So what do we have now? How does Early Church / Pre-Catholic, (Say 33 – 270 A.D.), compare to what we have today? And then ask yourself, “How do I feel about this?” Also ask, “Is there anything I should do?” Here we go…
1.) In earlier articles we showed how Jesus made a shift from the Jewish synagogues and took his Gospel message into “Homes”, the Homes of common people, where instead of preaching from a stone altar, he sat at a simple Table in your house. Instead of a focus on bigger stone temples, he focused on “Heart Temples”, God in our heart. He got in trouble every time he spoke in the Temples, but he flourished in the Homes.
2.) We see the House Church Bishops, starting with Polycarp of Smyrna, standing up to the Bishops of Rome at least until 250 A.D.. There was no “Holy See” in Rome! But as a pagan Emperor named Constantine rose to power, so did the Bishops of Rome. There was great pagan influence in the Church business during this time. And as the Rome Bishop gained more power, the Christian way of Passover Feast was changed into a short-form full of ceremony and pomp. It was no longer the “Welcoming Table“, but a stone altar. And the Holy See gladly accepted the large buildings Rome now offered. The shift Jesus had intentionally established was UNDONE. In effect, it was a shift back to synagogue. And for the most part, this is where we still are today.
3.) Here is one effect of the large fancy buildings: DEBT/MONEY/BIG BUDGETS/PRESSURE/SLAVERIES/BILLS/TAXES/LOSS OF FREEDOM/LOSS OF INDEPENDANCE. Most of our modern churches have a threat constantly hanging over their heads. Got to have a certain amount of money, or we lose everything! We got to PLEASE PEOPLE, or we lose everything. Free-will offerings, a basket by the door is no longer the way, and since we no longer bring everything into a common stock, then we must pull Old Testament “LAW” of tithing and force it into the NEW TESTAMENT covenant. If you’re not giving at least 10%, you’re robbing God! You cannot teach the tithe from the New Testament, a church which started by bringing all things common and a tithe message would have been ridiculous anyway. Ever thought about it?
4.) For a long time, ministers were servants, not superstars. They lived off free-will offerings, and they served their people. They shepherded their flocks and led them into green pastures, and I’m not talking about money. The Cross was very real in their life, not only because they might end up nailed to one, but also the Lord’s Supper still had an emphasis on the CROSS more than the resurrection! For as often as ye partake of this cup you do show the Lord’s ‘death’ until he returns. (But here again, a shift was made by the Bishops of Rome. Bishop Polycarp and the Asia Minor churches fought that change faithfully, declaring they were taught of the APOSTLES how to have a proper Lord’s Supper. But the Bishops of Rome even over-ruled the APOSTLES.) That’s ignorance gone to seed, if you ask me.
5.) In our large churches we have Pastors who do not really know us, and people following Pastors they do not really know either. We have superstar talent and expensive stage lights. We have large congregations, but we are not “family” with each other. And like the Post Constantine church, we have people attending church just because of the “benefits” it affords, not to take up their own personal cross of real sacrifice. Agape Love looks strangely like a cross. Have you ever noticed? Christianity has camouflaged materialism into simply the right to be successful. I’ll never forget when my last Pastor opened a service teaching about how Jesus did not have a place to lay his head, and immediately followed it by promoting the Harley Davis motorcycle ride they were having the following weekend! (In the meantime, more people starve and suffer lack every day.) They saw no oxymoron in all this.
6.) The Apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 11:17-33, writes to a church having inner struggles, but he describes a way of doing things I’m not familiar with in our modern churches. He gives a few of the details of a proper Lord’s Supper. He admonishes them for not really focusing on the Lord’s Supper, and having divisions among themselves, eating their own food and not sharing with the needs of others. He says they disgrace God’s church and shame the poor. He describes a meal! He describes sharing and checking on those in need. He goes on to speak of the communion of the Bread and the Juice, and speaks of how it announces the Lord’s DEATH until he comes again. What church today celebrates the Lord’s Supper the same way Paul speaks of here, and the same way Polycarp fought the Bishops of Rome concerning in his day? Evidently, this was a very important subject in the early church!
7.) These are a few of the things we have found, and wrote of so far. Now…what does it all mean?
Are congregations to large to be able to do a Lord’s Supper in the way it was done then? Is it impossible to maintain a family environment past a certain number of people? Did the early church intentionally seek smaller groups that would multiply outward, rather than larger and larger numbers coming inwardly to a large building, but a smaller area of coverage? Was money less of an issue when there is no large overhead, and the church is debt free? Should we shift back to a “Table”? The Lord’s Table? Should we shift back to an emphasis on the cross more than the empty tomb, of which we do not actually possess without embracing that cross? Have we become the Laodicean church who is rich and has need of nothing? Which just happens to be the last church in those list of churches. Is the hand-writing on the wall? But if we are to shift to smaller groups, where do you find so many trustworthy Bishops? This then requires another shift we got away from…
8.) DISCIPLESHIP! As Pastors and flock are much more personable, we promote from within! God will raise up leaders we already know and trust, proven leaders ready to bishop, oversee a flock faithfully. It seems to be the Early Church way. What can I say? I don’t know if this is even possible anymore? I know Home Churches are a rising thing here in America, and pretty much a necessity in hostile lands. Is this God’s hand moving us back to our good beginning? My wife and I have concluded this much, for those who miss that first church empty tomb, known as the rapture; I’m pretty sure the foolish virgins will discover the 666 forces us back into the early mode of church. What do you think?
Today has been sort of a regroup and think opportunity. We have covered much territory in our journey for a true vision. Steady progress has been made. I need to give some more early church father quotes and tie up a few more loose ends before we decide where this journey leads next. My wife and I are planning to do an early church Lord’s Supper here at our house this coming 14th of Nisan, which is only 20 days away now. We have never done this before, and I’m still working out my details.
The story I wrote in the previous two articles is somewhat of a pattern and goal. One early church father warned that we must not do the Passover in the same way as the Jews. We have a different agenda and message. We must make sure that what we do declares Jesus as the Messiah they still look for! There is a definite difference in a Christian Passover compared to a Jewish Passover, and that must be made plain. I’m looking very forward to this challenge and blessing.
When I first left the modern church to seek the early fathers, I had no idea a major portion of the evidence and answer would revolve around the Lord’s Supper and Passover. I had no idea I would discover such a thing, and also find myself approaching the very time on the calendar that would allow opportunity to have such a service if I was willing to accept the mission. God timed this. I have to ask myself if that adds any meaning to the search I have made, or has it been pure coincidence? If it is pure coincidence, it’s a mighty big one!
Therefore I have felt I must accept this challenge. It’s not about how perfect I accomplish some set of rules. Its about the sincerity in my heart. One of the differences in our Covenant, it allows for our honest human short comings. Yes, I want to make it as special, humble, and family as possible. But when God sees the blood OF CHRIST, he passes over my imperfections. If I do what I do because I love Him, and love people, then I’m standing on pretty safe ground. Thank you Jesus.
“Fellowship of the White Path” / Grandpa White Feather.