[This is a repost by Jason Whitehurst here: http://jasonwhitehurst.org/2013/11/12/early-church-compassionate-community/%5D
The early church got it right.
Sociologists marvel at how a despised movement that started in a corner of Palestine, could become the dominant faith of the mighty Roman Empire.
The Apology of Tertullian in 197 AD sums it up. The most amazing pagan observation of the early church was, “See how they love one another.”
The early church did not set out to build great buildings or “mega-churches”. They just set out to do what Jesus taught them to do.
They kept things simple. They did four main things, according to Acts 2:42-47.
1. They taught what Jesus taught.
2. They fellowshipped.
3. They ate.
4. They prayed.
Through these four things, they were led to sell what they had and give to each other as each one had a need.
They gained favor with the people in an urban part of the Roman Empire, known as being a harsh and brutal society.
Through this love they had for another based on the command that Jesus gave them, they lived together in community, gained favor with people, and the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved.
To those who were homeless and impoverished, the early church offered food and shelter.
To the widows and orphans, the early church offered a family.
To the outcasts of society, they offered a place of acceptance.
To those who were sick, the early Christians offered nursing and medical services.
Through their radical acts of love and kindness, the early church gained a foothold in a brutal and barbaric culture.
Rodney Stark, a modern sociologist who wrote “The Rise of Christianity”, said about the early church,
“For what they brought was not simply an urban movement, but a new culture capable of making life in Greco-Roman cities more tolerable.”
They did not just start a movement, which they did do, but more than that they changed the culture.
Justin Martyr wrote that it was the consistency of their lives that caused non-Christians, to become Christians.
Over the course of history, once Christianity moved from being a movement to the dominant faith of the Roman Empire, it began to become a “baptized-form” of Judaism.
Buildings started being built. Rules and regulations started being added. Structure was put into place.
None of these things in and of themselves are bad. But these things began to change what had given Christianity a foothold and traction in society.
Fast-forward 2,000 years and look at the churches in our culture today. They do not enjoy the same leverage and favor that the early church did.
Which begs the question, where did the church go wrong?
At what point did the church move from being a compassionate community to becoming what it is today?
The church has lost it’s voice. The church has lost it’s authority in society.
The church, at some point, took for granted the God-given favor it enjoyed with culture and society.
The church for a long time was able to speak from a place of majority and authority.
Today, the church has lost the majority and cannot speak from a position of authority.
The early church got it right.