Imagine your garage is suddenly turned into a time machine. All you have to do is enter a special code, and instead of seeing your door open to 2015, you find yourself in a young church in the New Testament era just planted by one of the Apostles or their immediate followers. What do you think you might find and how would that compare to what we see and experience in churches today?
Of course, many things would be very different. First century churches did not have their own buildings but usually met in homes (Acts 20:7-8, Romans 16:5, I Corinthians 16:9, Colossians 4:15, and Philemon 2). The language and clothing would be different, really different. You would see no sound systems, lighting or projection. In fact, the service would not resemble a typical western church service at all.
Yet, if you regularly attend a healthy church, you would hopefully find much in common with the church in the first century. You would hear the good of news of Jesus Christ, crucified for our sins, yet raised victoriously to life and offering salvation to all who believe in him. You would witness the work of the Holy Spirit. You would sense authentic Christian love. You would find Christians praying for one another with sincere faith in a God who hears and answers. You would see spiritual leaders earnestly seeking God’s wisdom as they tried to meet the needs of their congregation while reaching those in need of Christ in their community. Ultimately, you would see lives dramatically changed through the Spirit by the power of God and the message of Christ as people grew together into the image of the One who called them.
However, you would also find a church in constant persecution, a church that often had to meet in underground passageways that also doubled as burial grounds. Worshippers present may have loved ones in prison or already executed for their faith. The Greco-Roman World did not like the idea of an exclusivist religion that claimed to be the one way to the One True God. The culture of that day did not like being told its licentious lifestyles was not permissible. Yet, many from that world were irresistibly drawn to authentic Christian love and the undeniable power of Christ’s message and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Today’s Western World looks very different from the First Century Roman World in many of its external features, especially transportation, communication, media, and technology. Yet, as our secular culture’s worldview is constantly shifting in perspectives and values, we cannot fully anticipate what things will be like in the future.
It is in the light of this changing culture that we need to retain the elements that characterize healthy churches if Christianity is to retain its mission into the future. However, how those key elements get expressed must change if we are to reach the next generation. We see a dramatic change from the description of the church in Acts 4-6 in the years immediately after the Resurrection to the churches described in I Timothy, Titus, and I Peter a few years later. The early church adapted its methods and models to a changing world, but it did not change the heart of the message or what it meant to be a Christian.
Southeastern University strives to equip pastors, missionaries, and other ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, while also providing a biblical and theological foundation for all SEU students. We believe the Bible is God’s Word to our, and every, generation. We believe in the active, supernatural working of the Holy Spirit. We believe the message of the Gospel needs to be communicated in the language of people around the world until all hear the good news. We are committed to seeing the world changed. “The Church” section of our blog is dedicated to writing about new and needed ways to be the church while retaining the heart the early Church. Our goal in launching this blog is to take the conversation of what we are learning and teaching into this ever changing world to encourage your spiritual development and help equip you as you carry out your part of Christ’s mission. It is our prayer you will regularly join us and be a part of this conversation.