White Unto Harvest

The Establishment of the Church at Ephesus


The church at Ephesus receives ample attention in the scriptures. Besides having two epistles written to it (Ephesians; Rev. 2:1-7), the space of two chapters of the book of Acts is given to describing events involved in its establishment and early growth, along with Paul's parting words to its elders (Acts 18:19-19:41; 20:17-38). Ephesus was an important center for spreading the Gospel to regions round about it (Acts 19:10). Also, brethren there worked hard in the service of God during a large part of its history (Rev. 2:2-3). In many ways the church there stands as a worthy example for churches today.

What a boon it would be for the cause of our Lord if such churches were established in various parts of the world today! In light of this, let us study some things involved in the planting of the church at Ephesus.

  1. The Gospel was preached in Ephesus. (Acts 19:10;20:27; Eph. 1:13). Before a New Testament church can be established in any place workers must be found who will preach the Gospel. Preaching on felt needs, psychology and the like may make people feel good, but churches like Ephesus will not result from such messages. Likewise, men who are not learned enough in the doctrine of Christ to know that they cannot fellowship erring brethren, such as those coming from institutional churches, in the mission field, are not going to plant sound churches. In short, it is not enough that a prospective worker simply have missionary zeal; he needs to be able to preach the pure Gospel and stand for it in the face of contrary winds of doctrine.

     

  2. Gospel preachers abode in Ephesus a long time (Acts 18:24-28; 20:31; 1 Tim. 1:3). While some may note exceptions, generally a solid work will not result from a "flash in pan" effort. Ephesus was blessed with the combined presence of different preachers over a long period of time. Though spiritual gifts were present in that day, Paul, Timothy, Apollos, and Aquilla all spent time working there. Time has forcefully shown in our day that 3-6 week preaching trips to places where no church exists will not result in a well-grounded work, if any. Some may be baptized as a result of such efforts but spiritual and numerical growth will be minimal without a longer presence of teachers. Paul stayed in Ephesus 2 years and later bade Timothy to "abide still at Ephesus" (Acts 19:10; 1 Tim. 1:3). In light of these facts, arrangements must be made on the part of a preacher or a number of preachers to provide the steady hand needed to both continue reaching the lost in a given place and causing Christians there to grow.

     

  3. Attention was given to both evangelism and edification (Acts 19:10; 1 Tim. 2-6). In like manner, those involved in mission work must give attention to these things today. Evangelism always brings its own challenges, for example, finding contacts. (Following Paul through Acts we are impressed at his ability to go where he could find people to teach [Acts 13:14; 16:13; 17:17]). Further, one must be ready to deal with logistics like producing literature, advertising lectures or services, etc. We cannot forget or neglect the second part of our point here, the edification of converts. Attrition experienced in a number of places where a good number have been baptized shows us new Christians must be grounded in the faith. Challenges exist with regard to building new converts up in the faith, such as organizing services, personal studies, producing class literature, etc. Real determination on the part of the preacher is necessary if he is to accomplish these things. The concern Paul's words show him to have had for the future of the church in Ephesus must not be lost on us today (Acts 20:28-30). If one intends for his work in a given place to abide and prosper, consideration will have to be given to both evangelism and edification.

Conclusion

A church like Ephesus is not likely to come into existence by chance. Rather, planning, sacrifice, and persistence are needed, and that on the part of men who are themselves grounded in the faith and have a love for the souls of others. Missionary zeal is to be commended. However, it can be emphasized to the point where it overshadows such necessary attributes as we have discussed herein. Let us channel our zeal to the end that we may be what we need to be and do what we need to do to establish churches that will stand the tests of time.


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For comments to the author, or to contribute news, reports, and information regarding preaching efforts in foreign lands, please contact Steve at styvas@mindspring.com

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