How Did Christianity Spread So Fast With the Early Church?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

How come the early church spread so fast?  What made Christianity take off like wildfire?

The Birth of the Church

Pentecost essentially marks the birth of the church that Jesus Christ built.  Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church (Matt 16:18) meaning that not even death itself or the gates of hell (death) would not stop the church because He is God and you cannot stop the purposes of God.  Even Saul (later became Paul), who was the mightiest persecutor of the church, could not possibly stop the church from growing (Acts 9:3-9.   The church grew rapidly in the beginning.  How was it able to grow so fast?   Acts 2:42-47 shows just how this happened:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Devotion to Biblical Teaching

"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching ..."

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching …”

Notice some very key points in these verses about the reason the church grew so quickly.  They devoted themselves to the apostles teachings.  They were taught by the disciples and then they devoted themselves to doing what they were taught.  These were no “pew potatoes.”

Devotion to Fellowship

Next, they were also devoted to one another in the fellowship.  To have relationship we need to have fellowship with the saints which is why it is next to impossible for so-called “lone ranger” Christians to grow in the grace and knowledge.  The Greek word for fellowship is “koinonia” which means their fellowship created a “mutual bond” which overrode each individual’s pride.  Koninia is more than just fellowship; it is a family-type relationship and commonality.

The early church was also devoted to the “breaking of bread” which could mean frequent communion or it could mean that they just loved spending time with one another and often ate together.  I once heard a pastor say that a church could grow closer together if they only worked together, played together, and ate together.  I believe that is true.

Devotion to Prayer

Next, the early church devoted themselves to prayer.  What more important thing could the early church be doing than praying?  Much of what we pray for might be centered on ourselves but it seems that the early church prayed for the lost, the safety of the apostles, for the growth of the church, and for a bold witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The church also had “all things in common” because they were all very likely being persecuted together.  They even “sold their possessions and belongings and [were] distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”  It’s amazing how generous these believers were.  They sold their possessions and their belongings just so they could distribute the proceeds (the money) to all…that’s all!  And they did this to “any [who] had need.”

Praising God Together

Finally, they were “praising God” because He is worthy.  That is the purpose of church; to glorify God and to praise Him.  When we praise God, even in persecution, God will bless that person who praises Him even in the storms of life.

Blood of the Martyrs

One way the church spread so rapidly in the first century was because of persecution.  Ironically, the more the church was persecuted, the quicker the church grew.  One example was in Acts 8:1-4 where Saul was going about killing and imprisoning Christians, but what was the result?  Luke writes, “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.  Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” Notice that when the church was persecuted, they “were scattered [and] went about preaching the word.”  The only thing that persecution of the church managed to do was to spread the church into other parts of the Roman Empire.  Like a person trying to stomp out a grass fire, he only manages to spread it.

The 2nd-century church father Tertullian was right when he wrote that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”  The more the church was persecuted, the more she spread.  To make martyrs of Christians does nothing more than to spread the message of the gospel.  The publicity of these martyrs deaths and the gruesome ways in which they died, help many in the Roman Empire take note of just how peacefully they died.  Many sang hymns while they died. During the Middle Ages when the Black Plague hit, the funerals of the believers were so much more joyful than those who were not Christians.  This attracted a great deal of attention in the way that these peculiar people died.  They lived so well that people began to have hope in God and this opened up the door for the  gospel to be presented…they died so well that they started to believe that they were going to a much better place.

Conclusion

The church grew, and can grow today, by following in the footsteps of the early church.  If a church wants to grow and if Christianity is to spread, believers must devote themselves to their pastor’s or leader’s teachings, they must be devoted to one another in the fellowship of the saints, they need to spend time breaking bread (or eating) together which required spending time with one another, they need to be devoted to ongoing, continual prayer, they need to be sharing with one another and giving away or being generous with those who have needs, and finally they must be praising our generous and gracious God.  He is better to us than we deserve.  There are fewer ways to grow Christianity today than to follow what the apostles taught (the Bible), spending time together with other Christians, eating together, being prayer warriors, helping those who have little, and praising the God for all that He has done for His children. What might happen if this occurs?  Acts 2:47 tells us:  “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”  I say amen to that.  How about you?

