Early Christian Evangelism

Early Christian Evangelism: Not The Efforts Of Pesky Professional Preachers, But Of Normal People With Sincere Love Flowing Out Of Their Full Hearts In The Natural Course Of Human Events Even While Suffering Oppression – By Daniel W. Sheridan

The early Christians were not pesky “professional evangelists” who made well-funded efforts to shove their message down the throats of unwilling listeners. The Apostles, to be sure, were commissioned by God and given special powers to fulfill their missions, but those powers and commissions were not transferable. Once the Apostles finished their work, once the Word of God completed, the gospel was from that point on spread by ordinary people living everyday lives through the process of daily living. In other words, their message flowed naturally and conversationally.

“The chief agents in the expansion of Christianity, says Latourette, “appear not to have been those who made it a profession or a major part of their occupation, but men and women who earned their livelihood in some purely secular manner and spoke of their faith to those whom they met in this natural fashion. Thus when Celsus denounces a religion which spreads through workers in wool and leather and fullers and uneducated persons who get hold of children privately and of ignorant women and teach them, Origen does not deny that this occurs. In the commerce and the travel which were so marked a feature of the Roman Empire, the faith must have made many new contacts through Christian merchants and tradesmen. It is significant that Christianity appeared very early in Puteoli, on the Bay of Naples, on the route to Rome, and that while we do not know of the beginnings of the Church in Gaul, when we first meet it there, it is in a section which had commercial connexions with the Hellenistic East.”

These early Christians, regardless of their lot in life, made the most of their circumstances using them to show the light and love of Christ. Their circumstances, though many of them bad – slaves, poor, abused women, persecuted refugees, etc. – were the pulpits from whence they proclaimed, through their godly character under such circumstances, the glory, the grace, and the love of the true and living God. They weren’t angry revolutionaries calling for violent efforts to win their rights; they were children of God seeking to bring a message which transcended the oppression and violence of the human race. Like their Savior, they walked humbly, loved humanity deeply, not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that there were called to this. They loved life and sought good days, so they refrained their tongues from evil (name-calling, wishing harm on their opponents), and they did their best to keep their mouths from guile. They sought peace and pursued it.

“Involuntary travelers,” adds Latourette, “such as slaves and Christians deported for their faith were also agents. Martyrs by their example impressed many. It would probably be a misconception to think of every Christian of the first three hundred years after Christ as aggressively seeking converts. Such pictures as we have of these early communities in the New Testament and in the voluminous writings of these centuries warrant no such conclusion. In none of them does any hint occur that the rank and file of Christians regarded it as even a minor part of their duty to communicate their faith to others. It seems probable, however, that many must incidentally have talked of their religion to those whom they met in the round of their daily occupations.”

Love never has to be forced. Those who have comprehended the Scriptures, and have let the Scriptures govern their hearts and lives, tell the wondrous story of the God of all grace naturally because it comes from the deepest recesses of a full heart. A believer doesn’t have “prepare sermons” to reach people; his or her whole life is a sermon and talking about God comes as naturally as talking about beloved family members.

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