Some friends and I have been discussing a blog post of John Piper's entitled Don’t Equate Historically Early with Theologically Accurate
I am neither endorsing or not endorsing (what's the opposite of endorsing? rejecting? disapproving? anyway...) John Piper or what he has to say in his blog post. But it got me thinking:
Do today's Christians idealize the early church?
I just began reading the book of Acts again (prior to that, I read all the gospels), so this question really hit home for me.
I think many Christians do try to "reclaim" the early church by trying to create a church service or environment that looks like what they perceive the early church to have looked like. So they meet in homes, sometimes without a formal leader, focus on the book of Acts and the epistles, abandon a lot of the structure and programs that have come to mean "church" today. I'll be upfront and say I am not at all "anti-house church". Not at all. I am aware of some of the dangers (many do not have strong oversight and accountability, for one) as well as the benefits (many don't have a set leader, so all input is valued, family worship is encouraged, to name a few).
But I think trying to recreate the early church environment is missing the point.
I have been reading about Amy Carmichael, and something she said really struck me (if you follow me on Twitter, I quoted this a few weeks ago):
I don't wonder apostolic miracles have died. Apostolic living certainly has.
Those who idealize the early church seem to want to live church as the early church had church, but they don't want to live lives as the early church lived their lives. I don't mean we have to live on a commune, having no possessions of our own and striving to figure out what it means to have "everything in common". But we often are not willing to live our lives generously, sacrificially, reaching out to others often with the truth of the Gospel.
That is what identified the early church - not what their meetings looked like, but what their lives looked like. Read the book of Acts to get a full picture of what the early church looked like, as well as the epistles, to get an accurate idea of the challenges they faced.
May we commit to living lives that glorify God and put Him in the center, sacrificially, generously, devoting ourselves to the Word, to fellowship, to prayer and breaking bread, caring for each other and bearing each others' burdens, as our early church fathers did.