If you just open up and read the New Testament, do you see modern “church”? Do you see the things that characterize what we call “church” today? Think about your own experience with churches. Does it look like what you’ve experienced? The things that are emphasized, the way things are done and the way churches meet?
We don’t think so.
We’re promoting the idea of returning to what we see in the New Testament. Returning to what some have called “the Way of Christ and His Apostles”. But what does that mean exactly? What is the substance — what are the basic components of this “way of Christ and His Apostles” as presented in the New Testament? The following five ideas present the foundation of the way of Christ and His Apostles:
Look at three important things found here in Acts 14:21-23. Paul “preached the gospel…strengthening the souls of the disciples…appointed elders…” Another way of saying this is: He evangelized strategic cities, established local churches and entrusted the leadership of those churches to faithful men. This is widely known as The Pauline Cycle because several other places in the New Testament indicate these tasks served as a pattern in Paul’s ministry. And, as we dig into the New Testament we see this pattern built off of Jesus’ ministry and the ministry of the Apostles in Jerusalem — the first several chapters of Acts. In other words, The Pauline Cycle is how the early church sought to accomplish the Great Commission. It is foundational to understanding what the early church considered most important.
Next, we have a chart that helps us understand the importance of the first step in The Pauline Cycle. Here we have the example of Ephesus. Paul preached the gospel in Ephesus — a strategic city in the Roman Empire. He spent 2-3 years there establishing the church and raising up leadership. We also see that within a short period of time, several other churches sprung up in and around Ephesus (Miletus, Smyrna, Colossae, etc.).
Three basic ideas emerge that help us understand New Testament evangelism — two of which we don’t always associate with evangelism:
1) Initial preaching of the gospel. Paul used the Jewish synagogue and something called the Hall of Tyrannus to boldly declare the good news about Jesus.
2) Evangelism as a community. There is very little emphasis on individual evangelism in the New Testament. The emphasis is on our love and devotion for one another and inviting people into our family-like churches. That doesn’t mean we don’t do individual evangelism, but the emphasis is on being the loving community Christ intended (John 13:35).
3) Multiplication of simple churches. The first-century churches met in homes around a meal, celebrating their new life in Christ and there was something very attractive about that. But it was also incredibly practical. Homes were already built, without fund-raisers and massive debt. A church could be planted in a home immediately — even spontaneously — wherever the Holy Spirit provided an opportunity. Rather than trying to get people to go all the way to First Church of Ephesus, they planted a church in a neighborhood and said: Come over for supper!
We are doing exactly that! We meet every Sunday evening in homes around a meal, sharing what God is doing in our lives and studying the Scriptures — “letting the word of Christ richly dwell within us” (Colossians 3:16). We call these gatherings “Neighborhood Church” and you are more than welcome to join us for supper this Sunday evening. Contact us for locations and times.
If people are not firmly rooted in the faith, they will struggle and fall away, and churches will crumble. Paul and his team spent considerable time — not just on evangelism — but also on establishing believers so churches would last multiple generations. He also wrote letters when he couldn’t be present himself and — thank God — these have been preserved for us:
1) Paul’s Early Letters (Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Romans) were written to churches and were focused on establishing churches in the gospel and the implications of holding tightly to it.
2) Paul’s Middle Letters (Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians) were also written to churches and were focused on establishing churches in the priority, importance, mission and vision of the church in this age.
3) Paul’s Later Letters (1 Timothy, Titus, 2 Timothy) were written to leaders of churches and were focused on establishing churches as mature households of God — being led and ordered well.
If you have not spent considerable time in each of Paul’s letters — as well as the rest of the New Testament letters — you are most likely not well-established in the faith. These letters were specifically written for the purpose of helping believers to be “rooted and built up in the faith” (Colossians 2:6-8), so they could live the life Jesus calls His followers — His church — to live.
So, how are we helping people become well-established in the faith? Read on…
There are two main bodies of truth embedded in the New Testament books. It is important for every Christian to understand and be able to explain these teachings to other people.
a. Kerygma (The Greek word for “proclamation” or “preaching”). Think: Jesus — His work, His cross and His resurrection. He fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures which predicted His first coming, He died for our sins and rose from the dead, then promised to return at His second coming. This is the good news, the “gospel” of Jesus Christ. Those who believe are given eternal life as a “free gift” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
b. Didache (The Greek word for “teaching” — the teaching of the Apostles). Think: Life — the way of life Christ calls His followers to live: put off sin, put on Christlikeness, build strong relationships in families, the church and the world.
This way of life is thoroughly explained in the resource we use as a church called The First Principles. It is the best tool we are aware of for helping people become “rooted and built up in the faith”. We invite you to contact us and sign up today to participate in the next available study of The First Principles.
