I recently reflected that we as followers of Christ should be antifragile. The Scriptures tell us that it is in persevering through suffering or trial that we grow stronger in our faith. This is a definite example of antifragility. As I have been musing about this book it has occurred to me that there ought also to be an antifragile quality to believers in Jesus corporately. In other words, the church as a corporate entity ought also to be antifragile.
Unfortunately the church has not always exhibited this trait. Islamic persecution essentially wiped out the church in many Arab lands and in North Africa. In Japan in the nineteenth century persecution eviscerated a burgeoning church. While it didn’t destroy the church persecution by the government in the Soviet Union seriously weakened the Christian movement there in the twentieth century. So what does this mean? It suggests to me that in the broad sweep of history the church is indeed antifragile. After centuries of persecution there are more followers of Christ on earth than there have ever been. Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against his church, and he has proven right over two millennia.
It is, however, also apparent than in some instances particular manifestations of the church have been fragile and have been damaged or destroyed by stress or opposition. What can we take from this? First, I think we can be confident because at its core the church is antifragile so that no matter what people may do to oppose the gospel, in the end the church will continue to grow and expand God’s kingdom. Second, I think we should recall that the church will not be antifragile in every single manifestation. In light of that we should do all we can to make the church we are a part of “antifragile.” In the end the antifragility of the church is due to the power of God, which means we must always trust God to work his sovereign will in our church. But it seems to me another thing we can do is to emphasize the things that are at the core of the church’s antifragility. When we focus on buildings, organizations, programs, budgets, money and “success” as defined by the world we are making the church more fragile. These are things that are fragile, easily impacted in a negative way by persecution, opposition, even economic or social chaos or stress. When we see the church as a family, a network of relationships, an organism consisting of people, we play to its antifragile strengths. The more we emphasize that the church is a community made up of people in whom the Spirit of Jesus lives, the more antifragile the church will be.