Christianity: Then and Now
"And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” Acts 11:26
If the first Christians we read about in the New Testament could take a glimpse at Christianity now, I wonder what they would think? I'm guessing they might just scratch their head and wonder what went wrong. More than that, it would probably break their heart. There seems to be a sharp contrast between Christianity then, and now.
Before you write me off, hear me out. Understand my heart. I love the church. I loves God's people. I love the ministry. However, today's Christianity (at least in the USA) seems much different than it was 2,000 or so years ago. Some would say "well the times are different." I understand this, but the Bible, and the principles within, are timeless!
Some talk about going back 40 - 50 years to "how it use to be." I am thankful for my heritage from that time period. I have read of mighty moves of God in the 1950's and 1960's and the tremendous revivals that were held. I believe though the best direction and distance back is to the Biblical times, particularly the book of Acts.
I notice in the Bible some characteristics of the New Testament church that seem to contrast when comparing the church (as a whole) today. I will give you 3 in this post. More may follow.
1. The New Testament Church Had Fearless Preaching
Back then, you stood a good chance of being martyred for your profession of faith in Jesus. Simply preaching the Word of God could get you a quick trip to Heaven. In the USA we have the freedom (although challenged by some) to preach the Bible. Many men do not preach boldly and without reservation because they fear. They are worried about what a deacon, a "big wig" in the church, their good givers, or their treasurer might think. It could upset someone. Sister so and so may not like it and will get upset.
I do not look to make someone mad, but sometimes preaching the truth will get you in "hot water!" We need some men to stand up and preach the BIBLE!
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. II Timothy 4:2
2. The New Testament Church Had Faithful People
Today people look for any reason to miss a church service. Family come in to town? Good! We do not have to go to church! We are just too tired. After all we all deserve a day off.
Then there is the weather. It is too cold to get out, unless it is too warm, and if it is beautiful outside why waste a day inside the church? Worship God in nature, right?
The Lord's day has become the lawn day, the lake day, and the lazy day. We tell ourselves that it is okay to not go to church, to not be faithful. After all, you do not have to go to church to be a Christian? You also do not have to go home to be married. Makes for a lousy relationship though. I am not talking about sick or home bound people. I am talking about when you can, but you don't.
Understand this, we will never be fruitful if we are not faithful! It is not just about being faithful to church, but it is a big part!
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Hebrews 10:25-26
3. The New Testament Church Had Focused Priorities
The saints of old preached and taught the Word. They spread the gospel. Fervently. Faithfully. They prayed. They sought God. They did not have fancy websites or blogs. I'm not against technology being used. This is posted on a blog and after all and you are reading it on some type of electronic device. However technology does not bring the power of God. Technology is an accessory, not a priority!
Then there is the matter of a building. I am not against nice buildings. They are a tool and a blessing. They are needed. We happen to rent our facility. At this time it has everything we need, plus! I am not worried about having our "own building". I could easily get distracted with such things. I know though that God will give us one in His time. Everything belongs to Him anyhow! 100 years from now most of the buildings we see will be dust and rubble. We get too focused on a building. The true church is people, not property. I have seen and heard the business meetings go terribly wrong. Everything from carpet color to canopies to cleaning supplies fussed about, all the while people die and go to Hell. I do not think God cares what color the carpet is, personally.
We have our pew, our place, and our parking slot and may the Lord be merciful if a guest claims any one of those things!
Many church buildings look like dance halls and concert venues. Many Pastors look like a dog got a hold of their clothes before they came to the pulpit. (If there even is a pulpit.) There is little to no reverence, or respect for the things of God. You may disagree with me but when I see a Pastor looking like he is going fishing or skateboarding to me it says "what I am doing is not that important." I have heard people brag that "they can wear shorts to their church service." God help us, is that what we are worried about? People are on their way to Hell and you rejoice because you can wear shorts to church? My problem is what is on the inside, not the outside. If someone comes to my church casually dressed they are welcome just as anyone else is. It is the casual attitude within the heart toward the things of God that concerns me deeply. We have a serious issue when we are concerned more with being "cool" than "Christlike." Our outside is a reflection of the inside by the way, but I am venturing off subject some.
The sermons today are nothing more than a pep talk or motivational speech. That's fitting though, because most only come to church to feel good and be entertained. They want to hear about all that God wants to give them! The new job promotion, the new home or car. That raise that is long overdue. No concern of what we could give unto God.
Oh, and hurry it up! If too many verses are read, the prayer is too long, or the service is more than an hour total, we complain. After all, we gotta get home so we can watch that 3+ hour ball game.
I could write three pages on this subject, but the point is we have our priorities wrong.
What priorities should we have? Take a look at the book of Acts. We see a mighty move of God at Pentecost. Was it because of a PowerPoint presentation, a cool website, or a cool light show in the auditorium? No, Pentecost happened because 120 met in the upper room and waited to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It happened because people had prayed. It happened because the Word was preached. It happened because people were more concerned with the power of God than the pleasures of the World.
We must get back to these priorities!
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. Acts 5:42
Our Bibles are dusty. Our knees are not sore from praying. We have no power, we rarely see prayers answered, and we have little to no influence with our lost loved ones. Our priorities are not focused correctly.
Yes I think the saints of old would look at us and say we have some things wrong. More than what saints of old think, what does God think?
The Saints we read about in Acts were willing to die for Christ. Many who profess to know Christ today won't even live for Him.
Am I fussing? No. I'm burdened. I'm broken because I myself have wasted many years to my shame. I have failed. I do not have it all figured out! I do know this however: I want to see God work now more than ever. God help ME to be what He wants me to be! I want people to see that it is real, because it is!