Taking a Step Back

In the first 300 years of the Christian faith… dynamic, powerful, influential

And, as a result, the Early Church grew at a terrific rate ….

  • In the year 250 AD – 1.9% of the population of the Roman Empire was born again
  • In the year 300 AD – 10.5% of the Empire’s population was born again
  • In the year 350 AD – 56.5% of the population was born again

The Early Church…

Worked with regional apostolic centers … Located in Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome

Centres where the fivefold ministry teams were located and from where they spread out as needed to plant the Gospel of the Kingdom and establish new expressions of the Church 

These were, of course, house churches

The first 350 years of the Christian faith was one of the most EXPLOSIVE times of growth and expansion that the Church and the Kingdom has ever seen

It’s influence and impact was astonishing and world-changing … nothing less than supernatural and miraculous

Most powerful time for the Church in all of its history (2100 years)

So, as I read through the Book of Acts on an almost monthly basis I am asking myself “What is it about the first three hundred years of the life of the Church that made it so powerful?”

Let me give you a partial list …

1> Passion for Jesus 

The early church was not centred around certain types of ministries or man-made programming but rather they were freakishly obsessed with Jesus!

He was REAL to them!

It was all about Jesus … not about the needs of the believers

They worked to meet the needs – Acts 6 / feeding the widows

But their focus and their message was “Christ crucified and raised from the dead”

There were two main messages of the early Church

The Kingdom of God AND The resurrection of the King (Jesus)

1 Corinthians 1:23a  “…we preach Christ crucified”

1 Corinthians 2:2 “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

They understood that Jesus is God in human flesh (John 1:14)

They knew that He was the Way – the only way (John 14:6)

The way to an abundant life now – purpose and meaning (John 10:10)

The way to eternal life, a relationship with God now (Romans 6:23b; John 17:3)

The way / the door into Heaven when you die (John 10:9)

They had a personal encounter with the Living God as found only in Jesus

A life-altering, life-changing encounter with God that changed every aspect of their life … an encounter with love (1 John 4:8)

Perspective, thoughts, words, actions, attitude, values, morals

Their life and their life together was centered on Jesus – who He is and what He was doing through them to impact those who were not saved

They were seriously on fire for Him and lived every day with passion for Him

Passion = strong, compelling emotion or feeling

Passion = Fervour and zeal … “Do not burn out; keep yourself fuelled and aflame…cheerfully expectant.” (The Message version – Romans 12:11)

Passion = love, desire,

Passion = enthusiasm and experience

2> They were non-religious

Paul, the apostle, fought hard to keep the religious idiots away from people who were falling in love with Jesus

The Pharisees and all their rules and regulations not based in love (Philippians 3:2)

The Judaizers – believers who thought you had to become a Jew first before then embracing the Christian faith (Galatians 4:17 Amplified Bible))

The Gnostics – who believe the more you knew the more spiritual you were and that salvation was based on knowledge even when not applied to life and thus not life altering in any way (1 John – written to counteract their influence)

The carnal believers – who simply lived like non-believers and who were controlled by their fleshly appetites (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

The legalists – who took the “tools” and made them into “rules” (Philippians 3:2 Amplified Bible)

Read your Bible every day / Pray in tongues daily / memorize Scripture …

The focus was non-religious

The focus was relational … your relationship with God and then with other believers

The focus was on what Jesus had done to pay for sin and not people’s efforts to please God and find favour with Him

Religion – What we do to reach out and please God

Christian faith – What God accomplished as He reached out to us

Religion – Do

Christian faith – Done

3> Strong Community 

When I first came out west I was told by my religious leaders that there were two things you simply did not talk to other about when visiting with them as their priest – politics and religion

Both were viewed as “private” matters

Religion was something that was personal and between them and God

No one in the early church thought that “their faith” was a private matter

They knew that it was a matter of ‘community’ and living their faith out with others who also believed as they did

They lived in a “faith community” where they were inter-connected, embracing each other, and living their lives together as believers

Acts 2:42-47a “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people.”

They lived life together and encouraged one another, supported one another, loved one another and provided for one another.

They knew the calling to walk with Christ was also a calling to walk with others who believed.

They understood that you cannot be a believer and follower of Jesus if you were not not connected to a local assembly of believers and sharing life together

Not just attending on Sunday and fulfilling your religious duty BUT connected in community and living out the Christian faith daily with others who believe

When Jesus was on earth He didn’t walk alone – He formed community

4> Urgency 

They were serious about seeing people come to Christ…there was an urgency about them as they understood the need to reach others for Jesus

They understood that without Jesus people were hopelessly lost

That people without Jesus lived a life of hopelessness

That people without Jesus would spend eternity in a place called Hell and it was very real to them

This “urgency” compelled them to share the Gospel of the Kingdom with everyone they met and within all of their relationships

This urgency they felt required immediate attention and action

This urgency was burning on the inside of them pressing them into action

This urgency meant that sharing the Good News was imperative – a pressing need and desire – – – Never an option

Paul states:

“Telling the Good News is my duty – something I must do. And how terrible it will be for me if I do not tell others the Good News.” (1 Corinthians 9:16 NCV)

“For I have a great sense of obligation to people in our culture and to people in other cultures.” (Romans 1:14 NLT)

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all.” (2 Corinthians 5:14 NIV)

This urgency meant that they didn’t care about the politically correct way to make decisions or about boycotting pagan activities…their focus was on reaching the lost in every way possible.

