In the book, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church (Baker Academic, 2016), Alan Kreider asks how the early church grew in the face of disgrace and death, without coordinated programmes for mission or efforts to attract outsiders. Church fathers insisted that believers make faith visible, specifically through patience, considered the highest of virtues. Three wrote treatises on this patience. Why was it so extolled? 

In his defence of Christianity, Justin (2nd c.) said, “When Christians live with integrity and visibility, by our patience…and meekness [Christians will] draw all men from shame and evil desires.”1

Pagan writers saw patience as a characteristic of lowly people. Tertullian (4th c.), however, said it is rooted in God Himself. Christ’s incarnation is the ultimate act of patience, as He bore the reproach and shame of people. This patience reflected a new way of life which, along with the hidden power of yeast (ferment) within the church, drew people towards the Kingdom and the church grew spontaneously. 

While the early church world is vastly different from the 21st century, this reading has led me to reflect in the following ways.

Patience and sacrifice

In Persio-Indian cultures, the virtue of jawanmardi (young manliness) is extolled as the greatest virtue (futuwwat/fatan in the Arab world) that embodies all the qualities of good men (courage, hospitality, generosity and more). However, the ultimate jawanmard willingly sacrifices his life for others’ benefit. Persians have told me they see Jesus as the greatest jawanmard. He gave His life away, pouring it out for others (kenosis—emptying of Philippians 2:6). 

Indeed, the Christ-like patience which the church fathers extolled is much deeper than waiting quietly for a bus. Rather, it is a sacrificial and enduring compassion for others, which our Lord embodied in His life and ultimately on the cross. We are to have that same attitude (patience). 

Patience and Christian witness

Secondly, as we witness unprecedented growth of Christian faith among Muslims in recent years, we see a similar phenomenon as in the early church. We note the push from within the Muslim world, a deep dismay at the present state in the Middle East which compels people to search for answers beyond their world. We also see the witness of compassion demonstrated by Jesus followers as they care for refugees and others. Yes, we must talk the gospel and explain the person of Jesus but, as Origen believed, “patience—Christians treating their neighbours well and behaving courageously in the [public] arena—is at the core of the church’s witness.” 2

Patient presence and the OM vision

Thirdly, our OM vision statement has galvanized the OM world. As we seek to implement this vision, let us put on the garment of patience, becoming visible among the people we serve. One team member working among refugees wrote recently, 

“An Afghan man and his wife wanted to come to the fellowship, but he had heard Christians get drunk, turn off lights in the service and grab someone’s wife. We assured him that this was all lies. He dared to come a few times, but became too busy with work. We trust he will bring his wife soon. 

“Another man who claimed faith was jailed for stealing. He was finally released. He acknowledged his sin and is experiencing real change. Our team member spends regular time with him and his wife.” 

Would these people be experiencing the new way of life if we are not patiently present among them? As these stories demonstrate, the vibrant community itself must be visible, tangible and accessible. If not, how can the unreached see Christ (dreams notwithstanding)? 

Cyprian, a church leader, wrote in 256 CE, “We are philosophers not in words but in deeds; we exhibit our wisdom not by our dress, but by truth; we know virtues by their practice rather than through boasting of them; we do not speak great things but we live them.”2 

I see in myself the tendency to boast about impact and numbers. Can we relax from pushing or tracking outcomes and overly coordinating efforts that easily run afoul? I want to believe in the divine ferment of God’s Spirit who draws people to the Kingdom and transforms them in a new way of living.

1. Quoted in The Patient Ferment, 16.

2. Ibid., 20.

Arley Loewen specialises in Persian culture, with an MA in Persian (Pakistan) and a PhD in Middle Eastern Civilizations (Canada). He directs Pamir Productions, media and discipleship for Afghans and teaches on Muslim-Christian themes. Exploring cultural themes in honour-shame societies, Arley occasionally runs seminars for professionals and college students in Central Asia. He and his wife Janice have been with OM since the early 1980s.

