In the early church we see that reproduction was a central part of the life of the Church. In Acts 19 it states that every person in Asia heard the Gospel through the people of the church in Ephesus (Acts 19:10). As a result the Church grew and the Kingdom expanded.
An apostolic perspective is that as disciples are to go and make more disciples – so churches are to plant more churches. It is the principle of multiplication and reproduction. This concept is lacking in the Church today. Either individual Christians are not involved in “going into all the world and making disciples” or the local church is not reproducing and planting new churches or both. It is regretful that most believers today are not even thinking of “seeking and saving the lost.” And, instead of planning to plant new churches most existing churches are dreaming of becoming a mega-church or a multi-campus organization.
The Bible states that healthy disciples will reproduce and there will be more disciples. We are called by Jesus to be fruitful – disciples birthing new disciples, five-fold ministering training and mentoring the next generation of leaders and five-fold ministers, and churches birthing new, autonomous expressions of the church. Churches should have a vision for planting new churches. Reflecting the foundational principle of Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful and mu.” Reproduction and being sent out to reproduce is a core apostolic value.
One of the weaknesses of many of our evangelistic efforts today is a lack of the supernatural. Out approach, whether we realize it or not, relies heavily on either intellectual arguments or emotional appeals. As a result our converts often have a deficient foundation. Those who have been reached by intellectual arguments tend to be “cerebral Christians,” with little passion for knowing The Lord or sharing Him with others. Those reached by emotional appeals, on the other hand, often become addicted to continual emotional fixes in order to feel saved.
The early apostles were very aware that the quality of their message would often determine the quality of their converts. Paul told the Corinthians of his concern that their faith would rest on a firm foundation: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and 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 Corinthians 2:1-5)
Paul understood that if people were persuaded to become Christians because of his eloquence or ability to stir their emotions, their foundation would be flawed. Instead, he wanted their faith to rest “on God’s power.”
Some would try to turn this into an anti-intellectual argument, but that was not Paul’s intention at all. He did not see the Gospel as a mystical or emotional philosophy but as a verifiable truth. For that reason, we are told in several places that Paul ‘reasoned’ with those he shared the Gospel with (Acts 17:2, 18:19)
Yet Paul and the other early apostles realized that conversion is a matter of the heart and the will, not just the intellect. Echoing the message of John the Baptist and Jesus, they challenged people to ‘repent,’ which required a change of heart and a resulting change of conduct. Mindful of Jesus’ parable of the Sower, the apostles understood the danger of pressuring people into ‘fast conversions,’ where the Gospel seed springs up quickly but soon withers.
Most importantly, the apostles recognized that conversion is a supernatural occurrence, not something we can just talk people into. Conversion is a new birth, being transformed into a new creature (John 3:1-8, 2 Corinthians 5:17). It means passing from death to life, from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13). Though today we tend to emphasize everyone’s free choice in coming to Jesus, He said that people can’t truly come to Him unless the Father draws them (John 6:44). Because of this, salvation is not a matter of human effort but is wholly based on the grace and mercy of God.
How does your brand of evangelism compare with the perspective of the early apostles? Some would argue that there is no ‘right’ way to evangelize, and to some extend that is very true. Throughout the pages of Scripture and Church history, a variety of methods of sharing the Gospel have borne good fruit.
Nevertheless, wise harvesters will not be haphazard. They will maintain an apostolic outlook, constantly evaluating their fruit by the objectives presented in Scriptures. Are we seeing quality converts, radically devoted to Christ and full of the Holy Spirit? Are our converts becoming true disciples, church members, and ministers? Do our methods succeed in reproducing not only individual Christians, but also new churches?
Even though God can use various methods, it would be wrong to conclude that methods don’t matter. We each need to do a “reality check.” If year after year we are employing the same methods, and yet not seeing genuine apostolic fruit, we may well ask whether or not we should change methods?