It was also a vital part of this “primitive” Christianity to train up leaders for the ministry — and for the next generation. Look at the life of Timothy and how Paul trained him in leadership.
As a young man, Timothy devoted himself to serving in local churches and was “well spoken of by the brethren” (Acts 16:1-2). A man of proven character. So, when Paul came into his life, he was ready for the first major milestone of his ministry. He was commended by his elders (1 Timothy 4:14) to apprentice with Paul’s team (Acts 16:3). This began a long apprenticeship under the Apostle Paul. In other words, he was trained by Paul in the context of ministry. He was given increasing responsibility over a period of 15-20 years.
Eventually, Timothy reached a second major milestone. He was commended by Paul — a recognized leader himself — as a Master Craftsman of ministry and sent out to develop missionary teams just like his mentor (2 Timothy 1:6). Paul didn’t use the term “Master Craftsman,” but this is a term that communicates well the kind of man Paul described as ready to “fight the good fight”. A man who was keeping the faith, not wrangling over words, handling the word accurately, displaying obvious growth and had an undefiled conscience.
In 2 Timothy 2:2, Timothy — and subsequent generations of leaders — were commissioned to replicate the work of the Apostle Paul: “the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” This verse tells us that what Paul did was supposed to be the normal practice for Christian leaders throughout the Church Age.
Timothy was trained in the context of ministry under the personal mentoring of a well-established, older leader. We believe this is the way ministry training should happen.
So, we are partnering with the Antioch School of Church Planting and Leadership Development (a fully accredited degree program offering bachelors, masters and even doctoral degrees) to provide church-based theological training in the context of our ministry setting. We are training leaders through mentoring relationships, competency assessment and solid, affordable academic instruction, in the setting where local church leaders should be trained: in the local church. If you have always wanted to be trained for local church ministry, but find yourself unable to afford traditional theological training, please contact us today and let’s discuss a way for you to be trained while still serving in your local church setting.
If you are a local church ministry leader, tired of helping your best and most promising leaders pack a U-haul and head off to Bible college or seminary, we encourage you to contact us today. Let us introduce you to solid leadership development resources regardless of your denomination or theological tradition. And — if you’re in the Lawrence or Kansas City, Kansas, area — let’s talk about developing a partnership relationship in the expansion of the church in our area.
Not everyone is a Paul- or Timothy-type leader. There are various types of leaders listed in the New Testament. But the way Paul mentored Timothy is how we’re supposed to do things with all leaders: To begin with, Is he or she a “Team Player” — ready to serve in whatever way is needed to build up the body? Then, a person can be invited into leadership and the question becomes: Is he or she a “Team Member,” submitting to the established leadership as long as necessary in order to be fully equipped? Hopefully, in time, after a person has proven himself as an apprentice, he or she can be entrusted with an even higher level of responsibility as a “Team Developer” — perhaps serving on a Pauline team or as an elder or deacon. That progression is important — damage is done by people who aren’t prepared to be leaders.
But again, there are various types of leaders in the New Testament:
1) Elders, deacons, leading women who are gifted to help strengthen and shepherd the people of local churches. They have a local ministry focus, but also participate in national and global ministry (expansion of the gospel).
2) Pauline teams — people who are gifted in helping the church to expand. They will have a national and/or global ministry focus, but also be anchored in and participate in a local church ministry.
3) Benefactors — people who are gifted in business and finance, who can help the church become strong and expand through their support. The New Testament lists several people who provided various types of support including, financial support and hosting churches in their homes. Sometimes these leaders were also elders or deacons or co-workers with Paul, but not always.
Often, people who don’t “preach” or who don’t fit the mold of a traditional “pastor” find themselves under-utilized, sitting passively in a traditional church service year after year. We’re leading people — and looking for more — to become actively engaged in planting and strengthening churches through the gifts God has given you. Contact us today to hear more.
Face That Issue
The way of Christ and His Apostles is to be actively engaged in the mission and purpose of the local church. It is to work the Pauline Cycle wherever you are in the world, to learn and teach the kerygma and didache — to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and live according to the teaching of the Apostles. It is to be mentored according to your gifts and to mentor others in and through the local church.
Missionary Roland Allen — who coined the term The Way of Christ and His Apostles — wrote:
“… People have adopted fragments of St. Paul’s method and have tried to incorporate them into alien systems, and the failure which resulted has been used as an argument against the Apostle’s method … The truth is that they have neither understood nor practised the Apostle’s method at all.”
“… All I can say is, ‘This is the way of Christ and His Apostles.’ If any man answers, ‘That is out of date,’ or ‘Times have changed,’ … I can only repeat, ‘This is the way of Christ and His Apostles,’ and leave him to face that issue.”(Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?)