Some of the things Gene learned as an evangelist were (in Gene’s words): “That all Sunday morning church services were boring, regardless of the denomination.” That there seemed no relationship between our modern church practices when compared with what took place in the first century. “Further, no one seemed to have any interest in knowing the Lord better. This last part troubled me. Would I level off at so shallow a place in my Christian walk?
“Every message I heard preached, and every “new” idea to which I was exposed, was nothing but retreads of things of the past. There was nothing new out there.”
(Gene once remarked that after the age twenty-three he never heard a message or heard of a new idea in organized Christianity but what he had already heard, or read of.)
In 1962, at age twenty-nine, desperate to know the Lord better, and desperate to find a first-century expression of the church, Gene cancelled all his conferences. He then took the next year off.
During that year, sitting at his desk at 1620 S. Snead Street in Tyler, Texas, he wrote out the entire first-century story. He left out nothing, not a single person’s name, or place or event. He used every book that he could find in print – in English – that would have any bearing on first-century history. Out of all this, Gene wove together what turned out to be the first complete story of the first Christian century. Everyday there was a growing consciousness that there was no similarity between the first-century church and modern-day Christianity.
The impact of that simple fact was to change his life forever.