By R. W. McAlister
One of the most amazing things we find in the book of Acts is that from a beginning with only 120 disciples, the news about Jesus spreads throughout Judea, Samaria, Syria, Asia, and into Europe and Africa. In Jerusalem alone there were over ten thousand Christians in the first years.
Without modern mass media, without social networking, without power or prestige, without much money, the gospel was spread more rapidly than it has ever been since - but how did this happen?
The Book of Acts not only details the spread, it gives clear indication of the principal means by which it was accomplished. There was public proclamation. There were discussions in synagogues. But the primary means of the spread was “talk.” Acts 8:4 says those scattered by persecution “went about preaching the word,” but this proclamation was not primarily from pulpits. These ordinary Christians simply shared their faith wherever they went.
We gain a little more insight from Acts 11:19-21 which says those scattered by the persecution came as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, “preaching the word. . . . And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” The word rendered “preaching” in the English is from the Greek word, “laleo,” and means, “to speak, to use the faculty of speech.” So their primary method of evangelism was speaking to others.
When Paul and Silas were in jail in Philippi, they gave their testimony in song and prayer at midnight, “and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).
In Acts 17:17 Paul went to the marketplace in Athens where he spoke “every day with them that met him.” When Paul is taken from the temple courts by Roman soldiers, he shares his faith; when he’s on trial, he shares his faith; when he speaks to a king, he shares his faith; when he is on board a sinking ship, he shares his faith; when he is under house arrest in Rome, he shares his faith, even with his guards.
One of the major factors in the early spread of the gospel, then, was simply the talking Christians did wherever they went. Wherever they were, whoever they met, whatever their circumstances, they found a way to turn the conversation to Christ and His church.
If making conversation about their faith worked in those early years, it will work now. Let us resolve to say more about our Lord, His church, and the salvation found only in Him when we speak with others. It will make a difference!
- R. W. McAlister preaches for the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.