Stark notes that there were at least two great plagues in the first three centuries (160 and 250 AD) that actually were instrumental in the nascent church’s incredible growth rate, which he estimates at 40% per decade. When the plagues came, those who were able fled the city but not the Christians. They stayed and ministered to the sick and dying--Christians and non-Christians alike. Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, writing of how believers responded to the plague of 250 observes:
Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead…. The best of brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of presbyters, deacons, and laymen winning height commendation so that death in this form, the result of great piety and strong faith, seems in every way the equal of martyrdom.
** MMI posts about the State of the church in 2005:
- 1,400 pastors in America leave the ministry monthly.
- Only 15% of churches in the United States are growing and just 2.2% of those are growing by conversion growth.
- 10,000 churches in America disappeared in a five-year period.
- Only 45% of the U.S. population, attend church regularly.
** Jordon has 6 podcasts from Michael Frost, one of the authors of The Shaping of Things to Come. I've only listened to the first, but I like it so far. HT: Tallskinnykiwi