In 2001, Armenia celebrated its 1700th anniversary as the primary Christian nation on the earth. In case you had been to ask members of the Armenian Apostolic Church right this moment about their church’s origins, they seemingly would reply that the apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew first introduced the gospel to Armenia in the midst of the primary century. They might additionally point out a significant occasion from AD 301. After listening to the gospel from the missionary Gregory the Illuminator (ca. 240–332), King Trdat (250–330) believed in Christ and was baptized. Then, new believer as he was, the king declared his kingdom to be a Christian nation.
Marked by protracted struggling, exceptional shows of God’s energy, and witness within the highest political spheres, Gregory’s late third-century mission to Armenia has a lot to show us about mission throughout the globe right this moment.
Gregory’s Historic Mission
Based on the Armenian historian Agathangelos, Gregory the Illuminator first got here from Asia Minor within the late third century to serve the Armenian King Trdat. When Gregory refused to make sacrifices to an Armenian goddess, Trdat had him tortured after which thrown in jail for 13 years. Agathangelos recorded that, throughout these years, Trdat, his family, and all his servants turned by demons and fell deathly unwell. Determined and working out of choices, the king summoned the imprisoned Gregory to wish for them. Gregory did, and God answered his prayers. The king and his family had been healed and delivered from demonic oppression. Trdat rewarded Gregory by giving him the liberty to evangelise the gospel all through Armenia. Then, together with the royal family and the Armenian the Aristocracy, Trdat embraced Christianity for himself and was baptized.
Taking his newly discovered religion a step additional, the king, nevertheless naively, declared Christianity the nationwide faith of Armenia in 301, ordering the baptism of some 4 million Armenians. To position these occasions in a worldwide context, Trdat’s conversion came about a decade earlier than the Roman emperor Constantine’s (ca. 272–337) conversion and choice to offer peace to the church in his empire. Trdat was additionally practically a century forward of Emperor Theodosius I (347–395), who made Christianity the official faith of the Roman Empire round 390. Although the Kingdom of Armenia was comparatively small, King Trdat’s actions set in movement a sample of high-level and nationwide conversions that may proceed by means of the Center Ages.
So what classes may we take away from Gregory’s historic mission?
Gregory suffered significantly in his mission to Armenia. Earlier than God used his witness to win a nation, Gregory languished in jail for 13 lengthy years. Not not like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Gregory encountered hardship as a result of he refused to pay homage to a false god. Struggling for his integrity as a Christian performed a central function in his affected person witness to the king.
Gregory’s struggling witness wasn’t something new. God’s individuals have all the time been a struggling individuals. Joseph, Daniel, and particularly our Lord Jesus suffered within the work of creating God’s identify recognized among the many nations. Luke tells us that Herod, searching for to persecute the church, killed “James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:2). After describing a few of his personal hardships on account of the gospel to Timothy, Paul concluded, “Certainly, all who want to reside a godly life in Christ Jesus will probably be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
“Gregory the Illuminator’s story reminds us that struggling in mission is a part of regular Christian residing.”
Many world Christians right this moment — pastors, evangelists, and on a regular basis Christians in locations like India, Pakistan, China, and Iran — endure each day for following Jesus. Whereas we within the West pray for struggling believers and advocate for non secular freedom world wide, we shouldn’t be shocked once we additionally endure for the gospel. God could also be happy to permit us to go to jail or lay down our lives whereas serving him. We would lose our jobs and locations of ministry or get canceled due to our dedication to the gospel. Gregory the Illuminator’s story reminds us that struggling in mission is a part of regular Christian residing.
When Gregory prayed and laid arms on King Trdat and his family, they had been delivered from demons and healed from illness. In missiology, we name this a “energy encounter.”
Whereas accounts of therapeutic and deliverance may problem our rational and scientific worldview (or maybe they increase doubts due to charlatan religion healers we’ve recognized or heard about), energy encounters are regular in Scripture and in mission historical past. God delivered Israel from captivity by means of the mighty act of parting the Crimson Sea. Daniel interpreted the goals of Babylonian kings. Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, delivered individuals from demons, and even raised the lifeless. Jesus himself was raised from the lifeless by means of God’s energy. The apostles’ ministries had been accompanied by highly effective indicators. The ascended Lord Jesus met Paul on the street to Damascus in an act of energy that led to him to embrace Christ. All through Scripture, the gospel typically comes with manifest and miraculous energy.
In missions right this moment, we after all should emphasize fact encounters. We proclaim Christ crucified, buried, risen, and ascended, and we invite nonbelievers to show from their sins and put their belief in him. On the identical time, energy might be the most important religious concern of peoples within the International South, so missionaries from the West would do nicely to make room for energy encounters of their mission theology and apply. At a mission session in 1978, some majority-world Christian leaders said,
[We] have spoken each of the truth of evil powers and of the need to display the supremacy of Jesus over them. For conversion entails an influence encounter. Folks give their allegiance to Christ after they see that his energy is superior to magic and voodoo, the curses and blessings of witch docs, and the malevolence of evil spirits, and that his salvation is an actual liberation from the ability of evil and dying. (Willowbank Report, 7D)
“Following Gregory, will we pray for therapeutic and deliverance in our ministries?”
Following Gregory, will we pray for therapeutic and deliverance in our ministries? Are we praying that God would ship us from the evil one and make his kingdom are available in our midst?
Evangelism in Excessive Locations
Gregory’s mission (in struggling and energy) took him to the royal palace. He ministered to the king and his household and to the Armenian the Aristocracy — the best echelon of society.
Although Gregory’s engagement with political leaders could seem exceptional to some twenty-first-century eyes, he was merely imitating Daniel, who, due to his job as a authorities administrator in Babylon and Persia, witnessed to kings and high-ranking officers. Gregory’s mission additionally resembles the later work of missionary monks, together with Augustine of Canterbury, who proclaimed the gospel to the English King Ethelbert in 596, and Columba, who loved related favor with the Pictish King Bridius in 635.
Most world missionaries right this moment, particularly these serving in restricted nations within the Muslim world, are likely to avoid authorities authorities and political leaders. They wish to keep below the radar. In some contexts, which may be a clever choice. Nonetheless, some Christians right this moment are following the instance of Gregory by constructing relationships within the realm of presidency and politics.
Take, for instance, a former elected US official who has solid relationships with leaders world wide. Whereas a part of his work is advocating for non secular freedom for persecuted Christians, he additionally leads Bible research in very sudden areas. Or contemplate one African pastor who met frequently with the president of his nation for Bible examine and prayer. The president enlisted the pastor as an in depth advisor to assist him wrestle by means of the best way to apply biblical rules in issues of state. Although neither of those males is a missionary within the formal sense, each realized that folks holding the best political workplace nonetheless want the gospel of Jesus. The political sphere turned their mission discipline.
The mission of Gregory the Illuminator to Armenia within the third and fourth centuries could problem how we take into consideration and method missions right this moment. Will we, the worldwide church, settle for and embrace struggling as a standard a part of our witness right this moment? Will we proclaim the excellent news of Christ with our phrases whereas anticipating God to work in energy as we pray and minister? Will we make disciples of all nations and in all spheres — among the many poor, the wealthy, and even those that govern and rule nations?