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Summary: All of us know we should witness as an evangelist, but few of us do. This sermon examines the first century church and how the comments of Jesus led them into evangelism. That practice still applies to our church today.

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"A FIRST CENTURY PRACTICE

FOR OUR 21st CENTURY CHURCH"

Dr. David L. Haun

April 4, 2004

Hope Christian Church, Tamarac, Florida

One of the first activities of the first century church was evangelism. On Pentecost, the church began with some 3000 individuals accepting Christ. At that point believers started meeting together in church groups. Those groups grew and divided as more and more confessed their faith and were baptized. During the next thirty years the church spread across Jerusalem, throughout Israel, and around the Roman world. It must have been exciting to be part of the first century church. Individuals still lived who had walked with Jesus, heard first hand his teaching, and witnessed with their own eyes his miracles as a rabbi. The church was fill of people who knew and had witnessed the truth of his resurrection.

It must have been exciting, for that first century church was filled with people who recognized their gift and spiritual responsibility as a witness and evangelist. They believed they had a God-given responsibility to tell everyone they met about Jesus and as a result, literally thousands of people each week accepted Jesus as their Christ and savior. Evangelism was not like it is today, where the average believer may or may not -- and usually doesn’t -- share the message of Christ. (1)

The church in that first century was not like the American church today, where it is easy to belong to a church in our neighborhood. The first century was different. There was danger in the first century for a Christian. Open belief could lead to arrest, prison, or death. But still the command of Christ was believed -- and followed: "Go and make disciples...."

The situation has changed in the Western world in the centuries since that first exciting church. But the fact remains that what those first century believers practiced in their faith, we are called to do today in the same way.

I.

THE COMMAND OF GOD IS CLEAR FOR

THIS CENTURY, AS IT WAS FOR THE FIRST

Matthew 28:17-20

17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.

A. Everyone won’t believe, but some will. God knows that, but he still calls us to be his witnesses. Jesus compared witnessing to the planting of seeds. Some seeds, Jesus said, never sprouted. Some started to grow, but died. Some were overcome by weeds and were killed. "But," Jesus said, "some seeds fell on fertile soil and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted. (2)

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

B. Christ has, and is the authority; we have the responsibility .. to go.

I cannot help but evangelize;

Not if I am to remain true to Christ.

I cannot stop actively using

my eyes and ears to see and hear those

who live their lives apart from Jesus’ love;

Blind to his mercy,

Deaf to his message,

Uncaring of his sacrifice,

Unfeeling of his love,

Uninterested in his constant call.

I cannot help but evangelize;

and take the fearful steps of

faithfulness in my witness for Christ.

I cannot help but evangelize,

To offer prayer for others

to be open to God’s leading and desire;

To pray for me

to have courage to help, serve and witness.

I cannot help but evangelize,

if I am to be a child of the king... (3)

II

OUR SECOND SCRIPTURE OFFERS

AN EVANGELISTIC METHOD FOR THAT FIRST CENURY

AND FOR US.

Let’s look at the Scripture read earlier this morning from the Gospel of Luke. (Luke 10:1-10)

A. We sometimes feel alone when we think we must share our faith. However, we will never go to anyone except one to whom Jesus also is going....

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. Luke 10:1

We are preparing the way for the king. Our witness may not "succeed." We, like those 70 first century evangelists, are opening a door in the individual’s life to the coming of Christ. That’s part of the meaning behind Paul’s message in First Corinthians 3:7, when he wrote that some plant, some water, but Christ makes it grow. When the Spirit "nudges" you to speak to someone on spiritual matters, they may or may not listen. You may be the first to plant the first thought. Another, at some other time, may be the one to water. But one day, someone’s witness will result in acceptance harvest. "Success" in witnessing is not achieved only in a baptism service. Success comes when we accept the Spirit’s nudge, open our mouth, and become a fool for Christ. (I Corinthians 1:27)

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