“Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:1
The world can be evangelized in our generation. It has already been done once in the first century – by the power of God working through disciples’ faith expressing itself through love. The following verses highlight the spread of Jesus’ movement fulfilling His prophetic vision “from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 These Scriptures cover a time period of a little over thirty years!
Mark 3:14 “Jesus appointed twelve…that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach…”
Luke 10:1-3 “After this the Lord appointed 72 others…He told them the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few…I am sending you out…”
Acts 1:15 “…the believers, a group numbering about 120…”
Acts 2:41 “[In Jerusalem]…3000 were added to their number that day.”
Acts 2:47 “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Acts 4:4 “The number of men grew to about 5000.”
Acts 5:14 “More and more men and women… were added to their number.”
Acts 5:28 “You have filled Jerusalem with [Christ’s] teaching…”
Acts 6:1 “The number of disciples was increasing…”
Acts 6:7 “The Word of God spread. The number of disciples increased rapidly in Jerusalem…”
Acts 8:12 “[At Samaria] they were baptized, both men and women.”
Acts 9:31 “The church…grew in numbers…”
Acts 9:42 “All over Joppa…many people believed in the Lord.”
Acts 11:21 “[In Antioch] a great number of people believed…”
Acts 12:24 “The Word of God continued to increase and spread.”
Acts 13:49 “[From Pisidian Antioch] the Word of the Lord spread to the whole region.”
Acts 14:1 “At Iconium…a great number believed.”
Acts 14:21 “They preached [in Derbe] and won a large number of disciples.”
Acts 16:5 “The churches…grew daily in numbers.”
Acts 16:15 “[In Philippi, Lydia] and her household were baptized…”
Acts 16:33 “[…the jailer] and all his family were baptized.”
Acts 17:4 “[In Thessalonica] some of the Jews were persuaded…as well as large numbers of… Greeks and not a few prominent women…”
Acts 17:12 “[In Berea] many Jews believed as well as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.”
Acts 17:34 “[In Athens] a few men… believed…”
Acts 18:8 “Many Corinthians…believed and were baptized.”
Acts 19:10 “All… who lived in the province of Asia heard the Word of the Lord.”
Acts 24:5 “[Paul stirs] up riots…all over the world…”
Acts 28:22 “[In Rome] we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”
“All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing…This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.” – Colossians 1:6, 23
According to the Bible, “every creature under heaven” had heard of Jesus. First century Christianity was a rapidly spreading movement that evangelized the world in Paul’s generation. In fact, Paul begs each disciple in Thessalonica “to pray…that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly.” The Scriptures do not call for a “slow and steady” appeal or approach. The population of the United States recently surpassed 316 million! Our population has one birth every seven seconds, one death every thirteen seconds and one immigrant enters the United States every 31 seconds! Overall our population growth is exploding at a rate of one increase every eleven seconds! Only a movement of multiplying disciples growing at an exponential pace can evangelize this ever-increasing number of lost souls!
A united fellowship of congregations was not Jesus’ ultimate goal. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…God our Savior wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” (Acts 1:8) Too many churches are content to have some baptisms with only the goal of meeting the needs of members of the local congregation. Undeclared from pulpits is the need for salvation for the thousands and millions in their own cities. Though the apostles saw it to be essential to meet all the needs in the local church in Acts 6, as a leadership they were determined to stay focused on the “prayer and ministry of the Word.” Acts 6:4
The early disciples in Jerusalem “filled the city with [Christ’s] teachings” Acts 5:28 and “the Word of God spread. The number of disciples increased rapidly” Acts 6:7. They were a movement, not merely a local fellowship. The early evangelists and disciples were consumed with the proclamation of Christ. “Day after day in the temple courts and from house to house they never stopped proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” Acts 5:42 Urgency for the lost motivated the early disciples for untold millions were dying untold. “Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went” Acts 8:4 and started new congregations whose mission was to reach “the many people of God in that city” Acts 18:10.
Recently while going through some old papers, I found a poem given to me by a sister, Mary Ann Bisher. It was written in 1987. I could not help but see so many parallels to today. Sadly, so many Christians fear starting new congregations and joining a new movement of disciples bonded by the dream to evangelize the world in a generation. Mary Ann’s poem is entitled, “A Movement.”
“A Movement” they call it,
What a frightening word…
Why does my soul shrink within?
It looks like God’s hand as it blazes a trail,
But my mind says, “Could it be sin?”
I see what they say, I study the Word.
It’s hard to call them wrong…
But I panic in fright, as I wonder at night…
What if this movement is wrong?
The Spirit of God MOVED across the waters,
Why doesn’t that frighten me?
Jesus chose a zealot to MOVE His cause…
Is that so hard to see?
But that was God and that was Jesus…
And these, I remind you are men!!
But watch how they sing, and pray and repent,
See how they rebuke their own sin.
And they laugh and they love,
As they sell everything,
And I see the hilarity of faith…
Reckless abandon, as onward they go.
Why do I envy these greats?
“Dirt Bags” they say, and scum and refuse.
It all makes me want to run…
But as I watch and as I see…
They’re all having so much fun!
Strong leaders? Pillar church? Discipleship?
Have they forgotten our rules?
But why does my mind drift back to One Man…
And the few who learned in His school.
He went away, He is not here…
His Spirit lives on in our hearts…
But I’m so tired of trying alone…
I feel like I’m falling apart!
I need what they have, I have to confess…
And I’ll tell you another truth,
I want it, I want it, I long to rise up…
My best days cannot be my youth!
I’m going, I’m going, I’m going, I’m gone…
Sold out to the great cause of Christ.
I hand my fears to you, Abba Father,
Your wisdom will have to suffice.
She is the Bride, she is your heart,
Take care of her, I know you will,
But as for me, and my household,
I join the cause WITH A THRILL!!
“With a thrill” let us open our Bible, open our minds and open our hearts and consider that God in each century has always wanted the world evangelized. Yet, it only happened in the first century. Only a movement of men and women who are willing to be disowned, disfellowshiped and even dismissed from this life by persecution will be able to reach the now over seven billion souls of earth. Let twenty-first century disciples pray to join the heavenly chorus of first century disciples who sing, “The world was evangelized in our day!” And to God be all the glory!