“The Church does not apologize for the fact that it wants all men to know Jesus Christ and to follow him.” –Visser T’Hooft
Think back to your early childhood, and listen. Splash! Do you remember the sound of that pebble hitting water? Do you remember that ripple extending from beyond the point where it landed, creating larger wavelets until they too soon disappeared? It’s amazing how the sights and sounds of the past can so easily bring back memories.
Thinking about the past, have you ever wondered how the Gospel came into our lives? I am not referring to how you became a Christian, but what I am asking is what route did it take? In less than 300 years, and without the aid of a missionary society, the apostolic church traveled throughout the entire Roman empire. First proclaimed by the lips of Peter in Jerusalem, the Gospel rippled out, spreading to Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome like a pebble hitting the water.
Who were these unnamed people who propagated this story of Jesus and his way? Who were these individuals who carried the Gospel into Africa, Asia, and Europe? Who brought it to the New World? How did it come to your community?
Indeed, it is a wonderful mystery. Although we are not able to put a face on each individual, we do know how it occurred. Within days of resurrection, the Jerusalem Church was organized around prayer, instruction, fellowship, and a common meal (Acts 2:42-47). While helping the poor, especially widows and orphans, the Church carried this practice to Samaria, Galilee, and to the towns along the seacoast.
Historian, Edward Gibbons gives five reasons for this rapid spread:
1. The zeal of the first Christians
2. Belief in heaven and hell
3. Witness to miracles
4. Morality of the first Christians
5. Autonomous organization
Is this your zeal? Is this your belief? Christian are you up for the task?
“O spread the tidings round, wherever man is found,
Wherever human hearts and human woes abound;
Let every Christian tongue proclaim the joyful sound;
Our Lord is Lord of lords.” — Francis Bottome