“Outsiders think Christianity no longer represents what Jesus had in mind, that Christianity in our society is not what it was meant to be.”~ David Kinnaman ~
The early church began with a strong outsider focus. In fact, right after the 120 were filled with the Holy Spirit in the upper room in Acts 2:1, they immediately hit the streets boldly preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. Peter was their first leader and primary spokesperson. This once insecure man who cowardly denied even knowing Jesus only weeks before to a questioning servant girl, stood up boldly on the day of Pentecost and preached with clarity and passion and three thousand became believers on the spot.
The church in Jerusalem grew quickly. Experts project that within the first year or two, the church numbered around 14,000. They had momentum and power. But Peter had a habit of repeatedly reminding the Jews in his sermons that they were responsible for killing the promised Messiah, Jesus. This habit, as you can imagine, greatly angered the non-believing Jews and they had Peter and John arrested in Acts 3.
Now, imagine the scenario with me for a minute. Peter and John were the two senior leaders of this now thriving, fast growing church. They were the pastors, mentors, and spiritual authorities of this 14,000 member city congregation. To have both of them arrested at the same time was extremely devastating, I imagine especially to the new believers. Even the original 120 had to be terrified as it was only months after they had personally witnessed Jesus' arrest and eventual crucifixion.
So, how did they respond? In the same way you and I would respond. They called a corporate prayer meeting to intercede on behalf of Peter and John. Yet, what they prayed was so drastically different than what I imagine I would have prayed in the same scenario that it bears taking notice. Had I experienced similar circumstances, I would pray for Peter and John's safe return. I'd pray for protection over our church and especially over my own family. I'd beg God to save us from persecution. But that's not what they prayed! Look what they prayed.
"Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness." Acts 4:29 (NIV)
They prayed for more boldness! I don't think boldness was their greatest need. Boldness was why Peter and John had been arrested in the first place.
This verse so convicts me because as I reflect on the majority of my prayers I have to admit I pray mostly for myself, my family, and the people within my church. My prayers are insider focused and not outsider focused like those of the early church. If I was to be completely honest, my main motive for praying is to protect what I already have. Yet the early church didn't pray a protection type prayer. They're focus was on the outsiders, on those they had yet to reach. They weren't driven by fear of losing what they had gained, they were driven by the mandate Jesus had given them to preach the good news to in Jerusalem first, then to Judea, and then to the rest of the earth. This stern focus, even in the midst of a trial, is the reason the church made it out of the first century and why Christianity is still alive and thriving on our planet today.
What if the church today were to focus more on those we are trying to reach than on those we are trying to keep?
Question: When was the last time you asked God for boldness to speak His Word to an unchurched friend?