Share this Resource

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print

Leave a Reply

You might also like:

Other Resources by

International Personnel Manager International    Go & Live    As soon as possibleThe Personnel Manager coordinates and supports people management processes and systems for the international staff team (approx. 180 people worldwide)
Full Details
Community Project Manager International    Go & Live    As soon as possibleAre you experienced in business training and coaching? Do you have community development experience? Can you encourage people as they start a business and form follow-up groups? These groups support and encourage each other and work together toward solutions to uplift the community economically. OM’s Micro enterprise business ministry is passionate about helping people transform, uplift and empower their communities through business. Help us renew hope and see lasting change in peoples’ lives.
Full Details
Communications and Media Manager International    Go & Live    As soon as possibleAre you a motivated, creative self-starter with innovative ideas who enjoys removing obstacles and solving problems? We need someone like you to direct and manage the communication and promotion of our products & services in the hearts and minds of our various stakeholder communities. OM’s Micro enterprise business ministry is passionate about helping people transform, uplift and empower their communities through business. Join us, help renew hope and see lasting change in people's lives.
Full Details
Public and Media Relations Manager – Global Brand and Marketing International    Go & Live    As soon as possibleDo you have skills and education in marketing and media relations? Have you wondered how you could put those skills to work for the glory of God? You could do that with OM as the Public and Media Relations Manager with our Global Brand Management team. As part of Global Brand Management, you would guide the annual Public Relations and media strategy to publicly champion the work of God through OM around the world.  Could this be the right place for you?
Full Details
Personal Assistant for SportsLink Director International    Go & Live    As soon as possibleDo you have a passion for administration, organisation and practical logistics? Are you detail oriented and efficient in your work? If this sounds like you, you are just the person we’re looking for to help our SportsLink International Director manage his responsibilities as he leads sports ministries which build and strengthen communities of Jesus followers.
Full Details
Incarnate Manager – Inspiro Arts Alliance International    Go & Live    As soon as possibleDo you love to organize complex events? Can you imagine touching every corner of the globe with beauty by helping equip artists to serve cross-culturally?

Inspiro Arts Alliance cultivates and empowers artists globally to awaken the world to God's beauty. Incarnate is our flag-ship training. Completely redesigned and improved, the next Incarnate will be held in January 2022 over 4 months in multiple locations.

We’ve got the program and connections. We just need a manager. Could that be you?

Full Details
Event Manager (Run 4 the World – R4TW) International    Go & Live    As soon as possibleWe’re looking for an Events Manager to organize one (or a few) Run for the World (R4TW) events within the serving country/area. If you have skills in event planning, networking and organization, this could be your dream job. Run for the World (R4TW) is an open-source global sports event - running and making a positive impact on the world around you. It is a God-given opportunity to use sport to transform the lives of young people locally and globally.
Full Details
eBook Programmer (OM EAST – Literature and Media, Austria) International    Go & Live    As soon as possibleUse your skills to convert powerful Christian publications into downloadable eBooks that can travel to hard-to-reach places. Share the hope of Christ by making resources available in areas where there is little or no Christian literature in the local language!
Full Details
Director of Media & Communications – Inspiro Arts Alliance International    Go & Live    As soon as possibleDo you love to communicate creatively? Experience leading a team?

Inspiro Arts Alliance is looking for a leader for our Media & Communications Team to develop and deploy a variety of media to help mobilize artists globally to love like Jesus.

As director of media & communications you will be key to inspiring and equipping this global movement of artists!

Full Details
Short-Term Project Manager – Inspiro Arts Alliance International    Go & Live    As soon as possibleCan you imagine managing creative projects around the world? Are you a problem solver, who pays attention to detail and has good people skills? Are you familiar with ethnodoxology? This role manages short-term projects in a variety of artforms and formats – from performance tours to customized training workshops. Some involve international visits with artists. Other projects engage and empower local artists. But all projects seek to honour local art forms in moving people to better love Jesus.
Full Details
Video Editor – full-time International    Go & Live    As soon as possiblePlay a vital part in creating powerful videos or animations, which help OM teams communicate the gospel with specific people groups around the world!
Full Details
Financial Development Officer – Sportslink International International    Go & Live    As soon as possibleAre you a gifted, passionate and experienced leader and fundraiser who can build local and international financial partners to support our ministry? If you answered yes, we need you to help us raise necessary funds and resources for OM SportsLink International operational and catalytic initiatives. You would have a key role in developing creative strategies to generate sustainable income.
Full Details