Related reading: Praying for Those That Persecute Us

Resources: New International Version Bible (NIV) THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Geno February 14, 2014 at 9:47 am

Jack,

What can I say? This is an AWESOME post that basically “nails it”.

The one area that troubles me is where you say:

If a church wants to grow and if Christianity is to spread, believers must devote themselves to their pastor’s or leader’s teachings, they must be devoted to one another in the fellowship of the saints, they need to spend time breaking bread (or eating) together which required spending time with one another, they need to be devoted to ongoing, continual prayer, they need to be sharing with one another and giving away or being generous with those who have needs, and finally they must be praising our generous and gracious God.

I’ll explain why I’m troubled by those statements, and please stay with me.

The teachings of today’s Pastors and leaders are, to a huge degree, not geared toward bringing the believers into the fullness of the stature of Christ, as they are told to do in Ephesians 4. If the teaching WERE geared in that direction, things would look and function radically different than what we presently see.

No, the modern teaching is geared FAR more to keeping the people comfortable, and making sure they keep coming to church, and tithing.

Fellowship? We think of “fellowship” as a pleasant pot-luck picnic, a nice care-and-share group each Thursday evening, or hanging around for ten minutes after the service to chat with others.

Breaking bread and spending real, quality time together? Nice thought, Jack, but we’re simply too busy.

Devoted to ongoing, continual prayer? We can’t even get more than a handful to come to a “prayer service”, if one even exists.

I’m really not disagreeing with you, Jack. I’m simply saying that these Biblically sound prescriptions for healthy “Body Life” are not reasonable expectations in our current spiritual climate, at least not without a radical repentance starting from the top down, and I think we both know that won’t happen within organized, institutional Church.

May God truly bless you, brother.

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Jack Wellman February 14, 2014 at 9:55 am

I do agree with you Geno. That was a good deal of the reason that this was written. To shake out the “pew potatoes” and to get back down to the priorities of being devoted to one another in the fellowship of the saints. I think you are spot on brother. Sadly, we focus on what the church can do for us instead of what we can do for the church. A pastor’s job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I have had some new people come and go. One man said that he didn’t think he was a sinner and hated my opening prayer before the sermon that we repent, ask for forgiveness for our sins, and that we are sinners still in need of forgiveness daily, even though we are saved. I told the man that if he didn’t think he was a sinner then I’m sorry, for Christ came to die for sinners and not the “righteous.” If we are not preaching the wrath of God abiding on unrepentant sinners and that repentance, confession of sin, and the need for trusting in Christ then we are failing to preach the whole counsel of God. Thanks brother. I do disagree that “that won’t happen within organized, institutional Church” because it is happening in many of these churches and I do believe it is in the church where I am under-shepherd of as well as in churches like those lead by Charles Swindoll, Irwin Lutzer (Moody church), John Mac Arthur, R.C. Sproul, James Mc Donald, Chip Ingram and such so I hope you are not making a sweeping generalization that all churches are not preaching about sin, the wrath of God, and the need for radical repentance.

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Geno February 14, 2014 at 12:43 pm

It’s not so much the preaching about sin, Jack. My issues have more to do with the people of God living out the realities of being the Body of Christ and manifesting HIS life, nature and ways. Maybe you’re seeing realities like that, but in all the years I was around organized Church, I sure didn’t.

For me to see anything approaching these realities, I had to be in a small, obscure country with a handful of believers that were willing to go beyond teachings, bible studies, discussions and other such things.

We made ourselves available, and I was dumbstruck with the degree to which the Lord showed up and did the kind of things the Lord does. If you’d like to read an example, go to
http://whatischurch.org/the-living-body-of-christ/

Those experiences are totally other and radically different than anything I’ve even been part of in the “Church” here in the USA.

For me, a preacher can preach whatever he wants, and regardless of how sound and on-target it may be, if the people don’t come to the place of living out and EXPRESSING Christ; if they don’t come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, it’s all noise, religion and busyness.

