Years ago, back in the late ’90s, or early 2000, my family was struggling to find a ‘church home’. We visited a new ‘church’ weekly, the amount of research and prayer involved was exhausting. One day, I’m in the bathroom (as a mommy of three little ones, that location was the only place I had privacy LOL!) and I’m crying and praying. I was calling out to God, asking the Lord “WHY can we not find a church home?” I felt like a failure, like maybe we were not doing something right. Anyway, God spoke. When I say that, I truly mean it, He might as well of been right there in the room with me. In an audible voice, He said: “What makes you think you are not exactly where I want you to be”. I did not understand at that moment, but I had peace. A few months later, we joined in with a ‘home church’ group. We would travel to different homes, meet up with fellow believers, learn Scripture and Worship. It was the most wonderful time of growth!! I miss those days, but I know deep inside that they will return for me… maybe not ‘exactly’ like we had, but, He has a plan! 😀
Read the below over at The Road and felt led to share it!
The Early Christians Were Intensely Christ-Centered
by Ray Spellbrink
The early Christians were intensely Christ-centered. Jesus Christ was their pulse beat. He was their life, their breath, and their central point of reference. He was the object of their worship, the subject of their songs, and the content of their discussion and vocabulary. The New Testament church made the Lord Jesus Christ central and supreme in all things.
The New Testament church had no fixed order of worship. The early Christians gathered in open-participatory meetings where all believers shared their experience of Christ, exercised their gifts, and sought to edify one another. No one was a spectator. All were given the privilege and the responsibility to participate.
The purpose of these church meetings was twofold. It was for the mutual edification of the body. It was also to make visible the Lord Jesus Christ through the every-member functioning of His body. The early church meetings were not religious “services.” They were informal gatherings that were permeated with an atmosphere of freedom, spontaneity, and joy. The meetings belonged to Jesus Christ and to the church [Ed: the people]; they did not serve as a platform for any particular ministry or gifted person.
The New Testament church lived as a face-to-face community. While the early Christians gathered for corporate worship and mutual edification, the church did not exist to merely meet once or twice a week. The New Testament believers lived a shared life. They cared for one another outside of scheduled meetings. They were, in the very real sense of the word, family.
Christianity was the first and only religion the world has ever known that was void of ritual, clergy, and sacred buildings. For the first 300 years of the church’s existence, Christians gathered in homes.
On special occasions, Christian workers would sometimes make use of larger facilities (like Solomon’s Porch [John 10:23, Acts 3:11] and the Hall of Tyrannus [Acts 19:9]). But they had no concept of a sacred edifice nor of spending large amounts of money on buildings. Nor would they ever call a building a “church” or the “house of God”.
The only sacred building the early Christians knew was the one not made with human hands.
The New Testament church did not have a clergy. The Catholic priest and the Protestant pastor were completely unknown. The church had traveling apostolic workers who planted and nurtured churches. But these workers were not viewed as being part of a special clergy caste. They were part of the body of Christ, and they served the churches (not the other way around). Every Christian possessed different gifts and different functions, but only Jesus Christ had the exclusive right to exercise authority over His people. No man had that right. Eldering and shepherding were just two of those gifts.
Elders and shepherds were ordinary Christians with certain gifts. They were not special offices. And they did not monopolize the ministry of the church meetings.
They were simply seasoned Christians who naturally cared for the members of the church during times of crisis and provided oversight for the whole assembly.
Decision making in the New Testament church fell upon the shoulders of the whole assembly. Traveling church planters would sometimes give input and direction. But ultimately, the whole church made local decisions under the lordship of Jesus Christ. It was the church’s responsibility to find the Lord’s mind together and act accordingly.
The New Testament church was organic, not organizational. It was not welded together by putting people into office, creating programs, constructing rituals, and developing a top-down hierarchy or chain-of-command structure. The church was a living, breathing organism. It was born, it would grow, and it naturally produced all of what was in its DNA. That would include all the gifts, ministries and functions of the body of Christ. In the eyes of God, the church is a beautiful woman. The bride of Christ. She was a colony from heaven, not a man-made organization from earth.
Tithing was not a practice of the New Testament church. The early Christians used their funds to support the poor among them, as well as the poor in the world. They also supported traveling itinerant church planters so that the gospel could be spread and churches could be raised up in other lands. They gave according to their ability, not out of guilt, duty or compulsion. Pastor/clergy salaries were unheard of.
Every Christian in the church was a priest, a minister, and a functioning member of the body.
Baptism was the outward expression of Christian conversion. When the early Christians led people to the Lord, they immediately baptized them in water as to testimony to their new position. The Lord’s Supper was an ongoing expression whereby the early Christians reaffirmed their faith in Jesus Christ and their oneness with His body.
The Supper was a full meal which the church enjoyed together in the spirit and atmosphere of joy and celebration. It was the fellowship of the body of Christ, not a token ritual or a religious rite. And it was never officiated by a clergy or a special priesthood.
The early Christians did not build Bible schools or seminaries to train young workers. Christian workers were educated and trained by older workers in the context of church life. They learned “on the job”. Jesus provided the initial model for this “on-the-job” training when he mentored the Twelve. Paul duplicated it when he trained young Gentile workers in Ephesus.
The early Christians did not divide themselves into various denominations. they understood their oneness in Christ and expressed it visibly in every city. To their minds, there was only one church per city (even though it may have met in many different homes throughout the locale). If you were a Christian in the first century, you belonged to that one church. The unity of the Spirit was well guarded. Denominating themselves (“I am of Paul”, “I am of Peter”, “I am of Appolos”) was regarded as sectarian and divisive (See 1 Corinthians 1:12)”
I do believe these are some of the aspects of God’s vision for His church. Remember, the goal in our lives and in our church should be the absolute centrality of Jesus Christ. Nothing less will suffice.
We need more revolutionaries today who will stand against the religious system of our day. I encourage you to catch the vision God has for His church! The freedom His plan and will brings is beyond words! Let’s “buck the system” and seek a complete upheaval of those church practices that are so engrained in our churches today that are contrary to biblical principles. Let’s build on the right foundation – Jesus Christ. Anything less results in defect.
Let’s return to Bible basics and New Testament Christianity where Jesus is Lord!
BE A REVOLUTIONARY!
Until next time, enjoy the journey!