John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera on Recovering the Lost Virtue of Patience

Chuck Colson liked to say that the Kingdom of God will never arrive on Air Force One. It’s still true. Any reprieve in the last few years in the areas of religious liberty and the sanctity of life is coming to an end, and recent events should make the truth of Chuck’s statement obvious. Whether politics are upstream or downstream from culture (and the right answer is that it’s really both), it is not the vehicle for lasting cultural change. 

In fact, the history of Christianity shows that lasting cultural change rarely comes about in ways we are expecting. Christian influence requires that Christians cultivate virtue in both our private and public lives. One virtue that once changed the world is patience.

In his book, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, the late Mennonite historian Alan Kreider explained Christianity’s extraordinary rise from a beleaguered sect to the movement that transformed the Roman Empire. 

As one reviewer of Kreider’s book put it, “Christianity probably shouldn’t exist.” Not only did its Roman contemporaries hate the Church, but Christians didn’t make it easy to join up. With a stringent moral code and an extended period of catechesis prior to baptism, which only happened one a year around Easter, the Early Church wasn’t very “seeker friendly.”

Yet, it grew. 

Why? Surprisingly, it wasn’t because of an emphasis on evangelism, public preaching, or other missionary activities. The Church Fathers seldom wrote about those subjects, perhaps because they didn’t need to. But they did emphasize patience, which Kreider defined as “not controlling events, not anxious or in a hurry, and never using force to achieve [their] ends.” 

If this sounds like a boring and timid church-growth strategy, it wasn’t. 

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SOURCE: Breakpoint, John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera

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