Modern Revivals VS. The First Century Church

Welcome to Asked and Answered, the podcast series that answers all of your mission’s related questions. With me in the studio today are Ron and Charis Pearce.

Joy: Hi guys, welcome back!

Ron: Hi Joy.

Joy: Ok, are you ready for my question? I think it’s a big one! Why are there so many people coming to know the Lord today? Is it similar to the early church, would you say? Is there an easy answer to this?

Ron: Um, there is a good answer to this. It’s sort of an exciting answer in regards to the fact that you’ve got a lot of people now that are turning to God, and many people sort of doubt the numbers. In other words, we are not talking in Western standards anymore of a few hundred or a thousand or something like that. Overseas, as people will probably be, if people have been involved with Empower at all, we’re talking about massive turnings to God in some of these countries — thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and over a longer period of time, millions. And therefore, we are really talking here about a revival on steroids that is popping up in many of these various cultures and countries. And then we have to compare that to the early church. So I get asked all the time, Joy, what is the difference between what happened in the early church and what is happening today? That is the bottom to this question.

Joy: That is how I should have phrased the question. That is a good question.

Ron: There it is, what is the difference? Ok, so I’ve got a few notes here, and I’m going to share these with you. Here are some scriptures to think about. In Acts 2:41, this is right after the day of Pentecost, it says that they added that day 3,000. Acts 4:4, 5,000 men came to the Lord. Acts 5:14, multitudes of men and women were constantly added. So it goes from 3,000 to 5,000 to multitudes. We don’t know how many, but obviously more than 5,000 and probably into the tens of thousands. Then you’ve got another one in Acts 6:7 where it says the numbers of the disciples continued to increase, so now you’ve got more and more upwards. They’re not even going to try to estimate it. But now you think about this, what were the conditions like in the early church? Well, one is that this was a brand new concept. They were starting in the book of Acts basically from square one, and they were moving on. So you had Jesus, then you had the disciples, 12, then you had the seventy sent out, and then you had, shall we say, groups of people around which we don’t have any idea when Jesus in his walkings and travels led people to the Lord. Then you get to the day of Pentecost, then you go after that and you see in Jerusalem where the church grew, then they are kicked out of there and they start to go on missionary tours in that region of the Mediterranean, and then you’ve got it going down to Ethiopia and the Ethiopian eunuch taking the message down south. So it starts to expand, and the numbers were growing, but also remember in that day, in that time period, you had the Roman Empire, and the Roman Empire was a very brutal empire, and there was death everywhere, and people did not live with enough food, so there was starvation, there were diseases in those days. Leprosy was serious stuff!

But now you think about this, what were the conditions like in the early church?

Joy: It was all about survival.

Ron: It was totally survival, and it was tough sledding! The average life expectancy, either through childbirth problems, age, disease, war, or something like that, was very short. The bottom line is this: people thought about death, suffering, persecution, all of these things all the time. And now you have the Gospel coming in there, talking about a kingdom where believing in Jesus would get you into this Kingdom that transcended this earth and led to another world. This is the message that came into these problems, and this was a period of time in history that had huge problems. And God chose to send his son at the appropriate time. This was the time! And the church grew! For the numbers that it had, it was great! Now think about this: what do we have today that is comparable to this, and how has it changed? This is the exciting part, and people ask me many times, Why such growth?” Well, we’ve got a lot in our favor right now. We’ve been at this now for 2,000 years! 

Joy: We’ve had a lot of practice! Ron: We’ve had a lot of practice, and things are going well. We’ve learned, we’ve had missionaries that have sown the seed around the world. We have technology now that is helping us in many regards with the message of the Gospel. But we’ve also got this: we are witnessing, just like in the early church, people with an unquenchable hunger for the things of God because this world is falling apart through wars, disasters, all the problems in our globe. Joy: Social impact, all that. 

Ron: Social impact, numbers of people, starvation, droughts, earthquakes. You can go down the list! And it’s all over the globe. Therefore, in the early days, they had their problems too, like I just listed and all those things that were going on. There was a famine in Jerusalem, and there was a real downturn in Israel. People in other areas were taking offerings to give to them. All these things were happening. 

Joy: It was all about survival.