If you’re seeing these dynamics happening, I’m truly jealous.

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Jack Wellman February 14, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Point well take sir. What I have tried to not be is the Holy Spirit and I know that we are not really disagreeing here at all. I think we do agree and that is that each member of the Body of Christ needs a radical transformation by yielding to the Holy Spirit and to strive to walk in obedience to Christ’s commands and to glorify Him even at our own expense and that is truly a rare thing…indeed, in me too. I love the language you use….we do need to be radical and radically different from the world (and yes, even among a great majority of evangelicals) and my brother that is what it means to be possessing Christ and not just professing Christ. I fear they will hear the most awful news somedayand I am striving to have those avoid such catastrophic news (Matt 7:21-23). Thanks Geno. I covet such men like you in the church who actually get it! It is rare in the church that I am under-shepherd of to the Great Shepherd.

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DocReits February 15, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Hi Jack and Geno,

If you have time pastor Jack you should spend some time at Geno’s web site. It is illuminating. I believe I understand where Geno is coming from in certain ways. Correct me if I am wrong here Geno. He desires us, the body of Christ, to be Christ to the world, to be “like” Him, which is what we should be. He also sees the current institutional church not fulfilling that mission. Am I right so far Geno?

He does not believe in a hierarchy of deacons, pastors, bishops, etc in that, he believes, we should all be led by the Spirit in communal body ministry. He rejects “a” leader of a local body, in that it squelches the input and inner workings and flow of the Spirit, “tends” to have an authority figure exert their will over the people, thereby limiting the participation of the individuals making up the communal group. How am I doing Geno? I am just restating, in my own words, what I have read on your blog.

You site your experience in Russia about being guided by the Spirit to a woman’s room with your fellow workers and how God allowed you to steer her away from the JW cult into faith in Christ through your ministry to her, and use this as a primary example and theme for your ideas of how the body, ala commune, should work.

I have communicated to you how I believe that the essential role of the Christian is in sharing Christ to those who are perishing. You have replied that you believe that if that was “essential” , ” I’m convinced He could do that quite easily”, that God wants much more for us in becoming like Him……

It sounds pretty good. Two points, what do we do with all of the Scripture regarding the early structure for the “church”…Pastors, Deacons, Bishops, etc or was that just for those times and is now past its purpose?

Two, what do those ordinary folks, like me, do who have jobs and children and are not able to devote, like you, full time to body ministry? After work? When the kids want help with homework, driven to piano practice and the wife needs our attention at home? On weekends?

I like structure. I like good leadership encouraging me to become more like Christ, in pursuing holiness, which is not impossible, as you have intimated. I like singing songs and worshiping God in the structure of the church. Yes, I like pot lucks where we get to know fellow believers better. You reject “all’ of this out of hand, both because of “your” poor experiences, and because you envision that God wants more for us…more communion. Amen! I want that too, but not at the expense of the traditional church.

You have said I act like I am coming across like “I am right and you are wrong”. No kidding! I am willing for a robust back and forth. What is wrong with that? You have presented your case in like fashion. Show me where I am wrong…

Blessings,

DocReits

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Jack Wellman February 15, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Thanks Doc….yes, I have been to his sight some time ago as Geno has a great website and that I have visited it a few times and read some of his fine work. I cannot agree with some of what he writes about but we do see eye to eye on several issues and the church today needs a defribulator but it doesn’t need a trash can. I am bi-vocational too and I work, go to school at Moody for a masters, have a family, a church, write for this website, do street and one-on-one evangelism, and so I stay busy but I love it. I once had someone tell me that they were part of the “invisible church” and that they don’t need church. I said, hey, the church needs you! And when you get sick will the “invisible church pastor” come to see you? Will the invisible pastor of your invisible church do your funeral or wedding, counsel your children, pray for the church, etc. I was being facetious of course but I was making a point. And I pray she got it. If the time for pastors, deacons, and such is gone, then what else has expired in the church? Is doctrine, found for example in Paul’s writings only descriptive and not prescriptive? Where is this line? How can we tell which is and is not? Thanks Doc.

