In the first few hundred years of the church’s existence it grew leaps and bounds. It took off like wildfire fulfilling what Jesus told his disciples in Acts 1:8, that the gospel was to go to the ends of the earth.
Why do we not get more information and instruction on evangelism and discipleship in the New Testament letters? You would think this would be such basic teaching that the instructions would be everywhere. But they aren’t.
Here is why. Each letter in the New Testament was written to particular people in a particular time. All the letters have an occasion, something that the writer is addressing. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to address division in the Corinthian congregations over spiritual gifts and to correct their view on the resurrection. Some believed their spiritual gift was more important than someone else’s and they were dividing over it. They were also dividing over socio-economic issues during the Lord’s Supper meal. Romans was written to a church that was struggling with Jew-Gentile Christian unity and division. Colossians was written to address a false teaching or heresy that they were struggling with.
If something wasn’t an issue it never came up in these letters. It never came up because it was going well. It seems the idea of making disciples was never contentious. They were quite successful at it so it never got brought up as a matter of correction or instruction.
What we do have is Jesus giving the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20. Then we see not just the apostles but “everyday” Christians making disciples in Acts in multiple locations but outside that we don’t have much because it was going well, not because it wasn’t important or happening.
If we want to be like the first century church we would be discipling people. We would be proclaiming the good news. And we would be growing.
The greatest incident of discipleship was in Acts 2, not in the conversion, but in what happened after the conversion…people being with and sharing with each other and supporting each other. The people were reflecting something that was evident about who they followed the apostles and Jesus.