Ron: It was totally survival, and it was tough sledding! The average life expectancy, either through childbirth problems, age, disease, war, or something like that, was very short. The bottom line is this: people thought about death, suffering, persecution, all of these things all the time. And now you have the Gospel coming in there, talking about a kingdom where believing in Jesus would get you into this Kingdom that transcended this earth and led to another world. This is the message that came into these problems, and this was a period of time in history that had huge problems. And God chose to send his son at the appropriate time. This was the time! And the church grew! For the numbers that it had, it was great! Now think about this: what do we have today that is comparable to this, and how has it changed? This is the exciting part, and people ask me many times, Why such growth?” Well, we’ve got a lot in our favor right now. We’ve been at this now for 2,000 years! Joy: We’ve had a lot of practice! Ron: We’ve had a lot of practice, and things are going well. We’ve learned, we’ve had missionaries that have sown the seed around the world. We have technology now that is helping us in many regards with the message of the Gospel. But we’ve also got this: we are witnessing, just like in the early church, people with an unquenchable hunger for the things of God because this world is falling apart through wars, disasters, all the problems in our globe. Joy: Social impact, all that. Ron: Social impact, numbers of people, starvation, droughts, earthquakes. You can go down the list! And it’s all over the globe. Therefore, in the early days, they had their problems too, like I just listed and all those things that were going on. There was a famine in Jerusalem, and there was a real downturn in Israel. People in other areas were taking offerings to give to them. All these things were happening. So there is an unquenchable hunger for the things of God today like we’ve never seen. This is like we’ve never seen. Not that this is new, but the numbers are so great, and it is so widespread and intense. The early church had the same thing. Now you’ve got this: the speed of witnessing! You’ve got jets now that are taking people to various places. We’ve got motorcycles, we’ve got bicycles, we’ve got buses!

Joy: We’ve got Zoom. 

Ron: We’ve got Zoom! We can have all these things very, very quickly, and we can get things around. The news can spread quicker than it could in the early church. In the early church, they were on a mule or a camel or something like that, which walks slowly. When they went to another country, that was a major thing, like when Paul got on those boats to go on his missionary tours. That was major stuff! 

This is like we’ve never seen. Not that this is new, but the numbers are so great, and it is so widespread and intense. The early church had the same thing. Now you’ve got this: the speed of witnessing! You’ve got jets now that are taking people to various places. We’ve got motorcycles, we’ve got bicycles, we’ve got buses!

Joy: We’ve got Zoom. 

Ron: We’ve got Zoom! We can have all these things very, very quickly, and we can get things around. The news can spread quicker than it could in the early church. In the early church, they were on a mule or a camel or something like that, which walks slowly. When they went to another country, that was a major thing, like when Paul got on those boats to go on his missionary tours. That was major stuff! 

So there is an unquenchable hunger for the things of God today like we’ve never seen.

Joy: That took a couple of years, didn’t it? 

Ron: Oh yeah, that took years! Now we are talking about minutes and hours to get to those places. Therefore, the speed of witnessing has changed. For instance, let me give you an example. Earlier this year in Ethiopia, 6,000 evangelists were given the opportunity to go out throughout the country and preach the Gospel. Out of this, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people came to Christ. What was involved in this is they got on buses, they got in cars, they went to the various areas, they walked there, and they just took the Gospel for a period of a couple of months all over the place so quickly, and they could do this because of modern aids for travel. So in the early days, they didn’t have it. They did a great job, but now we can reach more people, which means more are coming to the Lord. Then you’ve got all the other things that are part of this, and that being the spiritual side of things. And that means the confirmation by miracles and dreams. Today we have that all over the world. God is touching down and showing that He is alive. Miracles, healings, other sorts of miracles, dreams, visions, all of this is very common today. Well, it was in the early church too! And remember, Jesus did miracles, the disciples and apostles did miracles. It was a very common thing back in those days. And therefore, this is something that is confirming to people that this message is true, it’s real. So the comparison there is great, but we are having more of them today because the world is bigger. The message is all around the world. It’s not confined to one little area.

Then you’ve got saturation of the Bible. Ok, what does this mean? In the early church, all they had were basically the word of God in the synagogues, temple, everything like that, scrolls. It was read, that was it. There was no mass publication of the Word of God at all. After a while, letters were taken around from the apostles and teaching was picked up, and somebody would read a letter to a group of people, and then that would get spread around. So there wasn’t much of the Word of God. Now I’m holding in my hand in the studio here, my Bible. Well, this is one of a run of probably 200,000 that was taken off. We do it now in bulk, and we’ve got 66 books here that I am looking at right now that tell the full story. We print Bibles now at Empower at incredibly low prices around the world. For instance, a Bible is somewhere between $2 and maybe $3.25. They had nothing like this in the early church. Nothing could even come close to it. So the average person was learning as much as they could back in the old days. Now people are picking it up and reading it all the time! We’ve got New Testaments that basically we are treating like tracts now for many people, and they are taking these small books, $0.75 to maybe $1.25. We do them in huge runs, maybe 100,000 for a country or 200,000. Ethiopia right now, I don’t know how many millions have gone in there. China is the same thing. They have got 1.4 billion people. Well, they can shove in 500,000 Bibles, no problem with the numbers of people coming. The New Testaments, that is what you learn the Gospels from, the story of Jesus, the message of being born again, all of that. Then you graduate to a full Bible. So, therefore, the hunger for the Word of God and the availability of it and the cheapness of producing it and the ways that we’ve got ships going all around the world now to distribute it means that people are growing, reading, hearing God’s message, and growing deeper in the Word, becoming more mature as time goes on. That is showing up today. You’ve got people in love with the Word of God. It’s changing their lives, and we can get it to them easily.