5> Anticipation / Expectation

There was always a sense that God was about to do something BIG! The best is yet to come!!

Waiting in the Upper Room for the “promise of the Father” (Luke 24:49)The Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Commanding the lame man – lame from birth – to stand up and walk and then pulling him up believing God would do what only God can do

Boldly defending their actions before religious leaders who could have them put to death

Praying for Peter’s release from prison and certain death – seeing it happen

Mark 16:20 “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.”

1 Corinthians 2:4-5 “…my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

1> Passion for Jesus 2> They were non-religious 3> Strong community 4> Urgency 5> Anticipation / Expectation

6> A Recognition and respect of leadership – honouring leadership

Leaders in the early church were respected and honoured…

NOT worshiped NOT followed blindly NOT served as they are the ones who are called to serve God’s people NOT beyond question  NOT beyond accountability

BUT, honoured for the work that God had called them to do for His Kingdom and His people

Hebrews 13:7 “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

Hebrews 13:17 “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

These verses and others point to both the responsibility that leaders bear and the instructions on how to treat them

Treat them with honour and respect …

7> Involvement 

EVERYONE was involved in ministry – it wasn’t left up to the “paid professionals!”

There was no division between clergy and laity

Everyone had a task to perform (Body ministry – 1 Corinthians 12:14-26)Some are leaders, some are elders, some deacons, some teachers, some are helps and administrations, some apostles, prophets…ALL are disciple-makers

Everyone is a part of the Priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9)

Everyone has a part to play to bring the Church to maturity (Ephesians 4:12-16)

There are no spectators – everyone participates in ministering to others and reaching the lost

Every member is a minister….

8> Willingness to be persecuted 

They were willing to lose their lives for the Gospel and many did

Someone wrote:

“They were willing to be killed…and we’re rarely willing to be criticized!” DANG!

We need to make sure that what we are living for is worth dying for…

Overseas … have come close to death four times

Overseas … some of those I have worked with have died for the faith

Overseas … there is much persecution against the Church and people are sharing the Gospel in spite of the possibility of prison sentences and even death

And here in North America … we complain over such insignificant things and criticize anyone who is trying to do something new for Jesus

That’s my observation….

9> They saw things happen // Made things happen 

They begged God for big things…they believed His vision was larger than repaving a parking lot and building bigger building

They believed God for big things… and didn’t focus on sending off second hand clothes to a third world country

They believed big and then they took action – and God honoured their vision and their actions

Uzbekistan … one born again, Spirit-filled house church and “Bible School”

Matthew 9:29 “According to your faith be it done to you.”

10> They lived and then taught truth

At the end of the day all that matters is what we do with the truth of God’s Word

The Early Church KNEW this and that was their focus – preaching and teaching God’s Word

AND, as important, they lived what they taught

You only believe what you apply to your life and live out in your daily life

Truth sets you free – but only if you believe it, receive it, apply it, live it.

John 8:32 “…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”

The Message Version: “Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.”

“Know” = To understand, to perceive, the embrace, to experience, be sure of, to receive, to become one with

CONCLUSION:

There is so much more we could add (not an exhaustive list)…

Built with apostles and prophets as foundationalFull fivefold ministry (the fullness of the ministry of Jesus ) availableBaptized in the Holy Spirit   Everyone flowed in supernatural gifts of the Spirit Churches were formed in local homes and multiplied quickly  Focused on a movement and not another meeting

And the list could go on.

BUT, within the local assembly – like ours here – these were the 10 aspects of their life together that really stand out as I read and reread the Book of Acts…

  1. Passion for Jesus … center of every aspect of life
  2. They were non-religious …loving, accepting – not judging and rejecting
  3. Strong community … bonded and joined / church and local community
  4. Urgency… “seeking and saving the lost” (Luke 19:10)
  5. Anticipation / Expectation … resulting in boldness
  6. A Recognition and respect of leadership – honouring leadership… ‘order’
  7. Involvement … no one on the sidelines – everyone doing ministry
  8. Willingness to be persecuted … take up your cross daily
  9. They saw things happen … because they stepped out in faith
  10. They lived and then taught truth… a heart thing, not just a head thing – understanding and not just informations and knowledge

CONCLUSION:

All of these are more than possible today in our life together as believers