The further we go into the twenty-first century, the more important it will be for Christians and leaders in the Church to know how to interact with non-Christians who are in an environment that is unfriendly toward Christianity or agnostic.
One of the ways to move forward into this new reality is to look back to a previous reality – way back. One of the best places to learn how to live out the faith in such times as we now face is found in the writing of the Apostolic Fathers or the original Church Fathers as they are sometimes known as.
Two realities make the writings of the Apostolic Fathers crucial to effective ministry today. First, the twenty-first century will be more like the first century than any other century in history. Secondly, Christendom has been severely altered, compromised, and changed that it has lost its way and needs to regain the focus and momentum of the first church as seen in the first three hundred years.
Over the years I have read a great deal about the Reformation when salvation by grace through faith and the priesthood of all believers was rediscovered and added back to the faith. I have kept in touch with the changes that resulted from the world-wide meeting of Vatican II which happened when I was still in seminary many decades ago. But, neither of these went far enough to radically embrace the faith of the first three centuries.
And that is the key – we will need in our time to radically embrace the faith. We need to know what we believe and stand for; we need to know how to explain it to the people around us; we need to embrace new ways to present the message; we need to know and understand the opposition to this message of hope we have; and we need to be strategic and militant in the way we go about spreading the faith. Nothing less will do. It cannot be business as usual. We must return to our roots and examine both their beliefs and their lifestyle and adopt the same approach and vigilance that they possessed in our new world reality today.
This will mean we have a number of new skills that we will need to learn … More on this tomorrow.
Note: You can find the writings of the Apostolic Fathers on-line simply by entering that as a topic in your favorite search engine. It can be tough reading but always beneficial.