Summary: On its face - at the start of it - it seemed unlikely this new venture (the church) cold possibly suceed.
AGAINST ALL ODDS: THE CHURCH ACROSS THE AGES
TEXT: Daniel 7:9-14
1. If any new venture ever seemed to be striking out against all odds it was the early Church of Christ started on that fateful day of Pentecost in AD. 30
2. How in the world did it survive?
3. Just 50 days earlier their founder had been executed as a common criminal.
4. Now they were supposed to go tell an unbelieving world that the Christ that they had all seen crucified was resurrected from the dead and that he demanded their reformation and complete allegiance.
I. Consider some of the obstacles in their way.
A. It started out in Jerusalem the home of Jewish persecution.
B. It was a small, despised movement from a corner of Palestine.
C. How could it move out to become the dominant faith of the mighty Roman Empire, an empire steeped in traditional pagan religions.
D. The Church was considered a religio prava, an illegal and depraved religion.
E. Wave after wave of persecution was unleashed to squash it.
F. At least two of the persecutions were empire wide and intended to destroy the church.
G. So, How did this fledgling movement make it against all odds.
H. Many are surprised to learn that the early church had no buildings.
1. The first building was built in Dura Europos on the Euphrates, circa AD. 231.
2. They had no pubic services
3. No access to the public media.
4. After the Apostle Paul there were no big name missionaries.
I. How then did the church grow against all odds?
II. Christian living on the part of every member.
A. Unimpeachable conduct clearly evidenced in the lives of Christians illuminated the way for many in a Roman world darkened by sin and depravity.
Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Philippians 2:15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe
B. Justin Martyr wrote to Emperor Antoninus Pius of believers
"We formerly rejoiced in uncleanness of life, but now love only chastity; before we used magic arts, but now dedicate ourselves to the true and unbegotten God; before we loved money and possessions more than anything, but now we share what we have and to everyone who is in need; before we hated on another and killed one another and would not eat with those of another race, but now since the manifestations of Christ, we have come to common life and pray for our enemies and try to win over those who hate us without just cause."
C. In another place Justin points out how those opposed to Christianity were sometimes won over as they saw the consistency in the lives of believers noting their extraordinary forbearance when cheated and their honest in business dealings.
III. Christians were known as those who cared for hurting people and Prayed for those in need.
A. Christians started the first "Meals on Wheels." By 250 there were feeding more than 1500 every day in Rome.
B. When Emperor Julian (the Apostate) wanted to revive Pagan religion in the mid-300’s he gave this insight into the spread of the church. He says of the Christians,
. . . (Christianity) has been special advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers and through their care of the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that. . . the Christians care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help we should render them."
Galatians 6:9-10 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
IV. Strong Bible preaching and teaching:
A. God’s word, when it is proclaimed plainly, forcefully, uncompromisingly, and yet kindly, will build up!
Acts 20:32 "Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
Acts 4:29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.
B. The differences between what the world taught and the Christians believed was clear.
V. Good Leadership.
A. Men who make themselves "Examples to the flock." and who were careful in tending it.
B. Discuss James of the camel knees.
C. The courage to speak up in Acts 15.