|Depiction of early church painted on a church in Romania|
I recently had the fortune to read Frank Viola's book, The Untold Story of the New Testament Church: An extraordinary Guide to Understanding the New Testament. Wow! This book has really helped me understand the bigger picture of just what it took for this new faith to grow and how it all fit together.
In The Untold Story of the New Testament Church, Frank Viola takes all the New Testament books and puts them in their proper chronological order, detailing the missionary journeys of Paul and how the early churches began. We get a first-hand "you are there" narrative, traveling with Paul on his journeys and feeling Paul's disappointments and his victories.
Here are some of my takeaways from the book, other than the big picture:
- At one point I had to put the book down and just contemplate the complexities and dysfunction of the early churches. You think you have problems in your church! So many churches struggled with false doctrine and battles over control. That's what Paul's letters were all about, but reading this book helped me see just how important Paul and Peter were to keeping the church from totally self-destructing.
- Paul's commitment, determination and laser focus to do what God called him to do is incredible! In spite of beatings, stoning, imprisonment and threat of death in almost every city and town he visited, in spite of reports of deep rooted problems and conflict in churches he had started, he kept going and kept leaving a group of believers behind in each local who would become the church.
- The end of the book describes how each of the disciples was martyred for their faith. I was numb after reading because I had gotten to know them better. It was as if you are watching the closing credits of a movie about individuals and you see how each turned out, the rest of the story. Well the rest of the story of the disciples is not pretty. They died horrendous deaths for their faith.