July 1, 2001
Volume 11, Number 26

The 1st Century Church - How Do We Measure Up?

Some ridicule the concept embodied within the title of this article. They ask, "Why would we want to use these churches, with their human frailties, as a standard by which to measure ourselves? How can these imperfect churches possibly serve as a model or pattern for us to imitate?" Or they ask, "Which New Testament church do you want to restore? Do you want to imitate Jerusalem, with its neglect of the widows? Or, do you want to be like Corinth, with its divisions, lawsuits among brethren, abuse of the Lord’s supper, denial of the resurrection, etc., etc., etc.?

The above questions cloud the real issue of what it means to restore the New Testament church. In the first place, the plea to restore the New Testament church is not a plea to imitate every single thing that a local church of the New Testament is recorded to have done. Rather, it is a plea to imitate the churches of the New Testament insofar as they imitated the will of God. Just as Paul was to be imitated only as he imitated Christ (1 Cor. 11:1), so, likewise, the churches of the New Testament should be imitated only wherein they followed God’s Word.
The apostolic pattern, recorded in Holy Scripture, makes it clear that we should not imitate Jerusalem’s neglect of widows, nor should we emulate Corinth’s vices as described in 1 and 2 Corinthians. In short, to determine whether a church in the New Testament should be imitated in a particular action, all we have to do is read our Bibles and ascertain whether the conduct of said church is approved or condemned!


Jesus expected His disciples to take the gospel to every creature of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). This preaching of the gospel was to begin in Jerusalem (Isa. 2:2-4; Luke 24:47) and spread from there to Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe (1 Cor. 1:21).
How well did the first century church do in obeying the great commission? The word was preached on Pentecost and about 3000 gladly received the word were baptized (Acts 2:14-41). In the days immediately following Pentecost, the church continued to grow on a daily basis (Acts 2:47). In the weeks, months, and years which followed, the church continued to multiply and grow on a daily basis (Acts 4:4; 5:14; 6:1,7; 8:12; 9:31, 42; 11:19-24; 12:24; 13:44-52; 16:5; 19:20). Paul affirmed that the gospel had gone "unto the ends of the world" (Rom. 10:18) and had been "preached to every creature which is under heaven" (Col. 1:23).

How well are we doing in obeying the great commission? From 1945-1965, the churches of Christ were reported to be the fastest growing religious group in the United States. However, recent statistics reveal that we are not even among the top 10 list of religious groups who are growing the fastest. Are we turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6)? For that matter, are we even turning our local communities upside down?

Excuses are often heard in defense of why we are not growing today.

They had miracles in the 1st century. Such a statement displays a misunderstanding of the purpose of New Testament miracles (Mark 16:20; John 20:30-31; Heb. 2:3-4). Furthermore, miracles do not explain the rapid growth of the Lord’s church from 1945-1965, for they didn’t exist at that time. Also, although we do not have miracles today, we do have technology and mass media outlets available to us that were not even dreamed of in the 1st century.

We live in a world that is hostile to the gospel. Compare our world with that of the 1st century. Talk about a hostile world! Jesus was crucified for His religious teachings and His life (Matt. 27:22; John 1:10-11). Jesus warned His apostles that the world would hate them and that they would be killed by those who thought they were doing God a service (John 15:18-20; 16:2). How many of us can identify with the suffering Paul described in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28?
We’re growing spiritually and that’s what really counts. What is wrong with growing in number also? The early church grew both spiritually and numerically! Acts 16:5 describes a daily growth of the church almost 20 years after Pentecost. Whereas we should not emphasize numbers for the sake of numbers, we should place a value on each soul.

Why is there such a vast difference between the growth of the early church and that of the Lord’s church today? It all boils down to one word—commitment. The first century disciples were so committed that they were willing to suffer physical persecution, and even death, for Him (Acts 5:28-42; 7: 54-60; 2 Tim. 4:6-8; Rev. 2:10). The problem with Christians today is that nobody wants to kill them anymore!

Too many today "profess that they know God, but in works they deny him being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate" (Titus 1:16). They "talk the talk" but do not "walk the walk." They call Jesus "Lord", but they do not do the things that He says (Matt. 7:21-24; Luke 6:46). Many will not suffer verbal persecution, much less physical persecution, for the cause of Christ. Many refuse to sacrifice an evening of television, much less their very lives, in order to advance the cause of Christ! When we sow the seed of the kingdom, the Word of God, (Luke 8:11) bountifully, we shall reap a bountiful harvest. Conversely, when we sow the Word sparingly, we shall reap sparingly.

