Summary: This is the second message in a series entitled Reimagining Evangelism. This message examines the lessons we can learn from how the early church did evangelism.
The Book of Acts tells an amazing story, we see the spread of the Gospel message and witness a small group of believers growing into a massive group numbering in the tens of thousands. We witness the message starting in Jerusalem and literally being carried to the ends of the earth. The question that nags us is, why are successes like this so hard to come by? What makes the Book of Acts so different from today? As the book opens we see an ordinary group of people much like us being asked to accomplish an unbelievably large task. They were undoubtedly intimidated by the thought of what Jesus was asking them to do. If we are really honest, the whole idea of evangelism is quite intimidating. Like the disciples we have been asked to carry a counter-cultural message to the world in a way that engages not only the mind but the heart as well. The one constant fact about evangelism is that it has always been relational. Evangelism requires us to build relationships with others and through those relationships help others build a relationship with Jesus. Today we are going to make a quick journey through the entire book of Acts to discover how evangelism was done in the early church. More than likely we will be surprised by how far from the Biblical example we have gotten. So let’s discover the insights that Luke records that can be useful for us today.
I. Luke’s account of the spreading of the Gospel.
A. Jerusalem the launching pad for a movement.
1. Everything begins in Jerusalem with Peter preaching a message on the Day of Pentecost that many undoubtedly found quite offensive.
2. Peter provided the evidence of fulfilled prophecy to connect with the minds and used the actions of the people to connect with the heart. Peter’s words according to the Greek text, melted the hearts of those in the crowd.
3. By the end of the day the apostles find themselves in the middle of a movement that had grown from about 120 to more than 3,000.
4. The greatest task before the apostles was not evangelism it was discipling and equipping all these new believers to carry out the task that Jesus had given His church.
5. The concluding verse of Acts chapter 2 shows that the discipleship process was a priority in the early church and it worked as the church continued to grow.
B. Persecution the factor that causes the movement to expand.
1. Persecution becomes a harsh reality for the early church as opposition begins to arise from the religious establishment of the day.
a. In chapter 4, Peter preaches his second message which lands him in jail.
b. In chapter 7, Stephen preaches a message that incites the crowd to stone him to death.
2. Despite the rising opposition to the Gospel, Luke records that the number of believers continues to grow rapidly.
3. Stephen’s death caused the persecution to escalate resulting in many of the new believers fleeing Jerusalem.
4. A very interesting thing happened as these believers went on the run, they continued to share the message wherever they went.
C. The movement picks up steam and becomes worldwide.
1. God chooses to cause this rapidly growing regional movement to become global.
2. God picks Saul of Tarsus, one of the leading persecutors of the church to lead the movement in expanding to the furthest reaches of the known world.
3. Chapters 13-28 of Acts show us how Saul who would later become known as Paul leading the way in taking the message of Jesus Christ into new territory.
4. As the Gospel reaches into these new territories and encounters new obstacles and opposition the church will continue to grow.
II. Assessing the situation that we find ourselves in.
A. Understanding the dynamics of our culture.
1. In a recent survey the Barna Group found that thirty-one percent of the population on average is unchurched and that number is growing with each new generation.
2. Spiritual curiosity is at an all-time high, people are especially interested in the “create your own” spirituality.
3. People are extremely skeptical of organized religion and have little use for what they see as the traditional church.
4. People are extremely distrustful but yet they have a deep desire to be involved in relationships.
5. Americans are the loneliness and most stressed people in the world according to a recent study done by Gallup.
6. Seventy-two percent of Americans spend much of their time thinking about themselves and their own happiness.
B. Discovering the needs of the people we are trying to reach.
1. People desire a worship experiences that connects with their heart and truly awakens their soul.
2. People desperately want to discover their spiritual identity and discover where the fit into God’s plan.