Is This One Key Reason That Many Christians and Churches Today Are Weak?

June 24, 2013

Acts 15 and 20 record two instances of ministry in the early churches that many Christians and churches today think would not be proper for believers in most cases. In many churches, such ministry would be strongly unwelcome, and many people would not tolerate it if their pastors or other ministers would choose to minister to them in this way.

A close look at these accounts, however, suggests that such ministry would be highly profitable for all believers in every church. The following treatment of these passages examines whether the lack of such ministry is one key reason that many Christians and churches today are weak.

Acts 15

Following the Jerusalem Council, the church at Jerusalem sent Judas and Silas along with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch (Acts 15:22). They sent with these men a letter that related the Council’s determinations (Acts 15:23-29).

Arriving in Antioch, these men gathered with the congregation there and brought joy to them through the encouragement that the letter provided (Acts 15:30-31). Because Judas and Silas were also prophets, they further ministered to the brethren (Acts 15:32).

Luke specifies that these two men “exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them” (Acts 15:32). Through proclaiming a lengthy message to the congregation, these ministers encouraged and strengthened them.

In many churches today, however, long messages are not welcome. Some church leaders even assert that if you cannot say what you have to say in a fairly short amount of time (for example, some say messages should be about 30 minutes long), you are not properly ministering the Word to people.

The example of Judas and Silas in Acts 15 refutes such viewpoints and supports holding that believers today need lengthy messages to encourage and strengthen them. An account of Paul’s ministry in Acts 20 confirms this assessment about what we need as believers today.

Acts 20

In Troas, Paul and eight other men who had accompanied him (Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy, Tychichus, Trophimus, and Luke; Acts 20:4 cf. “we” in Acts 20:6) met with other believers on the first day of the week to observe the Lord’s Supper (“break bread”; Acts 20:7a). Paul began preaching to them, with the intent that he would leave the next day (Acts 20:7b).

Paul prolonged his message until midnight (Acts 20:7c). Undoubtedly, Paul, therefore, preached to them for at least more than an hour and probably for much longer than that.

A young man named Eutychus fell asleep during Paul’s lengthy message and fell out the window from the third floor (Acts 20:8-9). Although the believers thought that he had died (Acts 20:9), Paul “fell on him, and embracing him” assured them that he was still living (Acts 20:10; cf. 20:12).

Amazingly, Paul then returned back upstairs to observe the Lord’s Supper with the brethren (Acts 20:11a) and then continued to minister to them “for a long while, even till break of day” (Acts 20:11b) and then departed (Acts 20:11c).

In most churches today, if a preacher were to preach for an hour before observing the Lord’s Supper with the congregation, many people in the churches would complain about the length of the message and many likely over time would stop coming to those churches. Paul, however, did not just preach for more than an hour before observing the Lord’s Supper with them—he continued to preach to them for quite some time after eating the Lord’s Supper with them!

What’s more, the near tragic fall of a young man in the congregation who fell asleep because of the length of Paul’s initial message did not deter Paul from further ministering to the believers after the young man had fallen. In most churches today, the occurrence of something even remotely similar to what happened with Eutychus would be prime evidence that many believers would use to argue strongly that the preacher should not preach so long that young people in the church fall asleep because of the length of the message.

Christians Today Need Lengthy Messages to Encourage and Strengthen Them

The scriptural record in Acts 15 and 20 of preaching ministry in the early church shows that the apostolic company believed that Christians back then needed lengthy messages to encourage and strengthen them. Similar indications of an apostolic viewpoint that people need lengthy ministry include the following:

(1) “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation” [Acts 2:40], which shows that Peter continued preaching for a long time after preaching the message that we have recorded in Acts 2:14-39.

(2) “And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words” [Heb. 13:22], which reveals that the writer of Hebrews considered the entire book of more than 300 verses to be a brief message! What, then, must he have thought would comprise a lengthy message?

Based on this biblical data and the widespread consensus that the Church has great needs among its people today, I believe that a key reason that many Christians and churches are weak today is because they are unwilling to endure lengthy preaching of the Word. Let us allow these passages from Scripture to renew our minds so that we will eagerly embrace lengthy ministry of the Word to us from God’s appointed ministers whenever He directs them to minister in such a way to us!

Rajesh

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3 responses to Is This One Key Reason That Many Christians and Churches Today Are Weak?

  1. Satya Narimetla June 24, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Rajesh,

    Kojo had a link to this article on facebook, hence my visit and the comment.

    I read your observation with interest and I clearly see where you are coming from.

    However, there is a difference between what Judas/Silas and Paul dealt with vs what a present day’s church faces. The former set of teachers met with their respective group of people only once, if I am to go by the information the verses provide. It is easy for a teacher/preacher to give a long lecture, and easy for students to follow such lecture, if it is a sort of “one time affair”. On the contrary, it is very difficult for a teacher to prepare and present a long lecture every week, and likewise, for the students to sit through them. And then, what happens to children whose attention span is lot less?

    Just my tuppence.

    Satya

    • Hi Satya,

      Good to hear from you.

      Yes, Acts 15:32 and 20:7ff. do seem in context to speak of one-time ministry by those ministers to those churches. Being aware of that fact, I reflected that by refraining from saying in my article that every preacher should preacher long messages every time.

      I also reflected that by ending my article with a statement that people should be willing to receive such lengthy ministry whenever God might direct someone who ministers to them to do so. Also, it may be that Judas and Silas did not preach to the church at Antioch only once because 15:33 adds that they tarried there a while before being sent back.

      Different preachers have different gifts and differing congregations, so some have the ability to minister at length regularly and some less so. My pastor, for example, routinely preaches sterling lengthy messages and a vast number of people eagerly receive his ministry with great appreciation and profit.

      Concerning the children whose attention span is a lot less, different churches take differing approaches. While a speaker does have to take into consideration the characteristics of his audience, he should not cater his message solely to those who have the least capacities to receive the truth.

      If he were to do so, those with greater capacities would routinely be starved. Rather, the ones with less capacity can get what they can, and if some of the younger ones fall asleep, that’s ok.

      Neither the passages that I treated nor any other revelation in Scripture dictates how long a preacher’s message should be on every occasion. My point was to challenge their hearers to be willing to receive lengthy ministry when God providentially puts them in a position to hear such ministry.

      Thanks for the feedback.

      Rajesh