The Early Church: A Compassionate Community

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[This is a repost by Jason Whitehurst here:


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.”

This wasn’t a coincidence.  Jesus gave His followers a new commandin John 13:34.

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 impoverishedthe early church offered food and shelter.

To the widows and orphans, the early church offered a family.

To the outcasts of societythey offered a place of acceptance.

To those who were sickthe 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.


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I hope and pray that you will watch these videos in its entirety.  It will definitely impact yourlife….. it is worth it!  Would you please pass this on so that the body is blessed AND encouraged!!!

Tidal Wave gives an insider’s view of the worldwide phenomenon known as simple church. From living rooms to coffee shops, offices to parking lots, under trees in Africa and underground in China, these new expressions of the body of Christ are rapidly multiplying around the world.

“The Church We Forgot”

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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