Can you believe it? Some estimates claim that the Christian church grew from a handful of people in 33CE (maybe 500 or so) to approximately 25,000 by 100 CE… to more than 10 million by 300CE!
How did they do it?
It’s a simple equation really:
FAITH + MISSION + HOLY SPIRIT
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The road Jesus traveled during his life and ministry was a hard one. He was misunderstood, rejected, imprisoned, and killed. The followers that endured with him until the end traveled that hard road with him. After Jesus was raised and appeared to them… these same followers faced the biggest challenge to their faith: believing that Jesus indeed was raised from the dead!
So, those who gathered in Jesus name in those first days, weeks, and months after his resurrection were those of tried and tested, solid and unshakeable, FAITH. Ingredient #1. “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:46-48)
Jesus was clear to send his followers into all the world to tell, teach, show, and serve in such a way that the Good News of Jesus would be directly experienced by people. This defined who they were and what they were about. This was their MISSION. Ingredient #2 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)
But, there is no human hard work or will power alone that could multiply believers like that. On their own, the first disciples of Jesus were a rather small and helpless rag-tag band. Something this extraordinary could only have been accomplished with divine power: The Holy Spirit. Ingredient #3.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:1-4)
It is this same Holy Spirit that has allowed the church of faith, hope, and love to endure these past 2000 years. EVERY single believer in Jesus has been given the gift of God’s Spirit for courage, creativity, power, love, service, and witness. EVERY community of faith (i.e. church) is called to be led by God’s Spirit to accomplish God’s will and plan.
We are not helpless… we are filled with power and truth. God’s Spirit ensures today, as it did in every generation, that we will carry the Good News of Jesus to the world so that people will directly experience it and come to believe. We help make the Kingdom come!
Do you have the faith? Do you sense the mission? Do you feel the Spirit?