When 120 believers met to pray in an upper room in Jerusalem following the ascension of Christ, they had no way of knowing the impact they would have on future generations. As a result of that prayer meeting, the world would never be the same again.
The task of evangelizing assigned to these people of faith by their Lord must have seemed impossible to carry out. But in a matter of months they would be known as world upsetters (Acts 17:6).
Those first-century Christians should be an example to us all. They had none of our tools for evangelism or aids to worship, but they were far more effective in carrying out their commission than we are today. Without printing presses, parachurch organizations, radio and television ministries, or even church buildings, they planted churches all over their world. By the end of the first century A.D., they had increased from a tiny, timid, minority to millions of dynamic evangelists. Churches exist throughout the world today because that unlikely company was faithful, even in the face of fierce persecution.
When religious or governmental authorities tried to stop them through political pressure, or laws intended to limit their outreach, these bold believers replied that they were compelled to obey God rather than men. Execution seemed to be the only way to silence them, but when their enemies took this route, the church flourished more than ever. Their courage and commitment puts most of us to shame.
In some areas, however, the world upsetters were powerless. They had no financial power. If they had waited until they had accumulated money enough to launch their historic missionary venture, the task would never have begun. Most successful church outreach has started in faith and funds have followed.
They were also without political power. Their leaders couldn’t pull strings in high places, and there is no evidence that these courageous souls ever sought influence among the politically powerful of their time. Higher hands were guiding them and this enabled them to attempt and accomplish great things without politically powerful people being able to take credit for the results. Actually, this seeming lack then may have been one of their greatest strengths.
Political ideas and convictions come and go. Sometimes they even float from one political party to another so that over time one group has switched positions with the other. The message of the church (the Gospel) remains the same. And the church that forgets this is in danger of trading its lasting message for a passing one, a change of direction that will always bring decline.
Of all the periods of history, ours may cry the loudest for churches to return to their God-given task. It is time to get back to Biblical basics.
A minister who had given enthusiastic support to a politician who lost the election groaned, “What am I going to do now?”
“I guess you’ll just have to go back to preaching the Gospel,” one of his members replied.
That advice could make the churches world upsetters again.
Roger Campbell is an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at email@example.com