church surrounded by grass

Keeping It Simple: Whatever Happened to the Churches?

The ear­li­est Chris­tians are an inter­est­ing group of peo­ple. They did­n’t have any of the epis­tles to go by, nor were the gospels yet penned. They had only what they had heard preached to them about Jesus, and this led them to meet togeth­er for meals, to sing with and teach one anoth­er, and to ensure that none among them had any need that went unmet by those who were gathered.

Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty was sim­ple, and in a way, beau­ti­ful. Over time, epis­tles were writ­ten, par­tic­u­lar­ly by Paul, to issue course cor­rec­tions for these ear­li­est of gatherings.

A lot was said in regards to what those Chris­tians believed, but as for their prac­tice? After the epis­tles, they still met in homes. They still enjoyed meals togeth­er. They still com­muned rather than being led by one man or small group of elders. They still prac­ticed cheer­ful giv­ing and char­i­ty. The epis­tles did­n’t stamp out those practices.

What hap­pened?

How did those ear­li­est fam­i­lies of believ­ers change into the cor­po­rate church­es of nowa­days, led by paid ora­tors that can’t ensure no one among their num­ber is going with­out because the church has bills and pay­checks and build­ing pro­grams to fund? How did the com­mu­nion meal get reduced to a crack­er and half an ounce of wine or juice?

How is it that today’s church­es, with the full twen­ty-sev­en books of the New Tes­ta­ment to guide them some­how so gross­ly miss the beau­ti­ful sim­plic­i­ty that should be Chris­tian­i­ty when the ear­li­est Chris­tians were able to suss it out with­out the writ­ten scrip­tures to guide them?

Unto whom much is giv­en, much will be required (Luke 12:48), and we have bil­lions — bil­lions! — of Chris­tians in the world today who have access to the entire Bible, hun­dreds of trans­la­tions of the Bible (in Eng­lish alone!), count­less free Bible study resources, upwards of forty mil­lion reli­gious lead­ers (assum­ing around thir­ty-sev­en mil­lion Chris­t­ian church­es and many of them hav­ing mul­ti­ple elders and dea­cons) to learn from, and more. 

I can only imag­ine what it would be like if we had mul­ti­ple sci­ence cen­ters filled with free resources and led by eager sci­en­tists will­ing to teach for free, scat­tered through­out just about every town and city!

Chris­tians have that. They have more access to their the­ol­o­gy and his­to­ry than just about any group of peo­ple have ever had.

There­fore, it absolute­ly and thor­ough­ly bog­gles my mind that so many of today’s gath­er­ings of Chris­tians miss the point.

6 thoughts on “Keeping It Simple: Whatever Happened to the Churches?”

  1. Excel­lent work on your argu­ment for polygamy in the Bible, and that’s com­ing from a bible believ­ing con­ser­v­a­tive Baptist.
    Unfor­tu­nate­ly, many Chris­tians base their views of mar­riage on tra­di­tion and cul­ture more than they do on exact­ly what the Bible says. I have used all your argu­ments against peo­ple I debate the issue with. They still reject them, as I can see with you as well.

    1
    1. I know I’m not a part of the church­es any longer, but toward the end, it occurred to me more that the argu­ment for polyg­y­ny should­n’t be as focused on by those who do teach it — after all, as Paul point­ed out, it is bet­ter to remain sin­gle so as to be able to focus on liv­ing for God. 

      Or to put it anoth­er way, if one spouse is a dis­trac­tion, how much more so would mul­ti­ple spice be? (Yeah, I know, it’s “spous­es,” but giv­en how com­pli­cat­ed mul­ti­ple spous­es would be, “spice” seems a more appro­pri­ate pluralization!)

      As such, once the nov­el­ty of athe­ism wore off and I decid­ed I did­n’t want to be a stereo­type (bit­ter athe­ist with a chip on his shoul­der), I start­ed encour­ag­ing Chris­tians to be, well, bet­ter Chris­tians. Frankly, the world would be bet­ter for it!

      1. It’s good that you can see that Chris­tian­i­ty does improve one’s life.
        Pret­ty hard to go wrong with obey­ing Jesus in avoid­ing the heart evils of:
        evil thoughts, adul­ter­ies, for­ni­ca­tions, murders,
        Thefts, cov­etous­ness, wicked­ness, deceit, las­civ­i­ous­ness, an evil eye, blas­phe­my, pride, foolishness:

        Mark 7:21,22

        Keep up the pos­i­tive work, or rather, May the Holy Spir­it keep doing the good work in you. ;)

        1. There are times I enter­tain the sil­ly thought that I’m a “Chris­t­ian athe­ist” — I’m one of the most peace­ful, for­giv­ing, patient peo­ple (or at least I very much strive to be), and I owe my appre­ci­a­tion for traits like that to what I took away from the gospels when I was a believer.

