From 1996 until 2007 I was privileged to be a member in three sister house churches that attempted to meet more like the pattern of first century Christians in Paul’s churches. I continue to encourage those who experiment with house churches (because God knows most of them don’t have a clue what they’re doing, which is fine for a while) but my own life has moved in a different direction. My passion for finding a model for primitive church became a passion to reconstruct the larger historical context of the New Testament for its own sake. The story of early Christianity is a very different story in many ways than the story of present day Christendom, but I now stand with John P. Meier who said “Relevance is the enemy of History.” Events, inasmuch as they can be known from testimony and reconstruction, deserve their own say.
With that said, there is no doubt in my mind a better view of the first century story will inspire many believers to consider those primitive ways. I do hope some will, but I do not think that means everyone should apply this new vision in just the same ways, because God was somehow pleased to put His spirit in each of us. Therefore I wish to state for the record that those who determine the old ways are not necessarily supposed to be our ways, as long as they stick to The Way, are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Besides, when you look at the entire New Testament, there was never just one way to “do church”. Even Paul did not plant churches the same way every time. But God Himself always plants a church with His Spirit, and always works to center them on His Son.
Therefore, my only quarrel is with anyone who would attempt to force our view of scripture to match their own doctrine, tradition and dogma. It has been true for too many centuries that ecclesiastical authorities have molded our views on scripture to support their own institutional needs. More and more, that is changing. Hopefully, it may yet change enough for a fuller context of the New Testament to be welcomed by every believer. No matter what traditions groups of Christians embrace today, I am absolutely positive that God’s spiritual blessing follows contrite hearts who devote themselves to Him. Tradition is fine as long as it does not usurp His first place in all things. And although we will surely continue to differ in traditions, this ancient heritage belongs to us all. So as we work together restoring our heritage, I ask only one thing.
Enjoy it, dear saints in the Lord.