There is much that can be learned from observing the evangelism efforts of the early church (Specifically the first 100 years of the church’s existence: Roughly A.D. 30 – A.D. 130) as we seek to apply biblical strategy to our own evangelism efforts in the contemporary church. The passion of the early church to reach the lost should be nothing short of inspiring to modern day followers of Christ. As A.W. Tozer observes in his article, Evangelism: Early Church Methods, there is much we modern day Christians can learn from the “single mindedness of the early church…to go witness, give everything to the Lord and give up all to God, bearing (one’s) cross and taking the consequences.” I would like to briefly address four characteristics of evangelism in the early church that I believe we can and must apply to our evangelism efforts in the 21st century.
1.Evangelism must be one of the primary objectives of the church. Jesus was very clear in leaving for the church the Great Commission to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every person, that many might be saved and sanctified to the glory of God. The early church was passionate about this commission to reach the lost and even when the numbers of the faithful reached tens of thousands, evangelism never lost its place as a central focus of the church’s mission in the world.
2.We must seek the Holy Spirit’s direction in our evangelism efforts. In Acts we observe the invitation of the Holy Spirit given to Barnabas and Paul that reads, “Now separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). We see all through the book of Acts these leadings of the Holy Spirit as He calls men and women to evangelize and minister in the name of Christ. Our churches today would be wise to faithfully and humbly seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our own evangelism and ministry efforts.
3.We must seek to evangelize the lost as we live lives marked by love and joy. One of the observations we make as we study the early church and specifically the book of Acts, is that the lives of these early believers were marked by love and joy, resulting from an intimate, personal experience with Christ’s love and grace. Their attitudes and actions were often drastically different from individuals who did not know Christ, and this often attracted the lost to their message of hope. In our present context as believers, we must strive to live lives that are contagious, marked by love, joy, and much grace, just as we observe in the lives of many early followers of Jesus.
4.We must be a church whose evangelism efforts are centered on faithful, persistent prayer. Prayer was the source of power for the early church (Acts. 4:31; 2:46). These Christians didn’t simply talk about the importance of prayer in their evangelism efforts, but rather they faithfully prayed. I believe that many of us Christians today would do well in spending less time talking about the importance of prayer for the lost, and more time actually spent on our knees praying for the lost to come to saving faith in Christ. For it is when we are on our knees that we proclaim our utter dependence on God as His instruments to reach a lost and dying world.