          Of course, I know “Chris­t­ian athe­ist” makes no sense. One can­not just cut out all of the mirac­u­lous parts of the Bible just to retain the morals, regard­less of the exam­ple set by Thomas Jefferson.

          1. I dun­no. My wife calls her­self a Chris­t­ian Bud­dhist! And she tru­ly does seem to be both. She grew up in Thai­land, and there­fore was Bud­dhist, but when she met me, she learned of the God of the Bible, and seeks to serve him. At the same time, she hold the Bud­da very close to her heart. Now of course, I haven’t had any open doors to dis­cuss the prob­lem there, but I fig­ure when God wants me to address it, he will make it hap­pen. Until then, she learns about Christ by my life (which some­times is not the best demon­stra­tion of the LORD, but I try hard.) 

            Jef­fer­son. I per­son­al­ly think a Bible with­out mir­a­cles would be an excel­lent argu­ment against the Bible being God’s Word, since God should be doing mir­a­cles. The same with Jesus. If some­one shows up on the scene claim­ing to be the Son of God, then he most cer­tain­ly bet­ter be doing some God like things. Imag­ine if Jesus did­n’t raise the dead, heal the lep­ers, mirac­u­lous­ly feed thou­sands with a few fish and lit­tle bread. The unbe­liev­er might right­ly say, “How is this man God in the flesh? He is just like the rest of us.” 

            Back to the moral­i­ty of the Bible, I can’t think of any oth­er writ­ing that com­pares to the high stan­dards of the Bible and the vast swatch of cov­er­age; both con­tem­po­rary and ancient. If there are any writ­ings of good val­ue, I“m sure I can find the same things being said in the Bible.
            I was just read­ing the fol­low­ing vers­es today, and sud­den­ly thought to myself, “These are not the words of an ordi­nary man! We do not think like this. These ways are much high­er than we are.”

            Eph 5:1 Be ye there­fore fol­low­ers of God, as dear children;
            Eph 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath giv­en him­self for us an offer­ing and a sac­ri­fice to God for a sweet­smelling savour.
            Eph 5:3 But for­ni­ca­tion, and all unclean­ness, or cov­etous­ness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
            Eph 5:4 Nei­ther filth­i­ness, nor fool­ish talk­ing, nor jest­ing, which are not con­ve­nient: but rather giv­ing of thanks.
            Eph 5:5 For this ye know, that no whore­mon­ger, nor unclean per­son, nor cov­etous man, who is an idol­ater, hath any inher­i­tance in the king­dom of Christ and of God.
            Eph 5:6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the chil­dren of disobedience.
            Eph 5:7 Be not ye there­fore par­tak­ers with them.
            Eph 5:8 For ye were some­times dark­ness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as chil­dren of light:

            1. Here’s a thought exper­i­ment for you:

              What if Saul real­ized he could­n’t erad­i­cate Chris­tian­i­ty by mur­der­ing believ­ers and so rein­vent­ed his life as “Paul,” called him­self an Apos­tle, and then spread Phar­i­saical legal­ism through his let­ters to the ear­ly believ­ers who had noth­ing else to go on besides word-of-mouth about Jesus? And what if the Gospels were writ­ten to coun­ter­act Paul’s legal­is­tic ways by high­light­ing Jesus’ focus on com­pas­sion, char­i­ty, etc.?

              Paul does­n’t speak much about Jesus’ actu­al life, instead choos­ing to invoke his name as a stamp of approval on the “same old same old” — restric­tions on mar­riage, restric­tions on how a per­son should dress, restric­tions on this and that. 

              There’s a dis­tinct tonal shift from what Jesus asked of Chris­tians — and of how they were pre­sent­ed in Acts even, as small groups who met and shared a meal and shared what they felt led to share while sac­ri­fic­ing of their own goods to ensure nobody went with­out — to what Paul asked of Chris­tians, which was far more “you got­ta live this cer­tain way, and don’t for­get to give gen­er­ous­ly when I come to town.” 

              The more I think about it, the more inclined I am to think that if God and Jesus are real accord­ing to how the Bible describes them, then Paul is a snake sent to wreck the church­es, just as the nephilim were used to wreck the blood­lines ages ago so that Mes­si­ah would be thwarted.

              In any event, if Paul is on par with the gospels, then Eph­esians 5:4 def­i­nite­ly for­bids cre­ation­ists from talk­ing about sci­ence — few peo­ple sound as fool­ish as they when they speak. (And I’m say­ing that as 100% an ex-cre­ation­ist who is well-read in the pub­li­ca­tions of Answers in Gen­e­sis, Dr. Dino, and oth­ers. Still have many of the books on my shelves.)

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Rick Beckman