There is something mysterious and powerful which happened in the first few centuries of the Jesus movement (beginning with the accounts we have in the book of Acts and extending to the time that the Roman Emperor Constantine began to promote the Christian faith in AD 312). The Church grew. Rapidly.
In the mid second century, the church leader Origen who ministered Palestine wrote this: “Behold, the Lord’s greatness… Our Lord Jesus has spread out to the whole world, because he is God’s power… The power of the Lord our Savior is with those who are in Britain, separated from our world, and with those who are in Mauretania, and with everyone under the sun who had believed in his name. Behold the Savior’s greatness. It extends to all the world.”
The message of Jesus was spreading quickly through the Roman world in the first two centuries after Jesus’s resurrection. What fascinates me is that it did so without much intentionality.
At this time, the Christian faith was scrutinized by culture and government.
Neighbors spied on their Christian neighbors hoping to turn them in to government authorities or disrepute them in public circles.
Many Christians were abandoned by their families or lost their livelihoods as a result of their decision to follow Jesus.
Origen commented on this further by saying the Christians suffered “disgrace among the rest of society.”
Christians even held their worship gatherings in secret!
Surprisingly, this didn’t stop the tremendous expansion of the message of Jesus. It’s not so astonishing that the early Church did not expand the mission of Jesus because every Christian was preaching from the street corner, casually talking to friends about Jesus, or even inviting non-believing neighbors to church! The Church grew because God’s power moved boldly through the lives of those who believed.
It was the way in which believers loved, neighbored, worked, and lived in their culture that drew others to Jesus. The Christians found their gatherings, worship, and the faith community to be a lifeline. Non-believers of the day found this lifestyle and faith attractive and refreshing in the face of their tired old religions and the dried-up joylessness of their culture.
How do my life, my voice, my actions, and my love work to draw others to Jesus? How am I asking God to patiently and consistently work through my life to exhibit the life of Jesus to those around me in such a way that it stands out as different in the face of our culture?
As we move through 2022, I want to challenge my White Oak family to ask God that bold question. Look for answers in the ways in which he calls you to surrender, repent, serve, give, respond to your spouse, prioritize for your children, and speak with love and grace in your conversations.
I think we are on the cusp of great things at White Oak and in greater Cincinnati! I am convinced that our patient, bold, and surrendered trust in God will expand His Kingdom in our lives, homes, and city. I believe God wants to boldly use our lives to draw many others to himself!
Lead Pastor, White Oak Christian Church