And Their Numbers Grew – Naomi Craig and Donna E Lane

This is a series of four intertwined short novels about the early Church, creating an effective way to build a deeper understanding of what happened after the Holy Spirit was released in power over the believers.

Based on the last few chapters of the Gospels and the book of Acts, this book follows a number of key followers of Jesus, their involvement in the birthing and growing of the early Church. The struggles, challenges, dilemmas and rewards of this foundational era.

The stories each vividly bring alive the events at the very birth of the church, the excitement, confusion, bewilderment and sheer joy of realising that Jesus had beaten death. The blessing and empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the inevitable results of a rapidly growing church. As the momentum began to build it was unstoppable.

First is the story of Stephen as he becomes increasingly entranced by the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. If you know the story of Stephen you will know how it ends, and the second story picks up from the moment of his death from the point of view of Ananias. He is full of self-doubt, and uncertain faith, much like many of us at different times of our life. But he grows in confidence and certainty.

His story hands on to Barnabas, a reluctant pioneer, who has long been one of my favourites. Known as the ‘encourager’, he was full of compassion and generosity which helped to form the doctrine that the gospel was for everyone.

The final story of Tabitha takes a female viewpoint, one that was challenged to the cultural core by becoming a follower of Jesus. It covers issues of deep forgiveness and the revelation that following Christ was for a much wider audience than just the Jewish men. With a lovely description of the events surrounding her being raised from dead, she is transformed by the love of Jesus.

The format works so well. Written in the first person, this is a really interesting writing technique as Donna writes the first story then hands the baton to Naomi, seamlessly transitioning between characters, maintaining style and continuity. Naomi writes stories two and three, with Donna taking on the fourth one. All the writing closely follows Biblical accounts, doing what good Biblical fiction genre should be doing, that is helping to explain biblical truths clearly and creatively.

Through reading the stories I was reminded that many people throughout Church history have paid the ultimate price for their faith. Many have been martyrs, a concept that is quite difficult for some of us to fully understand. We are safe and protected in holding our beliefs, thanks to the sacrifice made by many who went before us.

These men and women of the early Church were very much pioneers of faith, to be admired and remembered.

And Their Numbers Grew, by Naomi Craig and Donna E Lane, is available here.

I received a complimentary advance copy of this book from the authors, but was under no pressure to provide a favourable review.