The Scattered Church
“Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word.” Acts 8:4 NKJV
The story of how the disciples enact and carry out the Great Commission is found in the Book of Acts. The traditional name of this book is “The Acts of the Apostles.” This account was written by Luke in about 60 AD. The theme of the book is missions and gives an account of the spread of the Gospel to the known world at that time.
The Acts of the Apostles is in all actuality the actions of believers who followed Jesus. It includes accounts from the Apostles, for sure, but it also includes accounts from deacons, couples, and everyday Jewish and gentile believers in Christ.
The book begins with a retelling of the commission in geographic terms in Acts 1:8 when the disciples are told to wait in Jerusalem for the arrival of the Holy Spirit: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The church receives the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the original disciples begin teaching and preaching the Gospel. Mass evangelism takes place when Peter preaches and 3,000 people are converted at one time followed by 5,000 believers at another time. After these mass conversions, everyday people who came to faith living in Jerusalem shared the gospel and the church grew daily.
After this initial success, a catalytic change takes place. The church that had been gathered in Jerusalem begins to face persecution and opposition. From the initial phases of the opposition, the Gospel gets spread to Samaria, because the church flees to Samaria. Eventually the church then gets dispersed to all of the Roman Empire.
Luke describes this dispersion in Acts 8:4: “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word.” The question becomes, who are the “they “in this passage? The original disciples and apostles stayed in Jerusalem. The "they" in this passage are everyday believers.
The NLT states it this way: “But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went.” The Great Commission is enacted and acted upon when every day believers tell others about Jesus wherever they go.
One thing that is interesting about the Book of Acts is that it has no ending. The actions of these original believers are still having a ripple effect today. Each one of us, if we could trace our spiritual family tree, would find it leading all the way back to Jerusalem to one of these first believers.
At RoS, as we approach our 140th year of existence, we want to keep what was started in Acts going today and into the future. As we gather for worship and life groups each week, let us remember we are scattered throughout our city and county to tell others the Good News about Jesus.
I love you and it’s a privilege to be your pastor.