Go Back and Be Like the Early Church?

  These are great words from a commentary-like book Eugene Peterson wrote on Ephesians, Practice Resurrection.

“In Thessalonica, some members of the church were so sure that the Lord was returning any day that they quit working.  They sat around speculating what kind of cloud would provide the chariot for Jesus’ arrival and letting their less spiritual brothers and sisters provide them with meals.  The Corinthians were a fractious crew, arguing and squabbling over various items of behavior having to do with diet and sex and worship.  The Christians in Colossae were muddled in their esoteric thinking about Christ and needed straightening out.  The Galatian Christians were regressing into some tired old legalisms and needed a thorough shaking up.  The Romans, a mixed congregation of Jews and Gentiles, were having a hard time finding a common base in Christ.  Philemon, one of the leaders in the Colossian church, had a runaway slave returned to him and required some firm counsel from Paul in how to treat him.  Timothy and Titus were responsible for leading less than ideal churches and needed Paul’s specific instruction and encouragement.”

“Sometimes we hear our friends talk in moony, romantic terms of the early church.  ‘We need to get back to being just like the early church.’  Heaven help us.  These churches were a mess, and Paul wrote his letters to them to try to clean up the mess.”

Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection (p. 16).

rev shane lems

6 thoughts on “Go Back and Be Like the Early Church?”

  1. Right on. Put another way, we can say that our churches today are too much like the early church already.


  2. The church in every age has been a mixture of good and bad. But what I am finding of increasing concern is that so many Christians who hold some of the “church fathers” and councils in high esteem (e.g., Athanasius, Nicea, Chalcedon) denounce their worship practices (e.g., kissing the bishop’s hand, making the Sign of the Cross, venerating what they believed to be the actual cross on which Jesus had been crucified, seeking the prayers of the faithful departed [whom they believed to be even more alive than they, the living, were]) as little removed from paganism. It wasn’t a case of “the good guys” coming up with these wonderful statements of the Christian faith and “the bad guys” engaging in those pagan practices: they were the same people.


    1. “seeking the prayers of the faithful departed [whom they believed to be even more alive than they, the living, were]) as little removed from paganism.”

      This was either superstition or necromancy that none of the early apostles nor any saint in the bible practices. Presupposing the attribute of omniscience on the part of the saints which belongs only to god.


  3. I think that we miss the point of the comments. Yes, the early church was flawed, I don’t disagree. However, we’ve exchanged one flaw for another– we have a church that’s overly fixated on the pastor and the lay people are not engaged. We have that form of godliness without the power and many today wouldn’t think of facing a martyr’s death.

    The early church knew that they would be isolated and persecuted if they followed Christ, as so they passionately followed the best they could. This current church is much more like Laodecia in that it doesn’t know what it is supposed to be or do, and therefore it has the tendency to wither an die.

    So, while I understand the point being made here, I believe we’d be better off in the hot and cold than the lukewarm.


    1. MinTheGap – thanks for the comments, and thanks for a kind tone. Remember too, that Laodecia was part of the early church. I suppose the church throughout history has had its bright spots and its not-so-bright spots. There is no golden church age!



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