Acts Revisited

If we could simply recover the passion, the power, and the practice of the church in Acts we just might reach America as effectively as the early church reached the Empire. How did they do it? In a book every church leader simply must read, Michael Green in Evangelism in the Early Church observed not only how the church in Acts spread the message, but how she continued for over a century. I will note his quotes and then my comments.
p. 194: “Christianity is enshrined in the life; but it is proclaimed by the lips. If there is a failure in either respect the gospel cannot be communicated.” The gospel rightly shared is like a great song—both lyrics and melody come together to make a thing of beauty. If the lyrics (our message) are unclear, or if the melody (how we live) is distorted, the song fails, and the gospel cannot be shared as effectively as it should.
p. 194: “When we think of evangelistic methods today, preaching in a church building or perhaps a great area readily comes to mind. We must, of course, rid ourselves of all such preconceptions when thinking of evangelism by the early Christians. They knew nothing of set addresses following certain homiletical patterns within the four walls of a church. Indeed, for more than 150 years they possessed no church buildings, and there was the greatest variety in the type and content of Christian evangelistic preaching.” In other words, they were advancing a movement, not maintaining institutions.
p. 172:“The very fact that we are so imperfectly aware of how evangelism was carried out and by whom, should make us sensitive to the possibility that the little man, the unknown ordinary man, the man who left no literary remains was the prime agent in mission.” He quotes Harnack: “the great mission of Christianity was in reality accomplished by means of informal missionaries.” If preaching alone, or programs alone, or events alone, would reach America, she would have been reached. We do not have 5000 North American Missionaries, we have millions. Most just don’t know it.
p. 173: “But as early as Acts 8 we find that it is not the apostles but the ‘amateur’ missionaries, the men evicted from Jerusalem as a result of the persecution which followed Stephen’s martyrdom, who took the gospel with them wherever they went. It was they who traveled along the coastal plain to Phoenicia, over the sea to Cyprus, or struck up north to Antioch. They were evangelists, just as much as any apostle was. Indeed it was they who took the two revolutionary steps of preaching to Greeks who had no connection with Judaism, and then with launching the Gentile mission from Antioch. It was an unselfconscious effort. They were scattered from their base in Jerusalem and they went everywhere spreading the good news which had brought joy, release and a new life to themselves. This must often have not been formal preaching, but the informal chattering to friends and chance acquaintances, in homes. . ., on walks, and around market stalls. They went everywhere gossiping the gospel; they did it naturally, enthusiastically, and with the conviction of those who are not paid to say that sort of thing. Consequently, they were taken seriously, and the movement spread, notably among the lower classes.”
They went everywhere gossiping the gospel. Reminds me of what Edwards said during the Valley Revival of 1734-35 in the early years of the Great Awakening. He said for a season the conversation on every street corner was about spiritual things. I believe a reason we do not speak of Jesus to lost people is that we speak little about Jesus to other saved people.
Read Acts again. See that over ten times it says “daily.” See that some of the most remarkable advances were not made by apostles. Our paradigm is in need of a realign.

8 thoughts on “Acts Revisited

  1. I agree 100%,doc. I started preaching through Acts about two months ago and I cannot begin to explain what it is doing in my life (I hope everybody else is getting it too! 🙂

    The key to it all is tapping into the power of the HOly Spirit. Over and over in Acts you see someone either preaching, healing, or praying and you find the phrase “They were full of the Holy Spirit.” May we all ask for and welcome the power of the Spirit in our lives, our witnessing encounters, and in our worship services.

    By the way, thanks for the book plug by Green. I look forward to checking it out.

  2. Doc Reid,

    I just finished Green’s book (Evangelism in the Early Church)for the second time and appreciate your comments. I am using his devotional based on the prayers of Paul. I also just finished Rodney Stark’s work on the early evangelistic advance of the church. Have you dealt with Stark? What is your opinion?
    Thanks!

  3. I feel like i’m living a little bit more like the early church here in Kona than in any place I’ve ever been before. It’s an amazing walk of faith here at the University of the Nations. It’s amazing what happens when people are all united around the goal of seeing the Great Commission fulfilled and are doing so as volunteers.

  4. Thanks for the comments, guys. We have learned to do so much in the flesh we have forgotten about the power of God I fear.
    Thanks from Canada! I will check out the forum when I can.
    Matt, I am familiar with Stark but have not read that one. I have read Bruce’s excellent work on the subject and Harnack’s. I will have to get Stark, so thanks for the reminder.

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