The Dandelion Effect
“Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.” – Acts 8:1-4
Most every child has experienced the joy of picking a dandelion, blowing it, and watching the seeds scatter. The seeds that are spread eventually produce more dandelions. In that moment, one dandelion is destroyed while hundreds are produced. One thing plucked leads to many things planted. It is an intriguing illustration, which accurately depicts the growth of the early church. As Christians were persecuted and murdered for their allegiance to Christ, the seeds of Christianity only multiplied and the gospel message only furthered. It is what many Christians have referred to as the dandelion effect.
The story of the early church is recorded in the book of Acts. It is a story marked by both persecution and growth, two things that are not usually coupled together. How was this possible? It was because the persecution placed upon this rapidly growing movement known as the Way (Acts 9:2) actually had a reverse effect. Each and every effort to stifle and stunt the growth of the church only furthered the church. As believers were murdered and imprisoned, it only fueled a greater passion and zeal within the hearts and lives of those committed to Christ.
In Acts chapters 8 and 9, Saul continuously plotted against the church and did everything in his power to stamp out this growing religious movement. Because of this, many of Christ’s followers were scattered away from their base of operations in Jerusalem. Now normally, the word “scatter” might carry a negative meaning. But not in our passage above; it is the Greek word diaspeiro, a word used to describe the action of scattering seed. It described the farmer as he scattered seed in the field in effort to produce a greater harvest. It is also interesting to note that diaspeiro is where Christians get the phrase “planted a seed.” And so this is the mental picture we are given depicting the spreading of the early church. It was not a scattering marked with negativity to where they become ineffective in their mission. To the contrary; it was a scattering that produced more results. The Jerusalem Christians were the seeds in the hands of God as He sovereignly planted His church. God simply used persecution as fertilizer to spread them into new soil. Each time this occurred, the church was like a dandelion gathered up in hands of God and blown by the breath of God.
Interestingly, the enemies of God’s people through the centuries have seemed unaware of the dandelion effect. They have failed to understand that the flames used to burn Christians at the stake only spread the flames of Christian influence. They have failed to understand that imprisoning church leaders only emboldens church members to stand firm. They have failed to understand that when Christians are pierced by the sword, other believers are pierced with passion to further the mission. They have failed to understand that beheading Christians only unifies other believers to preach Christ with an indescribable level of reckless abandonment.
God has scattered His people throughout the ages to further the gospel, despite relentless persecution. With this in mind, it would be good for us to remember that God’s plans are never thwarted. Any attempts by man to snuff out God’s people have always been and always will be futile. And these futile efforts will always be gathered up by God and squeezed out like lighter fluid to fuel the mission of the church. We can be rest assured that despite ISIS, terrorism, communism, or liberalism, the church will continue to scatter and spread, just like a dandelion blown by the breath of God. So let us all rejoice and be thankful for God’s dandelion effect!
– Pastor Eric