The early church has much to teach us

If you speak to most Christians, you’ll find agreement that the church is not living up to everything that it can and should be.  Many are becoming more and more frustrated with the church.  While these people are not giving up on Christianity, they are leaving the church.  What is going on?  Why does the church appear to be failing when the world so desperately needs the message of the cross?

There are the usual reasons for trouble in the church such as sin or a watered down gospel message.  In many cases the church has tried hard not to offend people and in doing so has rendered themselves ineffective.  They are bringing people in but they have no message to preach because the gospel is offensive.

Most of all though, the church is not prevailing and overcoming like it should because it has forgotten the essentials that caused the early church to be blessed by God and to expand so rapidly.

The church exploded onto the scene in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost.  3,000 people were saved on that day and the church grew from that amazing start.  By the end of Acts 2 some time has passed and the church is established into a structure much like today.  Acts 2:42-47 tells us the story of a church that was doing everything right and was being blessed by God.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

There are six things that are taking place in this passage.  People are following the apostles’ teaching.  They are fellowshipping with one another.  They are giving and sharing with one another.  They are praying.  They are worshipping.  And finally people are being saved.

If the church of today wants to recapture the power of the early church, it must devote itself to the six essentials that made the Acts 2 church so tremendous.  This site is dedicated to the six essentials that are necessary for the church today just as they were 2,000 years ago.  If the church will follow these biblical principals it can expect God to bless it like He did in the days of the apostles.

Recommended Evangelism Books

Here are some books that will help your defend your faith and answer the questions of critics that you are trying to evangelize.  These books are not on the subject of evangelism but rather are useful to help with your evangelism.

Answers to Tough Questions Skeptics Ask About the Christian Faith
Josh McDowell and Don Stewart

The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus
Lee Strobel

Defending Your Faith: Reliable Answers for a New Generation of Seekers and Skeptics
Dan Story

Evidence That Demands a Verdict
Josh McDowell

Give Me an Answer That Satisfies My Heart and My Mind: Answers to Your Toughest Questions About Christianity
Cliffe Knechtle

Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions
Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli

I’m Glad You Asked
Kenneth Boa and Larry Moody

In Defense of the Faith: Biblical Answers to Challenging Questions
Dave Hunt

Know What You Believe
Paul Little

Know Why You Believe
Paul Little

Mere Christianity
C. S. Lewis

Reason to Believe: A Response to Common Objections to Christianity
R. C. Sproul

Reasons for Believing
Frank Harber

Tough Questions – series
Garry Poole and Judson Poling

Answers to Ten Common Evangelism Questions

When evangelizing to someone, you’re bound to come across some tough questions. It is best to work through questions with someone, answer their question with another question to get them to think as Jesus did as is discussed in the article How to Answer Evangelism Questions. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared to answer questions as best you can.

Following are ten of the most commonly asked evangelism questions and how to answer them. This page is excerpted from Pastor Mike’s book Evangelism Unprocessed which is available on Amazon in paperback and on the Kindle.

Christians are hypocrites.

Christians are not perfect and shouldn’t pretend to be. Anyone who makes this claim is a liar. We aren’t called to follow other Christians however. We’re called to follow Jesus, our only model of perfection. Jesus attained perfection so that we don’t have to. His disciples testified to Jesus perfection in 1 Peter 2:22 and 1 John 3:5. Even Jesus challenged others to prove that He had sinned in John 8:46.

Often when people make this claim it is because of an accusation of sin that someone has made toward them. They know that other Christians have sinned and they don’t want to be told about their sin. Some Christians truly are hypocrites who denounce the very sins that they are committing daily. But this is where the power of a life that is transformed by Christ is important.

Acknowledge that some Christians are hypocrites but use your own life as an example – hopefully you can back up what you’ve been preaching with your own life. Hopefully anyone that you have a relationship with is capable of seeing that you are different from others, both the Christians that they consider hypocrites and the outside world.

What about the atrocities Christians have committed?

his is similar to the question of hypocrisy. Horrible things have been done in the name of Christ but this shouldn’t be accepted as the norm. Despite things that have happened in the past Christianity is not a violent religion. We cannot be responsible for the things that others have done, only what we personally do.

Christianity has done far more good than the harm that has been done in the name of Christ. Countless hospitals and universities have been founded in the name of Christ. Likewise there are thousands of missions groups that help the hurting such as ones that are currently Christian like Samaritan’s Purse to ones that began with a more Christian focus such as the Red Cross.

Christianity is a crutch.

Karl Marx famously said “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” In other words, only weak minded fools need religion. It is true that Christians really on God but this isn’t any different from anyone else.

Everyone has a crutch whether it is alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sex, money, possessions, or other people. Even atheists use their atheism as a crutch to justify their own lifestyle.

Whatever they are doing that their conscience bothers them about, they ignore by telling themselves that there is no God and no judgment for sin.

No one is strong enough to go through life alone and anyone who uses the excuse that Christianity is a crutch is simply fooling themselves. It takes far more strength to admit that we can’t do something on our own and turn to God than it does to drown our fears and sorrows in something that will offer no true help, only escape.

It’s narrow-minded to think Jesus is the only way to God.

It’s true that Christianity claims to be the only way to God. John 14:6 makes this clear. Now, either this claim is true or it is not. Christianity is not just false if it isn’t the only way to God, it is worthless because a person should just choose the easiest path to God in that case.

But I’m a good person and try to live the right way.

Sincerity is not the criteria for making it into heaven. Trying to live a good life is not the same as living a perfect life. How good does one have to be to make it into heaven?

