NT Church - Evangelism and Missionary Outreach Is Emphasized

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ (Acts 5:42). Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4).

The early church began witnessing immediately after the coming of the Holy Spirit. It was only a brief time until their witnessing spread from Jerusalem to all Judea and into Samaria. Peter, John, Stephen, and Philip became leading examples of the faithful witness of the early church. Then Paul was raised up by God to begin the final clause of that commission which would for many centuries mark the endeavor of the church to witness to the uttermost part of the earth. The church at Antioch by the Holy Spirit sent forth Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-3). This began a church movement that has never ceased through the centuries and thousands of missionaries have been sent by local churches into every continent of this globe.

Evangelism, whether local or far away, has always been, until this century, an outreach ministry of the church. That is, they did not seek to bring the unsaved into the church, but they went out from the church to the unsaved. There was no need to make the activities of the church agreeable to the unsaved. Until they heard and believed the Gospel, the church held no attraction for the unsaved; in fact, in many cases, they persecuted the church. After they were saved, they were brought into the fellowship of the church. But the church was never to cease in its efforts to reach out to the unsaved that were all around them. Once they lost this vision, they would begin a slow death. The church that ceases to have interest in outreach to the unsaved is a dying church. It loses its testimony to the world and becomes "ingrown" in its thinking. Its only growth is from families within and those from without are seldom added. This results in a complacent and smug attitude that soon leads to a lazy, cowardly and self-satisfied attitude. "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ; that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel....For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake" (Phil. 1:27,29).

A distinguishing characteristic of a true new testament church is that emphasis is placed on reaching out to the neighborhood, the outlying communities, and the lands beyond. This means that individual members of the body should be active as witnesses to Christ in their own neighborhoods and at their own places of work. They should be witnessing to their relatives and using every opportunity to pass out tracts wherever they may go. Collectively, the local church ought to be going door to door with the Gospel in its immediate neighborhood. It should be holding "open air" meetings on the streets or "tent meetings" on open lots. It should be sending forth teams to local institutions in nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, and downtown missions. The local church should be active in prayer for missionaries. There should be many who correspond with missionaries on a regular basis and a group of sisters who meet regularly to prepare packages for the missionaries and their family. The church budget ought to include gifts to missionaries. It is not enough to hold evangelistic meetings for a week once or twice a year and then neglect the personal and collective evangelism that should be taking place on a daily basis.

The questions then to be asked in looking for a New Testament church are: Is systematic instruction given to urge each one of the body to be active in evangelism? Is there a response to this urging? Does the church collectively engage in reaching out to the unsaved or is the major emphasis on trying to bring the unsaved to the church? Are there missionary prayer meetings and work groups that are well attended?