The first century church spread the Word far and wide (1 Thess. 1:8) and that is why the church grew abundantly. Similarly, when the church of Christ grew so much from 1945-1965 it was because the members possessed an abundance of Bible knowledge and a commitment to sow it abundantly into the hearts of men. If we want the Lord’s church to grow today we must be more diligent in broadcasting the seed of the kingdom!

B.J. Clarke, POWER


July 14, 2001

South Florida Avenue Church of Christ
1807 South Florida Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33803

Church Directory

Coming Soon!

For Our Youth

Central Florida Bible Camp
July 22-28, 2001
Eustis, FL

Bible Bowl 2001
September 8, 2001
Pinellas Park Church of Christ
6045 Park Boulevard
Pinellas Park, FL 33780

Annual Bible Reading Program

This week’s Bible readings are:

Sunday, 24th: ... Mark 11:1-14, 1 Kings 1, Hosea 4:11-5:3
Monday, 25th: ... Mark 11:15-33, 1 Kings 2, Hosea 5:4-15
Tuesday, 26th: ... Mark 12:1-27, 1 Kings 3, Hosea 6:1-7:2
Wednesday, 27th: ... Mark 12:28-44, 1 Kings 4, Hosea 7:3-16
Thursday, 28th: ... Mark 13:1-31, 1 Kings 5, Hosea 8
Friday, 29th: ... Mark 13:32-72, 1 Kings 6, Hosea 9:1-16
Saturday, 30th: ... Mark 14:1-31, 1 Kings 7, Hosea 9:17-10:15

Big problems? God is BIGGER!

Ghana Campaign
July 2-28, 2001

Schedule for this week:

Monday (July 2) … Depart from Tampa

Tuesday (July 3) … Arrive in London and meet the Camp family from Mt. Home, AR.

Wednesday (July 4) … Meet Bill Dillon and group as they arrive from the U.S. and then all depart for Ghana together. Arrive in Accra at @ 8:00 pm (4:00 pm ET). Ted will be staying at Ernest Apeadu’s house.

Thursday (July 5) … Change dollars into cedis. Ted will renew his Ghanaian driver’s license. Meet with Ghanaian brethren who will be working with Ted this year.

Friday-Sunday (July 6-8) … Ted will be in the Tema area and working with the Accra Road church in Ashaiman. Each he and Paul Addo will be doing a live 30-minute radio broadcast on the local station—Adom FM.

Note: Ted will be trying to send campaign updates via email whenever he can.


A Special Welcome to our Visitors

Please fill out a blue visitor card so that we might have a record of your visit. If needed, there is a nursery available at the rear of the auditorium. Bible classes for all ages are available Sundays at 10:00 am and Wednesdays at 6:30 PM. We hope that you will join us for these studies. Please come and worship with us again soon.

Jane Bowman - Bill Sherman & Jeanne - Leslie Johnson

Viola Morinier - Virginia Law - Naomi Morton - Lurl Card

Mary Kaupilla - Donna Bennett - Jim & Betty Dougan

Theresa Dalton - Rick Birchfield


Wednesday Bible Classes:

Sunday’s Lessons:

"Getting the Most from God's Word" (James 1:19-31)
"Is the Bible full of Contradictions?" (Mark 15:25; John 19:14-16)

Service Opportunities


Time of Services


 Wayne Vowell




 Walt Thompson


Bible Study:

10:00 am

Morning Services



11:00 am

Bible Reading:

 Larry Jenson  

Evening Worship:

6:00 pm


Dick Navarre




 Ted Wheeler


Bible Study:

6:30 pm

Closing Prayer:

 Jim Dougan


Evening Services



Opening Prayer:

 Carl Rigney



 Larry Jenson


Our Record - Last Week


 Ted Wheeler  

Closing Prayer:

 Clarence Riggenbach



$ 1258.00
Delbert Leavens
  Weekly Budget:
$ 1500.00
Ted Wheeler
Carl Rigney

Clarence Riggenbach

Copyright © 2001 Church of Christ of Venice. All Rights Reserved.