I’ve been arguing for years that churches today need to look like they did in New Testament times – Jesus-centred, fully charismatic, publicly evangelistic, home based, and practising community of goods. Now churches like this are very rare as you probably have noted yourself. Even among Pentecostals and charismatics it is rare that the church publicly evangelise, they usually have church buildings and they almost never have community of goods.
Isn’t this a clear indication that I’m simply mistaken on what qualifies as a Biblical church? Not necessarily. Arguments for what a Biblical church should look like should always be based on the Bible, not popular opinion. If Christians who don’t practice community can’t defend their position biblically, it doesn’t matter how many they are.
In fact, whatever one thinks that a Biblical church looks like one has to admit that there have been historical periods where very few have been part of such a church. The Catholic and Orthodox dominance for over a thousand years would be such a period for us protestants. And even modern Catholics rarely agree with previous Catholic opposition to freedom of religion and endorsement of torture and crusades.
Charismatic churches hardly existed 120 years ago, and then that movement exploded. So if you’re charismatic like me you can’t simply assert that house churches and Christian communities should be few just because they currently are few.
Furthermore, churches that look like the apostolic church in Acts 2 are far more common in the majority world (Africa, Asia and Latin America) where God is actively at work and where many Christians are deeply committed to Him. And as I show in my upcoming book Charismactivism, many charismatic churches were originally much more simple and equal, and there are loads of movements and individuals throughout church history who have combined spiritual gifts with community and evangelism.
I am hopeful that in these days of the end times we might see a new revival that restores apostolic living in every aspect. I’m not saying that we’re ever going to be the majority – after all it’s always much easier to say that you follow Christ than to actually do it – but I do believe that there is a hunger among many modern Christians to experience the real stuff and stop laying down their lives for severely imperfect churches and invest themselves in something that at least tries to be biblically correct.
I was unable to post a comment on FB but I do think your reading of my brother (after the flesh as well as the spirit) Olov’s reply was marked by a shallow or even sloppy reading of the same. His point and mine (how good and wonderful it is etc) is that there does /not/ seem to be /one/ New Testament blueprint of how a church should be organized. We should expect to see fierce loyalty between brothers and sisters, devotion to the teaching of the apostles, joyful observance of bread-breaking and diligence in prayer. In the early days at Jerusalem this was accompanied by community of goods and an exemplary move of the Spirit; however, this doesn’t seem to be the case in other churches in other places led by those apostles who were first-hand witnesses to the resurrection of Christ. And even the very first Jesus People gathered – daily – in a building, albeit not one they had built themselves.
By the oil in Aaron’s beard, I just wrote basically the same thing on fb!
(Sorry I know you’re not supposed to swear oaths but I had to find a way to use the beard oil)
Hello Erik! Let me add you as a friend so you can comment on my Facebook posts in the future 🙂
Suppose that you are right and that there was diversity in the New Testament period so that some churches had community of goods, some had not. Naturally, those which had community of goods eradicated inequality among themselves whereas churches that didn’t have it most likely were unequal, just as churches today that don’t have community of goods typically are very unequal. Why would that imply that unequal churches are just as good and normative as equal churches? Why would it simply not imply that some churches failed to follow the apostolic example given in Jerusalem that was objectively better than churches were some go hungry and others enjoy abundance?
You seem to make a distinction between devotion to apostolic teaching and prayer on the one hand and community and Spirit empowerment on the other. But isn’t it YOU who make that distinction rather than Luke? He seems to argue that all that happened in Jerusalem is awesome and normative! In fact, in his gospel he writes how Jesus wanted all his disciples to sell everything (Lk 12:33) and that nobody can be his disciple without doing so (Lk 14:33). The starting point of community was that the disciples sold everything (Acts 4:45) so it seems to me that Luke thinks this is in line with Jesus’ teaching to all of his disciples, and he does nothing to indicate that other churches would ignore the Jerusalem example or see another church model as equally valid.
Arguments for the non-existence of community in other New Testament churches are typically arguments from silence. By the same reasoning we can say that ONLY Corinth practised the Lord’s supper, since it isn’t explicitely described anywhere else (the breaking of bread in Jerusalem and Troas doesn’t necessarily have to be the same meal that Jesus instituted, it could be argued). We hardly have any example of a church that prays, or that evangelises. Would that really imply a great diversity where many churches simply ignored these things? Or should we treat these arguments from silence with caution and trust that Jesus’ commands were at least attempted to be obeyed in all early churches, with the apostolic teaching and practice as the normative example?
In fact, when we look at early church history we see that community of goods was widespread, signifying that this was duplicated in apostolic times far beyond Jerusalem: https://holyspiritactivism.com/2013/01/07/god-vs-wealth-part-4-the-church-fathers/ As for the temple (or synagogues) being an equivalent to church buildings, I think that is a serious mistake as I explain here: https://holyspiritactivism.com/2015/06/18/why-did-the-early-christians-go-to-the-synagogues/