Home > Uncategorized > What was the secret of the early church?

What was the secret of the early church?

1. “In the beginning the Church was a missionary society: it added to its numbers mainly by the life and speech of its members attracting to it those who were outside.” Roland Allen

2. “In part, it seems to have resulted from an awareness that mission was the task of ordinary Christians and of congregations acting together. Professional agents and special boards did not yet exist. Unconsciously these early Christians grasped that mission was a total activity involving preaching, teaching, baptism, personal witness and service to humanity.” James Scherer

3. Harry Boer believes that the early church was propelled into action based upon the work of the Holy Spirit. He argues that it was not the Great Commission that motivated people to witness; rather, it was the Pentecost event.

In fact, Boer maintains that the early church leaders were reluctant to share the Gospel with non-Jewish people. He states that, as a result of the Spirit’s work, the church became, by nature, a witnessing community. “Witnessing is not one among many functions or activities of the Church; it is of her essence to witness,” Boer says, “and it is out of this witness that all her other activities take their rise.” Harry R. Boer

4. “The Book of Acts opens with 120 timid disciples meeting secretly in an upper room in Jerusalem for fear of their enemies. A generation later, when the Book of Acts closes, the gospel had been preached as far west as Rome; and there was a thriving Christian church in almost every city of significance in the Eastern part of the empire. What began as a Jewish sect in AD 30 had grown into a world religion by AD 60.” J. Herbert Kane

5. Adolf Harnack believes that apostles, prophets, and teachers were all called to have a ministry to the church as a whole but not to have a permanent ministry like that of elders and deacons.

Harnack says: “We cannot hesitate to believe that the great mission of Christianity was in reality accomplished by means of informal missionaries.”

6. “The chief agents in the expansion of Christianity 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.” Latourette

7. To provide an overview of this epoch, Bavinck summarizes this period of spontaneous expansion as follows:

(1) Outreach was spontaneous, and there was little reflection on the motive for missions.
(2) Missionary work was primarily mono-cultural.
(3) Political aims were not attached to missions.
(4) Missionary work was not comprehensive, but rather, ministries developed out of a sense of Christian compassion in specific situations.

8. John Gager maintains that while many external and internal factors contributed to the growth of Christianity, the single overriding internal factor was “the radical sense of Christian community,” which was open to all but required absolute and exclusive loyalty and involved every aspect of a believer’s life.

9. “Global evangelism was prompted by the Holy Spirit and was not the result of a developed theology of missions. Mission agency structures had not yet come on the scene. Missions was the duty of every Christian. But what was accomplished so well by individual missionaries in the first few centuries was carried on by the state during the next fourteen centuries.

During the 1,350-year-plus period of AD 311–1700, the vehicle of expansion changed from ordinary believers to governments. No longer were individuals primarily responsible for declaring the gospel message; rather, it became the duty of the political hierarchy.” Bruce K. Camp


Taken from: Bruce K. Camp, “Scripturally Considered, the Local Church Has Primary Responsibility for World Evangelization” (D.Miss. diss., School of Intercultural Studies, Biola University, 1992).

Roland Allen, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church and the Causes Which Hinder It

James A. Scherer, Missionary, Go Home! (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964), p. 43.

Harry R. Boer, Pentecost and Missions (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), p. 100.

J. Herbert Kane, A Concise History of the Christian World Mission

Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity

Henry Chadwick, The Early Church

Adolf Harnack, The Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries

J. H. Bavinck, An Introduction to the Science of Missions

John H. Gager, Kingdom and Community

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. April 14, 2008 at 1:54 AM

    Another way of looking at this can be found in the writings of Rodney Stark, a social historian, who uses statistics to interpret history. Most of his books were (I understand) written as a non-believer, though I think he has since expressed faith in Jesus.

    In “Cities of God”, he uses available stats on sizes of cities and churches, etc, in the first & second century to draw conclusions. One conclusion is that christianity did not grow any faster in cities Paul visited than others, but grew fastest in port cities, large cities, etc – lending scientific support to your contention that it was ordinary people moving around (merchants, sailors, etc) who were most responsible for the spread of christianity.

    And in “The Rise of Christianity”, Stark says the facts show that major reasons for the triumph of christianity in the first 3 centuries were “Because Christians believed in a loving God who in turn enjoined them to love one another, and because this love was not restricted to family or even tribe, Christians cared for one another in ways that were unusual in the pagan and Jewish worlds. By sharing things in common, nursing the sick and protecting women and children, Christians made the promises of God effective and thus attractive.” (from a review of the book here.

    I don’t agree with everything Stark says, but his well-based conclusions are often helpful.

  2. April 21, 2008 at 5:54 PM

    Interesting….so in spite of all of our education, great programs, thorough processes we still pale in comparison to the early church. They had something we typically don’t..a dependence on the Holy Spirit.
    Good post

  3. Anonymous
    August 29, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    will the present church ever rise from her slumber before Christ returns?

    • August 29, 2012 at 6:40 PM

      I believe there will be faith followers around the globe “in pockets” BUT it seems like Jesus Himself expected few to be in the faith at he end. Look for the Revived Roman Empire (10 kingdoms) to be completely apostatized and worshiping Antichrist (Rev 13/17; Daniel 2,7-12)

      “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.” Lk. 17:26

      Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? Lk. 18:8

      In Him,

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