The following is an excerpt from the Preface of a book written in 1919. What is amazing about this little book is that the man who wrote it was apparently very much a part of the institutional church of his day. Yet, he took an honest look at the early church and wrote about it more as a journalist than a theologian…enjoy!
“Sometimes we are apt to apply a modern and narrowed meaning to the broad human expressions which we find in the New Testament. A bishop was not a peer of the realm or prelate, as we put it in England, but an overseer or shepherd, who, as every man ought, looked after the interests of others, rather than his own. When Paul went about “confirming” the Churches, he strengthened them, as we all may do, with helpful words. It was service, rather than ceremony.”
“And, finally, we must get out of our minds the idea that a church in those days consisted of bricks and mortar. What the apostles meant by a church was not an edifice, with a pulpit and chancel and reredos, but a congregation or society of men and women; built together like living stones; and they were quite content to meet in some upper room, or ‘a place,’ or a private dwelling like that of Mary, mother of John Mark, where a housemaid called Rhoda acted as doorkeeper. It was not until all these early Christians, and indeed, their children after them, had been long dead, that money began to be spent on architecture. The worldwide mission was inaugurated with an open-air meeting at some street-corner in Jerusalem. Paul preached wherever he could get a hearing – in synagogues, by the riverside at Philippi, on the hill of the pagan god Mars at Athens, on the steps of the citadel in Jerusalem, in Herod’s palace, in Herod’s palace, and in a hired house under the shadow of Caesar’s throne, where he was – as he puts it – an ambassador in bonds. The energy that we devote to mortgages, debts, and bazaars was concentrated by these pioneers on the supreme task of winning men. For why should they waste their forces on material shrines? Anywhere and everywhere they expected to meet God.”
(bottom of pg 13-14)
“If then I am asked to furnish a first glimpse of these few scattered Christians, I reply that they were simple folk. Unencumbered by machinery and traditions and caste and ritual, they moved freely over the whole realm of opportunity…..No Church can grow – no country can develop – unless there be this freedom of opportunity, this simple aim, this one thing for you and for me to do. The disciples knew what the one thing was, they did it, and therefore they turned the whole world upside down.
– pp 11-14 The Church We Forgot
(A study of the life & words of the Early Church)
by Philip Whitwell Wilson, 1919