It was the Jewish feast of Pentecost. The closest followers of Jesus were all gathered together, waiting as he told them to do so. They were waiting for the gift of the Spirit.
Suddenly, the Holy Spirit came upon them, sounding like a fierce wind, looking like fiery tongues. They were enabled to speak in other languages declaring the amazing things God had done. People who spoke other languages from different parts of the world were there and asked what it all meant.
Peter stood up and told them about how the Spirit had come to them, as foretold in the Bible, and how all this was in light of the coming and dying of Jesus. He explained that they needed to turn from their sins, turn to Jesus for forgiveness, and demonstrate this by being baptised. That day around 3,000 believers were added to that small group of followers.
They were not saved and left on their own as individuals, but instead they became an ecclesia – a community of believers that gathered together – church! And they immediately set themselves to do the things they were supposed to do as a church.
This new community needed to grow which it did by feeding on the teaching of its leaders, the Apostles. This teaching is evident in the letters of the Bible, as the Apostles wrote to other churches and taught them all that they needed to know to live and grow as Christians.
A sense of mutual care quickly developed within that community. Sometimes financial needs were met by richer members selling possessions and land to give money to those who were poorer. Widows were cared for through the distribution of daily food. Administrators were appointed to make sure no-one was overlooked. Even the sick were being healed as a demonstration that Jesus’ work was carrying on through the Apostles.
The care was much deeper than merely money, food and health. As they grew in maturity, so they cared for each other in spiritual matters. The letters show how these Christians helped each other to see their sins and to turn from them. They encouraged each other to grow in godly character and gifts. There was genuine concern for each other on every level: physical, material and spiritual.
This was not an exclusive group but an expanding and multiplying group. The 3,000 soon became 5,000 as one crippled man was healed and the good news of Jesus explained. Following a time of persecution, this one community scattered across the world and local gatherings began in those new places to share Jesus in those parts.
What’s more, churches began to commission their members to go out to different parts of the world where they hadn’t heard about Jesus. Paul had previously been killing Christians, but having met Jesus himself, he becomes one of his followers. Paul and another man, Barnabas, were sent from the church in Antioch to go across the known world to new places and spread the news about Jesus – how he died and rose again to bring forgiveness and a new life with God.
Towards the end of the New Testament time, Paul was under house arrest in Rome, locked up for sharing Jesus. Yet he still declared the good news as he was chained up. He had been given the opportunity to share this message of hope with regional rulers as well as ordinary people. He had seen many churches formed in all kinds of places, now growing, caring for each other and taking the good news outwards.
And so the movement carried on across the world, as it still does today. Churches form from village to village and city to city. People turn to follow Jesus, form these communities, grow as Christians, care for each other, and take the message to others.
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