It’s sometimes said that the hardest thing to kill is an idea. Ideas can plant themselves inside your head, and become contagious. It spreads from one person to the next with one contact. Doesn’t even need to be physically present and it can spread. An idea, when truly believed, can bond mankind together, can topple governments, is worth dying for. A common idea shared amongst a group of peoples has led to revolutions. Has forced president’s out of power. Have caused dictators to flee.
There was one particular group that was started in the earlier part of the 20th century. Like all ideas, it started small and humbly. But as one person shared with others, this group began to grow. Some saw them as nothing unique, others bonded to the ideology of this group. Within 9 months of when a small group of a few men formed their organization, their group had spread to 42 chapters. It grew so quickly and became so exoteric that even national governments began to take notice and attempt to control this new idea. But it was too late to stop it. What started out with 3 people became hundred, then thousands, and even millions, across continents and dozens of countries. This group, as we know it today, is called the True Jesus Church.
Evangelism seems to have become much harder today. Our church grew at a rate of 5 new churches per month in the first year of its inception. But today, we struggle to reach more than one a decade (at least in the US). Mark 16:15 – Evangelism is a command. We’ve heard and read it countless times. We know all the evangelism-related passages by heart, maybe even studied the original Greek text. But more importantly, what have we done about it?
Consider evangelism from 3 points:
(1) Where did we come from? Recall the past
(2) Where are we now? Measure the present time
(3) Where should we go from here? Act for the future
Matthew 28:19-20 – known as the “great commission”. It starts with a command: “Go”. Jesus’ intention is for us to take action. An explicit command to evangelize – Go. Make disciples of all nations. With this command, the apostolic church started, having just 120 people in Jerusalem. Of these 120, many were women, some were uneducated, most had never been outside Palestine. But within a few decades, the gospel was preached throughout the entire Roman Empire. Everyone preached. Apostles. Deacons. Believers. They preached everywhere they went. They preached in good times, in persecution, in prison. Come the Day of Pentecost: 120 became 3,000 members. Then from 3,000 to 5,000 shortly after that
Miracles abounded. Peter’s shadow could heal the sick. Paul’s handkerchief could cast out demons. The early TJC was the same – the Holy Spirit worked mightily. Miracles seem to not be as common today. In fact, they’re rare. There is a correlation to our reduced frequency of preaching and evangelizing. Correlation is not causation, but consider what the purposes of miracles are. They are a sign for unbelievers. If we do not preach, why would God perform miracles? Don’t wait for God to perform a miracle first before going out to preach
1 Thess 1:5 – The word is just the first part. With it comes the power and the Holy Spirit. The same power received by the apostolic church and early TJC is the power we have today
Next important question is “Where are we now?”
Hot? Cold? In between? Are we constantly thinking about our Father’s business and His gospel. Frequently pray for others. Or are we too busy with our own personal business, having no urgency to preach, saying to ourselves, “next time.” We lead very busy and complicated lives today. We’re caught up in our studies or careers. Attending service is relegated to a leisurely activity.
The gospel has lost its impact on us. The apostolic church’s zeal was fueled by an external factor and an internal factor. Externally was the tremendous miracle of Christ’s resurrection. Today we hear the message so often – Christ resurrected from the dead – that we are inured to its significance. But to the apostolic church, it was a powerful push. The death of today’s celebrities make the news for days, if not weeks – when people hear about it they immediately share it with others, even though we didn’t personally know them – this is similar to the behavior the believers of the apostolic times would have had. The resurrection of Christ was such a big deal to them that they shared it with everyone they could tell. If it were today, they would have put it only Twitter right away. #HeisRisen
Internally, was the Holy Spirit. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they were compelled to preach. Peter told the Sanhedrin – “We cannot but speak of the things we have seen and heard.” They couldn’t help it. Look at new converts today – they are often very zealous about preaching. To someone who has believed for a very long time, the message has become trite. To someone who has just been convicted of the gospel, it is everything in the world. Remember our first love – the moment we first came into contact with the gospel; the moment we first believe; the moment we were baptized; the moment we first experienced God; the moment we first received the Holy Spirit – how great it was.
Fear of failure is another obstacle we must overcome. Admittedly, the rate of success is extremely low. It requires much time invested and the response rate doesn’t equal out. We want to be like Peter: one sermon pierces the heart of everyone listening. But we need to work very hard to persuade one person to change their views. At the school of Tyrannus, Paul reasoned every day with the people there for years (Acts 19:9).
Let God’s love inspire you. Though evangelism is a command, it reflects the nature of God – love. John 3:16 – evangelism is intertwined with love. Everlasting life is only obtainable because of God’s love. In order for others to obtain it, we much evangelize. Don’t be happy merely with the fact that we’re saved and not care about all the people who have not yet heard about Christ. The members of the apostolic church and early TJC may not have been the most educated, but they knew about God’s love, and that was enough to move them to preach to all of creation
TJC is approaching its centennial. In 2010, TJC worship locations were set up in 58 countries. Membership was estimated around 1.5M. Last month, ministers from the UK reported that they were able to establish the first TJC in Malawi, with 91 newly baptized members. But where are we on the home front? it’s time to double our efforts.