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.