The growth of the church in the first three centuries is most remarkable by any standard, but especially when set in the context of both the environment in which Christians were living and the seeming lack of resources they had at their disposal.
For three centuries being a Christian was illegal and followers of Christ were loathed everywhere by both Jews and Gentiles alike. They were chased out of Jerusalem and put to death by Rome. As Jesus had promised their experience would be, they were “sheep in the midst of wolves, drug before the courts, scourged in the synagogues, delivered up by family members, hated, persecuted, and constantly needing to flee from city to city” (Matthew 10:16-23).
Moreover, they were without so many of the resources we tend to think are essential today for effective evangelism. Since being kicked out of the temple, for the first 2 centuries they did not have “church buildings.” They met in homes. They never entertained the idea having “seeker-friendly” church services nor did they host community-wide crusades. There were prominent church leaders during that time, but there was no YouTube on which to post their messages.
And yet within three centuries the gospel would go from the mouth of “a Galilean carpenter” to essentially overtake the Roman Empire! How? The answer may surprise you: Through the everyday witness of nondescript believers whose names will forever be anonymous, but who took the gospel into the streets, the shops, and the marketplace; spreading the good news in the course of their everyday engagement with people.
Perhaps we too easily forget this most basic means of Christian mission. We may overcomplicate it, institutionalize it, and relinquish responsibility to someone else—you know, someone "more qualified.” But if we are to revive the missional method of the early church and, dare I say, the effectiveness of the early church’s mission strategy, we need to revive our awareness of the power of “everyday witness.”
As we continue our theme for 2020, “Come and See: the Adventure Awaits,” this Sunday we will begin our next segment within the theme: Witness Living. With this series we will be taking another look at a mission paradigm we have already introduced to you, one that is born of basic Biblical practices and that gives us basic tools to live out our vision to be “Christ’s hands and feet in the world every day.”
We have been referring to these as the 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversation. They are disciplines, practices we will be quite familiar with, yet may not have thought of as having value in sharing Christ with others—but they do! These “Arts” can make witness living accessible to us and Christ comprehendible to the lost.
For all that we feel is lost in not being able to assemble (and rightly so), may we see this time spent out the walls of the church building as a reminder from our Lord where the mission is and who is called to carry it out. Grab your staff and your backpack, double check to make sure your roadmap is in there, and let the adventure continue!
Prayer: Lord, may I trust you to take care of my needs as I take care of your mission.