A while back, I read a blog that said, “We need to get back to the ways of the First Century Church. The modern Church needs to be more like the Church that we see in the Book of Acts.” Based on the conext, I think that what the writer was saying was that the early church was working harder, accomplishing more, and more Spirit-filled than the modern church. The blogger also mentioned the unity of the First Century Church and made it sound like early Christianity was without challenges.
I always cringe when I read or hear statements like these. First of all, it tells me that the writer really has not studied Church History. Yes, there were amazing miracles and spectacular displays of God’s power. There is no indication, however, that they experienced any more miracles than we do.
If we read the Apostle Paul’s letters carefully, we see that some churches in the first century seemed to have more of the miraculous and gifts of the Holy Spirit than others. There were also other significant differences, even in the churches that Paul planted. Paul expected his churches to be on the same page doctrinally, but he did not try and force them all into the same mold.
The Book of Acts also demonstrates that all churches were not the same. This is not a bad thing. God seems to delight in diversity. A survey of The New Testament and the writings of the Church Fathers shows that most of the early church was united in their basic doctrinal beliefs but had different ideas on organization and practice.
There will always be the temptation to go backwards to where God was. I love history. I have read and studied various eras of history for most of my life. I believe that we can learn much from the early Church. But, I do not believe that the past is where we are meant to live.
God and His plans are always moving forward. Things have changed a lot over the two thousand years of Church History. The early Church did not get everything right. In fact, they really had some major issues that they had to sort through. The modern Church does not get everything right, either. We have our own sets of issues that we are sorting through.
Every generation of Christians is building on the foundation of those who went before them. As we are building, however, we come to see that the blueprints have some gaps in them. The New Testament leaves us with many unanswered questions about the Church, its organization, and how we can most effectively reach the world that we live in. It seems that God lets each generation of Christians and Church Leaders wrestle with the challenges that are particular to their generation and design a blueprint to overcome those challenges.
I am incredibly excited about the present and the future for the Church. My church, The C3 Church, is part of a Church planting movement of over 600 churches. We do not have all the answers but we know that those answers will be found as we trust God and keep moving forward!
What do you think? Should we try and emulate the early Church?
What do you think the Church will look like in ten years? Twenty years? What are some of the challenges that the Church faces today?
Annie and I are serving the Lord in the US, South America, Africa, and India. We are training leaders and helping build great local churches. Would you consider joining our team? Together, we can have such an impact! Just click here to get involved. Thanks so much!