them to be protected and continue to evangelize.
We need to remember that Christians from the time of Pentecost to about 350 AD faced the sword, lions and extreme pressure but they continued to grow in numbers. They met in secret, in caves, homes and nature, yet despite the lack of creature comforts they grew in faith and power.
What happened over the next three centuries after Christ is an amazing story, although one that is easily overlooked or taken for granted today in a culture in which Christianity is so prominent and pervasive. Consider:
- Between A.D. 60 and 100, the number of Christians increased from that meager 3,000 to 7,500, and to more than 40,000 by the year 150. By 200, the total would exceed 200,000, climb to 1 million by 250 and soar to an astonishing 6 million by the turn of the century — 10 percent of the Roman Empire's entire population.
- In 311, the Emperor Galerius, responding to their increasing numbers and clout, ended the policy of punishing Christians for refusing to worship Rome's deities, asking only that they put in a good word for the empire with that one-and-only supreme being of theirs.
- In 313, the next emperor, Constantine the Great, after adopting the Christian cross as a victorious battle symbol the previous year, issued an edict of toleration toward Christianity and embraced the faith himself.
- By 350, the rolls of the empire's Christians had reached 33 million, half the populace, and their consortium's of burgeoning churches would one day surpass Rome's legions in dominion and sweep. (This is taken from an article in Christianity Today's History Magazine.)