Do you ever wonder how our modern churches compare to the early church?
Do you ever wonder how our modern churches compare to the early church that began after the resurrection of Jesus?
I am afraid that the early Christians would not know what they see. It is the same reaction that you notice when you show the Chinese brothers our houses of worship. They meet in simple rooms to hold their church services and I think that is what I envision for many years to have been the case in the early Christian Church. As congregations grew, it became necessary to make bigger houses of worship. Not long after that the buildings became more ornate. Probably not a positive development.
The early Christians church services would probably also look different than what ours look like. The essentials of the worship (preaching, singing, praying, offerings) were all there but probably with more involvement of the believers that we generally have today.
I don't know whether that is positive or negative; just different as the organization was less formal. I notice that again as I participate in the services in China. They have all the above elements but organize it far more member involved.
From the readings on the early Churches, it appears also that they were far more socially oriented than we are. The churches were making an impact upon their cultural environments through charity and also by being to 'other-worldly.' They shared their resources of love, time, service, sharing and caring to the needy in their world. In our days we channel this more through organizations, mission boards, disaster committees and home mission work. Again, there is an advantage in bundling the gifts but the danger is that we just 'give money' rather than extend ourselves on a personal level within the community that we can reach. It will need to be remembered that the early church lived a pre-Christian society. The social services that we even today enjoy were not available in those days. In other words, there was a massive field of needs into which the early Christians poured their loving ministry. The lesson for us is that we must not forget that the needs in our days are also increasing. Perhaps not as much materially but emotionally, socially and above spiritually.
We would all profit from more study of the books of Acts and labour in prayer for the Spirit's moving us as He moved the living Church in those days.
But I am sure the early Christians will also be amazed to see the great heritage of Christian teaching that we have received through the centuries. They were mostly living on the 'spoken word' as the completion of the New Testament still took decades and the combining of the books into what we know today as the NT still took longer. Besides, these books weren't owned by everyone. Add to this the wonderful confessions of faith, catechisms and the vast resource of sound Christian books we enjoy today. Perhaps they wouldn't be only surprised with the great advantages we enjoy in that regard but also with the even greater contempt of all those gifts seen in general within the Christian world.
So much for a few of my 'off-the-cuff' comments on my thoughts on this question.
All the best,