Just because we really believe in what we do doesn’t make it right nor does it get us into heaven. Hitler believed strongly in what he did and that certainly does not make what he did right. Obviously that is a drastic example but it proves the point that simply believing in what we’re doing doesn’t make it right.

What about those who’ve never heard about Jesus?

This question implies that a person may have more compassion than God and that God may somehow make a wrong decision regarding the fate of those who haven’t heard. Indeed we can trust that God will be just when dealing with those who haven’t heard of Him.

Romans 1:20 tells us that creation is a testimony to God. Anyone can look up in the sky and recognize that God must have created such an incredible world. But what if someone acknowledges that there must be a God but never hears about Jesus? Matthew 7:7-8 tells us that all who seek will find. God will put someone in the path or a person who is truly seeking. In Acts 8:26-39 tells the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. This is precisely what happens in that story. The Ethiopian eunuch hears about God and Philip is sent to tell him about Jesus.

The Bible is filled with errors.

This is typically spouted by someone who wants an excuse for ignoring what the Bible says. More often than not if you ask them to give an example they will immediately quiet down because they have none.

We know the Bible to be true because it is God’s Word and God can’t lie according to Isaiah 55:10-11, John 17:17, Titus 1:2, and Hebrews 4:12. The Bible itself claims to be true in 2 Timothy 3:16. “All scripture is God-breathed…”

Not everyone will accept the claims of the Bible’s truthfulness coming from the Bible itself however. Instances where there appear to be errors or discrepancies in the Bible are matters that need to be carefully looked at and studied. There are some instances where we simply have not found proof of the truthfulness of a Bible passage but new archaeological discoveries are being made every year that time and time again verify that the Bible is truth. More importantly, not one discovery has been made to disprove any claim in the Bible.

If God is so good, why is there evil?

God didn’t create evil, it entered the world through sin. This question is more a question of God’s power however as in, “why doesn’t God stop evil from happening?”

In order for free will to exist, man must be allowed to make his own choices. Because we are sinful by nature, sometimes these choices are evil. While the existence of evil is a problem, it is more important that God has a solution.

First of all, evil does not go unpunished. There will be a day of reckoning for all evil deeds. It may appear as if evildoers prosper today but nothing escapes God’s notice. Because we are all sinful though, God did something about our desire to do evil. God sent Jesus into the world for the forgiveness of sin. Evil has been defeated by Jesus on the cross but it has not yet been removed from the world.

Why is there suffering?

The problem of suffering is closely tied to the problem of evil. There is suffering in the world today because there is sin in the world today. God didn’t create suffering, man brought it upon himself when Adam and Eve first sinned.

Contrary to popular belief though, suffering can be good as it strengthens our faith and causes us to rely more closely on God. This doesn’t mean that we should ask God for more suffering but it should be noted that suffering gets our attention.

When people face difficulties in life, they can either grow closer to God or they can become angry and bitter and turn away from God. It is impossible to stay at the same place spiritually where enduring suffering.

Suffering is also a matter of what we believe we deserve. The US Declaration of Independence says that we have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No such promise is given in scripture however. When we complain about suffering, we are really saying that what is taking place is not fair. In other words, God isn’t just. If God were just though, we would be far worse off because we deserve punishment for our sins. Instead of calling God unfair when we see suffering we should thank Him that His mercy keeps it from happening more often than it does.

If there’s a hell, why would a loving God send people there?

Man is separated from God because of sin. God can’t allow sin into heaven. Because of God’s abundance of love, He sent Jesus into the world to die for our sins and suffer the penalty of those sins for us.

God doesn’t send people to hell as much as their rejection of Jesus condemns them to continue on their pathway to hell. For a fuller in depth theological see Spreading Light Ministries’ Fate of the Unbeliever.

How to Answer Evangelism Questions

Many times when Jesus was asked a question He didn’t answer it directly. It wasn’t that He was trying to twist the truth or skirt around some thorny issue that He knew would cause problems with His audience. Instead Jesus wanted His audience to really think about what was taking place. A quick answer may have allowed Jesus to move on to more pressing concerns but it wouldn’t have caused the questioner to think more deeply about his or her faith either.

In Luke 10, Jesus is asked what a person must do to inherit eternal life. The easy answer was to follow Him and obey God’s commands. Instead, Jesus responds in verse 26, “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” Jesus response was two sided. He is getting the man to think about what he believes and Jesus is also gauging the spiritual level of the man.

In this passage, the man answers correctly and then asks a follow up question on who is his neighbor. Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Later on in Luke 18 Jesus is asked the same basic question on how to inherit eternal life. Jesus response this time is “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.” Jesus then responds with a list of commands that the man should already know to which the man replies that he has kept them all since his birth.

Jesus makes a connection to the man in Luke 10 as a dialogue is started with follow up questions. The man in Luke 18 leaves unsatisfied however because he is unwilling to truly think about what Jesus is talking about and just wanted assurance of his salvation which he doesn’t really even consider when he wrongly answers that he’s been sinless since birth.
We when are asked questions while evangelizing, we should keep Jesus’ method in mind. The technique may not work all of the time as sometimes a person just has a simple question. Often though, we can respond with a question such as “What do you believe?” or “Why do you ask?” Not only will it cause that person to think more about the question, it will give you a better understanding of how to answer it. It’s entirely possible that the person just has a simple question and we’re getting ready for a full theological discussion. Asking follow up questions allows us to get to the heart of the matter without unnecessarily confusing a person.