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Geno February 15, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Jack: I truly appreciate your fellowship and willingness to dialogue and interact. We have not always seen eye to eye, and we’ve even had a few “rough spots”, but our interactions have always been, for me, edifying and encouraging. I thank you for that, brother.

Doc: As much as I hate to say it, especially in public, I will not interact with you further, either here or on my site. It must be public because you have chosen to take that path.

Your decision to come to THIS site in order to continue some agenda you have regarding me and our interaction on MY site permanently closes any door of interaction.

If you are like others I’ve been around over the years, and it certainly appears you are, I suppose you’ll continue trying to harass me in one way or another. So be it. Whatever sense of joy or rightness you get from doing things like this will be your reward.

Over and out Doc. Be a man and leave me alone.

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Nicholas Head February 25, 2014 at 12:29 am

PASTOR JACK , I WAS UPDATED AT WORK WITH A NEW COMPUTER AND SOMEHOW HAVE HAD PATTY SCHNIEDER DELETED FROM MY LIST OF NAMES , IF YOU COULD ASK HER TO SEND ME AN E-MAIL WHEN SHE HAS TIME . I HAVE HAD SOME HEAVY DUTY CHEST PAINS THIS PAST WEEK AND I GO TO SEE MY HEART DOCTOR WEDNESDAY , BUT I AM NOT SURE WHAT AILS ME EXACTLY , I HAVE TERRIBLE BLOATING IN MY STOMACH TO THE POINT THAT MY RIBS ARE IN SOME MEAN PAIN , ESPECIALLY UNDER MY LEFT RIB , MAYBE SOME WHO READ THIS MAY RECOGNIZED WHAT THIS COULD BE . ANYWAY PASTOR , I LOVE YOU ALL IN CHRIST , THANK-YOU , NICHOLAS

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Jack Wellman February 25, 2014 at 8:35 am

Thanks Nicholas…I will let Patty know and see what she says. I know about new computers and losing contacts. Been there and have done that.

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Jack Wellman February 25, 2014 at 6:24 pm

I just did now send her your email address but of course I kept it private from anyone else and we will never, ever share your email address…Nicholas, take care and I hope you hear from Patty soon.

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Jack Wellman February 25, 2014 at 6:26 pm

PS, let me know Nicholas when she contacts you so I can know to stop contacting Patty on your behalf. Thank you.

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Nicholas Head February 26, 2014 at 12:31 am

I HAVE HEARD FROM PATTY , SHE IS A BLESSING , AS YOU ARE MOST ASSUREDLY ALSO . ABOUT YOUR ARTICLE SOME MAY SAY PEOPLE ARE JUST LOOKING FOR SOMETHING LIKE IT IS JUST ANYTHING TO HELP THEM THROUGH THIS LIFE , BUT I KNOW GOD HAD AND HAS A PLAN AND THE GOOD NEWS OF ETERNAL LIFE SURELY WOULD BE ON ANYONE’S MIND AND THEN THE HOLY SPIRIT GETS A STRONG HOLD ON US , AND JUST HOW COULD WE EVER DREAM OF SUCH A PLAN ON OUR OWN TO HAVE GOD’S ONLY UNIQUE SON TO DIE FOR OUR SINS , THE LOVE OF THAT , AND THE PERFECT WORD OF GOD , THIS BEAUTIFUL WORLD , I HEARD A PASTOR SAY ABOUT A LITTLE GIRL WHO VISITED OUT IN THE COUNTRY AWAY FROM ALL THE CITY LIGHTS AND AS SHE GAZED UPON THE NIGHT’S SKY SHE SAID TO HER MOTHER IT IS AMAZING THAT ALL THIS EVEN LOOKS BETTER THAN IT DOES FROM HERE– ON THE OTHER SIDE , I LOVED THAT THOUGHT !

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Jack Wellman February 26, 2014 at 8:14 am

Amen Nicholas. Patty is such a blessing to so many. I am glad you can reach her now. God’s love is just to indescribable that we cannot even say and you have summed up this plan by God so well and I thank God for your love of Him.

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