Evangelizing Your Community - Lesson 1
Learning from the Early Church
Preparation for Teaching the Lesson
- The student can explain the message, motives, and methods of evangelism in the early church.
- The student can identify the risks early church members took to evangelize and how they approached these risks.
- The student can make application of the practice of evangelism in the early church to his/her congregation and to himself/herself.
- The teacher should read Chapter 1 of North's Evangelizing Your Community before teaching this class session. If the students have this book, they should read it in advance as well.
- Each student will need a Bible.
- Use a chalkboard or marker board to emphasize key points.
The first century church left for all succeeding generations an excellent example of commitment in sharing the gospel message.
Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class
Introduction: (10 minutes)
- Thank those who have come for being a part of this class. Explain that these sessions are to help each person and the congregation as a whole to find ways of reaching out to those in our community who need the gospel. Christ has given us the mission of taking the gospel to everyone and that includes across the street as well as across the ocean. Read Matthew 28:18_20. Most of us recognize that the church needs to be more evangelistic and this class is to help us act on that desire.
- Sing a good song about outreach such as "Lead Me to Some Soul Today" or "Send the Light."
- Have a prayer about the mission of this class.
- Make list of those attending the class which you can use as a roll sheet to check for those present each class session. Ask those present to encourage others to attend the class. This can be their first effort at evangelizing for this class.
Learning Experiences: (30 minutes)
(Note to the teacher: if the students have copies of North's book on Evangelizing Your Community, ask them to read Chapter 1 before this class meeting.)
- Q: How large would you guess the church became by 350 AD? A: According to Rodney Stark in his book The Rise of Christianity, the church grew to 34 million by that time. We have to ask how it grew so large and what we can learn from that.
- Ask various class members to look at the following passages: Peter's sermon on Pentecost (Acts 2:14_36), Philip in Samaria (Acts 8:12), Philip with the Ethiopian (Acts 8:34_35), and Paul in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:14_43). Based on these passages, what would you say was the central message of the preaching in the early church? A: Jesus and the salvation He makes possible.
- Q: Is this a good message for people today? A: Yes. Many in our culture today respond more favorably initially to a message about Jesus' life and teachings than they do to a doctrine_oriented approach. In our culture today, also, many are not attracted to what they call "organized religion" or "an established church." Starting with Jesus' life and teaching will appeal to such people and is a very scriptural place to start. Of course, you must teach the doctrines as you move the person along spiritually and you must teach them about the church of the New Testament when the time is right.
- According to Stark, the church especially grew because of the way Christians lived and the way they died. Share some instances of such behavior in the early church. In 165 and 251, epidemics swept the Roman Empire. As millions were dying of disease, Christians ministered to their own and to many others. By this service, Christians won the good will and admiration of many and opened many doors for evangelism. (Also Google the name Polycarp and get details of his story of martyrdom. He represents what happened to many.)
- Ask each student to write down two specific occasions when Jesus or an early Christian shared the message with someone on a personal level. (Be sure such stories as Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4:7_26), Priscilla and Aquila
- (Acts 18:24_28), Dorcas (Acts 9:36), and Paul (Acts 16:31_32) are included. Ask various members of the class to tell about one of their cases. Following each case, ask the class, "What do we learn about the methods and attitudes of doing personal work from this story?" Ask them to share their observations with sentences that start-Those who do personal work should … .
- Q: What risks did early Christians take to share the gospel message? A: Having to move to another town, physical harm to themselves and their family, financial loss by those who opposed them, imprisonment, even loss of life.
- Q: What motivated early Christians to confront these risks in order to spread the gospel? A: Love for Jesus, appreciation for what Jesus had done for their lives, concern for the spiritual wellbeing of those they approached, wanting to please Jesus with their lives, wanting to see the church spread to others, a sense of duty to Jesus Christ.
- Q: What risks do we take to share the gospel today? A: Someone will reject our invitation to come to church, someone might ridicule us, we might lose a friend. Q: How likely are these bad things to happen to us if we invite someone to church or ask them to study with us? A: Not very likely. Q: When we compare the risks against the possible good, what conclusion should we draw? A: We don't risk much, certainly not risks like the early Christians took.
- Q: What should motivate us to be active in personal evangelism? A: A desire to please Jesus, helping people go to heaven, a desire to see the church grow, love for friends and family who need Jesus.
Application: (5 minutes)
- What personal applications will you make from this lesson about the early church? (Ask for responses.)
- Read Ephesians 2:8_9; Romans 4:1_6, 5:1_2; and James 2:20_24 and think about how these relate to each other. We'll be studying about that in the next lesson.
- Read Acts 20:17_38 and come prepared to answer questions on how Paul spread the gospel in Ephesus.
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