Historians say that if we do not remember the past, we are doomed to repeat it. In essence this simply suggests that if you do not know your history then you are a lost person in the journey you are in. For a while now I have been involved in researching a lot on the church and it’s practices and basically everything about it. I must say that I have encountered very interesting facts and truths that have been neglected through time and with the aid of a few key people in history.
This quest was fueled by things I found out about tithing from the bible and a little digging around for clues and leads. You might have read the article I wrote titled “Robbing God” I suggest that you read it to know where I am coming from with all this. Another very important thing I will ask every reader to do is to pray and ask God to open your eyes and your heart to show you what I am about to present to you.
Ok.. lets begin…. I dream of a church, that is as simple as One-Two-Three, yet is dynamic; an explosive thing, able to turn the world and a neighborhood upside down. The church as a supernatural invention; endowed with God’s gift of immortality; the way to disciple each other, and to transfer the life of Jesus to each other. An experience of grace and grapes, love and laughter, joy and jellybeans, forgiveness and fun, power and – yes, why not, paper. A church, which does not need much finances, rhetoric, control and manipulation, which can do without powerful and charismatic heroes, which is non-religious at heart, which can thrill people to the core, make them loose their head for joy, and simply teach us The Way to live. The church which not only has a message, but is the message; which spreads like an unstoppable virus, infects whatever it touches, and ultimately covers the Earth with the glory and knowledge of God. It’s power stems from it’s inventor, who has equipped it with the most genius spiritual genetically coded – a sort of heavenly DNA, which allows it to transfer and reproduce Kingdom values from Heaven to Earth, and transform not only water into wine, but atheists into fascinated apostles, policewomen into prophetesses, terrorists into teachers, plumbers into pastors, and dignified village elders into beaming evangelists in the process. It is like a spiritual family – organic, not organized, relational, not formal; it has a persecution-proof structure, matures under tears, multiplies under pressure, grows under the carpet, flourishes in the desert, sees in the dark, and thrives on chaos. A church that can multiply like two fish and five breads in the Hands of Jesus, were the fathers turn their hearts to the sons and the sons their hearts to the fathers, were its people are its resources, and which has only one name to brag about, the Lamb of God.
I would like to suggest to you that this is not the church that we have today. The nature of Church is not reflected in a constant series of religious meetings lead by professional clergy in holy rooms specially reserved to experience Jesus, but in the prophetic way followers of Christ live their everyday life in spiritually extended families as a vivid answer to the questions society faces, at the place where it counts most: in their homes. What am I talking about??
Few Christians would dispute that Jesus Christ, as He is presented in the New Testament, is the model for the Christian life. Jesus Christ IS the Christian life. In the same way when Christ rose from the dead and ascended, He gave birth to His church. That Church was Himself in a different form. This is the meaning of the phrase “The Body of Christ.” A unified, one entity and not all the hullabaloo of denominations and sects we have today, with everyone claiming that they are right and others are wrong… and that is not what I am trying to do here either.
Followers of Christ appreciate the stories God has given us in His word. We discover much about God, life, culture, and even ourselves by following the journey of God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments. How much do we learn from Moses and the Israelites’ pursuit of the Promised Land? Or the hard won insights of David’s rise from a lowly shepherd boy to king of Israel? Or the plight of Jesus’ disciples as they left their occupations to follow the Lord before being martyred? A whole lot… and in the same way, much can be learned from the efforts of the earliest Christians as they sought to be the genuine church that Christ Purchased with His blood.
But what do modern and postmodern Christians know about the history of the church that would help to shape present-day attempts at honoring God and being the Church? Very little. And this is where the problem lies – hence the saying by Historians if we do not remember the past, we are doomed to repeat it. There is ample evidence to support this warning, yet we persist in well-intentioned but ignorant efforts to refine life. How you may ask?
There have been major changes in the Church all over the world over the past maybe half century have been largely window dressings. Pick a trend – mega-Churches, seeker churches, satellite campuses, vacation bible school, children’s church, affinity group ministries (e.g ministries for singles, women, men, young marrieds, young adults), contemporary worship music, big screen projection systems, EFT giving, cell groups downloadable sermons, sermon outlines in bulletins. All of these have been attempts to rely on marketing strategies to perform the same activities in different ways or places, or with particular segments of the aggregate population.
Some of you now are screaming “heretic” in your minds or even words that are similar in meaning to that, which is expected, which comes from little knowledge in the foundations of your faith. If you spend time searching God’s word for most of the common practices in conventional churches, you will rarely find them. If you go even further tracing history of those practices, you will discover that most of our religious habits are man-made choices. I even suggest that the pattern by which we “do church” these days, if you do it, it’s probably not in the bible as one of the practices in the early church.
Most of what we do in religious circles has no precedent in scripture. This includes of the many activities within church services, the education and ordination of clergy, the routines commonly used in youth ministries, the methods of raising funds for ministry, the ways in which music is used in churches, even the presence and the nature of church buildings.
There were three historical periods that a collection of changes were made in common Christian practices….
- The era of Constantine
- The protestant reformation
- The revivalist period.
These changes however were as a result of passionate, though ill informed, followers of Christ. The believers during those periods during those times simply went along for the ride, which resulted in new perspectives and practices that churches have held on to for many years, so many years in fact, that you probably think of those routines as biblical in origin.
Not surprisingly, having changed the biblical model of the church, we have become adept at building support for our approaches through proof-texting, which is the practice of taking distinct, unrelated verses from scripture, often out of context, to “prove” that our position squares with the bible.
Does it really matter how we practice our faith, as long as the activities enable people to love and obey Him? Yes it does because from what I have found out, these perspectives, rules, traditions, expectations, assumptions, and practices often hinder the development of our faith. In other instances, they serve as barriers that keep us from encountering the living God. The way in which we practice our faith can, indeed, affect the faith itself.
It’s in my best interest and goal to search and scrub the word of God to determine the core principles and values of the early church and to restore those elements in my lives and the lives of those around me, so as to be true to His plan and that we may become the people He desires us to be and that the church may be all that she is desired to be. God has granted us a lot of freedom in the methods we can use to honor and connect with Him, but this does not mean we have free reign. A word of caution here: We need to strive to be humble and obedient people who seek His central will.
I know this is a lot to take in, but I ask that you take some time and research for yourself and find out whether this is true or false. Ask God to lead you and show you the truth about what church really is because I believe that your life, my life, everyone’s lives are a gift from God and is to be lived for God. Furthermore the church is one of God’s deepest passions. God cares for her well-being, as well as how she expresses herself on earth. So understanding how we got from the early church to the contemporary church, and figuring out what you will do about it, is very important.
What will you do about it?