Then you’ve got compassionate love. In the early days, as I say, they took up that offering for the people in Jerusalem, etcetera. Paul delivered it, and that was something special. We do that all the time now at Empower. What happens is there will be a disaster, a tsunami, an earthquake, or something like that in a certain area, or some people are starving because of persecution, and then you take in food or clothing to them. And how do you get it to them? You buy it locally there and give it through the national church to be distributed to the ones that need it most. We can do it instantaneously just through the transfer of money. They go out that day, buy it, and give it to the people. It’s very quick. It was hard back in the early church to move things around. Food was expensive. That was the number one item on people’s list: get food today, get food today. That is why in the Lord’s Prayer, give us today our daily bread” was the big thing!

Joy: And historically, that didn’t change until what, the Industrial Revolution? 

Ron: Exactly, and now we are really able to help people. So when they accept the Lord, we can show our love in a compassionate way, dropping it off, not pulling up to a group of people with a Christian truck dumping it out the back and then driving off. 

Joy: Quite the vision. 

You’ve got people in love with the Word of God.

Ron: You know, it’s not that. Now it’s giving it through the Church of Jesus Christ so they can give it out in love and compassion, saying, We love you, we want to help you. Here is something physical, but we also have something spiritual that we want to share with you,” and you glue the two together. Joy: That is actually so significant, what you just said. Empower gives it to the national church, and then they distribute it. A, it’s super-fast, and B, it’s super effective. Ron: And efficient. 

Joy: And efficient. Oh wait, that is Empower’s logo!

Ron: Focused, effective, efficient. There it is! But that is how we do it, and other people do it as well. Not just us, other people do it as well, but it’s not done as much as it should be, let’s put it that way. Ok, what else do we have? Organizing house churches and discipling! We’ve got this down in some areas to a finely tuned orchestral operation, whereby you’ve got the evangelist going in, then you take in the scriptures, then you open up house churches because they don’t have anything else. We can do this now en masse in these areas where God is ripping the people apart, shall we say, ripping them away from their old religions, false religions, and by the power of the Spirit, taking that apart. And then the Gospel is coming in and rebuilding. The Holy Spirit is rebuilding the people around the Gospel, around the Word of God. This is now happening all over, whereas in the early church, it was tough! So, therefore, now, what are we saying after we’ve said all this about what is going on around the world? Back it up to this: what is the difference? They did a marvelous job in the book of Acts with what they had in their situation, with the time. They were just getting going. It was a blueprint, and now that blueprint from the book of Acts, the first 5, 6, 7, 8 chapters, that blueprint has now been taken around the world. And because of our conditions now, the hunger, the things that are going wrong en masse, all these things we have talked about with the Word of God, love, speed, motorcycles, all of this, we can do a lot more and that means that a lot more people today are accepting the Lord than they did back in those days but proportionately according to the circumstances it’s very similar.

Charis: And wouldn’t you say this exponential growth is a more recent development? All of this has ramped up — the key parts, the printing press — those have developed over time, but it’s only been in the past little while that this exponential growth has really been happening.

Ron: Exactly, basically we go back to 1989 – 91, Charis, and that is when the national church really took off. And once that national church took wings and started to grow, and the Spirit of God started to pour out, everything started to go wrong in the world — Tiananmen Square, the fall of the Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall coming down. That was the first stage. Then you got into the terrorism stage, then you got into the persecution, and then you got into, and there are more stages in here, then you got into the Covid situation where so many people were dying. And then the Spirit of God just really moved in on so many countries, and the church rose up and preached the Gospel to people who were suffering, disheartened, and facing problems, and they accepted. All the great world religions are now collapsing. This started in 1989 – 91, but as you say, it’s been growing exponentially now, almost like a growth plateau, growth plateau. And it’s going up this mountain we are watching today. That is why we have a greater opportunity to win people to the Lord today than ever before in history, even in the early church! Some people might argue and say that was the epitome of good times, the early church. It was the beginning of good times. Then we went through a long period of time in the last 2000 years where there was very little going on. Nowadays, I’m looking at it as the end-time harvest. I may as well just say it. I look at this as the end-time harvest, patterned after the early church but now at a much greater level because of the situation around the world. And God has orchestrated all of this. This isn’t us, this isn’t Empower, this isn’t the Western church, this isn’t anything. This is God bringing all things together at the right time. In other words, the opportunity, the outpouring of the Spirit, the hard times, the disasters, the persecution, the diseases — all of this, as well as the mechanisms, the tools that we can pour into these areas, will really bring people into the Kingdom of God.

Joy: It’s a perfect storm, and we have all the tools to make it work.

Ron: Exactly, that is the short answer.

Joy: Alright, well you answered it well! Thank you!

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